The Wire

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

    Excerpt:

    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

    Excerpt:

    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

    Excerpt:

    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.

3 days ago

University of Alabama Theatre and Dance releases online performances, lessons

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

While live performances and instruction on the University of Alabama campus are paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UA Department of Theatre and Dance is releasing weekly performances and lessons through two new video series.

“In an effort to remain connected to our audiences, the chair and associate chairs of the department began brainstorming ways we could stay connected to our community throughout the summer while also contemplating ways to continue supporting the department’s social mission of making the arts accessible to everyone,” said Lawrence Jackson, associate chair of dance. “Presenting art virtually has become a crucial strategy for arts organizations and programs to keep audiences engaged during this time.”

The Virtual Black Box video series showcases theater performances on the department’s YouTube channel. New performances are planned for each Monday and Friday at noon.

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Jackson said the heads of dance, theater and musical theater selected works that represent the quality of work produced throughout the department.

The Movement Series will feature mini-masterclasses taught by the department’s world-renowned faculty. Lessons will be each Wednesday via Zoom. All sessions are free, but registration is required.

“At a time when in-person gatherings are no longer possible, we feel it’s more important than ever to encourage our audiences to stay engaged culturally and artistically while we weather important social distancing guidelines,” Jackson said. “Virtual arts presentations help lift our spirits during difficult times and keep us connected to our family, friends and colleagues from afar through collective concerts, online classes, workshops and seminars.

“We would like for audiences to understand that the benefit of having art in your life doesn’t have to disappear despite the current challenges we face. This season’s arts and cultural experiences aren’t going away. They just might be presented differently.”

For a list of upcoming Virtual Black Box videos and Movement Series lessons and registration information, visit theatre.ua.edu/virtual-series.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 days ago

Anniston’s 44-year-old Book Rack saved from closing by new owners

(Jo's Book Rack/Contributed)

The Book Rack, an Anniston institution that was set to close after almost 45 years, opened a new chapter July 1 as “Jo’s Book Rack.”

Patricia Hancock bought the store five years ago as part of a lifelong dream she finally fulfilled in retirement. Now that Hancock is retiring again, she is “jumping for joy” that she didn’t have to close the Quintard Avenue store that has more than 70,000 books.

The Book Rack grew popular selling used paperbacks at half-price, while giving 25% of the cover price back in credit to people who brought in good-condition books.

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Brittany Boozer shopped at The Book Rack as a teenager but thought it went out of business years ago. Then her husband, Jonathan, emailed her a notice that the store was for sale.

“I thought it was a joke because I love books so much,” she said. “When I realized it was true, I said, ‘Hey, can we do this?’”

Married 10 years and having never owned a business, the Boozers decided to give it a shot. They are renaming the store “Jo’s Book Rack,” in part after her grandfather who died in 2016, and for their daughters, Jorden, 5, and Journey, 18 months. Jonathan already works full-time but will help his wife at the bookstore when he’s able.

“My grandfather was an avid reader and instilled it in me as a child,” she said. “I wanted to honor him and our girls, who I hope will love books as much as I do.”

Hancock posted on The Book Rack website “It’s time to celebrate!” as she turned the keys over to the Boozers. She said that when she was in her early 30s she wanted to own a bookstore, but it didn’t happen for 40 years. Hancock thanked her loyal customers and said she is excited “business will be conducted as usual” through the new owners.

Boozer admitted being “a little nervous” becoming a store owner in the midst of a pandemic that until recently had forced the closure of all “nonessential” businesses in Alabama and across most of the U.S. She is concerned by some print publications going out of business and that many young people read only online books.

“But I prefer to feel a book in my hands,” she said. “I know other people feel the same way.”

Boozer said there are “very busy” days ahead as she conducts a full inventory of the sales racks and books in storage. She hopes to soon begin online sales, will open a children’s section and will offer more hardbacks. Boozer may initiate sales of used hardbacks by sacrificing some of her huge collection from home.

“I want to make changes, but I want to keep some things the same to give old customers what they’ve come to expect the past almost 45 years,” she said. “At the same time, I want to offer things that will appeal to the younger generation.”

Boozer wants to sell books to parents who are homeschooling their children. She hopes to promote Jo’s Book Rack through sales of T-shirts, keychains and logo items. A new store sign will be installed atop the building, and there will be a new front window logo. Boozer intends to highlight new books and local authors.

“I am very excited for this opportunity to continue a landmark business in Calhoun County,” Boozer said. “I hope to keep the old customers and attract new ones.”

Contact Boozer at josbookrack@gmail.com or https://www.facebook.com/JosBookRack/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 days ago

Stay safe during July 4th holiday

(Pixabay)

Across the country, people enjoy lighting fireworks to celebrate our nation’s birthday each Fourth of July. While gathering in large groups to watch fireworks shows may not occur this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families and socially distant groups can still safely enjoy the holiday.

Follow these tips to stay safe while using fireworks:

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  • Check to make sure using fireworks is legal in your area.
  • Only buy legal fireworks labeled with the manufacturer’s name.
  • Make sure children use sparklers only outdoors and keep them away from their faces, hair and clothing. Sparklers can burn up to 2,000 degrees.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • Always use fireworks outdoors and have a bucket of water or water hose nearby and stay away from people in case of accidents from backfiring or shooting in an unintended direction.
  • When using fireworks, always point them away from houses, trees, cars, shrubbery and, especially, other people.
  • Do not hold fireworks while lighting them. Place them in an open container before lighting the fuse.
  • Light one firework at a time and never relight a “dud.”
  • Never allow children to pick up fireworks from the ground. Unexploded fireworks may still ignite.
  • Soak used or unignited fireworks in a bucket of water before throwing them away.

Many families may spend Independence Day weekend at a lake or beach. Be aware of these additional precautions when you’re near the water.

