1 month ago

Alabama’s Ingram State Technical College gives inmates valued skills for jobs after release

Having the skills to perform a new, in-demand job, can be life-changing. For people coming out of prison, the transformation can be even more remarkable.

That’s the belief behind a program at Alabama’s Ingram State Technical College in Deatsville. Inmates coming out of prison in the state work with ISTC instructors to earn certifications in barbering, HVAC, plumbing and 14 other career and technical programs.

Thanks in large part to a grant from Alabama Power Foundation, the heating, ventilation and air conditioning program has grown tremendously at ISTC. The program awards associate of applied technology degrees, short-term certificates and industry certifications. Each of the awards has different credit hour requirements. To date, 255 students have earned credentials, including for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour general safety course, Environmental Protection Agency refrigerant handling and certified logistics assistant certificates. More than 200 students have been placed in jobs this year.

“We’ve been fortunate that Alabama Power has donated some equipment to us, and grants that have bought us equipment, and fortunate to have a lot of hands-on experience,” instructor Stan Humphries said.

ISTC works with more than 300 inmates at six sites to give them a trade and direction after their release. Former inmates like Robbie Wright are thankful for the second chance.

“It’s been a smooth transition for me,” Wright said. “I’ve been working for 71 or 72 days and haven’t run into any problems that he (Humphries) didn’t tell me about, and I know the proper training that I need.”

Annette Funderburk, president of ISTC, said grants like those from Alabama Power Foundation help give inmates a head start.

“The college cannot use our education funds for credentials, so the Alabama Power grant has helped in that way,” she said, adding those credentials “allow our students, once they graduate and once they’re released, to have those credentials in their hands when they go to the interviews and have an opportunity that maybe someone on the street might not have.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 mins ago

Schumer deputy fundraising for Doug Jones

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), the highest-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership besides Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is now publicly raising money for endangered Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

In a recent tweet, Durbin urged his followers to donate to Jones’ campaign.

The tweet links to a fundraising landing page with Durbin’s own campaign logo on it.

“Contribute now to help Doug Jones beat Jeff Sessions in Alabama’s Senate race,” the page urges.

This follows a trend of national Democrats fundraising for Jones based off of former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions entering the crowded Republican primary to reclaim his old Senate seat.

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Senator Kamala Harris’ (D-CA) presidential campaign launched a fundraising blitz with contributions split between her campaign and Jones’, and Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) have followed suit. Schatz also serves on Schumer’s Senate Democratic leadership team as chief deputy whip.

Per Murphy, his and Schatz’s respective fundraising appeals raised $40,000 for Jones’ campaign in the first day alone.

Jones welcomed the support, tweeting, “It is awesome to be in the company of such great friends – and true public servants.”

In the past three quarters, Jones raised 77%, 88% and 88%, respectively, of his individual itemized contributions from outside the state of Alabama.

Californians and New Yorkers have been Jones’ largest sources of funding, with the Washington, D.C. area and other liberal metropolitan strongholds like Chicago also playing major roles.

In addition to Sessions, the competitive GOP Senate primary field includes former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Secretary of State John Merrill and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs).

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

34 mins ago

BCA names Kellie Hope director of regional affairs for South Alabama

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Tuesday announced that Kellie Hope has been named director of regional affairs. Her primary focus will be the organization’s membership in South Alabama.

According to a release, Hope’s responsibilities will span from membership services to governmental affairs and will include creating opportunities for elected officials to learn more about the unique needs of the business community in this important region of the state. She will also be working closely with chambers of commerce in South Alabama.

In a statement, BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt outlined that Hope is an exciting addition to an already top-notch team.

“Kellie Hope is well known and well respected in the Mobile business community, and we are proud to have her join our team,” Britt said.

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“Her knowledge and relationships position her to be invaluable to BCA members in south Alabama and to help grow and serve our membership in this region of the state,” Britt continued. “This new position will give us the opportunity to provide boots on the ground while at the same time prioritizing membership services on a more local level.”

Hope expressed that she is “grateful for this opportunity.”

“I look forward to wearing the BCA jersey and being the consummate team player and a champion for BCA’s mission to further develop, empower and support the business community of south Alabama. I am honored by Katie’s friendship and her trust, and I am equally honored by the trust and approval of the BCA leadership,” Hope added.

Hope comes to BCA from the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, where she had served as vice president of community and governmental affairs since 2017. Prior to the chamber, she served as external affairs manager for Southern Light (now Uniti Fiber), developing local government relations across the Gulf Coast. Hope was responsible for legislative and regulatory issues impacting the fiber company in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Additionally, Hope has 10-plus years’ experience in the health care sector, including director of community services and communications for Tulane University Hospital; administrator and mental health coordinator for Cooper Green Mercy Hospital in Birmingham; and owner of the Louisiana Health and Wellness Group in Houma, LA, providing a partial hospitalization program for mentally ill adults.

Hope earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a Master of Social Work from Tulane University. Additionally, she is a graduate of Leadership Mobile in 2015 and Leadership Alabama in 2017 and currently serves on the boards of directors of Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast, Dumas Wesley Community Center and Downtown Parks Conservancy.

