Laurel is a quaint town that almost 20,000 people call home. A place where ideas and excitement of small businesses breed, grow and thrive. But there’s always room for growth under our oak-lined streets and family-friendly neighborhoods for more. In recent years, Laurel has become a mixing pot of young professionals, new families, and rising community leaders that are, in the words of Pastor Cory Watts, “joining together to create a community that we all desire.”
Yesterday, we celebrated two of our most charismatic neighbors as they officially became apart of the Laurel community on the national stage. It’s safe to say they were surprised and thankful for their new home that will nurture and love their family of five for a long time.
Dr. Toy and Pastor Cory Watts and their three children have been the newest, rambunctious addition to the Laurel community for almost a year now. Dr. Toy is most proud of her role as a mother of three— all under the ages of seven. The couple has been together for twenty-two years and their relationship is rooted in the fact that they are best friends and have the most fun laughing and teasing each other whenever the opportunity arises.
Dr. Toy remarks “He always says I was a different person during our first year of marriage. He was probably right! I was quiet, nice, observant. I did everything I thought wives should do: breakfast in bed, ironed his clothes, everything. Then I realized I was getting the short end of the stick! Then I guess I got more stern.”
Cory jumps in and says, “She got mean is what she got, but it’s okay. I’m into angry chicks.”
Their playful banter fills up the entire room and every person they encounter can attest that Toy and Cory Watts are the best of friends– and madly in love too!
While the oak-lined streets of Laurel and the community are what charmed them into staying, the opportunity to serve sealed the deal. Toy Watts is the new Laurel School District superintendent and deservingly so. She has served the public education system in various positions for 22 years. She began as a junior high teacher, proceeded to high school counselor and then an alternative school teacher. She advanced to an assistant superintendent position before finally becoming Laurel’s superintendent. Toy comments, “If you had asked me five years ago if I’d be a superintendent, I would have said no. I would have said I was going to stay an assistant superintendent until I retired from education altogether.”
Cory, who serves as a Minister, says that Toy has always resisted her true calling. “She was gifted to be a leader, but like most people, she wasn’t sure she wanted to be in that position at first. But she is beyond capable and deserves to be happy and have fulfillment in her life. This opportunity is what she’s always deserved.”
Laurel has become the most nurturing space for Toy and Cory to focus on their family and juggle everything else. Cory, who is a pastor and also employed at the NASA space center at the Gulf Coast, says, “While we don’t have family here, the people in this town have adopted us as their own. I have to drive almost three hours each day to work and back and if we didn’t have them, our family would be in a lot of trouble.”
Toy jokes that you can’t walk ten feet without knowing someone. “This is always the place I imagined when I thought about my children growing up. I can’t tell you how many people that have reached out to us and wrapped their arms around our family and helped us settle in because we don’t have any family here.”
Though the community has given much to them, the two and their kids plan on giving much back to their neighbors. Their willingness to serve is what draws people to their presence and what keeps this couple rooted in what they call their God-given purpose. While their new home town may be small, their dreams for their close community in Laurel are vast.
Cory says it’s important to embrace community and jump in immediately. He hopes to break all kind of barriers and work with children, as they are most important.
Pastor Watts says, “I believe in community advocacy and helping the people in the community. I enjoy just helping folks feel better about themselves. I hope to work with organizations that help kids, provide Christmas toys, and school supplies. You see, if you help the kids, you’re also helping the parents.
It’s funny: every issue you may have with your neighbor can't stand against service and gratitude.
When you choose to help someone, every problem goes right out the window. You can make a neighbor out of anyone when you help their children.”
We are beyond excited to welcome the Watts Family to the neighborhood!