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.

5 days ago

Alabama Power volunteer firefighters strive to save lives, homes in communities

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

It’s all in a day’s work – and then some – for Alabama Power employees who put their lives on the line as volunteer firefighters.

The calls run the gamut, from fighting fires at homes and businesses to fielding medical emergencies that range from saving choking victims and rescuing people in car wrecks to giving life-saving glucose injections. Volunteers perform CPR and respond to fires, drownings and other crises. Many company employees don firefighter helmets after they leave their full-time jobs for the day.

That’s the case with Ann Marie Smith, a Plant Miller chemical technician who has volunteered at McCollum-Midway Volunteer Fire and Rescue in Jasper for three years. Smith talked with Chief David Blanton, a materials coordinator at Alabama Power’s Fayette Crew Headquarters, about joining his 20-member volunteer team.


Smith answers medical calls about people who have stopped breathing or who have chest pain, drownings and chokings, as well as fires. As a member of Miller’s Medical Response Team, Smith has honed her keen abilities for handling emergencies.

“We often do whatever we can before an ambulance arrives, basic life-saving measures such as CPR, taking vital signs for blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen levels and other basic conditions,” said Smith, who is studying for dual master’s degrees in public health and business administration at UAB.

She and fellow firefighters ensure everyone wears personal protective equipment, such as heat-resistant clothing, air packs and gloves.

Early this year, Smith was the first responder at a car wreck in Walker County. She ran down a steep ditch to rescue an older motorist, whose car was laying on its side.

“I was pretty much sitting on top of the car to pull this man out of his car,” said Smith, who has used metal cutters and spreaders to remove trapped passengers. “The windows would not roll down. We busted out the front door passenger window and used a windshield saw to get him out of the car.”

The team carefully removed the man, who occasionally cried out in pain.

“He was conscious, so he told us what hurt,” she said. “We put him on a backboard. You’ve got to try to protect the neck and back, in case someone has an injury. He was in critical condition and had pre-existing medical conditions.”

Smith and the team took the man to a large, open space in a nearby church parking lot. They quickly set up lights for a medivac helicopter to land. Because they didn’t know the victim, there was no way to learn about his progress.

“Sometimes people will come by and thank us,” Smith said. “It’s a good feeling to know you helped someone, whether it was calming them down while their house was burning or rescuing them from a mangled car. It’s great being able to keep your community safe and keep yourself safe while doing it. We want to do everything we can to see the community continue to flourish.”

Other Plant Miller volunteer firefighters include Assistant Plant Control Operator Andy Marbutt for Bear Creek Fire Department and Safety Specialist Brandon Williams for Crane Hill Communities Volunteer Fire and EMS in Cullman County. Gaston Plant Auxiliary Reid Ezekiel, Mechanic Brent Hughes, Materialman Ricky Morris and Compliance Specialist Philip Willis serve, as well as Henry Hydro Journeyman Daniel Morrison.

Company volunteers include Field Service Representative (FSR) Wayne Flowers; Montgomery Crew Lineman Adam Brasher; Dadeville Apprentice Lineman Paul Chayka; Selma Distribution Specialist Allen Kendrick; and Montgomery Office FSR Kyle Lawrence.

Saving lives and families, in more ways than one

Shanon Graham was 16 and attending Glencoe High School when he became a junior fireman for Glencoe Fire Department. Two years later, Graham took the exam to be a professional firefighter, but instead went to work at Alabama Power, where he is a master technician for the Utility Fleet at Anniston Crew Headquarters. It’s not unusual for Graham to spend weekends and after-work hours fighting fires.

For example, instead of relaxing at home one Saturday night, he took a 10:30 p.m. call to extinguish a vehicle fire: a car had burst into flames on Old Highway 431 in Glencoe.

“We run so many fires and wrecks. We do about 900 calls a year, with medical and fire,” said Graham, a fire lieutenant for 20 years. “I attend to quite a few calls each month. Whenever I’m available and not at the power company, I try to help. It’s a full-time job.”

Graham is a certified 160 firefighter, which signifies he completed 160 hours of training through the Alabama Fire College and Personnel Standards Commission in less than 24 months.

“I do medical calls, too,” said Graham, who earned a medic license in 2000. “If someone calls in with a heart attack, I go. I’m a first responder now. We do a lot of extraction of vehicles and help mentor the younger guys, instructing them on what to do to avoid getting hurt. We’ve got to be as safe as possible all the time, just like we do at Alabama Power.”

Graham’s 24 years volunteering with Glencoe Fire Department goes beyond lifesaving. He helps organize and takes part in the department’s annual Christmas for Kids program to benefit Etowah County children. Teaming up with his wife, Kristie, Graham raises as much as $12,000 a year through cooking events. He spends about 25 Saturdays a year traveling the Southeast to competitions.

“Kristie and I compete in barbecue and steak competitions,” Graham said. In May, the couple raised $3,500 in a steak cook-off at Glencoe City Park to fund Christmas for Kids.

“Just being able to help my community means a lot to me,” Graham said. “Everybody should be involved somehow, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I’ve always enjoyed it.”

Helping others is family affair

Firefighting is a family affair for Phillip Moman, Information Technology manager at Farley Nuclear Plant in Dothan. Moman recalls asking his then-4-year-old son about joining the Ashford Volunteer Fire Department.

“Gaither said, ‘That would be fun, daddy,’” Moman said, chuckling in remembrance. “That’s how I got started. It was a blast then, and I still enjoy it.”

Moman and one of his best friends, Plant Farley Refueling Manager Mark Kelley, joined the Ashford Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) the same day, and are senior captains. Farley Emergency Preparedness Specialist John Perkins serves alongside Moman and Kelley in the Ashford Fire Department while Instrumentation and Controls Mechanic Jonathan Nall is assistant chief in the Cowarts Volunteer Fire Department.

Throughout the years, Moman and the Ashford VFD have worked hundreds of car wrecks, which spurred him to obtain an emergency medical technician (EMT) license in 1996. He now averages 20 to 25 hours a month training and responding to incidents.

“Going to wrecks and handling other situations, you want to know how to help people,” said Moman, who spent 13 years in the EMT role. “It went a long way, because I was there to treat people in all kinds of emergencies. You never know when you’ll need that knowledge. You train enough to where things become second nature.”

Moman and his fellow firefighters average eight hours a month in training and help instruct younger firefighters.  Ashford’s 25-member team meets every other week to train on apparatus operation, hazardous materials, extraction and other fire-related emergencies.

“Training is one of the most important aspects of the fire service. For instance, you never know how a person is going to react with lights and sirens blaring,” Moman said.

While some months are busier than others, Moman said seasonal fires aren’t unexpected.

“If it’s real dry, we’ll have a lot of grass fires,” he said. “The first cold spells of the winter bring more house fires from overloaded extension cords and portable heaters.”

After serving more than 20 years, Moman is proud that his sons followed in his footsteps. Gaither Moman, 28, volunteers at Pike Road Fire Department in Montgomery County, and Parker Moman, 24, serves at Ashford with his dad.

“It’s a good feeling to see their willingness to help others,” Moman said.

Father’s service inspires son to help fire departments

Fighting fires is nothing new to Trae Caton. The longtime volunteer has served the Clanton Fire Department, helps the Chilton County Emergency Management Agency and was the assistant chief at Cedar Grove Fire Department. Caton was inspired by his father, who volunteered at the Clanton Fire Department.

“To serve as a member of Clanton Fire Department, you must be a state licensed EMT and certified as a firefighter through Alabama Fire College,” said Caton, regulatory compliance analyst for Fleet Services. “I followed in my dad’s footsteps for more than 10 years.”

Caton will never forget New Year’s Day 2018, when a fuel tanker crashed and overturned on Interstate 65.

“The trucker fell asleep and crashed in the median,” he said. “Developing a plan to mitigate that situation and call in the proper resources was hairy.”

Caton called for assistance from multiple Chilton County fire departments, along with Calera and Clanton fire departments. He coordinated with hazardous materials teams to attend during removal of 8,000 gallons of gasoline. The fuel had to be pumped out so the truck could be towed.

“That was the scariest part,” said Caton, who supervised with a wary eye remembering when he’d witnessed a tanker explode following a similar crash.

“There were more than 50 people on the scene, and their safety was my responsibility. We were there more than 10 hours. The tanker remained intact and we didn’t have any spillage.”

“As time goes on, the more I realize how fortunate I am to work for Alabama Power Company, which gives me the ability to do something I love,” Caton said. “I plan to do it for as long as time allows.”

Braun’s early dreams came true

At 3 or 4 years old, Jimmie Braun took his first ride in a firetruck in Kansas City, Missouri. That trip “sealed the deal” for Braun, birthing his lifelong love of firefighting.

“They came to our school, and I got my first ride in that big old truck, seeing it and hearing the sirens,” said the Logan Martin Hydro journeyman. “I wanted to be a fireman when I was a little kid.”

Braun, a member of Alabama Power’s Emergency Response Team since 2014, is certified to use an automated external defibrillator and perform CPR.

“We go to training once a year at work and have once-a-month intensive training,” he said.

Braun helped save the life of another employee in 2015. While working at Plant Gaston in Wilsonville, Braun and four other employees performed CPR on a heart attack victim.

“We took turns doing CPR,” Braun said. “After 10 or 15 minutes, you’re plumb worn out. You don’t really have any concept of how time passes.”

Another time, a Gaston employee had a seizure and Braun provided first aid until paramedics arrived.

Braun has worked at Oakman Volunteer Fire Department and Shelby County Fire Department.

“My job is to keep you alive long enough for paramedics to get there,” he said.

“I go to wreck calls all the time and have to extricate people. We’ve had to use the Jaws of Life to remove people from cars 10 or 15 times. That’s actually cutting cars up on the side of the road.”

After training with Alabama Power’s Emergency Response and Confined Space Rescue teams – combined with specialized training from the fire departments – Braun can handle most emergencies.

“I’m fairly confident I can take care of my family, at least long enough to get them to the hospital,” said Braun, who has a 22-year-old son. “I’m very big on fire prevention. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher in your house, you need to get out, because you’ll be amazed at how quickly a house can go up in flames.”

Having seen firsthand the devastating effects of a house fire, Braun’s mission is to prevent the loss of lives, families and homes in his community.

“It’s a lot of fun getting out there, pulling hoses off the truck and spraying the water,” he said. “You’ve got to enjoy your job to do it well. I don’t do it for fun or recognition.

“God has you do stuff for a reason,” Braun said. “God knows what’s going on, and he knows you need to be in this spot at this time.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 days ago

¡HICA! and Fiesta serve Alabama Latino community, offering free COVID testing, authentic cultural experience


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ¡HICA! and Fiesta are providing a lifeline to Alabama’s Latino community.

Though it is difficult working through a major health crisis, staff of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama – ¡HICA! – have worked from home since March to serve their community. ¡HICA! champions economic equality, civic engagement and social justice for the state’s Latino and immigrant families. In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, ¡HICA! is providing free COVID-19 tests and emphasizing educational efforts to increase Latino’s health, safety and economic well-being.


José Gutiérrez is thankful for the many services offered by ¡HICA!, particularly the convenient access to coronavirus testing. While he wears a mask in public and remains healthy, the Blount County resident finds peace of mind knowing he can receive a free test, as costs usually range from $300 to $1,000, depending on the area. Gutiérrez’s first cousin in Dallas, Texas, died in June after a monthlong hospitalization with the novel coronavirus. A few weeks later, his uncle in Houston, Texas, died from the illness. Gutiérrez is mindful about the need to take precautions.

A highly skilled construction worker, since March Gutiérrez has declined lucrative out-of-state remodeling jobs to avoid contracting COVID-19. He said that he cannot afford to bring home the coronavirus to his wife and son.

