Maturing faith and family
By Bria Woods

Stephanie and Dan Phillips (right) enjoy making memories with their three sons (from left), Owen, 13, Joel, 11, and Luke, 9. Soon after meeting 20 years ago, Stephanie and Dan were eager to become parents and cultivate a faith-centered family.

After a morning of back-to-back meetings, Dan Phillips probably uttered no more than a few sentences in the span of four hours. One might think he’s checked out or his mind has wandered elsewhere. And then, suddenly, in a calm and steady voice, he will ask an insightful question that moves the conversation forward with purpose and resolve.

The 39-year-old is the Associate Director of Operations at the Bel Brands USA, Inc. plant in Leitchfield. He oversees a team of 360 employees who produce Mini Babybel cheeses and The Laughing Cow cheeses. Cheese, however, is not the only thing maturing in Dan’s world.
Owen, Joel and Luke are Dan’s three sons; with each milestone, he is growing with them. When Dan talks about his children, his reserved demeanor dissipates, and his countenance illuminates with joy and pride. Thirteen, eleven and nine respectively, the boys all hold Dan in high esteem.

“When I think of dad,” Owen ponders, “I think of the sound of the birds in the morning as I go hunting with ’em or as when we go up there riding together.” Owen shows photos from a six-day trip through national parks in Utah that he and his father took in April to celebrate his 13th birthday. Dan says that this will be a tradition he will continue when his sons turn 13 to usher in a new chapter of their burgeoning manhood. “Most of the things that I would have to say about him would be related to the outdoors cause he just absolutely loves it. He would live out there,” says Owen.

Stephanie, Dan’s wife of 16 years, says they work as a team to make the best decisions to shepherd their boys in the right direction.

In addition to growing as a father, Dan is intentional about growing in his spirituality. Faith is the lifeblood of their home and family dynamic. Both Dan and Stephanie were raised in the Christian faith and have made a point to share their faith with their sons. “I love that it is so normal for my boys to come downstairs and see their dad reading the Bible in the morning,” Stephanie smiles.

With his 40th birthday around the corner, Dan says that this has been the best decade of his life, one in which he was able to “grow as a father, as a husband, and as a leader in different positions in his community.”

“I’ve watched him grow from a boy to man since we’ve been together, and he’s grown so much in the Lord,” Stephanie says.

The fear of making the same mistakes their divorced parents made looms at times. But Stephanie says that they look up to older friends who come from similar backgrounds and are successfully raising children. She sees that it’s possible to break the mold and create a healthy God-fearing family. “We begin to see these kids as our legacy and as what they will be like as adults.”

As the sun’s last rays stretch across their expansive homestead at the end of a long week, Dan and Stephanie walk hand in hand as their boys kick up dust in their four-wheelers, laughter and smiles all around.

Faith in Christ is central to Stephanie and Dan’s personal and family life. They are both involved in their church, Potter’s Hope Ministries in Leitchfield. Attending weekly on Wednesdays and Sundays, Dan ushers, and Stephenie sings in the choir. They make a point to instill a love for church and God in their sons as well.

Nine-year-old Luke shares that his favorite moments with his dad are when they just talk together. Dan expresses an interest in understanding what their love language is. I would say all of them have a quality time component to them. So in some cases just being present and doing activities and trying to foster hobbies that we can continue on. Things in the outdoors, fishing and hunting, and those things we can share for a lifetime.

Abdelouahid Zerki (from left) and Abdelhakim Sellak, “experienced technicians” visiting from the plant in Tangier, Morocco, share findings and guidance with one of the maintenance and production teams at the plant in Leitchfield regarding machine maintenance. Dan (center) listens attentively while his colleague Industrial Performance Manager Mohamed Abdellatif (standing right) interjects to translate from Arabic to English for his colleagues.

For roughly an hour every morning, Dan walks the plant floor inspecting machines and briefly checks in with machine operators to learn about any concerns from the night before. When things malfunction, he responds in a measured and level-headed fashion focusing swiftly on ways to empower his team to design the best execution of solutions.

Luke (center) stirs lentil soup in the pressure cooker while Joel observes as they patiently wait for Dan to return home from a midweek Chamber of Commerce meeting. Stephanie says she always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom just like her mother, and after she and Dan moved to Kentucky from their home in Ohio, they didn’t have the option to call on family to watch the boys.

Dan and Stephanie both come from families who experienced divorce and recount wanting something different from the relationships with their parents. “My father was a good dad, but maybe wasn’t the best husband,” remembers Dan. When the couple began building their family, they were both inspired by an opportunity to be the parents they wished they had. After meeting Stephanie, he says, “There was an intentionality to make it work and stick it out with Christ being first in our marriage.”

Dan (from left), Owen and Luke bow their heads in prayer before tucking into a meal at one of their favorite restaurants in Leitchfield, Las Palmas Mexican Grille.

Joel, 11, speeds across their expansive lawn on his four-wheeler. He and his brother Luke share a fascination with their dad’s handiness and knowledge of how to build things from scratch and make their house a home.

Stephanie reminisces how she met Dan through a mutual friend from their local church, saying they hit it off instantly. “I knew looking at him he was going to be a leader even though he was just a college kid. I mean, I don’t know how I knew that, but I knew that he would be a leader.” The couple built a home on an 18-acre plot of land in Clarkson, where they continue to make memories with their three sons.