The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

Alabama’s Project SHARE a blessing for those in need

(The Salvation Army of Greater Birmingham/Contributed)

During her 35-year career working in the health care services industry, Willie Neil McGhee lived out what she believed was her calling in life: to help people. Every day, McGhee assisted customers with billing and collections using empathy and concern, always trying to find ways to help others.

However, not long after McGhee retired, she found herself on the other side, when she needed assistance with her utility bills.

“If you have compassion, you know when a person really needs help,” McGhee said. “I never thought I would ever be in that position, but you never know.”

For McGhee, the help she needed came from Project SHARE.


“My income was not where it should have been when I retired. I had a home to pay for and my bills exceeded my income,” said McGhee. “It was just one thing after another that I needed. At my breaking point, I was about to give up, but my faith kept me going. I kept trying and trying and then found Project SHARE.”

Alabama Power stands ready to help customers in times of need from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Established in 1982, Project SHARE (Service to Help Alabamians with Relief on Energy) provides assistance to low-income elderly and disabled people needing help with their heating and cooling bills. Administered by the Salvation Army of Greater Birmingham, Project SHARE is a statewide partnership involving Alabama Power and electric cooperatives across the state. Since its inception, the program has provided nearly $40 million in assistance to more than 385,000 families. In 2020, more than 1,700 families received assistance from Project SHARE.

Major Charles Powell, area commander for the Salvation Army of Greater Birmingham, credits Project SHARE with aiding those in need.

“At a time with so much need around us every day, Project SHARE is such a blessing for our seniors and those with disabilities,” said Powell. “For hundreds of people every year, Project SHARE is a game changer. As a result, some of their burdens are lifted and the light of hope is allowed to shine again on them.”

Vanessa Tyner of Brundidge found hope in Project SHARE when she had trouble making ends meet after having to quit her job to care for her husband. Three times a week, Tyner and her husband had to make the hourlong drive to Dothan for his dialysis treatments, which created unexpected expenses.

“I thank God for Project SHARE because it was there when we needed it,” she said. “We were spending so much money on gas to take my husband to dialysis and living on one income. It really helped us out by not having that burden and allowing us to be able to pay our bills.”

McGhee and Tyner are now grateful for the difference Project SHARE has made in their lives and they urge others to contribute.

“It was a relief.

I feel like a burden was lifted off of me because I found something to help me,” McGhee said. “When I was working, I was able to pay my power bill and I always saw the option to give to Project SHARE. I always chose that option on my bill, but never really knew what it was for. I now know what I was giving to and I would now encourage others to do the same because you never know what position you might find yourself in.”

Project SHARE is supported by donations from customers of Alabama Power and electric cooperatives, with Alabama Power customers contributing the largest share.

How to contribute to Project SHARE:

  • Give directly to Project SHARE through the Salvation Army by calling 205-328-2420.
  • Mail donations to: The Salvation Army, 2015 26th Ave. N., Birmingham, AL 35234. Designate “Project SHARE” on the check.
  • Agree to contribute monthly by checking the “Project SHARE” box on your power bill or sign up online.

Customers wanting to request energy assistance through Project SHARE can apply at their local Salvation Army office or by calling 205-328-2420.

For more information about Project SHARE, visit

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 months ago

Alabama program helps students SAIL into new school year


As schools in Alabama are starting this fall, Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) has wrapped up a successful summer of virtual and in-person learning for students across Alabama.

Beginning in 1922 as a summer camp in Birmingham for inner-city youths through the Independent Presbyterian Church Children’s Fresh Air Farm, SAIL converted to a day school model in 2010 to prevent summer learning loss in at-risk students.

Since then, more than 12,500 students have participated in SAIL programs throughout the state.


“What we are doing is trying to equip children for successful lives,” said Jim Wooten, chairman of the SAIL board of directors. “In particular, we are worried about children from underserved neighborhoods, kids with roadblock after roadblock ahead of them.”

By using research-based curriculum, certified teachers and a hybrid model of traditional school and camp, SAIL is creating measurable gains for students in math and reading to prepare them for the new school year.

