Amanda’s Adoption Journey

Amanda Dunn Adoption Photo

For as long as she can remember, Sr. Social Media Coordinator Amanda Dunn has wanted a big family. The lively holiday celebrations, packed family photos, and joyful chaos that come with a house full of kids were always part of her plan. With a mix of fate, faith, and determination, that dream is becoming a reality for Amanda and her husband, Josh. The two recently announced the beginning of their Domestic Infant Adoption journey, and Amanda shared what led them to this momentous decision.

“As far back as my mission trip in college, I had always talked about adoption,” Amanda said. “It’s always something that has been on my heart.”

When the Dunns decided this might be their path to parenthood, Amanda’s father mentioned an old high school friend who works in the adoption field. After connecting with her, the couple realized adoption was meant to be. They began reaching out to agencies and starting the first steps.

The Dunns have an adoption consultant to help them through the sometimes overwhelming process. Currently, they are in the consultation stage, which involves plentiful paperwork, training videos, and building an adoption book.

The next step will be a home study. Here, the state comes in to inspect and interview to ensure the adoption-hopefuls will provide an environment fit for a child. Once they are approved and active in the network, the couple can begin submitting their adoption book to be placed in front of birth mothers.

Once a birth mother selects the Dunns, they will have a chance to learn about her history, health, and background. If both parties accept, they could be anywhere from days to months away from adopting a new baby.

“You really have to be prepared to have a baby at any moment,” Amanda said. “The potential timeframe is big, so you have no idea until a match is made when the baby will be born. We’ve already begun buying nursery furniture and supplies.”

The adoption won’t necessarily be local, either. The Dunns might have to travel and stay in another state anywhere from 48 hours to two weeks, depending on varying state laws.

When asked about open versus closed adoptions, Amanda said she and Josh prefer an open adoption, but they are open to a closed one if the birth mother decides that.

“We see open adoption as a blessing on both ends,” Amanda said. “We’re adopting a family, not just a baby. When I was on my mission trip, people expected that our work would be a huge blessing to the people we were helping. In reality, I feel like I gained more than I gave. We think we will be blessed by this adoption more than we could bless anyone else, so we’re going into it with a very open mindset.”

Throughout the process, Amanda said her faith has been the biggest encouraging factor.

“We were trying to decide if adoption was God’s decision or just ours, but so many signs and things fell into place as soon as we chose to adopt that it confirmed it’s the path we’re supposed to be on.”

At the end of the day, there is always more research and deliberation that can be done, but Amanda said she must simply trust that all will work out, her family will be united soon, and what needs to happen will happen.


You can follow along for updates on the Dunn’s adoption journey by visiting

Manly Honda Gains #1 Spot with SAM’s Help

2,300 years ago, Aristotle defined the three pillars of persuasion – ethos, logos, and pathos. Now, two millennia later, these principles remain indispensable to a successful marketing strategy. Ethos, which represents credibility, is especially important for dealerships looking to gain market share and retain their customer base.

Manly Honda in Santa Rosa, California, holds one of the most credible titles a store could wish for. This dealership was the first in history to sell a Honda vehicle in the United States. Today, you can still see the retired model displayed on the showroom floor.

Even greater than the historical claims Manly Honda can make are its modern-day accolades. Since becoming a SAM client, the dealership has secured the number one spot in its district for two months in a row – a first for the store.

It’s easy to assume that a top-level spot requires an enormous amount of ad spend. The catch, however, is that Manly Honda’s budget is shockingly smaller than that of most SAM clients. In February, the dealership had a Facebook ads budget of just $2,100 and was one of the agency’s top-performing accounts in terms of sales and traffic.

One of the dealership’s secrets to success is its highly targeted approach. The goal was to penetrate the local Hispanic market, as it represents a significant opportunity for expansion. In January, SAM launched the store’s first Spanish-language ads. Shortly thereafter, a customer came in and referenced the ad’s offer. This was the first time a member of the Hispanic community had referenced any marketing from the dealership, and our client was overwhelmingly pleased.