Boating safety

  • Make sure your boat is in good working order before taking it out for the first time and that all required equipment is on the boat.
  • Make sure all life jackets are in good working order. Life jackets must be worn by children younger than 8 years old and by anyone on a personal watercraft or being towed on skis or a tube.
  • Be aware of what other boaters are doing around you.
  • Storms can come up quickly, especially in the summer, so keep an eye to the sky. If caught in a storm, try to get to the nearest shelter.

 Pool and water safety

  • Anywhere there is water, there is a danger of drowning. Never swim alone.
  • An adult must always watch children closely. This means no reading, talking on the phone or texting.
  • An adult should be within arm’s reach of infants, toddlers and weaker swimmers.
  • Enter shallow water feet first. It is never OK to dive into water less than 9 feet deep.

 Heat safety

  • Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Limit the amount of time spent outside during these hours.
  • At least 20 minutes before going outside, apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 days ago

Citing ‘Tiger King’ documentary, PETA calls on Univ. of North Alabama to end live mascot program

(UNA/Contributed, YHN)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking the University of North Alabama (UNA) to send their live mascot, Leo III, to an off-campus sanctuary.

Leo’s twin sister, Una, passed away earlier this week. The two lions have lived at the George H. Carroll Lion Habitat on the UNA campus since 2003.

In a letter to UNA’s president, Dr. Ken Kitts, PETA offered “condolences” on Una’s death while offering to help place Leo in “an accredited sanctuary.”

The letter makes no allegation of specific mistreatment of the animals, saying that “even in the best conditions, a busy campus is no place for a lion.”

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“By retiring Leo III, you could cement UNA’s legacy of compassion and respect for lions, who have long represented the school’s team and traditions,” the letter continues, before asking for the live mascot tradition to be permanently ended.

“In the wake of Netflix’s wildly popular series Tiger King, the public has never been more aware of and concerned about the issues surrounding big cats in captivity. Lions are the most social of the big cats and spend their days foraging and actively defending their large territory,” the letter states. “Since he was brought to UNA as a cub, Leo III has never had that opportunity, and with Una’s passing, he faces living the remainder of his life in solitary confinement.”

A release from PETA about the letter concluded that PETA “opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview.”

“PETA is eager to help Una’s brother live out the rest of his days in a vast habitat, with a chance to be surrounded by other lions,” PETA Foundation deputy general counsel for Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet added in a statement. “Retiring Leo and ending the live-animal mascot program would show enormous respect for lions—something UNA could take pride in.”

The habitat in which Leo lives on-campus at UNA has received 15 consecutive 100% ratings from the U.S. Department of Agriculture when they make unannounced visits for inspections, according to the university.

In 2012, Leo and Una were ranked the best live animal mascot in college football; UNA was the only non-Division I institution to make the list.

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

5 days ago

Wetumpka to be subject of HGTV’s ‘Home Town Takeover’

(Wikicommons, YHN)

The central Alabama city of Wetumpka has been selected to receive a renovation courtesy of the HGTV program “Home Town Takeover.”

The program will be hosted by Ben and Erin Napier, who have previously hosted several seasons of the show “Home Town” in which they renovate a single house.

The Napier’s new project in Alabama is their biggest yet. HGTV says on its website the town’s renovation that will be done on the program is to be “extensive and far-reaching.”

“It is a tremendous blessing for a city like us to be chosen,” Wetumpka Mayor Jerry Willis told Yellowhammer News on Thursday afternoon.

“We’re anticipating great things to happen … we’re very excited,” he added.

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HGTV says it received over 500,000 submissions from people in over 2,600 qualifying small towns across America. Only cities with less than 40,000 residents were eligible for entry.

Wetumpka has a population of around 8,300 residents and sits about 20 minutes north of Montgomery.

Willis detailed the process Wetumpka went through to become the selected city.

“When we saw the application HGTV had … we have a team of people between our Main Street Wetumpka/Main Street Alabama program that we have, and our chamber of commerce and economic development office of the city,” Willis stated.

“We just all came together and filled out the application and submitted a video of what we have and who we are,” he continued.

Home Town Takeover’s Wetumpka season, its first ever, is set to air in six parts sometime in the year 2021.

Willis told Yellowhammer that the exact dates when the series will be produced and the extent of the budget that will be put forth by HGTV have not yet been provided.

The mayor said he’d watched the host’s previous show and “now to realize that’s coming to our hometown, and the program will be run on national TV every week, that’s exciting in itself.”

Watch the moment Wetumpka found out it would be featured on “Home Town Takeover”:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

6 days ago

Alexander Shunnarah donates 777 pizzas to frontline workers at two Alabama hospitals

Alexander Shunnarah Personal Injury Attorneys, P.C. recently participated in a national challenge to feed frontline heroes across the United States.

A release from Shunnarah’s firm outlined that many essential workers are frequently working long hours while risking their own health and safety during these difficult times — so the firm wanted to do something to show their appreciation.

The challenge – for law firms to purchase 777 pizzas from their local pizzerias to feed frontline workers — was initially started by Larry Nussbaum of Boston’s Nussbaum Law Group, PC.

The number is a nod to the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which codifies the right to a jury trial in certain civil cases and inhibits courts from overturning a jury’s findings of fact.

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Shunnarah purchased more than $8,000 worth of pizzas from Slice Pizza and Brewhouse and Pizzeria GM for health care workers at UAB Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“Participating in this challenge was a true honor and small token of our firm’s appreciation for healthcare staff in our community and across the nation,” Shunnarah said in a statement.

“With this challenge we were able to help local restaurants and our frontline heroes who have been going above and beyond the call of duty throughout this pandemic,” he added.

Shunnarah accepted this challenge from Laborde Earles in Lafayette, Louisiana. After completing it in Birmingham, Shunnarah challenged Scott, Vicknair, Hair & Checki in New Orleans, as well as Disability Attorneys of Michigan.

RELATED: Alexander Shunnarah wins national Golden Gavel Award

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

7 days ago

Anonymous customer donates car to Alabama restaurant employee — ‘God’s grace’

(Taco Casa - Tuscaloosa/Facebook, YHN)

The best of Alabama — and America — was on display under the biggest cactus in T-Town this week.