Hope’s job at BCA is effective immediately. She will be based in Mobile.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Steven Reed sworn in as mayor of Montgomery

MONTGOMERY — Steven L. Reed on Tuesday morning was sworn in as the City of Montgomery’s 57th mayor.

An exuberant crowd packed the Montgomery Performing Arts Center to view the historic occasion firsthand, as Reed is now the first black mayor of Alabama’s capital city.

The momentous occasion was a theme in Reed’s inaugural address, as he repeatedly made references to Montgomery’s status as the cradle of the Confederacy and birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement.

Whether it be the slave trade’s former prominence in the city or the fact that his parents could still not eat in whites-only restaurants when they came to town, Reed made it clear Montgomery has come a long way.

However, he emphasized that the way to look is forward — for continued progress and greater prosperity.

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“When your memories are bigger than your dreams, you’re in big trouble,” Reed said. “There are no chains on our imaginations.”

He also stressed a continued need for unity — across socioeconomic, racial and religious lines.

“What we can never be again is a divided Montgomery,” the mayor proclaimed.

Outlining that the city is at the intersection of history and possibility, he advised that Montgomery faces a lot of very real challenges. He said that it might not happen quickly but that solutions were on the way to create safer neighborhoods, better classrooms and further opportunities for all.

Reed mentioned laying more fiber, investing in pre-k, focusing on workforce development and paying teachers more as key priorities.

He shared his vision for Montgomery as “a New South capital for all,” in which all — not just the few — are able to thrive.

Reed’s speech came after his father, Dr. Joe Reed, gave “brief” remarks.

Dr. Reed’s first piece of advice to his son was: “Keep God in the forefront.”

He urged the new mayor to not be afraid to pray for guidance or ask others to pray for him.

The inauguration ceremony came during a special meeting of the Montgomery City Council.

After the entire council was sworn in, the members reelected Charles Jinright as council president and Tracy Larkin as council president pro tem.

Reed was sworn in by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama.

You can view a video of the proceedings and remarks from both Reeds here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

Small business remains ‘upbeat’ about economy; Workforce needs remain a priority

The small business economic engine continues to run strong, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) October Optimism Index.

The nationwide small business organization released the findings of its monthly index on Tuesday, with the index once again showing gains in that sector of the economy.

The leader of NFIB’s Alabama association expressed continued optimism among members.

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“[S]mall business owners in Alabama generally are upbeat about the direction of the economy,” explained NFIB state director Rosemary Elebash. “Their primary concern at the moment is finding enough good job applicants.”

NFIB president and CEO Juanita Duggan, an Alabama native, credits sound policy for the gains despite some recent media fixation on potential negative trends.

“A continued focus on a recession by policymakers, talking heads, and the media clearly caused some consternation among small businesses in previous months, but after shifting their focus to other topics, it’s become clear that owners are not experiencing the predicted turmoil,” said Duggan. “Small business owners are continuing to create jobs, raise wages, and grow their businesses, thanks to tax cuts and deregulation, and nothing is stopping them except for finding qualified workers.”

As a result of small business continuing to hire and create new jobs, the index found that actual job creation in October exceeded that in September.

As Elebash noted, meeting the workforce needs of thriving small businesses remain both a challenge and a priority.

Twenty-five percent of the owners in the NFIB survey selected “finding qualified labor” as their top business problem, more than cited taxes or regulations.

“Labor shortages are impacting investment adversely – a new truck, or tractor, or crane is of no value if operators cannot be hired to operate them,” said NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg.

At a small business panel hosted by Yellowhammer last month, Alabama’s workforce development needs drove much of the conversation.

“We have a significant shortage of qualified workers,” said Elebash, who participated in the panel discussion.

State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) is a member of a workforce development commission assembled by Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.

Also a participant in Yellowhammer’s small business event, he outlined the fact that Alabama needs to implement a sound strategy to address its workforce needs.

“Not only do we need to develop our workforce for current jobs, we’ve got to get out front and understand where we are going,” advised Garrett.

For now, NFIB’s Dunkelberg remains bullish on an economy in which small business is prospering.

“The economy is doing well given the labor constraints it faces. Unemployment is very low, incomes are rising, and inflation is low. That’s a good economy,” Dunkelberg concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 hours ago

10 fun family Thanksgiving tradition ideas

This year my mom and I got started talking about traditions. You know, what activities do we want to pass down from generation to generation, especially since there are grandbabies runnin’ around now!

We chatted about all the standards: painting/carving pumpkins at Halloween, baking cookies/gingerbread houses at Christmas and present wrapping parties throughout the year for birthdays, etc.

But we soon realized that other than a day full of cooking, we were coming up dry with a fun tradition for Thanksgiving. Aside from curling up to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (which is a tradition I will always cherish), we decided we needed to remedy this clear unfairness to such an important holiday.

It seems pretty unfortunate that the only time most people gather and converse about God’s many blessings is around the dining room table once a year on Thanksgiving. It would be nice if there was a way we could remind ourselves daily what we have to be grateful for and what our family members are grateful for as well. So, I’ve scoured the minds of my much smarter friends to help us all out this year.