Manly Honda also has a secret weapon up its sleeve – Adolfo Salazar. In Santa Rosa, Adolfo is somewhat of a local celebrity. At the dealership, he works as the Hispanic Marketing Manager. Originally, the company’s outreach to this market consisted of Adolfo posting organically to his own network of contacts. After SAM launched paid Facebook ads for the dealership, results only amplified.

Manly Honda is different from many SAM clients in that it prefers to invest in SEO more than PPC. The store runs double the amount for its SEO budget, believing that is where Manly Honda will see its greatest return. Mail is also a high performer for this dealership, with one recent mailer generating 21 calls in its first day. Previous mail campaigns have scored more than 30 sales matches.

To reach the level of success that Manly Honda has been able to achieve, it takes a mix of smart strategies and refined internal processes. This dealership has both, and with SAM’s help, plans to continue achieving many more number one feats.

Recent Promotions

In case you missed it, we’ve had several team members get recognized for their hard work lately. These employees are ready to take on higher-level responsibilities and contribute more to SAM in their expanded roles. Nice!

Kristen Callahan

  • Promoted to Accounting Specialist

Hayley Grisham

  • Promoted to Account Executive

Tom Little

  • Promoted to Senior Copywriter

Zack Johnson

  • Promoted to Digital Services Specialist

Savanna Gray

  • Promoted to SEO Coordinator

Anne Heaney

  • Promoted to Content Marketing Coordinator

Sheila’s Engaged!

Christmas bauble with wedding and engagement rings in red satin

When the circles of SAM refilled this January, many of us came back with something new. Gifts from Christmas, a fresh theme, a renewed sense of hope and determination. But none of these novelties were as surprising as the new adornment on Sheila Grandy’s hand. SAM’s self-described free spirit had just said yes to marrying her boyfriend of the last two years.

Sheila and Brian met when a mutual friend suggested they connect. While they both attended the same church, Sheila had never seen Brian and was shocked she could have missed him in her post as a greeter.

The two hit it off and have been together for two years now. During the 2020 lockdown, Sheila and Brian spent more time together than ever before.

“Brian is usually in town only a couple of days a week since he works as an MLB recruiter,” Sheila said. “I typically travel and see my girlfriends on the weekends. When Covid hit, his grandaughter’s spring break visit with us turned into a six-week sojourn. With me working from home and Brian unable to travel, we entered a new phase of our relationship that confirmed we could spend a lot of continuous time together.”

Talks of marriage came up, and Sheila figured it would happen sometime in 2021. She had already sent photos of the ring she wanted, which a jewelry-maker friend in Houston offered to craft. But when it came time to open her gifts on Christmas Day, a proposal was not what Sheila was expecting.

“I opened a box with a purse from Brian’s daughter and grandson,” Sheila said. “Brian insisted we open all of our gifts early, and he asked whether there was anything in the purse. When I opened the card inside, he told me to look again, and tucked inside the envelope was a ring.”

Sheila was completely taken by surprise when she found the ring. Then, Brian knelt down and asked Sheila to marry him. His hand was well-played, as Brian had secured a second ring for the proposal while the Houston band was being made. Otherwise, there was no way he was sneaking it past Sheila.

For the wedding, the couple is planning a ceremony this October in Las Vegas. It is important to Sheila that the people involved all have close ties to her life. Her close friend and formal Bible study teacher is officiating, her niece is singing, and her best friends will stand as her bridesmaids.

For the honeymoon, the two plan to stay in Las Vegas for a few days after the wedding. They are considering another trip closer to Christmas, but they feel fortunate to have already been able to travel before the pandemic took hold.

“I never thought I’d get married; I’ve always been the free spirit,” Sheila said. “But my girlfriends love him, he’s always looking out for me, and I can still do my own thing and travel. For me, that’s part of the attraction.”

We at SAM wish Sheila and Brian the best as they plan their wedding and celebrate finding love in 2020.

Around the Agency: News Roundup

Check out December’s latest updates from around Team SAM! If you have updates you’d like included, make sure to submit them to your department’s story collector or manager.