Taco Casa of Tuscaloosa on Monday shared a video showing the moment one of its employees found out that an anonymous customer gifted him a car.

The employee had recently lost his method of transportation but was still coming in to work every day, walking there and back from his home.

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“Some days are better than others and today was a great one. One of our longtime, hardworking employees was rewarded today with some of God’s grace,” the restaurant said in a Facebook post sharing the video.

Taco Casa of Tuscaloosa added that the customer “felt led to anonymously reward our employee with a fully paid for vehicle … that he surprised him with today. God is good.”

Watch:

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

1 week ago

Lake Guntersville named nation’s second-best bass lake of the decade

(Lake Guntersville State Park-Alabama,Facebook)

Alabama’s Lake Guntersville was ranked No. 2 in Bassmaster Magazine’s “Best Bass Lakes of the Decade” list released on Tuesday.

Bassmaster has released annual rankings of the country’s best bass fisheries since 2012. However, 2020 rankings were not compiled because tournament data could not be gathered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the publication crunched the numbers and put together an all-decade list rather than an annual one.

Lake Guntersville was the highest placing lake in the Southeast, only finishing behind California’s Clear Lake nationally.

Pickwick Lake, located in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee, was named as America’s 13th-best bass lake of the decade, also representing the Yellowhammer State well.

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“Typically, creating the rankings takes more than two months as we dig through current tournament data as well as state fishery information on stocking efforts, catch rates and angler access,” explained Bassmaster Magazine editor-in-chief James Hall in a statement. “Instead, we used all of this research and rankings from the past eight years to create an incredible — and somewhat surprising — ranking of bucket-list destinations for anglers.”

Lake Guntersville was also ranked second in the 2019 annual list.

“Like Clear Lake, the Big G has never been named the Best Bass Lake in the nation, but it is rarely out of contention. Guntersville is known for its breathtaking scenery and easy access, but big fish swim there as well. Most big-bass prizes are awarded to fish topping the 8-pound mark, with 10-plus-pounders taking center stage on occasion,” Bassmaster said in a Tuesday release.

While it did not make the national best-25 list, Alabama’s Lake Eufaula was named as one of the best bass lakes in the Southeast for the decade.

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

1 week ago

Alabama Power’s Bonnie George is an unsung hero feeding others with food and love

(Bonnie George/Contributed)

Bonnie George is a hero in her workplace, in her community and across borders.

George, a customer service representative (CSR) in Alabama Power’s Pell City Office, has worked for the company for 15 years.

“We help our customers, the people that live in the community,” George said. “I like talking to people. I like knowing that I’m helping them. You really have that personal relationship with your customers if you put that effort in to get to know who they are.”

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Bonnie George is an Alabama Power unsung hero with a heart of gold from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Pell City CSR Naji Ridley said, “Bonnie is a loving person. She is caring. The way she walks, the way she talks, the way she carries herself and addresses others just shows love.”

Helping others

Since October 2018, George, her husband, Gary, and their six children have delivered 100 meals to the homeless in Linn Park in downtown Birmingham every month.

“We sit and talk and pray with them,” she said. “We let our children talk with them. Our kids bring toys and books and play with them, and it gives them a time of normalcy that is lacking in so many of their days.”

George’s foreign missions journey started eight years ago when she began leading high school students in her church. Partnering with organizations such as King’s Castle, George and her husband organized foreign mission trips for their church youth group.

George said, “We started conversations with our pastors about how we are leading our students into foreign missions, with some of them never knowing what it meant to serve our neighbor.”

On their first mission trip, George and her husband took a group of 20 students to Nicaragua.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “It was my first time going into a country doing missions and I didn’t know the language, but as soon as we got there, my husband said, ‘I feel like we’ve come home.’”

In 2018, George’s church partnered with Mission of Hope to bring a group of students to Haiti.

“We went and played games, we did a lot of sports, for half a day,” she said. “Then they had a message. … At the end of the program, it was lunchtime, so we got to feed them, and that was incredible.”

The night before they were scheduled to leave Haiti, rioting broke out in Port-au-Prince, 30 minutes from where they were staying. George said, “We were safe, but we couldn’t get to the airport. We ended up having to stay three extra days.

“There are so few opportunities in our life for us to step out in our faith in a way that others truly see. … When we have the chance to put our faith into action, that’s when we’re truly living it,” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Full Moon shines across Alabama

(Full Moon BBQ/Contributed)

During times of unimaginable uncertainty in the restaurant industry, Full Moon Bar-B-Que continues to cook. Low and slow, of course. But steady, too. Even during a pandemic, it seems, people still want their ‘que.

In the 23 years since the Maluff brothers — David and Joe — purchased Full Moon Bar-B-Que from Pat James, they have grown the business from a single store on Birmingham’s Southside to 15 locations across the state. The Birmingham metro area has eight locations, including one in the Hill Student Center at UAB (it is scheduled to reopen in the fall). The brothers are even moving ahead with plans for a new store in Huntsville by the end of 2020.

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James, a former football coach who spent a dozen years as Paul “Bear” Bryant’s assistant, started the business in 1986 with his wife, Eloise. They called it Pat James’ Full Moon Bar-B-Que. David and Joe, sons of Lebanese immigrants, purchased the original Birmingham location in 1997. The brothers have stayed true to the initial vision with colorful, sports-centric décor celebrating favorite regional teams; made-from-scratch dishes; and hands-on involvement in the business. Perhaps most importantly, they have always used hickory wood-fired pits to cook the meats. They have five big, portable pits, allowing them to cook Full Moon barbecue anywhere — feeding groups of 10 to (once restrictions are lifted) 10,000.

These wood-fired pits make a world of difference, David says. “We have a passion to do barbecue right. That’s why all of our stores still have wood-burning pits in them. And we do it the old-fashioned way — fresh, from scratch, every day. We cook our meat low and slow right in front of our customers, and they see it, smell it, taste it. And that’s what’s kept us thriving through the years.”