“The pandemic hit communities of color the worst,” said Isabel Rubio, executive director of ¡HICA! for nearly 20 years. “COVID-19 has laid bare the inequities in our society, hitting the Latino community very hard. The pandemic has had such a severe impact, it’s been mind-boggling. Thank goodness for the generosity of the community at large.”

¡HICA! has partnered with three community health groups to provide free COVID-19 tests in nine Alabama counties. In July, 143 residents received free testing, while more than 40 people were tested in June at Cahaba Medical Care in Birmingham and another group received free testing Sept. 11. Rubio noted that ¡HICA!’s long-term mission is to improve the access and affordability of healthcare for the Hispanic population.

“The big story is trying to provide healthcare for people who don’t have health insurance,” Rubio said. “We’re joining with other entities in thinking about how to make solutions for the Latino community. We either all succeed, or we all fail. We are determined to succeed.”

Supporting families with children is another important way that ¡HICA! works to build community.

“We’ve done online housing education workshops and had incredible attendance,” with numerous clients taking part in zoom meetings,” Rubio said. “Even in the pandemic, we’ve helped people purchase new homes. We’ve helped people make sure their kids are connected for remote learning. One of our staff has helped individuals install programs on their computer.”

In April, several staff provided drive-through assistance with income taxes.

“If it takes us helping one person at a time, we do it,” Rubio said.

¡HICA! delivered more help to underserved Latinos in April and May. Staff handed out more than 500 boxes of food donated by the United Way of Central Alabama. Underserved families picked up the food at ¡HICA!’s Birmingham headquarters.

Fiesta 2020 accents culture, safety and education

Because of the ongoing pandemic, Fiesta Birmingham on Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 will host a virtual “30 days of Fiesta” program. For nearly 20 years, the celebration was held in Linn Park in Birmingham. This year’s celebration promises daily, impactful service with numerous entertainment and/or educational opportunities through online events, said Fiesta Birmingham President Teresa Zuñiga-Odom.

“Live cooking and mixology demonstrations, seminars on health and financial wellness, a Latin film series, and family arts and crafts projects featuring Hispanic artists are just a few of the activities we have in store,” said Zuñiga-Odom, who has helped organize Fiesta since its 2002 inception.

Each day has a theme. “Wellness Mondays” features services and resources to stay healthy and safe; “Taco Tuesday and Titos” offers cooking and cocktail demonstrations; “Cultural Wednesdays” showcases the people, culture, history and traditions of Latin American countries; “Throwback Thursdays” treats viewers to 18 years of Fiesta photos; and Financial Fridays” provides insights from Wells Fargo on how to build credit and savings. On the weekend, “Celebration Saturdays” presented by Alabama Power includes Facebook Live showings with the best of Latin art, food, movies, music and dance. “Family Sundays” offers the chance to gather and observe the importance of family and community.

Zuñiga-Odom noted that Alabama Power will sponsor educational safety through its fun safety program for kids, Saf-T-Opolis.

“Alabama Power has been a presenting sponsor of Fiesta since the celebration began nearly 20 years ago,” said Zuñiga-Odom. “The company has always had a huge presence at the event, with many members of the Alabama Power Service Organization helping smooth the way. Obviously, we won’t have volunteers this year, but we are so thankful for the continued help from companies like Alabama Power which help make this event possible. We couldn’t do it without them.”

Since 2002, Fiesta has awarded more than $70,000 in scholarships to deserving Hispanic students, with that commitment continuing with this year’s “Fiesta in a Box.” For $18, families can buy a beautifully decorated keepsake box with all the goodies to revel in Fiesta at home. Proceeds will fund Fiesta’s 2021 scholarships. On Saturday, Sept. 19 at 10 a.m., viewers may watch the unveiling of the colorful, Hispanic-themed box. The lucky holders of a box containing golden maracas or golden piñatas will win a deluxe prize.

Hearkening to the success of years past, Rubio said the virtual Fiesta is a great way to highlight the Latino culture.

“We will miss the opportunity to connect with others and share our culture through the live Fiesta gathering, but we all recognize the importance of safeguarding families,” Rubio said. “Our goal is to empower Hispanic and immigrant families to integrate, engage and lead their communities to reach their families’ aspirations.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Meet Natalie Mills, chosen by Auburn University as 2020 Outstanding Young Engineer

(Natalie Mills/Contributed)

In college, Natalie Mills enjoyed the best of both worlds: math and science were her passion, and performing arts was her dream.

Since graduating from Auburn University with a civil engineering degree, that combination of skills has allowed Mills to shine. She was recently named Outstanding Young Auburn Engineer for 2020 by her alma mater.

“I started out as a theater major at New York University,” said Mills, a Regulatory Support analyst for Alabama Power in Birmingham. “But after a year, I discovered how much I missed math and science. It was a big part of my life, and I missed it. The arts were always my outlet, but I ended up transferring to Auburn University to do what I really love, which is math.”


Because of the pandemic, Mills will be honored by the Auburn Alumni Engineering Council in a virtual program Sept. 25.

Scaling the heights of exciting engineering career

Mills’ college career was unusual in that she majored in engineering and minored in dance. Since receiving her engineering degree, Mills has put her math and presentation skills to good use.

“I was very fortunate to get a job at Southern Company after graduating from Auburn and moved to Birmingham having only visited the city once,” said Mills, who later earned a master’s degree in global energy management from the University of Colorado Business School.

In June 2010, Mills joined Earth Sciences and Environmental Engineering at Southern Company Services as a geotechnical engineer, learning about soil investigations and foundation design.

During that time, the Environmental Protection Agency rolled out proposed regulations for coal combustion residuals. Mills was involved in developing the company’s potential coal combustion residual (CCR) compliance strategy. The work led to Mills’ role as an environmental assessment engineer in SCS Environmental Affairs, where she provided the policy assessment of EPA’s suite of greenhouse gas regulations – the Clean Power Plan – for each of Southern Company’s operating companies.

After two years, Mills moved to SCS System Planning, where she performed asset valuations. Nine months later, she transitioned to the fuel forecasting and scenario planning group, a role in which her fine-tuned presentation skills came into play. In both roles in System Planning, Mills made recommendations using her knowledge of engineering, economics and environmental regulations.

In 2019, Mills moved to Regulatory Policy as a key member of Alabama Power’s team that worked on the recent filing of a certificate for new power generation, which achieved approval from the Alabama Public Service Commission.

“Approximately 2,000 megawatts of new generation was approved, including Barry Unit 8,” Mills said about the project that took more than a year to complete. “This effort was unprecedented. Our goal is to ensure we continue to provide reliable and affordable energy to our customers. It’s definitely been the greatest experience of my career to have been a part of this team.”

Sharing love of math with young women and girls

Throughout her career, Mills has won accolades for her achievements and community service.

While moving into roles of increased responsibilities at work, Mills became a leader with Alabama Power’s iCan Girls in Engineering program, helping girls discover the world of engineering. Mills is co-chair of the executive committee of 100+ Women Strong, which recruits, retains and rewards females in Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.

“One of my passions is encouraging and inspiring young girls to consider a career in engineering,” said Mills, who was among the 2017 New Faces of Civil Engineering-Professional of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “My grandfather was the only engineer I knew while I was growing up. That’s why I love the opportunity to expose more females to engineering, to let them know it can be a great career path for them.”

Empowering others and acting as a positive force for change has always been among Mills’ goals, whether as a United Way loaned executive or volunteer with the Junior League of Birmingham. Mills is on the Committee of 25 junior board of Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, where she’s tutored girls throughout the community. For two years, Mills helped plan the nonprofit’s annual Cajun Cook-off fundraiser. Their April cook-off was postponed because of the pandemic but will continue in 2021.

“I love Girls Inc. because it plays directly into exposing young girls to a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) career,” said Mills, a board member for three years. “I really believe in Girls Inc. programs because they provide a positive environment for girls. It makes our communities better and stronger when we can inspire girls to grow up to be hardworking and to live their dreams.”

Because of her 13-month-old daughter, Maclaine, the mission of Girls Inc. has become even more meaningful to Mills.

“It’s really opened my eyes,” she said. “I tell my daughter every day, ‘You can grow up to be strong, smart and bold.’ That’s Girls Inc.’s mission for every girl, to reach for their dreams.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Breast cancer research is the target for Alabama Bow-Up archery event


Hitting the bull’s-eye is never so satisfying as when the arrow’s aim is to defeat breast cancer.

So said Beth Bradner of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA). On Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 22-23, about 200 archers will compete in the Bow-Up Against Breast Cancer Tournament at Cullman Community Archery Park.


“We have lots of breast cancer survivors who come out to support this event each year,” said Bradner, BCRFA executive director.

Archers will converge at the park to compete in BCRFA’s ninth annual fundraiser. Since 2012, the tournament has earned more than $182,000 to fight breast cancer, the disease that affects one in every eight women and one in 1,000 men.

This year’s event allows archers to compete while maintaining social distancing. Archers can compete from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the contest continuing until dusk.

“This is the first event we’ve held since COVID-19 hit,” Bradner said. “The great thing is that we can have a family or group compete together at Hole 1 without having other people converge at the same area. This is a wonderful family activity.”

Numerous 3D animal targets are set for adults and youngsters at 15 to 50 yards and 5 to 20 yards, respectively.

On Aug. 14, the BCRFA gave an initial gift of $160,000 to UAB’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center to fund two grants for breast cancer research projects during 2020-2021. The foundation’s support of the research projects will total $320,000 over the next two years, with some funds earned during BCRFA’s two-day tournament earmarked for research at UAB.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Obex Health creates tailor-made face masks to keep people safe from COVID-19

(Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

Wearing a face mask to protect your health – and others – is the new normal. The problem is finding a mask that fits to a “T.”

Obex Health CEO Forrest Satterfield and Dr. Kanti Sunkavalli may have solved that problem. Obex creates custom-made, digitally fitted masks that meld to every “nook and cranny” of one’s face. The secret is a unique crafting process that conforms to facial contours.

Since May, Obex has sold hundreds of masks, with most going to health care providers nationwide. The company has given several medical providers and nonprofits a discount, with a recent shipment going to a California nonprofit.


“Once a year, medical providers must be checked to make sure they’re wearing the correct mask for their face,” said Sunkavalli, a physician turned entrepreneur.

With the pandemic spreading in March, an ill-fitting face mask was one more thing for Dr. Jennifer Hess to worry about. The ER physician quickly added the Obex mask to her personal arsenal for protecting herself and preventing transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“The struggle is when PPE supplies aren’t always available,” said Hess, who graduated from UAB Medical School in 2001 and was an ER physician at UAB Hospital from 2018 to June 2020. “COVID-19 is one of those viruses that is hard to contain unless you wear a mask. We know that consistently wearing masks keeps emergency providers from getting infected. With my Obex mask, I can be confident I’ve got my own PPE. This will help keep me safe and not spread the virus.

“When I’m using it, I can throw it in my bag, and it doesn’t get squished,” said Hess, who will soon begin working in the Emergency Department at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “I put the mask in a Ziploc® bag and it holds its shape. Vanderbilt currently has adequate PPE but is flexible in allowing providers to secure personalized PPE as well.”

The Obex mask is highly protective, the CEO said.

“The big difference in our mask and others is that a cloth or fabric mask prevents only other people from being infected,” Satterfield said. “Ours prevents you from being infected and you from infecting others.”

Using innovation, high tech to fight coronavirus

Obex combines custom-molded silicone with high-tech 3D printing to make a “100% impermeable” mask.

The inventive design is the brainchild of Satterfield, who, at 25, is a rising star at the Birmingham “think tank” Innovation Depot. A biomedical engineer who makes custom 3D-printed knee and wrist braces, Satterfield went through dozens of material suppliers, custom processes and mask designs to reach the final product decisions with Sunkavalli. The comfortable, medical-grade protection is customizable for every business or customer preference, they said.

