Family affair: Inspired by daughter, Garners build a business

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – A Saltillo family is blending life and art, inspired by their little girl with Down syndrome.
Bethany & Co. was born out of a wish for nearly 5-year-old Bethany Compton by her parents Michaela and Eric Garner.
“I would sure like to have something I can paint with Bethany,” Michaela Garner remembers telling Eric over the summer.
A few months later, one wall of the garage is full of hand-painted frames, crosses and decorative pieces fashioned from reclaimed wood. Bethany & Co. will have its grand opening on March 24. The pieces are already sold at the Northstar Church book store and the Bethany & Co. Facebook page, and the family has plans to sell them at regional festivals this summer.
“I see it as a ministry,” Michaela Garner said. “… it’s something for Bethany to have as she grows.”
The art project came together as Michaela and Eric Garner blended their lives this summer, creating a new family with Erica and Ty Garner and Matthew, Gabriel and Bethany Compton.
“We’ve known each other for years, but we didn’t start dating until last spring,” Eric Garner said.
The Compton family lost husband and father, David Compton Jr., in a car wreck in 2007 when Bethany was just a couple months old.
The whole Garner-Compton gang has gotten involved with the project, but for now Michaela and Eric Garner are in the lead.
“I do the wood work,” said Eric Garner, who recently transitioned from a sales job that kept him on the road to a new job at Lowe’s. “She makes it pretty.”
Bethany, who has her own little work table made by her dad, gets to exercise her creativity and work on her motor skills as she paints.
“We practice with colors and making long strokes,” Michaela Garner said.
As early, intensive therapy has become more widely available for kids with Down syndrome, parents and educators have found they are capable of so much more.
“People have realized they can be taught if you take the time to teach them,” said Michaela Garner, who is active with the Northeast Mississippi Down Syndrome Society. “They should have the right and opportunity to create and excel to the highest standards.”
Bethany’s teachers at the McDougal Center, which is affiliated with Region III Mental Health, have been instrumental in helping the family lay the foundations for Bethany to fulfill her potential.
“They teach me how to raise the bar for her,” said Michaela Garner.
For more information about Bethany & Co., contact Michaela Garner at (662) 401-1317.