During its flavorful 35-year history, Full Moon Bar-B-Que has gathered fans from across the country. It’s cheekily called the “Best Little Pork House in Alabama,” but Full Moon offers a comfortable, family-friendly atmosphere that has served generations and appeals to all nationalities, David says. “We’re real big on making the customer feel good. That’s our job. When you come into our house, we make you feel warm and welcome. We’re here to make you happy.”

Full Moon was named one of the top 10 barbecue restaurants in the U.S. by Huffington Post. The restaurant’s red and white sauces are on grocery store shelves along with the signature chow-chow, which is served on every sandwich.

Full Moon boasts two items on Alabama’s list of 100 Dishes to Eat Before You Die: the crisp vinaigrette slaw and the baked-fresh-daily Half Moon chocolate chip and pecan cookies (half dipped into glossy, dark chocolate). Both these items are made according to Eloise James’ original recipes.

When dining rooms across Alabama were closed because of the coronavirus, the brothers simply continued with drive-thru service, takeout and curbside pickup. The dining rooms — except at the Southside and UAB locations — are now back open at 50% capacity. They also have a food truck, and they continue to deliver with dozens of vans brightly painted with big smiling moons.

There really wasn’t much of a pivot, David says, besides shutting down the dining rooms. “We were already set up for drive-thru, catering (and) curbside. That’s our model. We got stronger in that sense, but we’ve been doing it forever. You know, we’re one of the few restaurants that can have a full menu like we have on the drive-thru menu. So it’s automatic for us to thrive in a situation like this, because we do it every day.” Besides, he adds, barbecue travels well.

What has changed, though, are the expanded health and safety precautions at each restaurant, Joe says. Things like maintaining social distancing between tables, hanging plexiglass between the booths, regular temperature checks for employees, masks and gloves for everyone who works there, extra attention given to sanitizing surfaces and washing things in the kitchen.

“We have to take these measures every day to keep our employees safe, to keep our guests safe,” Joe says. “That’s the most important thing at this point.”

The employees — some of whom have been with Full Moon for decades — have risen to the challenge, he adds. “They are all on board. They’ve been troupers through it all.”

“I’m proud of our people,” David says. “Being in the restaurant business is tough enough. Then adding all these measures on top of their jobs. You have to remember, these guys are wearing a mask in the kitchen! It’s hard for them. It’s hard for us to manage because we’ve never been through anything like this before, right? That’s our duty … we’ve got to keep everyone safe. We’re going to do whatever it takes to keep our business thriving and our employees safe. Whatever it takes.

“Our employees are doing a great job, and our franchisees are doing a great job,” he adds. “They are part of us. So, when they do the things we’re doing, you just have to be proud of everyone right now.”

Full Moon has long been known for scratch-made Southern sides like collard greens, baked beans, fried green tomatoes, potato salad, fried okra and mac & cheese.  But over the years, the brothers have expanded the offerings to suit a variety of tastes and lifestyles, adding freshly made salads topped with a meat of your choice, hand-breaded chicken tenders and gigantic baked potatoes overstuffed with meat and fixings. They put wings (Buffalo and smoked) on the menu several years ago, and the fried catfish (farm-raised in Mississippi) is extremely popular.

But it’s the savory, smoky barbecue that is most famous here, especially the pork. Whether you get it chopped or request it sliced, you’ll want to order it like the regulars do — with “a little of the outside meat” mixed in. There are classic spareribs as well as baby back ribs. The brisket is from Black Angus cattle. Smoked chicken, turkey and spicy pork links are other options.

All this food is made using decades-old recipes and time-honored techniques; it’s comforting and familiar. And it makes people happy.

Back in March, the brothers started a “Feed a Friend” campaign, and they’ve extended it through June. For years, David and Joe have quietly worked behind the scenes with churches, schools and nonprofits, but they had to enlist the help of people on the restaurants’ email lists to find families in need.

When the pandemic hit, David says, “we saw a lot of people unemployed, not working, hungry. It broke my heart; it broke my brother’s heart.”

Each week, they get 300 to 400 responses to their Feed a Friend query. They go through these messages every day, identifying families in need and then sending food to their homes.  “I’ll tell you,” David says, “the reactions we get … will bring tears to your eyes. When they hear they are getting fed today … they are overwhelmed with joy. … It’s anonymous, who suggested that they need food. We bring it to their front door. We don’t say a word to them except, ‘Enjoy.’

“We’ve gotten a huge response,” David says. “A lot of this we don’t advertise, and we don’t want to advertise. This is from our hearts to the community. And I don’t care who it is, whether they’ve been a customer of ours or not. That doesn’t matter. We need to feed the kids and the families in our community and support them when we can.”

The brothers do this every day, and sometimes they’re feeding two or three families a day. But that’s not all.

“It’s a wonderful feeling in your heart, doing something for others,” Joe says. “Feeding the first responders, feeding the nurses for nurses’ week, feeding the firemen. We’re not doing it just in Birmingham, we’re doing it in Tuscaloosa, we’re doing it in Auburn, we’re doing it in Montgomery. We’re just … trying to help our community out when they need it.”


Full Moon Bar-B-Que

Locations in Alabaster, Dothan, Fultondale, Homewood, Hoover, Inverness, Jasper, McCalla, Montgomery, Opelika, Pelham, Southside in Birmingham, Trussville, Tuscaloosa and UAB’s Hill Student Center.

Check individual locations for current hours.

fullmoonbbq.com

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Saban, Alabama football players film racial justice PSA — ‘All lives can’t matter until black lives matter’

(Alabama Football/Twitter)

The University of Alabama football program on Thursday afternoon released a video featuring several players and head coach Nick Saban voicing their support for racial equality and justice.

Written by Alex Leatherwood, the Crimson Tide’s All-American offensive guard, the video is just over two minutes long.

Players and Saban speak directly into the camera throughout, each person shown in an individual frame but often finishing someone else’s sentence.