In March, Satterfield and Sunkavalli saw the need for PPE looming on the horizon. Sunkavalli recognized mask safety as an emergent need for the medical community and public. He and Satterfield talked with many doctors and nurses about the national shortage of face masks and the problems faced by those wearing them 8 to 12 hours a day.

Sunkavalli’s wife, Pallavi, is an ER physician and site medical director at Coosa Valley Medical Center in Sylacauga. “As a physician, it’s close to my heart to help out as much as possible, to keep everyone safe,” he said.

From a medical view, Satterfield saw that it made sense to stop transmission through face masks.

“The safety of ventilators was a big question mark in my mind,” said Satterfield, a University Innovation Fellow who earned a B.S. in biomedical engineering at UAB in 2018. “I’m a big believer in design thinking.

“Design thinking requires you to exist in an ambiguous state,” said Satterfield, who formed Satterfield Technologies in 2014. “I made no assumptions about what the solution should be or that I fully understood the problem we were solving. By interviewing people from different points of view – doctors, nurses, front-line workers – I created a solid definition for what problem we were solving and how our users needed us to solve it.”

Satterfield rapidly built prototypes of masks and got them into user’s hands, recorded feedback and made new masks based on comments. He repeated this until reaching a point where initial users were satisfied.

“What we immediately assume about health care is that the best, universal way to do something is already being used,” he said. “But there are lots of design problems in health care. A lot of times, people are focused on the solution rather than the problem.”

Birthing the Obex mask

Satterfield’s office at Innovation Depot already had 3D scanners and printers for making state-of-the-art braces. Those were used to help produce face masks with the tailor-made fit. Customers with an iPhone X or newer model can download the Bellus3D Face App from the App Store. They can select the “Face+Neck” option, then take a scan and unlock it for .99 cents. They can then export an HD version of the picture to Obex. Customers can schedule a 3D scan at the Obex Health Office at Innovation Depot, or an Obex employee can perform 3D scans for several people at a home or business for a small fee.

Obex makes masks in many colors and can add a corporate logo to the front cover. Each N95 filter lasts one week, which saves money. For those with a high-exposure risk needing more frequent filter replacements – health providers, teachers and customer-facing employees – Obex Health has a discounted subscription plan that automatically ships filters.

The high-grade silicone rim makes the mask easy to wear, Sunkavalli said. The mask clings to the face because it’s made for that person. There’s no bunching or gaps around the sides to allow entry of COVID-19, he said.

“The silicone we use is designed to be worn a very long time,” Sunkavalli said. “They’re also practical. You can disinfect them with soap and water every day. The filter only has to be replaced weekly.”

Finding a protective mask for children is a challenge, said Sunkavalli, whose kids are 7 and 9.

“With a custom mask, no matter how small or large the face – you always have a perfect fit,” Sunkavalli said.

The Obex mask is receiving positive feedback as demand grows for the product made with materials from America.

Creations whose time has come

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the need to protect one’s family – and self – is ever-present.

Hess said her Obex mask – in Vanderbilt University colors – provides a “unique opportunity to be prepared.”

“I don’t think that COVID-19 is going to go away anytime soon,” said Hess, who with her husband, Dr. Erik Hess, trained at and then practiced on faculty at the Mayo Clinic for 15 years. “Wearing a mask can go a long way toward keeping the people of Alabama from contracting this disease.”

For Satterfield, the desire to keep his community safe is personal. His parents – deemed high-risk for their ages and because his father has Parkinson’s disease – wear Obex masks.

His parents live in Huntsville, but, even though he wants to see them, he won’t go home, he said. “The risks are too high. It’s really difficult.”

In the meantime, Satterfield gives back by devoting his life to the mission of Obex, often working 14 hours or more each day.

This young entrepreneur is dreaming of more ways to protect the public by providing state-of-the-art face masks and braces.

“I’ve always had it in mind to be an entrepreneur,” Satterfield said. “In biomedical engineering, none of my ideas had been done yet. I see Obex as being a Johnson & Johnson health care-style company with many product lines.”

For details about how to order an Obex mask, email Satterfield.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Alabama’s Valiant Cross Academy works to propel young men to greatness

(Valiant Cross Academy/Contributed)

The world’s next Nelson MandelaBryan Stevenson or Booker T. Washington might just hail from Montgomery, Alabama.

Indeed, a generation of remarkable young men is being trained at Valiant Cross Academy, where daily learning is steeped in discipline and self-worth. It seems fitting that the state capitol is home to a school that provides outstanding education while providing boys with strong values on which to build their lives.

Seeing the “many obvious problems that plagued the community,” brothers Anthony and Fred Brock started their all-boys school, Valiant Cross Academy, in 2015. The Brocks and their staff of 26 daily pour their love, caring and high expectations into the boys, and encourage them to dream big dreams.


“My brother and I were so blessed to grow up with a great father,” said Anthony Brock, whose dad was a school principal for Montgomery Public Schools. “It’s a calling on my life to work with young men.”

Working in education for more than 20 years, Brock’s mission is to nurture young people. This year, Valiant Cross will set 280 students on the road to a good future. Young men entering 11th grade this year began as fifth-graders and will make up the school’s first graduating class in 2022.

“These boys are all gifted and talented,” said Brock, founder of the Brother2Brother and Sister2Sister mentoring program that meets in Montgomery and Autauga counties. “They just need someone in their community to lift them up. Valiant Cross Academy is a place where a lot of guys’ confidence grows by leaps and bounds.

“We just really love on them, intentionally,” he said. “The adults in the building tell them all day long that they love them. There’s an opportunity gap, not an achievement gap. We give them an opportunity – the first step is nurturing them.”

Not surprisingly, Valiant Cross Academy has a long wait list. With campuses in the heart of downtown – at 301 Dexter Ave. and at Troy University – this fully accredited private school puts a strong focus on ACT scores.

Their students will engage in virtual learning because of the pandemic. Classes start Aug. 10, from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Valiant Cross has offerings not seen in public schools: a Korean language class; a Cisco networking component; a partnership with Troy University for dual enrollment; and a partnership with Red Tails Scholarship Foundation flight school in Tuskegee. Sports aren’t left out: Fred Brock leads the athletic program with Willie Spears serving as football coach and Tyrone Boleware returning to coach the junior varsity championship track team.

Last year, nine or 10 boys took part in the Red Tails flight program. Four Tuskegee University students came to Montgomery to train the boys, who must first pass the ground portion of the class. Two students have been up in the air but haven’t yet soloed.

“Only 2 percent of pilots are African American,” said Brock, who graduated from Lanier High School and Alabama State University. “We’ll have anywhere from 10 to 15 students attending flight class this year. I believe we’re doing our little part to help improve the big picture.”

Getting by with a little help from some friends

The Alabama Power Foundation in 2019 awarded Valiant Cross a grant to buy PowerSchool software, which can help better prepare students for college success. The school has already begun using the software to track admissions and attendance and provide transcripts for college applications. PowerSchool can be used to help students keep up with their grades, their grade point average and ACT scores. The academy also used the grant to buy books.

Alabama Power employees have helped, as well. Southern Division Chapter members of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) have assisted the academy with several projects.

“APSO has sent crews over to cook out with the kids and clean the buildings before school starts,” Brock said. “They go out and do different projects for us. … We really appreciate that.”

Brock said the school is always in fundraising mode. The academy’s spring fundraiser was canceled because of the pandemic, and Brock is planning a fall event that will feature Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins.

Many students rely on scholarships through the Alabama Opportunity Scholarship Fund and the Alabama Accountability Act, in which donors get a tax credit. Tuition is $6,500 for middle school and $8,000 for high school.

“We take part in the Accountability Act and a lot of guys get scholarships,” he said. The legislation provides funds to low-income students in kindergarten through 12th grade to go to a private school.

Summoning strength from on high

Everything that is done at Valiant Cross is done in an orderly fashion, and with purpose.

Brock said the staff receives “countless stories with good feedback from parents. Their young men become more respectful, they have more mature conversations and they have conversations about God.”

“We have what we call ‘Morning Village’ each morning,” he said. “That’s where we go into the church and do our mottos. The boys go up to the altar and pray and shake off any ‘cobwebs’ from home last night.”

As head of the academy, Brock daily stands with the boys as they repeat the school motto. Their message is “breathed out” in the building so much, he said, the beliefs are part of the kids: “We are Valiant Cross Academy. Our God is mighty. We will rise above with honor. We will rise above with discipline. We will rise above with integrity. We will rise above with excellence, and we will rise above with love. We are Valiant Cross Academy: in this place, young men will rise above.”

“We revisit all those five values throughout the day,” Brock said.

While he believes students at any school will do well with greater expectations, Valiant Cross sets a standard that will propel students to a higher destiny.

“I have an unwavering belief that Valiant Cross Academy will birth the next generation of great leaders,” he said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Alabama Power’s John Smola honored by Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

John Smola is among the utility industry’s “shining stars” taking top honors as a 2020 Fortnightly Forty.

Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine annually recognizes the next generation of leaders in the utilities industry – people who could be responsible for the operations of the electric grid and regulatory systems. The magazine, which is read by top managers in the energy industry, presented Smola with the Fortnightly Forty award during a program online.


“We are excited John has been recognized among future leaders in our industry by Public Utilities Fortnightly,” said Jeff Peoples, Alabama Power’s executive vice president of Employee and Customer Services. “His visionary leadership is a tremendous asset for both the company and our state as innovation and technology play an important role in how we evolve to meet customers’ needs of the future.”

For the past two years, Smola has been Alabama Power’s director of Business Transformation, focused on business growth development, innovation and new ventures. He leads a team focused on expanding innovation, infrastructure and market position to support and enhance core electric needs. The group is vital to improving Alabama’s economic development potential, increasing the profitability of existing revenue streams and generating new revenue.

Smola and his team partnered with Birmingham and Montgomery on smart city initiatives, resulting in Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grants awarded in 2018 and 2019 by the Smart Cities Council. They provided the “jump-start” to smart cities solutions, facilitating the installation of LED lighting, high-speed internet and public safety infrastructure in Birmingham and Montgomery. The initiative has improved the safety and quality of life for residents while delivering efficiencies to municipal partners.

With the goal of attracting to Alabama leading edge energy startups from around the world, Smola and his team played a crucial role in Alabama Power’s work to form the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator in Birmingham in 2019. Alabama Power teamed with state leaders and Techstars – a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs – and is Techstars’ first electric utility partner.

The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator will attract startups that are building technologies and business models to enhance the future of energy. Focus areas include smart cities, utility operations, industrial electrification, connectivity, customer engagement and electric transportation. The inaugural cohort will begin in late 2020.

Additional project’s Smola and the Business Transformation group have led include Alabama Power’s strategic partnership with Mississippi-based C Spire to support high-speed internet, energy services contracts with commercial customers including hospitals and military facilities, and the conversion of more than 100,000 lights to efficient LEDs in communities across Alabama.

Smola began his career at Alabama Power in 2008 and has held roles of increasing responsibility in Marketing, Regulatory and External Affairs. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University in 2007 and a master’s degree from UAB in 2011.

He is actively engaged in the local entrepreneurial community and how Alabama can further develop a technology-driven economy. Smola is on the boards of Alabama Capital Network and Birmingham Venture Club, is a Catalyst Fellow for the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and member of the Rotary Club of Birmingham.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Hero German Shepherd from Alabama vies to be country’s top dog in American Humane contest

(Corey Speegle/Contributed)

A mom’s reaction to being reunited with her lost child – found by Küsse, a German Shepherd rescue dog – was to smother both with kisses and hugs.

Indeed, the name Küsse – German for “kisses” – fits Corey Speegle’s rescue dog to a “T.” With her innate ability to find lost people, Küsse has earned huge praise during her short career.

