The EPICS J. R. Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization, was established in January of 2018 by Vanessa Cox in tribute to the philanthropic legacy of her brother and sister-in-law, John E. Davis and Rose E. Lane-Davis. The two are honored for their years and countless hours of dedication to bettering the lives of underserved youth, adults and families and for their commitment to helping those facing adversity find hope. As someone who benefited from their unselfish giving, commitment, dedication, faith, and devotion to family and community, Vanessa was inspired to establish this foundation in John and Rose’s name to continue the philanthropic efforts charitable to the community that they so deeply loved.
Raised by his paternal grandmother Ada Davis, John grew up in the hills of Mississippi in a shack that sat on James Eastland’s plantation. Along with the many cousins who lived with him, John picked cotton to earn wages for his large family and to maintain his long-standing family ties. Similar to John’s crowded living space; Rose grew up with 13 siblings in a four-room house, which was nestled in The Ville neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri. She was raised by both of her parents, Verna and Charles Lane.
John and Rose’s way of living growing up may have been humble and basic, but the love and accomplishments they experienced were rich and fulfilling. During their early life, they achieved what many would deem as top-level success; they ate two meals a day, worked hard, took care of their families and got an education. John was a hard worker and a natural athlete. He received a full scholarship from Mississippi Industrial College to play football for their team where he not only graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree but also received numerous athletic awards. John later transferred to Tennessee State University. In comparison, Rose was a high achiever at an early age. She was accepted into Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, on an academic scholarship.
At Virginia Union University, she pledged to the Beta Epsilon chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and was soon installed as the chapter president. She excelled in all of her academic courses and became a member of both the biology club and chemistry club. Later, she received a Master of Science degree from Howard University. After graduating from college, John and Rose were brought together by fate. John worked as a physical education teacher and coach at Cote Brilliante Elementary School, which happened to be the same school Rose landed a job as a substitute teacher. Through the hallways, they met, and then it was not long before that they fell in love and married.
Years later, John became a science teacher, football coach and a track and field coach at Rock Jr. High School in East St. Louis, Illinois. Later, he went to Lincoln High School in East St. Louis, Illinois and served as the football and track and field coach. Several years later, he went to East Side St. Louis High School. It was at East Side that he had his most success coaching football and track and field. He led his teams to many state championships. Upon retirement, John was inducted into the Illinois Coaches Hall of Fame as one of the state’s winningest coaches in track and field.
Over the course of John’s career, he mentored over 3,000 young men, whether it was through coaching them on a high school team, through his summer track team (the Dashers), or through his track and field collegiate coaching years at McKendree College. John made an impact in many young, underserved men’s’ lives, including his brother Jessie Wilson, whom he raised and trained to compete in the 1986 Olympic Trials. John believes in the statement, “Your environment does not determine what you are capable of, with steadfast feet, a creative mind, and faith in God, you will always reach your purpose.”
Rose, on the other hand, became a biology and chemistry professor at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, and she taught biology and chemistry and was known as one of the first black professors in the Sciences department faculty. She dedicated her teaching strategies to energizing and encouraging underserved youth to expand their understanding and knowledge of the sciences. For 35 productive years, Rose taught science in such a creatively and articulate manner that it resulted in students gaining an undeniable solid understanding for all students. The principles of science were synonymous to life lessons for her students. Rose devoted herself to education and upon retiring was awarded the St. Louis City Teachers Appreciation Award, which is one of the highest honors given by the Mayor of the City of St. Louis, Missouri.
When she retired from St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, she had taught over 60,000 students. She was honored as the FIRST “Teacher of the Year” at STLCC at Forest Park. Even after Rose retired from STLCC at Forest Park, she continued her mission of providing adequate education to underserved students in need. Three years after leaving the community college, she began teaching in the St. Louis public school system at Beaumont High School. Rose saw a disparity gap in the education of many young, black students in St. Louis and was eager to close it during her career and afterwards. Throughout her career, she also mentored young, middle school and high school students through the University of Missouri-St. Louis’ Bridge and Upward Bound programs.
John and Rose’s love for sports and education united them, and they spent their lives mentoring underserved youth in St. Louis area. Through coaching organized sports programs, teaching classes, offering financial assistance, and providing an abundance of love and support to every person they encountered. They made a remarkable and unforgettable difference in the lives of so many. John and Rose focused on using their talents as well their careers to propel forward, in hopes of helping as many as possible. As examples and role models, they have planted incredible foundations for the value of helping others in each child they have mentored. To date, John and Rose spend their summers hosting an annual seafood boil and fish-fry for family, friends, and the community.
