‘Saving Grace’


Hub City residents are known for their kindness, generosity and looking out for one another. It happens all the time under a variety of circumstances. And in true Pine Belt fashion, it’s happened again, but in a way that has extended far beyond the confines of the Pine Belt. Fans of the Avett Brothers, an American rock folk band from North Carolina, have even become involved.

Jenny Maul of Hattiesburg and her two children, Ruby, 6, and Charlie, 1, were headed to spend Saturday with her parents in Prentiss. Between 11 a.m. and noon they were involved in a horrific two-vehicle accident at Hwy. 35 and Grandberry between Mount Olive and Magee.

Jenny was airlifted to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, while the children were transported by ambulance.

Well my good Lord was with me tonight
Just ridin’ beside me tonight.

 -“In the Curve”/Emotionalism

The children were virtually unscathed in the accident which found the family’s SUV flipping several times following the initial impact, which their mother bore the brunt of. Other than seatbelt rash, they were unharmed. Their mother, however, was a different story. According to her husband, Chris, the left side of his wife’s body sustained much of the impact from the collision, thus causing multiple and extensive damage.

Jenny’s pelvis was broken on the left side, as was her left femur. The right side of her pelvis also suffered fractures, which the physicians believe will heal on their own. She has broken ribs and broken vertebrae, but her most serious injury resulted in the amputation of her left arm about two inches below the elbow, according to Chris.

“The doctors say the fractured vertebrae in her lower back will make recovery and walking difficult and painful because it will be hard to stand,” Chris said Tuesday afternoon. 

But Chris, their family and friends know Jenny is up for the long road ahead. 

His wife, upon waking, remembers hearing those trying to pull her out of the damaged vehicle saying she wasn’t going to make it. “She said she wanted to tell them to shut up,” Chris said, very thankful that she’s alive.

“She told me she thought she was going to die. She told me the only thing that kept her awake was because she knew I needed her. God, you have no idea how right she is.”

Well, life is ever changing but I will always find a constant and comfort in your love.”

“Swept Away” from the album Mignonette.

If I live the life I’m given, I won’t be scared to die.”

“The Once and Future Carpenter” from the Avett Brother’s album The Carpenter

Chris describes his children as amazing and resilient. He’s trying to help keep their day-to-day lives as normal as possible, driving Ruby to school. “She’s back at school and explained to all her classmates what happened to her mommy,” he said. “She definitely wants to see her mom, but it will still be a few more days. Jenny wants to be able to sit up in bed and wants to have her face, which has some scratches, cleaned up.”

Chris said his daughter has been told about her mother’s arm. 

Chris, who teaches Adult Education courses at the Forrest County campus of Pearl River Community College, has been so shocked by the outpouring of support that he doesn’t know how to express his thanks. 

“I really don’t know what to say,” Chris said. “Saying thank you isn’t enough; it’s so much bigger than that. I just can’t process it. We appreciate it, we just don’t get it.” 

Well, life is ever changing but I will always find a constant and comfort in your love.”

“Swept Away” from the album Mignonette.

Helping Hands

As friends heard of the wreck, they rushed to the side of this family they’ve all come to love.

Gaby Thornton, one of a number of close-knit friends and neighbors at Lake Serene, has known the Mauls for the past eight years. She was introduced to them by friends, Jennifer and Eric Bailey.

“As soon as I heard about the accident my friend, Melissa, and I rushed to the hospital,” she said. “A million things were going through my head.”

It wasn’t until after Thornton returned home that she began thinking about what she would do, and how an accident like this could change someone’s life in every way possible.

On Sunday, she touched based with some friends and mentioned setting up a GoFundMe account (https://www.gofundme.com/the-maul-family). They were all for it. About 6 p.m. Sunday, hesitant about her $10,000 goal, Thornton decided to just go for it, knowing that Jenny would require a lot of extensive therapy and care.

“Never did I know that in 26 hours the goal was going to be met and surpassed,” she said, raising the goal another $5,000, “because why not?” As of midnight Tuesday, donations were $540 shy of the second goal.

“I am ecstatic and so extremely happy with how much love the community and even strangers were donating to Jenny without question,” she said.

Crystal Giles, another neighbor, has known the couple for 14 years, having met while their now husbands were in the teaching program at Southern Miss together.

She admits that she doesn’t have a creative or artistic bone in her body and that it was Jenny who always made everything pretty for her.

“In fact, right before the accident, Jenny was giving me advice on which curtains I should get,” Giles said.

The week prior, Jenny had designed Giles’ chalk wall for her with the quote, “Friends are our chosen family.”

“That perfectly describes the outpouring of love I have seen our community give Jenny and her family during this time,” Giles said. “She and Chris are definitely my chosen family, and all the support being received means one important thing – there are a whole lot of people out there who chose Jenny to be their family because she is amazing, and everyone who knows her feels blessed to call her friend.”