Nearly half a million dog lovers across the country have cast their votes for Küsse, one of three semifinalists for the American Humane Hero Dog prize in the Search and Rescue category. Other categories include Therapy Dogs; Service Dogs; Military Dogs; Law Enforcement Dogs; Shelter Dogs; and Guide/Hearing Dogs.


Küsse and Speegle live in Sheffield, Alabama, and she’s the only dog representing the Yellowhammer State. Supporters can vote for Küsse once a day through July 16.

Training the nation’s ‘top dog’ 

Speegle got Küsse as a pup and began training her at a year old. Küsse’s innate ability to find individuals has primed her to win the national contest this fall, which concludes with a gala and a two-hour special on the Hallmark Channel.

“Küsse is a beautiful dog, and she loves to serve and help find missing people,” said Speegle, state coordinator for the Community United Effort Center for Missing Persons and a volunteer firefighter for Spring Valley and White Oak Volunteer Fire departments. “Her mother is a German Shepherd from the Czech Republic and the father is a second-generation explosives dog out of Fort Hood, Texas.”

Speegle has trained with the Federal Emergency Management Association, and he and Küsse have completed numerous search and rescue classes.

“I’ve taken advanced building search classes through detection services, and I’ve had boat training to locate bodies in the water,” Speegle said.

He’s accustomed to receiving calls for help from Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson. On March 4, Speegle and Küsse were called to work search and reconnaissance efforts in Cookeville, Tennessee, after a powerful EF4 tornado decimated the town in the early morning. Cookeville is the county seat of Putnam County, 79 miles east of Nashville.

“Küsse and I worked for hours on end to help find survivors and bring closure to families with missing loved ones,” said Speegle, who volunteers with the White Oak Volunteer Fire Department’s K-9 Search and Rescue crew. The team also uses highly trained cadaver dogs.

“It was like a bomb went off there,” he said. “We stayed until the last person was accounted for – it wasn’t pretty, as you can imagine.” Despite their round-the-clock search March 4-6, Küsse and Speegle found no survivors among the 27 people missing.

Speegle trained Küsse with the “recall/refind” method.

“I say, ‘show me,’ and she will return to me and lead me to the person,” he said. “When she finds somebody, she gets her purple kong wubba, her favorite toy in the whole world.”

“The new thinking is you don’t want the dog to bark at someone and scare them, so she’s trained to find them and, depending on the distance, she returns to me and makes me know she found them,” he said.

Speegle uses a handheld detection module linked to Küsse’s GPS-monitored collar, which can track her up to 9 miles.

“Occasionally, with small children, the dog won’t leave the child,” he said. “It will lay down and stay with the subject, so we can still track where the dog is.

“She also does scent article finds,” Speegle said. “Küsse locates a person using a scent article – a sock, hat or shirt, for instance.

“Küsse will work on- or off-lead,” he said. “If you have someone lost in a national forest, she can use that scent to find them.”

Küsse recently helped in the search for a 20-year-old marathon runner from Colbert County near Muscle Shoals, Alabama, whose family reported him missing.

“He’d gone running in the evening and it had stormed all night,” Speegle said. “We tracked him 200 to 300 yards but Küsse lost his scent because of the rain. But she assisted law enforcement to go in the right direction to find him.”

Using video, the sheriff tracked the man’s run. The marathoner had been caught in the storm and sheltered overnight in the field house at Muscle Shoals High School. He borrowed a phone the next morning to call his parents.

Honoring the past at LaGrange Cemetery

Colbert County Commissioner Darol Bendall asked Speegle to locate unmarked historic graves at the historic LaGrange Cemetery in Leighton, Alabama. He and Küsse volunteered a weekend in April.

“The descendants would like to know where they’re at – it’s rough terrain,” said Speegle, who assisted other members of the LaGrange Living History Association. “There are probably 100 graves that are unaccounted for, some of which date to 1815.”

The project was an excellent training opportunity. Speegle, Küsse and his other dogs located nine lost gravesites. During the years, headstones for a man and his wife, dating to the 1800s, had been moved about 50 yards from their resting place. Volunteers reset the headstones properly. Other graves were found outside the cemetery.

“My cadaver dog found an unmarked grave in a wooded area,” he said.

During the work, a volunteer’s child went missing.

“This little 6-year-old girl had wandered off 200 to 300 yards,” Speegle said. “Küsse found her at the back of the cemetery, at the wood line. It was a little scary for all of us.”

Speegle finds a lot of satisfaction in helping others.

“There was no happy ending in Tennessee, but finding the little girl was a good one,” he said. “Küsse is at the beginning of her career. I hope she serves her community well. If she wins in her overall category, I will be one proud daddy.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

and 4 months ago

Florists decorate Birmingham Rotary Trail in an act of beauty and healing

(Ike Pigott/Alabama NewsCenter)

Flowers bring joy, and they can heal the soul.

On Friday morning about 25 florists joined in decorating the Rotary Trail in Birmingham. As a beautiful start to the weekend, said Cameron Pappas, florists swathed the trail in greenery, roses and colorful blooms of all sorts. People even brought flowers from their yards.

The effort was to bring “light and joy” to Birmingham residents. And the 46-foot-tall sign with the words “Rotary Trail in the Magic City” was the perfect place to begin.


“I was laying in bed Sunday night, watching these scenes unfold where Birmingham was in chaos. Seeing this was so sad,” said Pappas, owner of Norton’s Florist in Birmingham.

When Carolyn Chen called Pappas later, an idea was born. The owner of Wild Things Flowers & Curiosities in Homewood, Chen thought that decorating the entrance of the Rotary Trail could be a start to bringing emotional healing to the Magic City.

Area florists put Birmingham’s Rotary Trail in full bloom from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Random acts of botany

“Carolyn wanted to figure out how to help the city heal after this past weekend and the coronavirus,” said Pappas, owner of Norton’s Florist for more than four years. Between the two, giving flowers in a difficult time is a natural response: “Flowers bring joy. Whether it’s a sad time like a funeral or a happy occasion like a birthday, flowers bring happiness,” he said.

Pappas and Chen invited more than 50 florists from a 40-mile area around the city to help. Three wholesale flower distributors in Birmingham – DavisR&W Wholesale Inc. and Hall’s Birmingham Wholesale Florist – donated flowers and greenery.

“It’s cool to have everyone in an industry come together,” he said. “We want to make people happy, and give them something to look at besides broken glass and boarded up windows.”

What started as a simple gesture bloomed into something memorable. Several of the participating florists were livestreaming to Facebook. Several people from outside of Birmingham saw the videos and posts on social media, and came to take their own pictures.

Pappas said that seeing people join together to help was an amazing sight.

“People were cutting flowers, using their talents to help,” he said. “Everyone was busy beautifying the Rotary Trail with one thought: We love Birmingham. We love this city and our people.”

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

5 months ago

Alabama nurses use technology, drop off supplies for first-time mothers in need

(Holly Grainer/UAB)

The coronavirus may be keeping people at home, but it has not stopped nurses from providing prenatal and postnatal care to first-time mothers in need.

The program, which has been in the Birmingham area for almost three years, connects nurses who support pregnant women having their first baby. The nurses provide weekly or biweekly home visits during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of the child’s life. It is run by the UAB School of Nursing and the Jefferson County Department of Health.

While the nurses are not able to see their patients in person, they are using FaceTime, Zoom, texting and phone calls to keep up with appointments.


“The crisis has caused mothers to reconnect with their nurse if they had been missing appointments in the past,” said Candace Knight, an obstetric nurse at the UAB School of Nursing and the director of the program. “In many cases, those mothers have come back to us. The moms seem to be really positive about connecting this way. They want to protect themselves, their babies and us, in the same way that we want to protect them.”

Aside from making sure the mothers and babies are safe, the nurses are ensuring they have enough to eat, supplies and are prepared to continue providing for themselves and their families.

“We are focusing on connecting our moms with resources for food. Our nurses have been delivering diapers and formula when needed,” Knight said. “If the mother has been laid off, we are making sure they are plugged in and receiving unemployment benefits and have resources to find other jobs.”

The Jefferson County Committee for Economic OpportunitySafeCare and the Children’s Policy Council have helped provide formula to the mothers and babies.

Lactation consultants are reaching out to new mothers via FaceTime to make sure they have information to breastfeed.

While the nurses are eager to visit their patients, Knight said the overall morale of mothers and nurses has been good.

“They want to get back out there and actually see their moms and babies, but it has been a blessing that we can still provide care and connect with our moms,” Knight said. “Everyone is glad to be able to take care of our moms and their babies.”

For more information about the Nurse-Family Partnership of Central Alabama, visit its website. For more information about the novel coronavirus, visit

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 months ago

Heroes at UAB Center for Nursing Excellence work to protect fellow nurses


Nurses at UAB Hospital’s Center for Nursing Excellence (CNE) are committed to ensuring their colleagues have the latest information and best practices to treat patients amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

About 55 nurses work behind the scenes to safeguard UAB nurses in 14 different specialties, day and night. These nurses train and monitor other nurses to make sure they correctly wear personal protective equipment in the fight against COVID-19. Masks, shields and gloves that nurses and doctors wear are crucial to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.


“As we progressed into preparing for COVID-19, things changed so rapidly, we were educating our nursing staff about something new almost every three to four days,” said Connie White-Williams, senior director of the center. “The CNE developed and is teaching ongoing, daylong classes to prepare acute care nurses to work in the intensive care setting if the situation arises.”

Strong community support for frontline health care workers continues with help from companies, including Alabama Power, as they produce protective equipment and supply meals for nurses and staff.

CNE staff were recently treated to lunch to thank them for all they do for fellow workers and patients, said Meaghan Childs, meeting and event specialist at Alabama Power, who helped coordinate the meal service. The lunch was provided by Alabama Power’s Corporate and Administrative Services department.

White-Williams thanked Alabama Power for its support.

“We in the Center for Nursing Excellence were so appreciative of the meals, and everything worked out perfectly,” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 months ago

Women’s History Month: 18th U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin has roots in Alabama

(Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

The little town of Bayou La Batre – home of swaying palms and warm sunshine – has a lifetime commitment from Dr. Regina Benjamin to help heal and uplift its less privileged residents.

Benjamin, the 18th surgeon general of the United States, has deep roots in the bayou. The village at the end of U.S. Highway 1 dates to 1786, near the time Benjamin’s forebears were planted in the marshland area. In a town historically devoted to shrimping – but mostly, to each other – the bayou’s most famous descendent has invested her life in helping the medically underserved.

Benjamin’s medical career has earned fame and taken her to Washington, D.C., London and beyond. But she always returns to the bayou. After serving 30 years in rural family practice medicine, Benjamin in October 2019 opened Bayou la Batre’s new Gulf States Health Policy Center, a health and resource center for less privileged residents that focuses on the social determinants of health.

Rural health is Benjamin’s ‘passion’


Bayou La Batre doesn’t have many public spaces for people to come together for conversations about rural health.

“Opening this center was my dream for a long time,” said Benjamin, the 2009-2013 U.S. surgeon general under President Barack Obama.

As surgeon general, Benjamin’s focus was on improving health disparities, prevention, rural health and children’s health. She advocates for walking and exercising: Benjamin plans to build walking trails at the Gulf States Health Policy Center, allowing residents to exercise safely. Benjamin wants to see her longtime patients and neighbors improve their health, and this often begins with conversation.

“We’ve got a big community room so that people have places to meet, have events so they can come in and have this conversation on rural health, and they can ask questions,” she said. “One of the signature places is our kitchen, because we like to teach people how to cook healthy, prepare their foods and how to read labels.”

Bayou residents receive free, basic diagnostic services such as blood pressure and blood sugar checks. The center’s computer room has free internet and several workstations for students and families. Other conference rooms are suitable for small group meetings and activities.

The purpose of Benjamin’s free clinic and resource center is to prevent health problems. She’s spent her life treating residents whose chronic diseases – diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease – often are caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices.