John and Rose’s very own children [Sandra McFarland, Ebony Barrett, Chloe Davis, Jessie Wilson (John’s brother who they raised), Vanessa Wilson-Cox (John’s sister who they raised), Alex Brown (Rose’s great niece who they raised); and three grandchildren: Shalita McFarland, Pono Barrett and Sir Barrett] are grateful for the many opportunities they have gained as a result of their parents’ (or guardians’) labor of love. As a family, they are committed to keeping John and Rose’s legacy alive to ensure that underserved youth have an opportunity to reach their fullest potential. Through the EPICS J. R. Foundation, underserved youth, adults, and families in need are granted enduring opportunities to receive reduced rates for mental health counseling services, including domestic violence education/ support groups, alcohol and drug education, anger management, and individual, group and family therapy. They are also able to receive financial support to compete alongside their teammates in local community sports programs and receive access to educational scholarships. At EPICS J. R. Foundation, the resounding goal is to maximize the academic, mental and societal success of those who come to us so that they may become productive citizens in their communities.
Sandra McFarland was born on January 23, 1965, in Doddsville, MS but grew upin Georgetown, SC. Throughout her early education, Sandra constantly earned many awards for her educational accomplishments. Sandra started taking undergraduate courses at the University of South Carolina in Conway, SC and a year later joined the U.S. Navy in 1988. She was honorably discharged in 1993. Sandra worked as a Dental Technician and served five years of service.
After her time in the military, Sandra was accepted to South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, SC where she finished her prerequisites for nursing. In the spring of 1995, Sandra became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated®, an organization that works with the community through service initiatives and progressive programs relating to education, family, health, and business, and remains an active member today. Sandra decided that she wanted to take her education further and moved to Greensboro, NC where she received her B.S. in Nursing (Cum Laude) and B.S. in Occupational Safety and Health (Summa Cum Laude) from North Carolina A&T State University.
Sandra has received several honors and awards including Sigma Chi Service to Humanity Scholarship, National Institute of Occupational and Safety and Health Scholarship (NIOSH), Golden Key National Honor Society Award, Academic Achievement Award, Dean’s List and National Collegiate Nominee. Sandra also dedicates her time volunteering at the American Red Cross as a food drive sponsor, caring for patients in the nursing home, and tutoring and mentoring students.Sandra is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans Organization and served as the Adjutant for Chapter #20 in Greensboro, NC in 2012.
She also served as a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) to help veterans and their families with claims and benefits.
Sandra is currently a Registered Nurse residing in Greensboro, NC with her loving daughter, Shalita McFarland. She has worked for Bayada Pediatrics Home Health Care in Greensboro for over thirteen years. She enjoys reading, traveling, bowling, volunteering and mentoring in her leisure time.
Chloé Davis is the youngest daughter of Rose and John Davis. She received her BA from Hampton University and MTHM from Temple University. Chloe currently works in the entertainment industry in New York City. Musical Theatre and dance are her passions and her favorite credits include: Jesus Christ Superstar Live on NBC; Cabin In The Sky; The Muny; The Addams Family National Tour; Camille A. Brown and Dancers; and Philadanco.
Chloé started DANCE FOR ALL: Creative Expressions For The Disabled to give people with a range of disabilities the opportunity to experience the joy of artistic expression. She is also the author of The Queens' English, which is a dictionary created to house the language of the LGBTQIA+ culture.
Ebony Barrett is the second oldest daughter of John and Rose Davis. Blessed with her Mother's loving spirit and her Father's great work ethic, she has been able to find success in and out of the workplace. Ebony received her Bachelor of Science degree at Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN with a major in Interdisciplinary Studies, landing her a lead position at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. During her 7 years at Purdue, Ebony has been able to advance rapidly in her department. She is currently working with the University’s Administrators and Staff.
Ebony continues to live in Indiana with her two handsome sons, Pono and Sir Barrett. Ebony and the boys are always excited to share moments and memories with family, especially with grandma and Pawpa. Inheriting the love for extra-curricular sports from their Pawpa, Pono Barrett plays basketball, tennis, baseball, and swims competitively. Pono also is a member of an elite soccer team in Indiana.
Sir Barrett also shares the same love for sports and plays soccer, baseball, wrestling, runs track, and swims competitively. Ebony spends her free time making sure her sons understand the importance of education and family like her mother and are team-focused athletes like her father.
