Park Place Outreach: Savannah’s Premier Derby Party


Brynn Howard, Neal Eike, Sarah Castleberry-Eike, Tom Taylor, Joy Taylor

If you know Craig Jeffress you know that he hates the spotlight. 

The Olde Pink House General Manager makes sure I know that his leadership team, Park Place Outreach peeps and Kathleen Smith of Brown-Forman are all responsible for the third annual Savannah’s Premier Derby Party held at Reynolds Square on May 7. 

It’s a perfect day for a Derby party with sunny skies and a slight breeze on deck for the viewing of the 148th Kentucky Derby. With setup going on, I know I have time to chat with Craig about today’s event. 

“I grew up cooking with my mom and grandma. I cooked through school and college and learned that cooking made people happy. What we do in the hospitality industry is all about bringing joy to people and that’s why I do it, I love making people happy,” shares the Olde Pink House veteran of 12 years. 

The Virginia native may be a quiet guy when talking about himself, but he is passionate about Park Place Outreach. 

“To do business in any community, you need to serve that community. The best way to serve that community is through our youth, you start with our children,” Craig adds before running over to meet the first of today’s supporters. 

In a splendid display of hats and fascinators, I pose Pink House characters Sean Smith and Kayla Draughn, then move over to snap pics of Autumn Taylor and Mika Muhlenberg with Kerry Junco and April Landrum. 

Ravishing in red, Karen does everything! From celebrity makeup artist and brand ambassador to bar instructor, this Tennessee native is amped up! 

Following April, we walked over to request a pic with Savannah Police Department’s Sargeants Roger Mydell and Steven Kohles. 

Loving the fact that I have watched these guys move through the ranks, I ask the sergeants which has worked with the department the longest. Sgt.Kohles is at 22 years and Sgt. Mydell is the winner with 27 years working with SPD! 

While on the lookout for PPO Associate Director Adriana Tatem-Howard, I pose Judge Ben Karpf with PPO board chair Megan Manly then hug PPO board member and Hon. Judge LeRoy Burke, III. 

Dern! I missed Adriana by five minutes—flying to Phoenix to see her oldest daughter graduate with her master’s degree. I hate that I missed seeing one of my favorite females! 

It’s not a real Savannah party unless The Fractions are playing! 

Local musical geniuses Jerry Stenger, Dan Cooper, Miguel DeJesus, Skip Jennings and Dean Burnette know the posing drill, so I snap a pic of the cool cats before heading over to hug Pink House matriarch and catering queen Susan Mason. Covered in a white pearl mantle— yes, cloaked in a canopy of pearls—Susan Mason looks like true Savannah society royalty! 

Cruising by me is the new executive director for Park Place Outreach, Des Crayton. Taking over for Julie Wade’s on January 3, Des tells me about his career working with high risk children and families. 

“Having worked in the child welfare field since 1992, I have a goal of implementing more preventative services so children can stay with their families,” shares the New Orleans native. 

New to Savannah, I ask what he thinks of our fair city. 

“It’s a home away from home. Similar to New Orleans in Southern hospitality, this community embraces non-profits and it’s evident from the strong support we have for today’s Derby Party. The money raised today will help us serve more kids in our basic center program and transitional living program.” 

Located at 514 East Henry St., the three-story safe haven houses up to 12 kids ranging in ages from 11 to 17 who may be homeless or in the child welfare or juvenile court system. 

For the past 37 years, Park Place Outreach has opened its doors to offer a temporary home to those who need a place to stay. 

Reluctant to leave this cool new addition to the Park Place Outreach team, I head over to meet the best dressed dudes in the square. Meet professor Scott Taylor, paralegal and birthday boy Mark Allen Keenan, attorney Marvin Eller and nurse practitioner Austin Barrows. Sipping on mint juleps, the guys reconfirm the fact that I meet my favorite people at the end of the night!

It’s Derby time! While gorgeous ladies and dapper dressed men watch the electrifying televised race under Reynold’s Square majestic oaks, I think about what Craig said earlier. 

“I love seeing Savannah get dressed up. With beautiful weather, our supporters are dressed to the nines and knowing that the money raised today goes to helping Park Place Outreach - this is why I do what I do, “ shares the quiet guy with the big heart. 

Ditto and Amen!