I present to you 10 fun family Thanksgiving tradition ideas:

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(1) Create a thankfulness countdown – For each day in the month of Thanksgiving, talk as a family about something or someone you are thankful for. There are several ways you can display the results of your thankfulness chats. You could cut out turkey shapes and allow children to write a new item to be thankful for each day on a feather. You could use a chalkboard displayed prominently for all family members to see throughout the day. You could even use a journal to keep as family treasure forever. No matter how you preserve the fruits of these chats, I promise it will change your whole perspective and get you more excited than ever to spend an entire month focused on all your many blessings!

(2) Save to give! – For the entire month, pick up a few extra items each time you go grocery shopping. Blankets, warm coats and clothes are nice to have on hand as well. Reach out to local shelters, women’s’ groups and churches to see what needs they may have for the upcoming holiday. Make it a priority to give back in whatever way you feel called. Thanksgiving is a reminder of all the many blessings we have been gifted, and a perfect opportunity to give back to those in deepest need of our love and kindness.

Another way you can give back is to serve in the weeks leading up (and even on Thanksgiving Day), at your local shelter. These individuals are often without any other means of providing a meal to their families and investing in their lives is something you will be very grateful you made time to do. Often, having the ability to give back is one of our greatest blessings.

(3) Create love baskets – Before the insanity of the season truly kicks in, take a few moments to create Love Baskets for your closest family and friends. Consider baking some cookies with your children and gathering some hot cocoa supplies. You can purchase inexpensive baskets and wrapping supplies at your local dollar store. Put little baskets together to take and drop off at your loved ones’ houses. Share with them that you want to make it a point each year to remind those you love just how much you love them. Trust me, this tradition will swiftly become one that all of your friends and family look forward to year after year!

(4) Host a family game night – Who says you can only be thankful and fun on a few nights each year? Put together a night of fun-filled with games and story-telling. Invite your friends and family to participate. Trade off with hosting duties. Throw in an extra level of fun by having a theme. Making time for each other is one of the most important parts of the holiday season.

(5) Start a Friendsgiving supper club with friends – When I think about Thanksgiving, all that comes to mind (food-wise) is a giant turkey, tons of fluffy dressing and canned cranberry sauce (the form of canned cranberry sauce is emblazoned in my brain forever, y’all). Since you know you will be enjoying all the spoils of a pilgrim-approved meal later in November, spend the rest of the month gathering with friends each week to share taco night, noodle night, Italian night, BBQ bonanza, etc. This is such a fun way to make sure and spend time loving on your friends and also saving the Thanksgiving approved nosh for later!

(6) Family affirmation craft – Instead of lurking in the corner attempting to avoid the political conversations we all know are bound to fill the halls of our homes this year, be intentional about changing the topic of conversation! Take the talk back inward and chat about all the many ways you are grateful for one another.

Here’s how to get it going: Every November, give each family member a card for every other family member. (So if there are 10 family members total, give each family member nine cards).

Write each family member’s name on the back of their respective card. Then, ask each family member to write something nice, something they love or something they are grateful for about each of the other family members on their respective cards. (They could also choose to include a quote or story about the family member, too.)

Select an “organizer” who will collect all of the cards and add them to a binder ring for each family member. Do this for a few years in a row and each family member will have tons of uplifting messages, quotes, and encouraging words of love to reflect upon.

I love this concept because it reminds us daily of why we love each other, why we are grateful to God for giving us one another and how we should live in gratitude all year long.

(7) Create a family recipe Book – Take some time to sit down the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to reach out to you family members requesting them to bring their favorite recipes to Thanksgiving dinner. Once collected, put them all together and make copies to create a treasure for each family. You can create recipe books in almost all online photo hubs such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, even Walgreens will print a photo book for you in under an hour. These will become unique memory books worthy of passing down for generations to come!

(8) Personalize your place settings – Rather than the simple name card, consider crafting a special welcome for your thanksgiving dinner guests. Using the same card idea, jot down personality traits, encouraging words or quotes to include as well. The more personal you make your loved ones feel, the more deeply those memories will last with them forever.

(9) Set up a simple craft table for children – One of the more stressful parts of holiday entertaining is what to do with all the little ones running around. Planning ahead saves the day! Using an inexpensive card table, lay out a paper tablecloth with crayons. You can also pick up very inexpensive crafts at Hobby Lobby or Michaels throughout the season (Heads up: both stores dramatically mark down their products the closer to the day, but stock is always better the further out you prepare …). Set up a station to control the frustration! There’s you a catchy new motto. By providing them a “home,” children will feel welcomed and entertained for hours giving you time to socialize without the stress.

(10) Get outside! – One of my favorite traditions from childhood is playing a game of whiffle ball with the whole family as soon as everyone woke up from their “turkey nap,” as my grandmother called it. We would block out an entire afternoon of fun by picking teams, setting the rules and involving even the tiniest of family members in the fun. To take it up a notch, we even started crafting team uniforms. Make this day all about gathering in love to celebrate the gift of a family to treasure and memories worth making together.