  • Andrea Kring and her husband, Tim, put the SAM Green Egg to good use this Thanksgiving. Smoked turkey was DEEEE-licious. #ThanksJP #TurkeyStrong



  • Art is creating new Google ad banners with hidden disclaimers
  • Art is updating the hub pages with a new look, thanks to the competition we held a few months back



  • We are excited to begin working with Corbitt Chandler, Digital Marketing Consultant. Corbitt is helping us improve and rethink our arsenal of digital products


Direct Contact

  • We are rolling off of a record November for direct mail and eCampaigns and expect December to set new records as well!
  • Very excited to have Mimi back from maternity leave this month!

Sheila’s No-Travel 2020

If there’s one thing that’s synonymous with Sheila Grandy, it’s travel. But like many of us in 2020, she has had to take a different approach to leisure. So, how has Sheila spent her time when cruises and weekend excursions are off the table?

That’s what we’re here to find out.

Squeezing in a Little Sight-Seeing

Sheila and her best friend, Kim, got to enjoy one pre-pandemic trip this year.

“I did make it to Houston before everything shut down,” Sheila said. “We were dying to go to the rodeo, so we flew there at the beginning of March, right before everything really hit. We brought scarves to keep our faces covered, but that was before anyone was even wearing masks. Once we got back, the rest of my travel plans were off the books.”

Some of Sheila’s 2020 plans included Chicago in May, the New Orleans Essence Festival in July, Major League Baseball in August, and San Fransisco for New Year’s Eve.

After being forced to shift gears, Sheila said the memories of past trips helped keep her spirits high.

“My friends would always laugh because I took so many photos on our trips,” Sheila said. “Now, I’ve been sending and sharing those to help us remember the good times.”

Sheila recounted how, on a girls’ trip in 2018, the group went to New York City. On the last night, she insisted they walk the Brooklyn Bridge (they had already walked 12 miles that day). Her friends grudgingly agreed, but it turned out to be one of the best travel photos Sheila has ever captured. Now, the friends look back on that photo with nostalgia.

To fill her time this year, Sheila has enjoyed spending more time outdoors.

“I’ve always walked about 5 miles every morning, but typically I would go to the YMCA to do that,” Sheila said. “I’ve switched to outdoor walking since it’s safer, and I’ve really enjoyed the fresh air.”

Sheila has also enjoyed watching new church services online. There is one that particularly speaks to her in Chicago, and she plans to visit in person once travel is safer.

“After Chicago, I’m planning to take a girls’ trip to Savannah and Charleston,” Sheila said. “Everyone knows I love cruises, and this year was supposed to be my ninth. But land travel will come first.”

Despite the difficulty of traveling this year, Sheila has managed to tuck a few excursions under her belt. Her list includes an outdoor concert in Biloxi for the Fourth of July, a couple of trips to Memphis, and a recent visit to the Stardome Comedy Club in Hoover, AL.

Sheila has definitley found ways to make a challenging year interesting. Like the rest of us, she’s hoping for a speedy return to normalcy as we make our way into 2021.

Charlene Gets Hitched!

It was more than 40 years ago that Charlene Meeks Barnett first met her husband-to-be. In the halls of their shared high school, it was Ricky’s cerulean eyes and peppy demeanor that drew in Charlene. However, their destiny was not to become high school sweethearts. Twenty-five years would pass before the two ultimately reconnected.

Charlene and Ricky went on their first date nine and a half years ago and have been together ever since.

“The timing wasn’t right to get married any sooner,” Charlene said. “With our families now more settled, we decided this summer that it was our chance to tie the knot.”

On Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving, the couple was wed at an intimate ceremony at a friend’s lakehouse. Originally, they had planned to marry in relative secrecy and surprise their families on Thanksgiving but decided it was better to share the moment with their loved ones.

“All of the people at our wedding have been there for me throughout the past 20 years,” Charlene said. “You could just feel the love pouring out of the moment.”

Luckily, the weather held out and let the love pour rather than the sky. The storm clouds from earlier in the day parted to reveal a picturesque sunset under which the couple took their vows.

Charlene stated that she felt lucky the pandemic didn’t alter her plans by much. She was wanting an intimate ceremony from the beginning without too many bells and whistles.

“My daughter is getting married this April, and I didn’t want to detract from that,” Charlene said. “It’s her time to shine.”