Quarterback Mac Jones, wide receiver Devonta Smith, linebacker Dylan Moses and wide receiver/returner Jaylen Waddle are included in the group of players featured in the video.

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“In this moment in history, we can’t be silent,” Saban says near the middle of the video. “We must speak up for our brothers and sisters, for our sons and daughters.”

The famed coach and players in the video take a vocal stand against racism, brutality and violence while advocating for justice, understanding and unity.

Multiple players, including Jones, conclude the video by emphasizing, “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter.”

Watch:

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

2 weeks ago

Marine who served in WWII honored with parade for 104th birthday

(U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer/Twitter)

Citizens from around the Gardendale area turned out Monday morning for a parade to honor local World War II veteran Walter Jones, who is turning 104 years old.

The event was highlighted by U.S. Representative Gary Palmer (R-Homewood) and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Birmingham.

“Happy 104th birthday to Mr. Walter Jones of Gardendale! Mr. Jones is a World War II Marine veteran and was recognized with a drive-by Jeep parade this morning. It was an honor to be a part of celebrating him and his long, full life of service to others!” wrote Palmer on his official Facebook page.

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The event honoring Walter Jones’ 104th birthday was a drive-by parade, so proper coronavirus precautions like social distancing could be kept in place.

The parade began at the Gardendale Police Department at 10:00 a.m. on Monday.

Jones was seated in a jeep similar to the style that infantry soldiers employed during World War II.

Celebrating Jones appeared to cross partisan lines. A constituent of Congressman Palmer commented on the representative’s Facebook post about Jones, “Finally a post of yours I agree with! Happy birthday mr Jones! Thank you for your service.”

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

2 weeks ago

Alabama Power Foundation accepting Good Roots, Gateway grant applications

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

As part of its longstanding commitment to Alabama communities, the Alabama Power Foundation is accepting applications for the 2020 Good Roots and Gateway grant programs.

“Good Roots and Gateway grants represent an investment in the communities we serve,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “These programs not only contribute to the economic and cultural well-being of our cities and towns, they also promote civic pride.”

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Good Roots grants provide up to $1,000 to help cities, towns, schools and nonprofit organizations plant trees to enhance community green spaces. New to this year’s program is the option to use the grants to support community beautification efforts. To date, the foundation has awarded more than 690 Good Roots grants totaling more than $620,000 to plant trees at schools, parks and other community locations.

The Gateway grant program helps revitalize communities by supporting and advancing city and town promotion efforts. Grants of up to $2,500 provide funding for signs that greet visitors, as well as marketing materials and website development. Since 2012, Gateway has awarded more than $100,000 to cities, towns and communities throughout Alabama.

The deadline to apply for Good Roots and Gateway grants is Aug. 10. To access online applications and learn more, visit www.powerofgood.com and click on “Grants.”

Since its creation in 1989 with funds donated by shareholders, the Alabama Power Foundation has supported Alabama communities, educational institutions and nonprofits through more than 20,000 grants and scholarships using nonratepayer dollars. Learn more about the Alabama Power Foundation and its charitable initiatives at www.powerofgood.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Inspiring Alabama teacher honored by National University System in surprise Zoom call

(Arlinda Davis/Contributed, YHN)

An Alabama teacher who inspires her students to succeed will receive $10,000 from the National University System as part of its Sanford Teacher Award program.

On June 17, teachers across the country joined a surprise Zoom meeting in which Michael Cunningham, the system chancellor, announced they had been chosen as state finalists for the award.

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Arlinda Davis, a first grade teacher at Avondale Elementary School in Birmingham, has devoted her life to uplifting students and encouraging them to live without fear of failure. Davis approaches her students with what she calls “radical empathy” and shows them they don’t have to let life’s circumstances dictate the outcome of their lives.

Davis was nominated by a former student whose life was transformed by her constant encouragement. The student said, “My culture, background, home life and interests were important to her. … I remember coming to school one day with the same clothes on, my hair had not been combed and I was in distress. She took one look at me and never allowed anyone including myself to know she was going to help me. She told me how beautiful I was and then told me she had a special bow only for a princess to wear. She fixed my hair and took care of me. She worked with my stepdad and counselor to help find my mom and get her off drugs. I worked hard every day I was in her class because I knew she cared for me.”

Davis is eligible to become the national winner of the Sanford Teacher Award later this year, which comes with a $50,000 prize.

The National University System was established in 2001 to meet the rising challenges and demands in education nationwide.

The National University System-Sanford Teacher Award was created to honor T. Denny Sanford, a philanthropist committed to supporting teaching programs focused on the development of students’ social and emotional skills.

Sanford spent his life giving away most of his wealth to the Sanford Programs at the National University System and other education-related initiatives.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Alabama blogger’s loving look at Black Lives Matter conversation earns global attention

(Joseph Allen/Alabama NewsCenter)

It was a simple conversation – well, as simple as a conversation can be between a black person and a white person about the subject of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Kaitlin Allen Walden, an African American, had the conversation with an older, white female co-worker and friend.

It was open, honest and frank, like you would expect a conversation between two genuine friends to be.

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In fact, Walden, a graduate of Hoover High School and the University of Alabama, was going to pass it off as a meaningful but normal conversation.

The story behind Kaitlin Allen Walden’s blog post on Black Lives Matter from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Even after I had it, the thought didn’t hit me that maybe I should write about it until an hour or so later,” she said.

That’s when God put it on her heart to share it.

“It was like God was saying, ‘Yep, that’s it,’” she said.

Walden writes a blog at simplybreashlee.com (Breashlee is her middle name) and she was moved to share that conversation.

In turn, others have been moved by the blog post.

Others like famed author Emily P. Freeman, who shared a link to the blog post in her weekly email recommending other people’s work.

Since then, Walden’s blog post, titled “Because I Love You,” has been read by people across the country and around the world.

She sees it as God working and hopes it refocuses the conversation to center on love, mutual respect and understanding.