“The research is compelling and powerful. … Summer learning loss is the single most accurate predictor of whether kids will be successful later in life,” Wooten said. “But we have proven in Alabama that we can consistently turn summer learning into gains and can do it for a reasonable cost.”

This year, SAIL and its funders realized in March that this summer would look much different due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk for summer learning loss being even higher than in years past. While 11 programs had to cancel, 15 programs were able to maintain a traditional in-person format and 19 programs switched to a virtual setting. Wooten said both platforms for learning faced challenges.

“In late March, we realized that there was a lot of uncertainty out there about what would be allowed,” he said. “We found out pretty quickly that the programs that were going to be in person had a steep learning curve for health and safety protocols for students and staff, and the virtual programs had a steep learning curve for how to deliver high-quality learning online.”

The funders, Wooten said, were critical in helping programs overcome the challenges. Grants to address technology needs, like one from the Alabama Power Foundation, helped programs with the resources needed to adapt to virtual learning.

For the Deaf Learning Program (DLP), classes shifted to a virtual setting for the first time. The program through the CERO Foundation empowers elementary and middle school students by providing opportunities to build language skills and social interaction with others in the deaf community.

Funding from SAIL has helped DLP not only shift to virtual classes and hire certified deaf education teachers but has allowed the DLP to expand programming to include online art and video projects and offer classes to students in 10 states, including one student from Dubai.

DLP program coordinator Myriah Dixon said having the opportunity to connect with and learn with other deaf or hard-of-hearing students and teachers is just as important as learning the traditional school subjects.

“For half of our students, they are the only deaf student in their school and have never had a deaf teacher,” said Dixon. “They have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet other students who are deaf and have teachers who are deaf and fluent in ASL to provide direct instruction to them, instead of using an indirect method of interpreter or captioning service.”

For the Sawyerville Learning Program in Greensboro, all in-person activities, including Sawyerville Day Camp, were canceled in late spring. Because of a lack of internet access for many students, virtual learning was not an option, but students were still able to feel connected through Sawyerville’s Camp-in-a-Box.

In previous years, students would spend one week at camp and four weeks in the learning program. There, students spent mornings focused on academics and afternoons dedicated to enrichment activities through field trips, engineering programs, creative writing and other activities aimed at preventing summer learning loss and promoting character building.

“What is most profound for me is that throughout the school year, we fill up the bathtub with water, but as soon as we hit the summer, we pull out the plug and just hope that the water doesn’t drain and they lose everything they have learned,” said Breanna Mitchell, summer learning coordinator for Sawyerville. “The goal is to keep the bathtub full or refill the bathtub during the summer to get students ready for the school year.”

With in-person activities canceled this summer, Sawyerville was challenged to find a way to provide students with the needed academic support while allowing them to feel connected to camp. At this intersection is where the concept for Camp-in-a-Box was created.

To make Camp-in-a-Box a reality for 420 campers, Sawyerville relied on SAIL and other supporters, including the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO), to provide items to fill the boxes and personalized letters to campers. Filled with activities and games that promote learning and don’t require internet access, the boxes also included two bags of groceries for the families and encouraging letters from staff and community members.

“We worked closely with teachers that were planning to be on staff this summer to create boxes that included fun games and academic activities that bring the students away from technology,” Mitchell said. “We also gave parents resources on how to help their kids with learning and we remain in good contact with them throughout the summer and school year.”

In addition to summer camp, Sawyerville provides multiple touchpoints throughout the year to show students that the connection to camp doesn’t stop at the end of summer. Among the many touchpoints are a mentoring program for high school juniors and seniors, a scholarship program for former campers and staff, and a pilgrimage over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend to help high school and college students learn more about race relations in Alabama.

Mitchell realizes none of this would be possible without the help of the SAIL community.

“It’s important that we don’t grow weary in the work we are doing. We look to the other SAIL programs to learn from them and ask other programs about what works best for them and how we can change our program to be successful,” she said. “We all look different, but we continue to find ways to do better and serve students.”