“Prevention is what I’ve always been about,” said Benjamin, who earned her medical degree at the University of Alabama in 1984. “I’ve always been interested in the community’s health. Prior to being surgeon general, I’ve been in Bayou La Batre as a primary care physician and a family physician.”

Dr. Regina Benjamin talks about her latest initiative to prevent health problems in South Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

It was her love of people that led to Benjamin’s successful medical career. As an outgoing person – she attributes her gregarious personality to her mother – Benjamin said that “divine intervention” was behind her decision to study medicine at Xavier University of New Orleans.

“The only reason I went into pre-med at Xavier University was the social aspect,” Benjamin said. “They had the best club, and I wanted to meet people. It really was divine intervention, because in medical school I realized there was nothing I’d rather do with my life than be a doctor.” Nearly 40 years later, Benjamin is the Endowed Chair of Public Health Sciences at her alma mater.

She emphasizes the importance of prevention in community health.

“Through the years, I loved treating patients one on one,” said Benjamin, founder of the Gulf States Health Policy Center, which aims to reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes among people in the Gulf region. “I’ve always loved that. But my time as surgeon general taught me about population health, and that we can treat more and more people with more and better policies and better programs.”

When Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed Benjamin’s Bayou La Batre Rural Health Clinic, she mortgaged her house to make the clinic serviceable again. While rebuilding, Benjamin made house calls to patients.

Avidly interested in the causes of disease, Benjamin said that health doesn’t occur in a doctor’s office alone.

“Health occurs where we live, where we learn, where we work, where we play and where we pray,” Benjamin said. “Health is in everything that we do, everything from clean water to safe highways to healthy foods. This new clinic is about getting the community involved, interested in getting healthier and taking control of their lives. We’ve been doing this for several years, and the community is very engaged in that. What’s really exciting is that we’ve developed a relationship with more than 150 organizations.”

Benjamin has won many awards throughout her career. She received the 2000 National Caring Award, inspired by Mother Teresa. In 2008, Benjamin received a $500,000 MacArthur Genius Award Fellowship for improving medical care for the disadvantaged. Readers Digest ranked her No. 22 of the “100 Most Trusted People in America” in 2013.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 months ago

Gov. Kay Ivey and Association of the U.S. Army honor outstanding Tuscaloosa women

(Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) honored five exceptional women in Tuscaloosa Feb. 26.

During the Women’s Leadership Luncheon at the Tuscaloosa River Market, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey gave awards to Army National Guard 1st Lt. Kayla FreemanBecky YorkLaTonya Jemison, Dr. Khristina Motley and Ellen Potts.

Nicolas Britto, president of the AUSA West/Central Alabama Chapter and a retired Army lieutenant colonel, welcomed the 270 guests.


Leadership Luncheon recognizes Alabama women from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Ivey said she was thrilled to honor the nominees, who she thanked as “trailblazers who knocked down barriers, one by one.” Because of these female leaders who prepared the way, Ivey said there are now many female CEOs, politicians and business owners who are examples to generations of incoming women.

“As a girl growing up in Wilcox County, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without the stories of trailblazers like former Gov. Lurleen Wallace,” Ivey said. “She was a mentor and a dear friend. The women who have gone before us have showed us that lasting change is possible if we work together toward a common goal. Working toward a common goal is something special I hold in my administration, and that is what we do to get things done in our great state.”

Freeman, the first African American female helicopter pilot in the 200-year history of the Alabama National Guard, was awarded Veteran of the Year for 2019. She said the award was “beyond all my dreams.”

“It’s just a blessing to see my hard work and dedication and many, many sacrifices many people don’t see the final product, but all of this was in the making and it’s a blessing to be recognized,” said Freeman, who flew more than 250 combat flight hours during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq.

“I never thought I’d be in this position, but I knew I had a dream, I had a goal,” said Freeman, who graduated from Tuskegee University in aerospace science engineering and was enrolled in ROTC. “I wanted to fly and I wanted to engineer, and it took a lot of hard work and some of it looked impossible. In the beginning. I even told myself, there’s no way, there’s no way. But I kept my faith in God, and I kept pushing.”

Jordan Plaster, who was instrumental in establishing Tuscaloosa Rotary Club’s Honor Flight, called York “superwoman.” During the past 10 years, Plaster and York have worked tirelessly to send 850 World War II and Vietnam War veterans to Washington, D.C.

“Each Honor Flight costs about $100,000, but all of our veterans go for free,” courtesy of Tuscaloosa Rotary Club’s sponsorship, Plaster said.

York’s family has a long heritage of military service: her father, uncle and father-in-law were all World War II veterans. She said it has been a tremendous honor to work with Honor Flight.

“It’s been very important to me because I come from a family of veterans,” said York, state president of the EnergizersAlabama Power’s retiree service organization, which has 11 chapters statewide. “I can trace the veterans in my family to the American Revolution, so I’m really proud to recognize veterans and help repay them for the things they’ve done for me and the life I get to live.

“It’s been an honor to provide for our veterans and give them an opportunity to go somewhere and do something they haven’t done before,” said York, who was a manager for Alabama Power’s Aliceville and Reform offices for 37 years.

Motley has been a teacher in Tuscaloosa for 23 years and oversees Hillcrest High School’s Choral department. She directs the school’s all-inclusive choir of multidisabled students. More than 30 members of her Women’s Choir sang at the awards program.

Jemison is a guidance counselor at Hillcrest High School and a mentor to Army Junior ROTC students. She earned a master’s degree in school guidance from the University of West Alabama and has served the Alabama school system for 18 years.

Potts is executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa. She has served the organization since 1997

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 months ago

APSO paints happier world with service benefiting 11 Alabama nonprofits

(Wynter Byrd/Alabama NewsCenter)

Everyone is beautiful and unique, in their own special way.

That’s the message Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) members are sharing through a colorful painting they created for Glenwood, inscribed with the slogan “You are Beautiful.”

During APSO’s Jan. 29-31 convention in Birmingham, members took part in dual service projects. Several APSO volunteers applied loving touches to a cheerful portrait of smiling children for Glenwood’s Allan Cott School, and more than 100 members painted wooden benches to be given to nonprofits statewide.


APSO leaders asked artist Portia Williams to pencil sketch a painting to be completed for the service project. Williams, a commissioned artist who paints oil portraits and whimsical paintings with acrylics, has sold her art since 2015. She has gained quite a following.

“When APSO reached out to me to do the painting, this was right up my alley,” said Williams, Human Resources associate for Labor Relations at Alabama Power and a Magic City APSO member for about 10 years. She created a drawing of five youngsters of different nationalities and backgrounds, allowing members to fill in the colors, similar to a coloring book.

APSO art project delivers powerful message from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Williams helped APSO members “put paint to canvas” for about 2 hours. She added finishing touches to the canvas at her home studio.

Glenwood Inc. Development Manager Tracee Nix talked with APSO members and was thrilled to see their outpouring of support. Since Glenwood’s founding in 1974, Nix said the organization has served a lot of people who have had nowhere else to go. Started by several families with children who had mental health needs, Glenwood today touches 2,000 lives annually by providing diagnostic and educational services for children, all the way through residential services for adults. Another 16,000 families receive training or referral services.

“We asked APSO to use the theme ‘You are Beautiful’ because we have some individuals at Glenwood who aren’t always told that, or don’t always hear that,” said Nix, who has worked at Glenwood for four years. “You don’t have to do a lot – add a small piece from your heart to this piece of art. Aren’t we all made more beautiful as we are woven together?”

Magic City Chapter member Kimberly Maryland was happy that APSO selected Glenwood for a service project.

“I didn’t know I’d be seeing this today,” said Maryland, a communications specialist for Public Relations at Alabama Power. “This was a divine appointment. Glenwood saved my life back in 2002.”

Maryland’s son, Matthew, was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and his pediatric neurologist referred her to Glenwood.

“He wanted me to connect with counselors and also other parents who were going through some of the same things I was going through,” said Maryland, whose son is 22 and in college. “I was able to go to Glenwood and meet some awesome people, parents that really helped me navigate through all the changes going on in my life. I’ve told numerous people that – emotionally – Glenwood saved my life.”

Paul Agostini, vice president of Education and Applied Behavior Analysis Services at Glenwood, is excited to welcome the artwork to the Allan Cott campus.

“Art is so impactful and has a calming effect on people,” said Agostini, who has served Glenwood for seven years. “It’s so important for our students. We deliver top-tier services at Glenwood.

“In everything we do within our school, we want to create an environment of learning that fosters support,” he said. “We work to create a calm, supportive environment. Each one of our students – each person – is beautiful, and we want to reinforce that message with them on a daily basis … It’s great to be able to partner with APSO to further this mission.”

Williams felt much joy in adding her artistic talents to the APSO service project.

“This painting will tell children they are important, they are special,” she said. “It’s a great way to come together as a community to help someone who can really use our help and share this message. We’re all made better because of it.”

Other activities of the APSO convention included installing 2020 statewide APSO President Kodi Belford, and the 10 chapter presidents: Krista Presnall, Plant Barry; Keisha Chapman, Eastern Division; Jason Miller, Plant Gaston; Dion Oliver, Plant Gorgas; Kaylon Mikula, Magic City; Rachel Edgil, Plant Miller; Cynthia Tatum, Mobile Division; Rolanda Jones, Southeast-Farley; Wendy Barnes, Southern Division; and Susie Harris, Western Division.

Jodi Webb, 2019 president of the Plant Gaston Chapter and an environmental compliance specialist at Gaston, won APSO’s prestigious Patsy Topazi Award for excellence in serving one’s community.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 months ago

APSO volunteers answer call to serve in celebration of MLK Day

(Gaston APSO/Alabama NewsCenter)

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Those words expressed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, find resonance across the nation as people celebrate his legacy through the MLK Day of Service. Indeed, thousands across the country and Alabama on Jan. 20 will answer King’s call to action.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many Alabama Power employees will answer the call by helping in projects that strengthen their communities. Volunteers from several chapters of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) will work throughout the state.


Eastern Division

  • In an event that has become an Eastern APSO tradition, volunteers will prepare plates and serve food at the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast in Talladega. The event starts at 8 a.m. in the Family Life Center at the Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church. Eastern Division Vice President Terry Smiley will be the keynote speaker.
  • Volunteers will serve Calhoun County residents at the annual MLK Breakfast at 9 a.m. at the Anniston City Meeting Center.


The Gaston Chapter will celebrate King’s life and legacy by cleaning the town of Wilsonville from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Meeting at 8 a.m. at the town pavilion, members will pick up trash along Shelby County Road 103, Hebb Road and Highway 25.

Magic City

  • Magic City APSO members will join Friends of Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover to clean up and remove invasive plants along walking trails from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Members will prepare and serve lunch to about 60 families at the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on MLK Day. The members will split into teams, cleaning the kitchen pantry, cabinets and drawers, refrigerator, playground and around the building’s exterior. A team will disinfect the toddler area and toys, as well. To prepare for the event, a team will spend time Saturday, Jan. 18, buying food, paper plates, cups and utensils.
  • Volunteers will work from 8 a.m. to noon at the downtown YWCA, cleaning and refreshing the lobby and second-floor chapel. They will perform heavy-duty cleaning, such as sprucing up the chapel, baseboards and stairwells. If the weather permits, members will clean the first-floor interior windows and exterior windows.


Miller APSO members will work at Cordova Health & Rehabilitation, a long-term care and rehabilitation center, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of a beautification project. Volunteers will clean the facility’s courtyard, and several Miller APSO members will pressure-wash, perform landscaping and repair the gazebo.

Mobile Division

Mobile APSO volunteers will join together for Keep Mobile Beautiful’s communitywide partnership for the MLK Day of Service. The project will benefit the Strickland Youth Center, which assists troubled teens. Members will plant trees, some of which were funded by the Alabama Power Foundation’s Good Roots Grants project to improve the quality of the environment in communities, towns and cities across Alabama.