“I feel as though I was used as a vessel and it’s honoring to be used,” she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Alabama farm lets you pick your own lavender

(Susan Swagler/Contributed)

The U-pick opportunities in Alabama abound — strawberries, blueberries, sunflowers, muscadines, tomatoes, pumpkins and even Christmas trees.

Now add fragrant lavender to that fun list.

Lavender Wynde Farm in Harvest, located in the rolling foothills north of Huntsville, is inviting the public to the farm to pick their own lavender Friday and Saturday, June 12 and 13, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. (The 10 a.m. to noon time frame is filling up. They suggest visiting after lunchtime.)

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There’s a Zen sort of vibe in the sunny, manicured fields of what owners Lora and Mike Porter call their “farmlet.” Some folks sit in chairs scattered around under a few shade trees while dozens of others kneel or sit in the grass next to knee-high plants quietly snipping the fragrant stems.

When you arrive, you’ll be handed a pair of sterilized garden scissors (but you are encouraged to bring you own, which they will sterilize for you). They give you a small plastic sleeve with rubber bands. These sleeves will hold 100 to 120 stems. You’ll pay $10 for each bundle. You’ll be instructed how to dry your bundles of food-grade lavender (upside down in a cool, dry place for a few weeks). My bunches are making my closets smell amazing right now.

“Growing lavender in north Alabama was a learning process,” Lora Porter says. Lavender is a Mediterranean plant, she explains, and it loves rocky soil. Our Alabama clay was too dense, so they learned to augment the soil with gravel and mound the plants for drainage. The long, beautiful rows of full, healthy plants, each bristling with hundreds of stems, is proof they’ve figured it out.

In addition to the U-pick opportunity, there’s a pop-up shop selling soaps and other bath and beauty products like body butters, lotions and sugar scrubs; essential oils; teas; and lavender-filled sachets. While they specialize in lavender, the Porters raise a variety of herbs and botanicals. They distill, on-site, many of the hydrosols and essential oils used in their natural, handcrafted aromatherapy products.

During the U-pick events, they will be distilling mint and lavender throughout the day, and they’ll have lavender lemonade for sale, too. Visitors can buy their own mint, rosemary and lavender plants (and they’ll sell you bags of gravel to get those lavender plants started properly).

Lavender Wynde Farm is at 492 Robins Road, Harvest, Alabama 35749. For logistical purposes, you should go to the Facebook page to let them know you are coming for the U-pick days. Or call 256-714-4144 and leave a message. Otherwise, visits are by appointment only.

A few things to know:  Use the farm’s gravel driveway to enter. Do not use the neighbor’s driveway or cut across their grass for ingress/egress. And bring your own garden clippers/scissors if you have them; several of the farm’s scissors were lost during the first U-pick weekend. They will sterilize yours as you enter and leave. Finally, feel free to share photos of your lavender-picking adventure. Lora says that “makes all the weeding worthwhile.”

Susan Swagler has written about food and restaurants for more than three decades, much of that time as a trusted restaurant critic. She is a founding member and current president of the Birmingham chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose members are among Birmingham’s top women in food. Susan shares food, books, travel and more at www.savor.blog.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Birmingham ‘Black Lives Matter’ street mural completed in time for Juneteenth

(City of Birmingham/Twitter)

The City of Birmingham on Thursday afternoon unveiled a massive “Black Lives Matter” street mural ahead of Juneteenth on Friday.

Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, is recognized annually on June 19.

The Birmingham Black Lives Matter painting now runs alongside Railroad Park on First Avenue South in-between 16th and 17th Streets. The project began on Wednesday.

You can watch an aerial video of the completed mural below, courtesy of WVTM’s Fred Davenport:

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On Friday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin shared a video message of hope, progress and unity in observance of Juneteenth.

Watch:

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

3 weeks ago

OWA, Magic Moments partner to give Alabama kids with life-threatening illnesses a free day of fun

(OWA/Facebook, YHN)

The OWA amusement park in Foley and the Alabama charity Magic Moments have again partnered for their second annual “Beyond the Moment” event that will take place Friday, June 19.

Magic Moments is a charity that grants kids in Alabama ages four through 18 who have been diagnosed with chronic life-threatening illnesses a special experience such as a trip to Disney World or a meeting with a favorite celebrity.

The Beyond the Moment experience put together in partnership with OWA allows the families of Magic Moment kids to enjoy a day at the world-class amusement park in Baldwin County at no cost to the family.

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OWA says they expect over 350 attendees for the 2020 Beyond the Moment event between the kids and their families.

“It’s so important for our families because they get to know the other Magic Moment families who are probably going through similar circumstances,” Magic Moments Regional Director Kimberly Etherton told Yellowhammer News over the phone.

The amusement park says the event will be “a wonderful family day out, allowing children and their families to celebrate and connect.”

All attendees connected to Magic Moments will receive a free meal pass and refillable water bottle in addition to free admission.

The park reopened on June 5 with enhanced health and safety measures that were developed based on guidance from the CDC and health officials related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Coronavirus precautions include extra hand sanitizer being available throughout the park, including the Beyond the Moment check-in station, and OWA is checking the temperature of every person who enters.

Etherton told Yellowhammer that in 2019 she called OWA in the hopes of getting some free tickets for families, but then OWA “went above and beyond” by creating a free admission day and giving out free meals to all Magic Moment families that could attend.

“Before we could even say anything they were like, ‘Lets do it again next year,'” added Etherton.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

3 weeks ago

‘Black Lives Matter’ being painted on Birmingham street ahead of Juneteenth

(City of Birmingham/Twitter)

A portion of First Avenue South in Birmingham will soon read, “Black Lives Matter,” ideally just in time for Juneteenth on Friday.

Juneteenth, the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, is celebrated annually on June 19.

Per the City of Birmingham, Cara McClure of Black Lives Matter Birmingham and artist Shawn Fitzwater have teamed up to create a large street mural similar to one that was originally unveiled in Washington, D.C. in recent weeks.