After the wedding, Charlene and Ricky enjoyed a honeymoon built around spontaneity. Their roadtrip spanned northern Georgia and parts of North Carolina. Charlene insisted that the couple make no reservations and have no itinerary. They would simply land wherever the wind blew them.

“My life at work and even at home is so structured all of the time,” Charlene said. “It was so nice to go on this honeymoon roadtrip with nothing we had to do. If we saw somewhere we wanted to stop, we stopped. We stayed at this quaint little inn off the city block in Elijay, GA, and walked to dinner that evening. They had rooms, so that’s where we landed.”

The Barnetts visited Blue Ridge, Amicalola Falls, Elijay, and Cherokee as part of their trip. A wine tasting session at Frogtown Winery in Dahlonega, GA, was one of the highlights for Charlene.

Back in Alabama, the Barnetts are establishing a new life together as a married couple.

“Ricky is great with my grandkids,” Charlene said. “They’ve known him most of their lives. I’m just having to get used to living with a grown man again!”

We at SAM wish the best to the new Mr. and Mrs. Barnett, and a hearty congratulations from us all!

Around the Agency: News Roundup

Check out November’s latest updates from around Team SAM! If you have updates you’d like included, make sure to submit them to your department’s story collector or manager.


  • Media works hard to place the entire year upfront for SAM’s clients whenever possible. When we have the ability to place Media annually, we can ensure that we are securing the lowest rates and the most Added Value possible.
  • For our annual clients, 1Q21 was placed by mid-October. We will have 2Q-4Q 2021 completed by Friday, December 11 – some clients sooner than that!
  • We’ve already secured 1Q21 for our quarterly clients and will have 2Q21 completed before Thanksgiving.
  • We adhere to tight deadlines to ensure we’re getting the most we can for our clients.



  • Deidra Box and her husband Eddie recently drove the Tail of the Dragon – one of the top motorcycle and sports car roads in the world. The road features 318 curves in 11 miles.


Direct Contact

  • Oct 2020 Prospect Vision volume beat Oct 2019 Prospect Vision volume, and we are excited about Nov. and Dec.!



  • From Dennis: This was a photo John Paul drew when he was just a kid. He wasn’t always an account executive, he used to be in production!


Account Team

  • Tatum is having a baby girl
  • Courtney Wyzard is engaged
  • Nathan’s dog had puppies – and Stan is taking one home
  • Clauer just closed on his new Direct Mail campaign
  • Rose had snow in Chicago for the first time!

John Paul Responds to Agency Comments

Note: This addresses only Sept. and Oct. comment box items. The Engagement Survey results will be released later this month.


From: John Paul Strong

Team SAM—

We have gotten some helpful feedback from the recently-added comment box in the monthly newsletter. I wanted to take a moment to address a few of the topics that were submitted.


A couple of changes have already been made, like the new coffee pot system being tested in S1 along with additional creamer options. If the new system works well, we will roll it out to the remaining kitchens.

Another request mentioned concern over using George Jetson as a place to lunch with coworkers due to the open entrance. While it’s impractical to close off the kitchen, don’t let the openness dissuade you from using this area to enjoy a safely distanced lunch with others. That is one of the intended uses of this space.

COVID-19 Procedure

Our coronavirus procedure is continually adjusted as new recommendations become available from the CDC and our HR partner, Renay Winston. We know safety is a big concern for us all. If an employee tests positive, all employees identified as having close-contact exposure will be required to work from home for 14 days regardless of whether they test negative. This procedure has already been put into practice at SAM.

We are doing everything possible to maintain the efficiency of our working style while minimizing the risk of coronavirus exposure for employees. The more firmly we all follow the guidelines, the more protected we will be.

Growth Opportunities

SAM is proud to support the growth of employees and offer career advancement opportunities. This is why we fill positions internally as much as possible. Employees are evaluated on their work record and ability to drive results when decisions regarding promotions are made. Various other professional performance factors are taken into consideration as well.

If you have any concerns over your growth path with the agency, make sure to talk with your manager who can help you lay out the next steps. Megan Cesnick is also a resource for this.


Thank you to everyone who took the time to submit constructive feedback over the past 2 months. Be aware our annual Employee Engagement Survey results will be released later this month and will be discussed in full detail.