Southeast Division

Members will take part in the Eufaula Barbour County Chamber’s Day of Service from 8 a.m. to noon. Volunteers from other groups will help in serving the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Eufaula, Barbour County Humane Society, Fairview Cemetery, Jewish Cemetery and more.

Southern Division

In what has become an annual project, Southern APSO volunteers will assist at the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts at Troy University. Volunteers will help seat guests attending the MLK Celebration at the 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. shows.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 months ago

City of Lights Dream Center restores women seeking freedom from substance abuse in Alabama

Pastor Jamie Massey is a woman on a mission. Since September 2019, she and her husband, Sumiton Church of God Pastor Victor Massey, have operated City of Lights Dream Center, which provides substance-abuse counseling and recovery to women in Dora, Alabama. The Masseys hope to expand the center’s program to include men with substance-abuse issues in September 2020. The center focuses on whole-family care, additionally providing day care and after-school care to needy families. (Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

Life can sometimes squash one’s dreams.

Especially for people suffering from substance abuse, hope gets lost in the problems of daily life, said City of Lights Dream Center founder Jamie Massey. But scratch below the surface, and everyone has a story about how they got there and hopes – even though clouded – for a better life.

For the past year and a half, Massey has listened to the hopes and dreams of the facility’s 12 women clients, who are part of the center’s Celebrate Recovery program for people fighting addiction.

“I wish you could hear their stories,” said Massey, who operates City of Lights Dream Center with her husband, Victor, lead pastor at Sumiton Church of God. “A good 90 percent of people have something in their background that left them broken.”

Most clients come from a dysfunctional upbringing, have a history of sexual molestation, or domestic abuse and violence.


“People say others choose drug addiction,” said Massey, who mentors the women into new lives. “You don’t know their stories. There have been things that have gone on that have caused the behavior. We have clients from different states, and even have a woman from Russia. Some girls struggle with a lot of anger. I see people in emotional and physical pain.”

The rehabilitation center provides clients a free 12- to 18-month treatment program, including drug counseling and therapies provided by doctors, nurse practitioners and counselors who volunteer their time.

“We had a girl with a serious mental illness,” Massey said. “With help from our volunteer doctors, counselors and medication, the woman is now getting to a place where she can work through the issues of the past.”

Massey has found that emotional and mental health issues are a leading factor in drug and/or alcohol addiction. Left untreated or misdiagnosed, she said, many people self-treat through prescription medications, which can lead to hard drugs.

People need mental health help, and treatment will prevent addiction, she said. Untreated or undiagnosed mental health issues can be a big factor in addiction, Massey believes.

“I see God work here every day,” Massey said. “We’re here to tell people they don’t have to live that way anymore. Your brain thinks that emotional pain is the same as physical pain, and you’ve got to confront the pain. Some feel almost helpless. We encourage the women to stay in recovery.”

Clients find recovery and new life

Massey and her team have created a homey atmosphere where clients – many of whom were homeless – find respite and healing. Such was the case for Melissa Lamb, who left her home in North Carolina when she was 16 years old.

“There are ones who have been in domestic violence,” Lamb said. “I ran.”

A few years ago, Lamb attended the Massey’s church in Atlanta, before they were led to start a ministry in Alabama. When Lamb briefly relapsed into substance abuse, she lost custody of her daughter. She found it very difficult to regain her parental rights.

“I spiraled downhill,” Lamb said. “I needed a fresh start.”

Searching the internet for the Massey’s new church, Lamb saw that the couple had founded the City of Lights Dream Center. Lamb packed up her belongings and made her way to Alabama, sometimes living in a tent along the way.

“I called Jamie and told her, ‘I’m coming to check myself in,’” Lamb said. Massey picked up Lamb at the WalMart in Sumiton.

The past few months, Lamb has worked hard to re-stabilize her life. She wants to earn an associate degree from Bevill State and has plans to become a commercial truck driver.

“My daughter is that important to me,” said Lamb, who has a part-time cleaning job with a commercial company. “Once I could focus on what I needed to do, I can use healthy coping skills. I know now what to do to prevent a relapse.”

“The determination, heart and passion to succeed is influential with the women here,” Massey said. “We want to see moms reunified with their children. People have to get on their feet. They just need that chance.”

Lamb is grateful for the opportunity to start anew.

“Jamie is a miracle soldier, a warrior woman,” Lamb said.

Birthing the Dream Center

The Masseys moved from Atlanta three years ago to pastor Sumiton Church of God. Performing a demographic study of the area, they discovered needs within the community that couldn’t be handled on a Sunday morning. For several years, Jamie Massey had desired to provide a center where people could receive treatment for substance and alcohol abuse.

“Starting the City of Lights Dream Center has been an amazing journey,” said Massey, who operates the center through Jamie Massey Ministries. “This is definitely a God thing.”

Searching for a location, Victor Massey found the old T.S. Boyd school property, which had been closed a few years before and had been put up for bid by the city of Dora. The couple placed a modest bid on the property. The Masseys learned they were the only bidders.

Massey said the center has received much help from the Walker Area Community Foundation, the Walker County Coalition for the Homeless, and other churches and organizations seeking to improve conditions not only in Dora and Sumiton but all of Walker County.

For example, several members of the Miller Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) helped prepare the center for opening. Miller APSO members volunteered 400 hours. In 2019, Miller APSO gave a donation for school supplies to help with the Dream Center’s Back 2 School Bash for needy families.

Massey plans to use the entire 18 acres of the property. Coming phases, which will require property improvements, will include housing for single mothers and battered women and children. Behind the Dream Center, Massey added a new mobile home that will house a current client when her baby is born. She hopes to expand the center’s program to include men with substance-abuse issues in September 2020.

A Bevill State Community College instructor provides onsite job training to clients, helping with computer training and teaching business skills. Several clients are receiving tutoring to earn GEDs.

The Dream Center provides free day care after-school care to about 30 children of approved families, picking up the children by bus after school and delivering them home at 5:30 p.m. daily. The children are fed a nutritious meal made in the center’s community kitchen and engage in learning activities on computers donated to the center.

Many members of the Sumiton Church of God have volunteered their help.

“I thank God for a church family that is so supportive of this,” said Massey, who has shared the Dream Center’s mission with several churches and other groups. “I always say God must love this place. God has said, ‘I want you to love these people like I love them.’ We are helping change outcomes in Walker County, one person at a time.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

8 months ago

Alabama cuts ribbon on Birmingham’s new interstate bridges

(Gov. Ivey/Flickr)

Birmingham is rejoicing as the new Interstate 59/20 interchange reopened on the evening of Jan. 17.

Celebrating the completion of the city’s $700 million Bridge Replacement Project at 2 p.m. Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) representatives and civic leaders took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the interchange. Ivey praised the team effort by ALDOT, contract firm Johnson Brothers Corp., and state and city leaders instrumental in the yearlong work.

Ivey said the state’s infrastructure is an important factor in maintaining Alabama’s economic participation and production. The governor noted that the rehabilitation of Alabama’s bridges and infrastructure creates thousands of jobs each year and provides a more attractive appearance, encouraging businesses to relocate and to expand in the state.

“To the ladies and gentlemen of the city of Birmingham, I want to thank you all for your patience, and your help with this as we have been trying hard to finish before the deadline,” Ivey said. “You’ve been a great asset to the effort, and I am grateful.


“All of these bridges were 45 years old,” she said. “Now, when they were built, they were designed to carry a capacity of 80,000 vehicles a day. Well, here we are today, and there’s over 160,000 vehicles traveling on these roads.”

City of Birmingham Transportation Director James Fowler attended for Mayor Randall Woodfin, who was out of town. Fowler said city leaders are thankful for the magnitude of the investment in Birmingham.

“We are grateful for ALDOT’s efforts in communities with our residents and to people present,” Fowler said. “We are grateful for relationships we’ve built in this process, and we’re grateful to the workers and the large personal investment and sacrifices they made to this huge project.”

Alabama Sen. Rodger Smitherman said he is thrilled to see the completion of the interchange. He said that the new roadways will make travel safer for residents and visitors.

“This interchange will be a new standard moving forward,” Smitherman said. “I commend Governor Ivey, who recognized the need for upgrading, and for all of her work on this project. This will move our region forward. It was a monumental task.”

DeJarvis Leonard, regional engineer of ALDOT-East Central Region, said more than 500 workers were onsite throughout the project.

“We want to thank all of the workers who came early and stayed late, taking away time from their family to complete this on time,” Leonard said. “They endured long hours to make this project happen. We are grateful to God for the success of this project.”

Johnson Brothers beat its March 21, 2020, deadline by about two months. Every day the bridges are open before the deadline, the contract firm gets a $250,000 per day bonus, with a maximum bonus of $15 million.

Johnson Brothers Operations Manager Mike Brown called the job “unprecedented,” saying his team met the challenge of restoring I-59/20 in “just shy of a year.”

“We set a world record for safety in this given time span,” said Brown, a project manager at Johnson Brothers for about six years. “I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of our people, the men and women who poured their hearts and souls into making this happen. Without these folks, clearly this wouldn’t be possible. Tremendous execution and planning went into this, so much sacrifice. We are elated and ready to see the roads open. I’m ready to share this moment with my team. They’ve put a lot into this. It’s a long time coming.

“I’m excited for the residents, the locals and the traveling public that comes through here,” he said. “I hope that people will be proud of the structures here – I think they will be. … I think they’re the best in Alabama.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 months ago

Have yourself a merry little Victorian holiday at Birmingham’s 1898 mansion B&Bs

(Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at the Hassinger Daniels Mansion Bed and Breakfast (B&B) and Cobb Lane B&B in Birmingham.

Guests and passersby who venture into the Magic City’s only B&Bs are greeted with glorious bursts of holiday color. The gracious old homes, which date to 1898 and are on the National Register of Historic Places, pay tribute to Christmas with festive red, green and gold trimmings. Greenery and holly berries, along with touches of red and gold ribbon, adorn many doorways and bannisters throughout the homes.

The ornate iron fence of the Hassinger Daniels Mansion – decked with garland, pine cones and shiny red bells – clues visitors to delights within. Curious folks often stop to gaze at these beautiful Queen Anne Victorian mansions seated among shops and award-winning restaurants in Birmingham’s historic Five Points South neighborhood.


“It’s like a real-life dollhouse. A lot of times, people aren’t looking for us because we’re off the beaten path. Most bed and breakfasts are in rural areas,” said assistant innkeeper Kathleen McAlister, who assists proprietor and owner Sheila Chaffin, former executive director of Campus Planning at UAB.

B&B guests seek proximity to Birmingham’s five hospitals, concert venues, restaurants or for rest during a road trip. McAllister has served guests from Canada, China, Norway, Switzerland and Africa.

“It’s homey and you feel comfy, which is especially welcome before stressful events such as a doctor’s appointment,” McAlister said of Hassinger Daniel’s 10 bedrooms, four of which are two-bed suites.

“We get a lot of football traffic, and some people stay before a job interview at UAB,” McAlister said. “Some people are very interested in the architecture of churches here, and some are interested in seeing the Civil Rights Institute.” One favorite recurring guest stays several times a year to host a civil rights tour.

The mansion was designed by Thomas Walter, grandson of the architect for the U.S. Capitol dome, for William Hassinger, president of Southern Iron and Steel Co. He and his wife, Virginia, lived in the mansion until they moved to Hassinger Castle in Birmingham’s Redmont Park. Years later, the 12,000-square-foot mansion was a dual optician office and residence. The Chaffins are the third owners in 121 years.

The Chaffins toiled through a four-year restoration, including electrical wiring and plumbing, that oversaw the addition of 14 bathrooms. A photo album attests to the home’s earlier disrepair.