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The Birmingham “Black Lives Matter” painting will run alongside Railroad Park on First Avenue South in-between 16th and 17th Streets.

As of Wednesday evening, the first two words had been completed. The painting started that day. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s support made the project possible.

“Organizers hope to have it ready in time for Friday’s Juneteenth events,” the City said on Twitter.

The City’s transportation department and the Alabama Department of Transportation have closed the portion of the street until Saturday to enable the project’s safe completion.

You can view an aerial video of the project below:

In a Facebook post, McClure said, “I wanted to have this done by Juneteenth as a gift to the Activist community, community and community leaders for all the trauma we’ve been going through lately. I’m sure it will be done by then. This is not going to fix anything but its a friendly reminder that we matter too. Also, The Real Story for history sake………I respect the artist but A black woman spearheaded and negotiated this project.”

Observers may remember McClure as the Democratic nominee for Alabama Public Service Commissioner Place 1 in 2018. She was also a leader of protesting in Hoover following the death of Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr.

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

3 weeks ago

Watch: Red panda celebrates 10th birthday at Birmingham Zoo

(Birmingham Zoo/Facebook)

Sorrel, a female red panda at the Birmingham Zoo, has had a tough time of it over the last year.

In March, Sorrel’s fellow red panda at the zoo passed away suddenly.

Parker, a four-year-old male, was found deceased one morning with no obvious physical injuries or any indication of illness.

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Parker the red panda (Courtesy: Scott Kayser, the Birmingham Zoo)

Sorrel experienced another tragedy in June 2019.

Almost a year ago exactly, Sorrel gave birth to a stillborn cub. This came days before her ninth birthday.

This week, however, brought a much happier milestone.

On Monday, Sorrel celebrated her 10th birthday.

In a video posted on social media by the zoo, she can be seen enjoying an animal-friendly birthday cake.

Watch:

The zoo also reopened last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit Alabama. Read more about the zoo’s current operations here.

Red pandas are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List.

3 weeks ago

Jock Allen, NHRA mechanic who inspired many during COVID-19 battle, discharged from UAB Hospital

(UAB/Contributed)

Ervin “Jock” Allen spent 32 days at UAB Hospital battling COVID-19, including 24 of those days on a ventilator. Today, Allen breathes on his own. And he went home this week to continue his recovery.

The 28-year-old Jasper native is lead technician for Steve Johnson Racing, a Birmingham-based National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) team. Allen has captured the spirits of many people in Alabama and beyond sincd he was admitted to the hospital in May. His mother, Candace Allen, a health care worker, was admitted to the hospital prior to her son after contracting COVID-19. She died May 18. Allen’s sister (also a health care worker), brother and fiancée also tested positive but have since recovered.

“When I get home, I just want to get outside and feel some fresh air,” he said. “It’s been a scary, happy and sad experience all at once. It’s a blessing that I get to walk out of here and start my new journey.”

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With Allen’s permission, Johnson has been chronicling his teammate’s journey on the Steve Johnson Racing Team Facebook page. Allen has developed a legion of fans and supporters in the motor-sports community and beyond. A GoFundMe page was set up to help with the family’s expenses as they battled COVID-19. A JockStrong.com webpage complete with #JockStrong branded T-shirts and masks also was established to help the family.

Allen spent a large portion of his time at UAB in the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU). It is there where the sickest COVID-19 patients are treated and where the majority are on ventilators.

“Less than 10 percent of all patients who have to be put on a ventilator end up staying on it more than 21 days,” said James Stout, director of Quality Assurance and Patient Safety in UAB’s Special Care Unit. “What we have seen here on UAB’s COVID-19 unit with Jock is an extremely well-educated super team inside the Medical Intensive Care Unit performing miracles. Then they transition the patient to us so we can help them wean off the ventilator. It’s an incredible achievement to see a patient who has fought for so long be able to leave here and go home and continue their recovery.”

After Allen was admitted to UAB, he was medically paralyzed for several days, as nurses frequently flipped him over to help get oxygen into his blood. He was in shock early in his treatment. When he was finally able to come off the ventilator, Allen required a tracheotomy while his lungs were healing. He was weaned off the ventilator in the Special Care Unit, where he spent 10 days recovering before the tracheotomy tube was removed.

“He was in the ICU for about three weeks and very sick for a couple of those weeks,” said Dr. Tracey Luckhardt, a UAB School of Medicine pulmonary critical care physician and director of the Special Care Unit. “Once he finally turned the corner and his lungs started healing from the coronavirus infection, he’s done really well. He’s been getting very aggressive physical therapy, and occupational therapy has done amazing with him. He’s had a very remarkable recovery.”

It is not lost on Allen that he initially thought COVID-19 was dangerous only for older adults, particularly those with other health problems. Allen hopes the severity of his illness will make other younger adults take the coronavirus more seriously. He is encouraging others to wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands frequently.

“I was that guy who didn’t think I could get it this bad. I even told my boss when this first started happening that the people who were getting it bad were elderly people,” Allen said. “I had no previous health problems. I don’t smoke. I have a drink maybe once a month. I was completely healthy. But I’m here. I’m young. And I just didn’t think young people can get it this bad, but you can. It’s very real and eye-opening.

“I don’t remember a lot of what happened while I was here, but I do know the staff at UAB took really good care of me,” he said. “I can remember being calmed down by a nurse when I was scared in the ICU a couple of times. Then they told me when I first got in (the special care unit) they were going to push me, so be ready. And they did. They always came by and checked on me. They were great.”

For UAB’s staff in the MICU, Special Care Unit and other critical care areas, watching Allen leave the hospital healthy lifted their spirits.

“Our critical care staff, especially in the MICU, have been working so hard for the past three months,” Luckhardt said. “We’ve had a lot of really sick patients –way more than we are used to dealing with. These patients take a long time to get better. There are a lot of setbacks. When we have a patient who gets better and is able to leave the hospital, that’s a huge win for us. It feels good for the team, and we really need to rally around those wins because it’s been a long three months with some really sick patients.”