Jessie Earl Wilson is the proud son of the late Namon Davis and Vernise Wilson. He was born in Rudeville, MS and was raised in St. Louis, MO, by his older brother, John Davis, who is a track & field legendary coach in East St. Louis, IL. Jessie is a proud product of the East St. Louis District #189 Public School System. He is a 1982 graduate of Lincoln Sr. High School where he was Captain of the 1982 IESA Class 2A Boys
State Track & Field Championship Team. Jessie was instrumental in leading his team in scoring the most points ever scored in IESA history. Jessie was named a USA Track & Field All-American and received a full track & field scholarship to Arkansas State University.
In 1984-85, Jessie was an NCAA qualifier and performer where he warned NCAA All-American honors in the 800 meters. In 1985, Jessie landed a NIKE shoe contract in Track & Field and later transferred to Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. With the 1988 Olympic Trials in his purview, Jessie suffered a serious knee injury that ended his running career. Currently, Jessie volunteers with local youth/athletic organizations in East St. Louis, IL.
Vanessa Teresa Cox is the proud daughter of the late Namon Davis and Vernice Wilson. She was born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. At the age of 6, Vanessa’s brother & sister in-law John & Rose Davis, who were educators in St. Louis) became her loving guardians. John and Rose were instrumental in Vanessa’s early years of development and growth. Vanessa is a 1989 graduate of Normandy High School where she participated in track, volleyball, basketball, and AAU summer track and field programming. Vanessa was coached by her brother John (Coach Davis) and nurtured by her sister in-law Rose (Rosie) throughout her high school years.
In 1989, Vanessa attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA where she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Rehabilitation Counseling Psychology. In 1991, Vanessa became a devout Christian and committed her life to serving in her local church and community. In 1997, she became an ordained minister and served in many capacities within the church empowering, educating, and inspiring youth & families through the preaching & teaching of the word of God. In 2007, she graduated from Lindenwood University with her Master’s degree in Professional Counseling. She continued a step further and became a licensed professional counselor in 2011. In 2021, she published Keeping Your Cool: A 16 week Anger Management Curriculum For Inner-City Urban Youth (Ages 9-18).
In the fall of 2022, she will launch EPICS Keeping Your Cool anger management program for youth!
Presently, Vanessa is the Founder & CEO of EPICS Counseling Services LLC, and the Founder & Board President of EPICS J. R. Foundation.
Shalita McFarland was born October 31, 1982 in Georgetown, SC. She is an African American actor, model, writer and business woman who have been working in the entertainment industry for 10 years. She recently played the role of “Merryweather” in Paradox Tales 2: The Royal Wedding and is now returning as her recurring role in Paradox Tales 3: Hunter’s Revenge. Shalita first got started with a modeling career when her and mother Sandra McFarland moved to Greensboro, NC so that she can attend high school. She modeled for various fashion shows and was featured in several hair magazines by Dudley’s Cosmetology School. In 2000, Shalita attended Appalachian State University in Boone, NC studying for her CIS degree where she was approached by a local clothing designer to be a test model for one of his designs. She was featured in local commercials and was then recruited by an agency in Charlotte, NC to audition for Tyra Banks’ America’s Next Top Model in 2004, Cycle 3. After graduating from college, Shalita moved back home to Greensboro and her journey of being a successful entertainer began. She worked as a teller at Newbridge Bank and she auditioned for John Casablanca in Raleigh, NC and was accepted. While taking various workshops and perfecting her craft, she booked her first paid gig for movie, Blood Done Sign My Name.
One of Shalita’s life’s goals was to be a part of a Tyler Perry’s production and her dreams came true when she submitted and was booked for Tyler’s television drama, The "Have and the Have Nots" in Atlanta, GA. She can also be seen in the new Muhammad Ali movie, "The Last Punch" as well as "Virtuous" with Erik Estrada to name a few. In 2017, she had the opportunity to meet and work as a stuntwoman for Oprah Winfrey on TV show Greenleaf. She is currently working with long time producer, writer, director, actor Greg Alan Williams in an upcoming film. With a lot of credits behind her name, Shalita continues to work diligently to reach her goal as a successful actress. She’s a part of the "Black Girl Run" that gives to charities such as Susan G. Komen, Make a Wish Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. Shalita credits her motivation to strive for success to her mother, Sandra McFarland and uses her daily motto”Be greater today than yesterday” to stay focused.
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