The restored mansion is a treat for the eyes. Guests enter the mahogany “doorway back in time” when they see the boysenberry red foyer with soaring 20 foot ceilings adorned with sparkling crystal chandeliers. The stairway to two upper floors, wreathed in holiday greenery, is lit by 16 heraldry themed stained-glass windows original to the mansion. True to the home’s vintage, there are no elevators.

The spacious, sun-drenched parlor is steeped in late 1800s design. At the large windows overlooking Highland Avenue, a wooden “hippogriff” – a winged horse-like figure with an eagle’s face, hand-carved by Ira Chaffin – is decorated with a huge gold bow, its outstretched wings seemingly in welcome. Two carved mahogany settees drenched in velvet invite one to admire the angel-topped tree, where 15 dolls and a nutcracker pay homage to the holidays.

Sheila Chaffin, ever mindful of the home’s Victorian heritage, curated the antique furniture throughout the home.

“Sheila scours the South and the Birmingham metro area for antiques,” McAlister said. “She goes all over to estate sales and auctions.” An iron gazebo in the backyard, dotted with Parisian-like touches of gold, came from Tuscaloosa.

All bedrooms have a theme and their own character:

  • Blue Serenity – Sleeps three guests.
  • Camelot – Contains carved carousel horses by renowned sculptor Ira Chaffin.
  • Enchanting Turret – Provides a four-post king-size bed and a queen-size bed inside the turret.
  • Garden View – Has a kitchenette and a clawfoot tub.
  • Hera’s Loft – Has a daybed and a couch.
  • Peacock Room – A magnificent stuffed peacock presides above the bed.
  • Seraphim – Features cherubs and an ornamental fireplace.
  • Southern Belle – The two-bedroom suite has fashionable decor and a balcony.
  • Victorian Chamber – Features a queen-size Tudor bed, antiques, ornamental fireplace and pendulous chandelier.
  • Vulcan Vista – Allows views of the “Iron Man” from a dormer window or clawfoot tub.

Singularly Southern

McAlister likes to provide “good old-fashioned Southern hospitality.” Raised in Birmingham, she has worked for Chaffin off and on for 10 years, starting as a student at UAB.

“I enjoy chatting with guests at breakfast – it’s like starting the day with a tea party,” McAlister said. The calming elegance of the pale blue dining room, its formal table set with gold and green antique china and glassware, makes breakfast a special occasion.

“Meeting people from all over the world and getting to be their Birmingham tour guide is a really neat experience,” she said. “You never know who you’ll meet. I remember once, we had two guests from Auburn who turned out to know each other. Neither knew the other one was here, and one woman heard her friend talking in another room and realized the world is, in fact, quite small.’”

McAlister delights in helping guests, whether she is placing home-baked cookies in the parlor or helping select a restaurant.

“We’re a small operation with two inns. But there are lots of odds and ends to running a bed and breakfast,” McAlister said, with a chuckle. “You may spend one day walking around with a ladder and installing light bulbs. The next day, you’re a plumber.”

The mansions have seen many proposals, weddings and formal teas. Offerings of personalized service, comfort, lovely décor and easy walking distance to about 40 restaurants and shops earn the B&Bs high ratings on Trip Advisor.

A recent guest wrote about their stay at Hassinger Daniels B&B: “A once-in-a-lifetime experience. This place is like sleeping in, or staying in, a castle. The stairs were restored perfectly, and the stained glass was awesome to look at.”

Relax at Cobb Lane

Cobb Lane B&B’s gracious veranda beckons guests to stay awhile. It’s easy to imagine guests lounging in wicker chairs, indulging in people-watching while sipping a mint julep or sweet iced tea.

Like its sister mansion, Cobb Lane is warm and welcoming. Built by Birmingham’s then-tax collector, the 4,500-square-foot house has seven guest rooms.

The deep wine-colored walls of the entry rooms are both elegant and relaxing. In the parlor, 10 Christmas Village houses illuminate a corner. The elegant dining room, framed in Christmas ornaments and holiday greenery, displays a silver tea service on a large china hutch and a gracious table set with red antique glasses and china. An 1860s-era carved mahogany chair is on display.

The house has several themed bedrooms, such as Bird of Paradise, Camellia, Country French Suite and Periwinkle. True to its name, the Romantic Rose room is draped in satin-smooth wallpaper, its seating area and table featuring delicate pink blooms. The downstairs Zebra Room, decorated in modern black and white furnishings, offers privacy and easy parking access.

A former Cobb Lane guest wrote, “When it comes to breakfast, Sheila puts the second B in B&B. Sit, enjoy the meal and the conversation. The surroundings have history, mystery and magic.”

Reserve your stay

Rooms: Priced at $99 to $159 per night, plus tax.

Amenities: Free Wi-Fi and free parking; daily maid service. Free, hot breakfast is served in the formal dining room with fresh flowers and candles. Enjoy complimentary beverages and cookies in the parlor.

Contact: Hassinger Daniels at 205-930-5800; Cobb Lane at 205-918-9090.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Gaston APSO brightens Childersburg shop window with holiday cheer

(Jodi Webb/Alabama NewsCenter)

The Grinch can’t steal Christmas in downtown Childersburg.

To help catch shoppers’ interest, members of the Gaston Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) spruced up an empty shop window with trees, lighting and bright pops of holiday color. Indeed, the Gaston Grinch transformed a forlorn window into a joyful holiday scene.


Karen White, a Plant E.C. Gaston scheduler, said the decorating project helped propel members into the Christmas spirit. Trish Wesson, the wife of Childersburg Mayor Ken Wesson, spurred the plan to decorate empty shops in the downtown area. With these efforts, merchants and many townspeople in Childersburg – the nation’s oldest continually occupied city, dating to 1540 – hope to attract more shoppers this holiday season.

Gaston APSO members were among 12 teams that spent several hours decorating. Another building resembles Santa’s workshop.

White, Barbara McGinnis, Kamber Nwransky and Sarah Hansen created the Grinch theme with paint, Christmas trees and ornaments. Gaston Maintenance Team Leaders Jason Bailey and Jason Blackerby safely strung and wired lights to illuminate the scene from dawn to dusk. Gaston APSO volunteers gave 18 hours to the mini-revitalization project.

“There are lots of empty storefronts, and these decorations helped revitalize our little town,” White said. “We pulled what we had in our closets and sheds. Our window looks great.”

White thinks that it would be helpful to keep displays in the town’s empty shops year-round.

“It brought joy to people in Childersburg, and we had so much fun doing it,” White said. “It makes you feel good when you go through town and see all of the windows brightened up.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Alabama Power employees help disadvantaged have happier holidays

Employees at Alabama Power Plant Miller have been preparing all year for holiday giving. (Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

As the holidays loom and temperatures slide downward, many Alabama Power Plant Miller employees are warming the hearts of less fortunate folks. That’s the case for members of all 10 chapters of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO), who pull out all the stops to assist during the Christmas season.

The unwavering focus of Miller APSO’s board and 300 chapter members is helping meet community needs in one of Alabama’s poorest areas.

“The need is real,” said Miller APSO President Kevin Chappell. Indeed, about 22% of Walker County’s 64,000 residents live below the poverty line.


In freezing weather, the homeless seek a warm place to stay at the City of Lights Dream Center in Dora. In January, the center opened 20 beds to the public, along with providing hot meals and showers. Miller APSO members volunteered for 400 hours in helping prepare the center for opening.

Jamie Massey, founder of City of Lights, said that volunteer hours and donations by Miller APSO members are making life more bearable for the center’s homeless and needy clients. When temperatures go below freezing two or more consecutive nights, the center opens its warming stations.

Adding touch of home for the hurting

“It’s not just the homeless,” said Massey, who operates the center with her husband, Sumiton Church of God Pastor Victor Massey. “We have families that are cold and don’t have running water, for instance. With it being this cold, we want to make sure it’s for anybody that needs to get warm.”

In August, Miller APSO provided a donation for school supplies to assist with the center’s Back 2 School Bash for needy families. More than 800 families picked up free paper, pens, pencils and backpacks before school started. The City of Lights Dream Center provides free day care services to approved families and a Celebrate Recovery program for people fighting addiction.

“It’s our dream to make life better for people in Walker County,” Massey said. “I can’t thank Miller APSO enough for their kindness.”

Working for others

When APSO members met for the 2019 APSO Convention, Miller board members assembled 150 hygiene bags to give to the Walker County Coalition for the Homeless in Jasper.

“Our board is so dedicated, they make it really easy to accomplish what we’re working to do in our community,” said Chappell, electrical and instrumentation journeyman.

The chapter holds several “big earning” fundraisers annually: cake auctions on Halloween and Valentine’s Day; a Sporting Clays Shoot; the Miller Open Golf Tournament at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, Oxmoor Valley, that earned $19,000; and a bowling tournament at Vestavia Bowl that earned $1,700.

Miller elves scramble to fill Christmas lists

Miller APSO members know that Christmas holidays can be a sad time for the less fortunate. That is why, throughout November, Miller APSO puts a heavy emphasis on its Adopt A Child program, Project Coordinator Beth Shumate said. Miller members give Christmas gifts to Salvation Army Angels for Jefferson County and children sponsored by the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) for Walker County.

“We always do two days of Christmas shopping for the kids,” Chappell said.

In Sumiton, Miller APSO will sponsor 200 children, spending $75 for each child. Project coordinators Shumate, manager – SCM Transactions Procurement, and Tina Valles, buyer – Generation, lead shopping sprees for Angel kids. Miller APSO will write a $15,000 check to the Salvation Army. In Jasper, employees will spend $150 each on Christmas gifts for 100 needy kids.

Miller APSO took part in the West Jefferson Festival of Trees earlier this month. The proceeds benefit West Jefferson Elementary School. The theme of Miller’s APSO tree was “Night before Christmas,” and displayed organizations the chapter has supported throughout the year, Miller APSO Project Coordinator Rachel Edgil said.

Miller APSO has a long-standing relationship with area senior citizen centers. Project Coordinator Jamie Driver said members will fill more than 250 bags for seniors who visit the center, as well as homebound seniors.

“Gifts include personal hygiene items, paper, pens, candy and seniors’ favorite item, which is postage stamps,” Driver said. Each year, APSO members wear their red logo shirts and Santa hats while delivering bags at each center.

“For some, our smiling faces and the Christmas bag may be the only gifts they receive this year,” Driver said.

Paying good forward

Thirteen years ago, Chappell recognized APSO as the perfect avenue to make a difference. He joined the employee volunteer group during his first month at Gaston.

“In my own life, so many people have helped me along the way,” Chappell said. “When I started working here, I knew that Alabama Power would be a great job for me and my family. I knew I’d be able to help others.”

Longtime Power Generation Analyst Edgil said serving in APSO has given her the means to “pay it forward” in life. She’s enjoyed many opportunities to meet people inside and outside work.

“Being in APSO is my way of giving back for what I’ve received,” Edgil said. “I love helping people.”

This story originally appeared in Powergrams.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Alabama Power Foundation shares strategies for securing best investments to support communities, workforce growth

Alabama Power Foundation President Myla Calhoun (left) said that investing in communities and strengthening the state is a major goal of her organization. About 30 representatives of charitable groups met with Alabama Power Foundation representatives to discuss ways to bring economic growth and new jobs, and develop the state's workforce. (Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

As the state’s largest corporate foundation, the Alabama Power Foundation is a force for good, investing nearly $13 million in communities in 2018.

As the Alabama Power Foundation celebrates three decades of service, that focus includes sharing strategies to make the greatest impact possible in Alabama communities. Foundation members held an impact investing roundtable that included about 30 investment partners, who exchanged ideas about investment strategies.


Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation, said the foundation is pleased to share its work in impact investing with its community partners. During the meeting, the foundation asked its partners from Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to provide expert insight around impact investing with local foundations, investment firms and nonprofits.