While SAIL had to pivot to a different learning and programming model this year, Wooten credits its success to the SAIL community and its funders who join together as a collective impact network each year to offer a common grant cycle, taking the burden off grant applicants having to apply for separate grants.

“SAIL is a pure learning network where all of our programs feel like they are part of a community,” he said. “They are not competing for grants but sharing information with each other, so we are learning and growing together. It’s not just programs or the funders, it’s the whole community working together.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 months ago

Alabama Power Foundation 2018 annual report wins Silver ADDY award

(Alabama Power Foundation/Contributed)

The Alabama Power Foundation’s 2018 annual report was recently honored with a Silver ADDY for print at the American Advertising Awards, one of the world’s largest creative competitions. Titled “Stories from the Field,” the report features the work of nonprofit agencies throughout Alabama and the stories behind them.

“It is an honor to have our annual report recognized with one of the creative industry’s most prestigious awards,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “This award represents the important work of our nonprofit partners and their unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life for all Alabamians. It is a privilege to tell their stories and illustrate them through stunning photography and design.”


As the second installment of the “Stories from the Field” series, the 2018 report includes eight booklets – seven stories about nonprofits and one summarizing the work of the Alabama Power Foundation. Featured in the report are The Literacy Council of Central AlabamaThe Nature Conservancy, the city of OzarkStorybook FarmTuscaloosa’s Police Athletic League and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Also highlighted in the report are the volunteers of the Alabama Power Service Organization and Alabama Power Energizers, two organizations of current and retired Alabama Power employees dedicated to serving communities through volunteerism.

Cayenne Creative managed the design and production of the report and, in addition to the Silver ADDY at the national level, received five ADDYs at the local and district levels for its work on the report. At the local level, the report won a Silver ADDY in the Printed Annual Report category, a Gold in the Corporate Social Responsibility Annual Report category and a Gold for Best in Show. The report received two Gold ADDYs in the printed annual report category for District 7, allowing it to advance to the national level.

Another Birmingham-based agency also received honors at the national awards ceremony. Big Communications earned a Silver ADDY for Illustration for its work on the 2019 Sidewalk Film Festival’s sponsor trailer. The trailer was the opening credits before the films to highlight the festival’s sponsors.

Drawing nearly 40,000 entries each year from 200 markets, the American Advertising Awards is hosted by the American Advertising Federation and consists of a three-tier competition comprising local, district and national levels. Winning at the national level is achieved by winning at the local and district levels.

For more information about the Alabama Power Foundation and to view the 2018 annual report and others, visit

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Walker Area Community Foundation organizes community feeding as COVID-19 response

(Leisa Cole/Contributed)

The Walker Area Community Foundation (WACF) is no stranger to responding to a crisis. From natural disasters to economic downturns, the Jasper-based nonprofit mobilizes resources and connects people and nonprofits during the most challenging times.

“Our role here is to listen to what the needs are in the community and pulling the right people in to organize solutions around those needs,” said Cristy Moody, director of operations for WACF.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Walker County and Jasper City school systems chose not to participate in food distribution for students because of health risks to employees. The staff at WACF knew they had to rise to the challenge and find a solution.


By partnering with local nonprofit Raising Arrows and using food donated by the school systems, they were able to quickly establish a food distribution system for anyone in need. Now, Raising Arrows prepares and distributes more than 2,000 hot meals each day, all distributed at designated drive-thru pickup locations throughout Walker County.

“In any disaster, we try to be the convener and bring together the nonprofit organizations that are providing direct service,” said Moody. “And with the COVID-19 crisis, we ended up focusing on and organizing community feeding.”

With Raising Arrows taking the lead on food distribution and volunteer coordination, Moody says WACF is able to focus on responding to other COVID-19 relief efforts, including activating an emergency grant cycle and aligning its Onward Fund giving to assist individuals affected by the pandemic.

“Our Onward Fund was created in 2018 as a way for nonprofits to apply for funding on behalf of their clients who are trying to find economic stability but have come across barriers,” said Moody. “We are now using this fund to help laid-off workers and point them in the right direction for help.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)