For Jennifer Bailey, an OB/Gyn for Hattiesburg Clinic, and husband, Eric, the Mauls have been their friends for more than 10 years and were one of their first. 

“They welcomed us into their lives,” Jennifer said. “Our relationships with each other are built on faith, family and fun.”

She said it was awesome and inspiring to see the support that Hattiesburg and beyond is giving this family. “They are both people who are deserving of peoples’ prayers and sacrificial giving.

“Jenny has a long recovery, but she has a great attitude and that goes a long way. She is already thinking of others and how this is affecting them and is so selfless. I would like to ask Hattiesburg and the surrounding area to keep up the prayers and support for our dear friends.”

Jason and Melissa Spiers, owners of JMH Graphics, have been friends with the Mauls for several years. “It’s not too often you find friends as genuine, caring, and just all around great people as them,” Jason said. “Chris is always quick to lend a helping hand or a kind word.”

Jason said a lot of the time, in the business they are in, they are producing products for other people who are organizing fundraisers – for ball teams, school organizations, families in need, cancer patients. 

“It’s a great way to show support to someone in need, and we love the work that we do for that reason,” he said. “It holds value and purpose for other people.

“We’ve been blessed to not have someone in our immediate circle in that position, but when Jenny had her wreck, my wife, Melissa, and I knew we had the capability of doing something for them. We know our friends would do the same for us if the roles were reversed.”

The Spiers have designed and are selling a T-shirt with the saying, In the hour of adversity be not without hope, For crystal rain falls from black clouds, on it. Proceeds, which were at almost $3,000 Tuesday, will go to the Mauls. Shirts are $20.

Ron Savell, owner of Mugshots, went to Southern Miss with Chris, and called Jason earlier this week offering to hold a Mugshots Burger fundraiser. 

“Jason does all of my work for Mugshots, so I approached him,” Savell said. “We help with a lot of fundraisers through the restaurant.”

The event will be held March 28 in the JMH parking lot.  Tickets will be available at the graphics shop and other locations.

Savell said for $10, ticket-holders will get a half-pound Mugshots burger, chips and a soft drink or bottled water. He urges the pre-purchase of tickets so plans can be made as to how much food to cook. “But walkups will be available also,” Savell said.

“When Ron called, it really started to come together,” Jason said. “Ron’s a great guy; we work with him on several projects for Mugshots, and for him to donate his time and efforts to this means so much. It’s what really makes the difference for us, working with people, other business owners, in our community that will go the extra mile to help people out, do fundraisers, donate time, money, etc. It says a lot about Hattiesburg and the surrounding areas as a whole. We’re proud to be part of this community.

“We know the work that goes into these fundraisers, into helping other people, from working with our customers through the years. But I can tell you, we have a different level of appreciation now for the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it. It is 100 percent worth it though when you know you’re helping a family in need.”

If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected

Decide what to be and go be it.

“Head full of Doubt / Road Full of Promise” from the album I And Love And You

A school counselor at Columbia Primary School, Jenny is truly missed by her young students.

According to CPS Principal Heather Singley, Jenny has been a part of the school landscape for more than 10 years.

“Our students are making her get well cards and the staff is putting together a gift basket with snacks for the hospital, gift cards and monetary gifts,” Singley said. The school is also organizing a blood drive with a tentative date of March 6. 

“Jenny is loved dearly by the staff and students of Columbia Primary School,” the principal said. “She is a very creative and generous person. We are all praying for her to get better quickly and rejoicing that she is still here with us.”

Westminster Presbyterian Church, where the Mauls are members, is pitching in also.

The church is currently coordinating meals for the Mauls through the link, https://takethemameal.com/EIDX9047.

Wes Brooks and wife, Shane, are members of the church as well as friends of the Mauls.

“Shane and I have been blessed to know Chris and Jenny Maul for quite some time as fellow members at Westminster Pres,” Brooks said. “Chris and I have worked on many projects together and as the Children’s Music director, Jenny taught my son to sing. I could easily fill pages about how sweet, kind, patient, selfless they both are. Just today, I saw Chris post on Facebook that (I’m paraphrasing) he just couldn’t believe the outpouring of support and that Jenny wouldn’t believe it either if she could see it. What I’ll tell both of them when I finally see them in person is that this is only our attempt to match how much they enrich our lives.” 

For those wishing to give blood, for every blood donation of one pint, $15 will be taken off Jenny’s hospital bill. Blood drives are being set up around the area, but those wanting to donate can visit Vitalant (formerly United Blood Services), 805 South 28th Ave., Hattiesburg. Hours are 8 am-4 p.m. Monday and Friday, 10 am-6pm Tuesday, 8 am-5pm Wednesday, 8 am-2 p.m. Saturday and 11 am-3 pm Sunday.

Read more about the outpouring of support from Avett Brothers fans worldwide.