“We wanted to discuss how it can work to really help grow our communities, which is fundamentally very important to the work we do in the foundation. We spend a lot of time in documenting this work – we’re very thoughtful, both from a workforce and business development aspect,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun noted that investments are made with the intention of generating social impact alongside a financial return. A foundation advisory group considers the charitable impact, profitability and the cost of debt.

The foundation’s 2019 investment portfolio has supported projects addressing such issues as opioid addiction, community development and workforce education. The foundation is now starting to see a desire for this type of tool grow in communities across the state.

Charitable Giving Specialist Allison Swagler-Webb said that the foundation – uniquely positioned to help communities and nonprofits with its assets – wants to grow an impact investing network in Alabama in 2020.

“Our project pipeline is growing rapidly,” Swagler-Webb said. “There’s a real appetite for this type of funding across our state so we want to use what we have learned over the past year to help other foundations get started using these financial tools, as well.”

The meeting provided new insight and inspiration for Daisy Homolka of Alabama Capital Network, a community economic development organization that facilitates growth of Alabama’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“I’m really excited to see investing in for-profit business that have financial investments in charitable works, with the focus on helping nonprofits achieve their goals,” said Homolka, ACN business analyst and Venture for America Fellow.

“The work is a great opportunity to marry those philosophic interests with charitable and philanthropic interests,” said Homolka, who graduated from Barnard College in New York with a math and economics degree. “Now, when I see a company that will bring jobs to Alabama, that has social impacts, as well, it can provide dual roles. I know that the Alabama Power Foundation will also give more opportunities to those types of companies to get funding.”

A newfound approach

Greg Ratliff, vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in New York,said he appreciates Alabama Power Foundation’s role in convening this group of investors and peers to help make philanthropy more thoughtful and effective.

“The Alabama Power Foundation’s approach is really exciting,” said Ratliff, who worked at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation before joining the RPA team. “They’ve identified a handful of nonprofit and for-profit companies that are bringing goods and services to the region that are really helping address the needs of the low-income population in the area.”

“One of the more exciting things that we talked about is the idea of a collaborative fund that would bring outside investors into the region, pool their capital, and invest in important areas such as education, improving health outcomes, community and economic development, workforce development and areas that would create a more vibrant economy in Alabama,” he added.

Ratliff was excited take part in the roundtable meeting and to hear the plans of other philanthropic groups: “You want to shift to net positive benefactors for society. We want to generate both social and financial returns.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 months ago

Local ‘elves’ bring Christmas cheer to Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital

(Karim Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)

Angels are among us, in the form of volunteers.

Such is the case at Children’s of Alabama, where more than 50 “elves” from across Greater Birmingham met on Nov. 10, busily running to and fro to decorate Christmas trees on the hospital’s mezzanine and first floor. It’s all for the annual Children’s of Alabama tree display, a major fundraiser that helps the hospital buy equipment.

For volunteers Prissy Daly, Tammy and Jordan Reece, Cindy DeArman, Melissa Springfield, and Laurie and Haley Heath, the effort was a labor of love. The project was courtesy of the Magic City Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).


Children’s of Alabama hospital gets Christmas tree cheer from Alabama Power volunteers from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Young patients, their families, hospital staff and visitors are in awe of Alabama Power’s “Santa Claus Tree,” the “Pop of Color” tree and a tree trimmed with elegant, rust-colored ornaments. Through their work, last year they helped contribute $30,000 to the hospital through bids for trees during the fundraiser.

The team pours their hearts, time and money into the project. Magic City APSO members Daly and Reece, Alabama Power retiree and Corporate Energizer member DeArman and Springfield consider the event the official start of the holidays.

Daly calls the project a chance to share the Christmas spirit. The team invests many hours of work and planning months before they hit the floor at Children’s.

“We shop all year at thrift stores and sales for the best deals,” said Daly, administrative assistant for Environmental Compliance at Alabama Power.

This year’s decorations included gifts bequeathed by a friend of Springfield’s, whose mother had insisted that she wanted her elegant decorations to benefit Children’s. For several years, Springfield worked at Connections, an APSO-sponsored gift shop that benefited charitable endeavors in Birmingham.

Children’s Community Development Coordinator Shelly McCarty said, “At Children’s of Alabama, we get community partners to decorate trees. We are so thankful to Alabama Power for decorating three trees this year. The trees are auctioned off to raise money for the hospital through our Children’s Ball. The trees will stay here until right before Thanksgiving, then be delivered all throughout Birmingham, spreading Christmas cheer.”

Most team members arrived around 9 a.m. Sunday, carrying ornaments and lights. Taking only a lunch break at Children’s Harbor auditorium, the group was absorbed in the task to make the trees as lovely as possible, to bring in high bids for Children’s.

“It’s always a fun time,” said Daly, a longtime Magic City APSO member. “There’s lots of in-house traffic that goes by. It’s a very upbeat, happy and positive time.”

Reece, who is 2019 secretary of Magic City APSO, and her 16-year-old daughter, Jordan, enjoyed the time together. During their three-hour decorating stint, she noticed her daughter’s dance teacher working on trees with another volunteer group. Reece is ensuring that her daughter, also a Magic City APSO member, learns the joy and value of helping the community.

“We got to meet some of the children who came by in the wagons,” said Reece, executive secretary for Environmental Compliance at Alabama Power. “There were extra toys for decorating, and we handed out some of the toys to the kids. It was a lot of fun.”

Daly is thankful for the many volunteer opportunities afforded by APSO and Energizers.

“I’m very, very blessed to do this through APSO,” Daly said. “Our Magic City APSO Chapter does so much for so many groups all year. This really speaks to our hearts.”

(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)

11 months ago

Alabama breast cancer survivor Carla Youngblood: Don’t let illness define you

(Phil Free/Alabama NewsCenter)

The path of life isn’t easy for everyone. But the lens in which one views their circumstances is all important.

For Carla Youngblood, keeping a positive perspective helped her beat a deadly, triple-negative breast cancer nearly four years ago. A professional comedienne, Youngblood releases her 174-page book, “Cancer Ain’t Funny! Laugh Anyway …,” on Oct. 20.


When she was diagnosed, Youngblood knew a tough road lay ahead. But she vowed to face adversity head on, through a positive outlook and laughter. Having won her cancer battle, Youngblood has made it her mission to help others fight the good fight. The comedienne has taken her message cross-country, telling other women and men that they, too, can and will beat the odds.

The picture of health, Youngblood is defiantly vibrant: Her face lights up with a broad smile, she bubbles with laughter and she jokes about cancer. Indeed, Youngblood calls a “merry heart” and a good attitude a form of medicine. She knows from experience that patients need a “spirit lifter.”

“I figured I had to share my story, and see if I could give others a different perspective,” said Youngblood, who in 2015 discovered she had one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

“It’s doom and gloom for some people, even after they’re OK,” Youngblood said. “They act like it’s all their life story. But if you’re alive, you’re moving, you’re still breathing, you still have a chance. That’s what I want people to see.”

Facing up to cancer

Cancer led Youngblood down a path of numerous therapies: mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and preventative medicines.

A trained breast cancer advocate for Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center in Birmingham, Youngblood shares her experiences and her time with newly diagnosed patients. She attends doctor visits, takes notes and asks questions that a shell-shocked patient may forget. Most importantly, Youngblood listens and encourages women after their diagnosis.

“I give a positive outlook,” Youngblood said. “When I’m on stage, I try to make people smile and forget their troubles, even if for a small while, to put their thoughts elsewhere. I’ve always been a happy-to-lucky person,” added Youngblood, who attributes her spirit to being the baby in a family of five children.

“I always cut up and make people laugh, and make my family smile,” she said. “I always see things a little differently. I have thoughts about stuff that puts a smile on my face. If you learn to laugh at yourself and not be so serious, you can handle life a whole lot better.”

Youngblood’s strategy has always been to be upbeat, even when she realized in September 2015 that she had a health problem. She felt an odd pain in her chest, but only at night. For a few days, she cast off her worry as heartburn. When she visited Dr. April Maddux at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, she got the news.

“It was two tumors that had been connected – one was at the 2 o’clock position and the other was at the 10 o’clock position,” she said.

From there, Youngblood underwent a battery of tests: mammograms, ultrasounds, blood work and a biopsy. From Nov. 5 to Aug. 8, she had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 28 radiation treatments. In December 2016, she underwent a hysterectomy.

“I couldn’t wait to see the end of 2016,” Youngblood admitted.

Thriving after adversity

Youngblood advises women to listen to their bodies. Since she got her clean bill of health following breast cancer, Youngblood has given many motivational speeches about how to move forward after adversity. On Oct. 11, Youngblood spoke to about 50 businesswomen for the Women’s Network at the Harbert Center in Birmingham.

“No two people are alike: The cancer is different, the doctor is different, the body is different,” Youngblood said. “Adversity has its own weight – it depends on who’s having to carry it. You have to find a way to move forward.

“One thing that I always share is that people have different kinds of adversity,” she said. “Having a spouse that dies after 75 years – now that’s adversity.”

Always seeking the bright side, Youngblood said her life experiences have provided plenty of material for her comedy show.

“There’s a joy that’s inside of me,” she said. “When I volunteer at Forge and share with the other ladies, or when I’m on stage, I give a positive outlook. Most things you have no control over, but you have control over your response. That’s how I choose to live.”

Meet Youngblood at her book signing on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Little Professor Book Center, 2844 18th St. South in Birmingham.

(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)

12 months ago

Southeast Energizers donate $9,250 to Alabama charities

(Southeast Energizers/Contributed)

Rapunzel could spin straw into gold. Southeast Energizers have their own take on the beloved children’s tale: They turn homemade items into donations for their community.

Earnings from the Southeast Energizers’ annual charitable auctions allowed members to donate $9,250 to several worthy nonprofit groups this summer. Energizers is the charitable arm for retiree volunteers of Alabama PowerSouthern Company Services and Southern Nuclear in Alabama.

In August, Southeast Energizers gave donations of $250 to $1,500 to these nonprofits:


It’s all thanks to spirited bidding from attendees of Energizers’ auction in March at Alabama Power Southeast Division Headquarters in Eufaula. Bidders compete for pint-size jars of honey and syrup, as well as cakes, candies, handcrafted wooden items and other pieces.

Southeast Energizers Treasurer Dan Farmer presented a $500 check for Landmark Park in Dothan to Executive Director Laura Stakelum. Throughout the years, Farmer’s handcrafted items, such as a mirror with a coat rack, swings, University of Alabama- and Auburn University-themed cornhole games and stools, helped with the donation.

Stakelum said the gift will help with operating costs. The 135-acre Landmark Park, the state’s museum for agriculture, hosts some 50,000 visitors annually.

“We have about 10,000 to 14,000 schoolchildren from public, private and home schools who visit for field trips,” said Stakelum, who has worked at Landmark Park for 10 years.

The park’s Fall Farm Day on Oct. 19 will bring a crowd. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can enjoy the sights and sounds of an 1890s farmstead while volunteers demonstrate sugar cane grinding and syrup making, peanut picking, stacking and digging, an antique tractor pull and parade, household chores and more. Fall Farm Day is an Alabama 200 Bicentennial event.

“Southeast Energizers have been a great supporter of the park for several years,” Stakelum said.

For the House of Ruth in Dothan, the $1,000 gift from Southeast Energizers came at the “perfect time,” said Programming Coordinator Tera Vinson. House of Ruth normally accommodates about 20 women and children but has recently housed about 30 people. With more women and their kids at the shelter, the funds will go to buy paper products, toiletries and food. The facility assists residents in a nine-county area.

“We don’t turn individuals away,” said Vinson, who has worked at House of Ruth for eight years. “If they say they’re a victim of domestic abuse or a victim of assault, we serve them.”

“We are truly appreciative of this gift from Southeast Energizers to help women and families,” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)