It has often been said what kind of mark we leave upon this earth can be measured by how we touch the lives of others. With that in mind, James and Debbie Greer of Dry Prong are building a legacy of love with their heartfelt ministering and “giving back.” In March, the two grandparents sponsored several events in memory of their granddaughter Kaylie, which yielded more than $60,000 for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Kaylie was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer when she was 2 years old, and passed away shortly before her fifth birthday. Since 2005, the Greers have sponsored the KRRV Kaylie Greer Radiothon. “There’s been a tremendous response from the community,” James notes.
As pastors and as business partners, both James and Debbie exude giving natures that propel them to reach out to others. Setting up the foundation to benefit cancer research is just one way they are “giving back.” In conjunction with the Radiothon, a concert featuring Taylor Mathews benefited St. Jude’s in tribute to Kaylie. In addition, Gone Wild Safari and Petting Zoo donated proceeds. Last year, the Greer family created the Cenla Cure Foundation, in her honor, and has plans to schedule events throughout the year to benefit St. Jude’s. “We want to do whatever we can to be a blessing,” James says, adding his family knows firsthand what St. Jude’s has meant to countless families.
Both James and Debbie grew up in Shreveport. The two were childhood sweethearts in junior high. While attending Captain Shreve High School, James worked at J. C. Penney’s selling women’s shoes, a job he insists “everyone should have to do at least once.” In 1974, the two eloped and were married in Marshall, Texas. “I was 20 and James was 21. We were young kids with no money. We stayed one night in a hotel, and then James had to be at work the next day,” Debbie reminisces with a tender laugh.
By this time, James was working for a carpet company. After a few years, James started working for a hardware company which would require some travel, so the couple decided to move to Alexandria, which was more centrally located. Later, James was hired to work for Alexandria Tire and Supply. “I worked 10 years as the general manager at Alexandria Tire and Supply. The company was losing money, so they gave me the opportunity to turn it around,” James remarks, adding the experience helped to lay the groundwork of realizing his dream of wanting to start his own business. Through that on-the-job training, he was able to learn the tire business inside and out, and eventually branched out on his own and started D & J Tire company. “I didn’t go to college or seminary. I didn’t really even have a plan, but I had good work ethics and a great trainer. Starting the business was really rough. There were a lot of ups and downs, and it took a lot of self-discipline,” James says.
Enduring the roller-coaster rides of the economy and experiencing the pain of an associate’s embezzlement have proven to be some hard obstacles to overcome while building the business, according to the Greers. But this past year was one of their most successful business years, James says. When he started D & J Tire company in 1987, James employed six people. Today, he owns six tire company stores in Alexandria, Tioga, Natchitoches, Arcadia and Bunkie, and employs more than 60 people. The more than $2.2 million inventory at their warehouses make D & J Tire company one of the largest tire dealerships in the South.
About six years ago, the Greers diversified their business ventures and created D & J Custom Homes on South MacArthur Drive in Alexandria. Their oldest son, Jimmy, is co-owner and business partner. The father and son team have been building homes for at least ten years, but opened up the office and showroom in 2009. “We are very hands-on throughout the whole homebuilding process. We build custom homes from 1,000-square feet to 10,000 square feet,” James says.
D & J Custom Homes have developed land in South Grant called Kaylee’s Acres, and are currently developing a new subdivision in Woodworth called Belle Chase. In addition, the company has about 50 lots for development and homes in different areas of Rapides Parish. Debbie, who worked in the office for D & J Tire when they first started, now owns and manages several real estate properties. “God has blessed us so much in our personal lives, our business and in our ministry,” James notes.
In 1985, James became the pastor of Donahue Baptist Church in Pineville. At that time, he says, the church averaged about 35 people in attendance. “I was teaching Sunday School at Faith Baptist, when I felt God calling me to preach. I didn’t go to seminary, but God calls everybody different,” says James, adding at first he was just “filling in” the pulpit at Donahue when he was asked to become their full-time pastor.
From 35 in attendance, the church grew to 500 in attendance. For more than 18 years, James pastored Donahue Baptist. For a while after leaving Donahue, he ministered in smaller churches, and then assumed the role of pastor again at Lee Heights Baptist Church. At that time, there were only 7 active members at Lee Heights. In time, the church body grew to 150 members, and had outgrown its building. The Lee Heights congregation made plans to build a bigger church. Meanwhile, the congregation at Donahue Family Church had gotten smaller. An opportunity presented itself for the two congregations to switch facilities, and the Lee Heights church body bought the Donahue properties. Besides the church facilities, a day-care and school campus was packaged in the property deal. “With all the changes, we felt we all needed a fresh start, and life is a journey, so the church’s name was changed to the Journey Church,” James explains, adding that he feels like he has ‘come home.’
With an emphasis on “practical preaching” and on building relationships, James says God has blessed the Journey Church in countless ways. The church congregation has already grown to more than 300 people in less than two years, which makes it one of the fastest growing churches in Central Louisiana. In whatever they do in life, the Greers say they believe in putting God first. Debbie says God has blessed them with an amazing family. “After we had our two children, we always felt God had another child for us,” Debbie recalls. But instead of one, the Greers ended up with the opportunity to adopt and raise three more children. Today, the Greers have five grown children, James, Jr. (Jimmy), Shannon, Kayla, Gary and Randy, and nine grandchildren.
“We always strive to put God first and give Him the credit for the blessings in our life. We’re a strong family who loves God, loves America and loves Central Louisiana,” Debbie says, adding, “We’ve been blessed by God.” And with their nature of wanting to “give back,” Debbie adds, “God has impressed in us the need to do more as a church, family and as individuals. So we plan to focus on outreach and ‘give back’ in new ways to the community in the future.”