This story originally appeared on the UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

Atmore wins jackpot with Main Street Alabama designation

(Chris Pruitt/Wikicommons)

Many travelers along Interstate 65 in southwest Alabama recognize Atmore as home of the Wind Creek Casino, but travel just five more miles to find the pride of the community – the historic downtown district.

On June 6, Main Street Alabama announced that Atmore had been selected as a new Main Street Alabama Designated Community.

Using the National Main Street Four Point Approach, Main Street Alabama helps communities focus on organization, design, promotion and economic vitality with strategies unique to that community that are centered on market-based outcomes.

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“Setting achievable goals using community input and market data is critical to the revitalization of the district, but it’s also equally crucial to bring stakeholders to the table to work towards a common goal,” said Mary Helmer, Main Street Alabama state coordinator.

“Main Street works 100% of the time if the community is willing to work,” Helmer said. “Atmore impressed upon the selection committee that they had the work ethic to become a successful Main Street program that will bring jobs, dollars and people back to the district.”

The dedication of the continued revitalization of the district made the case for designation and was demonstrated during the five-month long application process, through partnerships with community organizations, the city’s commitment and proven track record of many projects, including the ongoing renovation of the Strand Theatre.

Atmore’s historic notable figures and events include being the birthplace of boxer Evander Holyfield; the site of Railroad Bill’s death, an infamous train robber who was killed following a shootout with the law in 1896; and the home to Luverne Wise Albert, who in 1939 became the first female football kicker to score in an American football game. In addition to the Strand Theatre, the former Atmore Hardware Store serves as a focal point of the district.

Atmore was originally named Williams Station, in 1866, after William Larkin Williams, a logging entrepreneur who set up shop along the spur of the Mobile and Great Northern Railroad. The town was renamed in 1897 in honor of C.P. Atmore, the general railroad ticket agent.

“These facts, along with the capacity to maintain a Main Street program, scored major points with us,” said Main Street Alabama’s social media announcement. “This bustling railroad town is ready for renewal and Main Street Alabama is ready to provide a game plan for success.”

Main Street Alabama will begin work immediately in Atmore to provide board development, goal setting, work planning, market study with economic development strategies, targeted design assistance, and training related to downtown development.

Atmore joins Alexander City, Anniston, Athens, Birmingham, Calera, Columbiana, Decatur, Dothan, Elba, Enterprise, Eufaula, Florence, Foley, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Headland, Heflin, the Historic Fourth Avenue Business District in Birmingham, Marion, Monroeville, Montevallo, Jasper, Opelika, Oxford, Scottsboro, South Huntsville and Wetumpka in using Main Street’s comprehensive and incremental approach.  Each designated community listed above reports its success by tracking reinvestment statistics.  Main Street Alabama’s designated communities have reported 976 net new businesses, 5,040 net new jobs, $419,950,397 in private investment, $51,592,047 in public improvements and 105,789 volunteer hours in their districts collectively since June 2014.

Main Street Alabama application workshops are held in January each year.  Communities interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to join the Main Street Alabama Network. More information can be found at www.mainstreetalabama.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Alabama couple aims to heat up your dinner table with Get a Little Hot

(Jeff and Bethany Meadows/Contributed)

Jeff and Bethany Meadows are opposites when it comes to their taste in hot sauce. But they agree on one thing: No family dinner is complete without it.

Jeff is what his wife calls a “serious chili head.”

“I’ve always loved hot sauce, and over the years I’ve built up a tolerance for a lot of heat,” Jeff said. “I enjoy experimenting with different flavors and food combinations. There is such a wide range of flavors and every hot sauce recipe is different.”

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Bethany, a native of Canada, said she likes to spice up her dishes with a lot less heat. “I didn’t grow up eating a lot of seasoning and spices on anything, so I’m on the other end of the spectrum.”

It’s no wonder that hot sauce takes center stage on the table when the Birmingham-area couple, their seven children, sons-in-law and two grandchildren gather for their family dinner every Sunday night.

“We cook a big meal, play cards, sing karaoke, have a bonfire or watch a movie on the deck,” Bethany said. “We love hot sauce, and it’s always on the table.”

Bethany said it was at a recent Sunday dinner that the idea originated for turning the family’s passion for hot sauce into a company.

On May 12, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple boldly stepped out and launched their new subscription service, Get a Little Hot. It promotes and sells handcrafted Southern products to people who want to “eat with fire” and spice up their meals.

“There’s never a perfect time to start a business,” Bethany said. “You just need to start, work hard and be passionate. You can’t wait just because there’s something going on like COVID-19.”

Bethany said she and Jeff are looking at their new company as an opportunity.

“With social distancing, more people are shopping online,” she said. “We are filling a gap by helping do what we can to meet the changing needs of this new environment.”

What sets Get a Little Hot apart?

Bethany said when the family started talking about their new company, they decided the key ingredients would be “Southern culture and family traditions.”

“The hot-sauce industry can sometimes be edgy, but that’s not who we are,” Bethany said. “We came up with the idea of promoting Southern hot sauce companies and Southern culture because the South is something we can fully embrace as a family.”

Get a Little Hot features hot sauces made by small Southern companies, many of which got their start crafting products in home kitchens and selling them at farmers markets.

Bethany and Jeff have been connecting with hot sauce companies through their Facebook group, “Fire-Eaters.” They have also gotten word about companies from other businesses, friends and family. In only a month, the couple has added more than 50 brands to the product lineup, with sauces ranging from extremely mild to “hot enough to roast a lizard.”

“When we get in an order of a new hot sauce, I start thinking about what I can put on the grill to taste test the new brand and flavor,” Jeff said.

Bethany and Jeff are doing more than selling hot sauce. They are sharing the unique stories behind each company.

“It makes it that much more fun to try the hot sauce when you know the story behind it,” Bethany said. “It’s the stories of people who are handcrafting their meemaw’s recipes; a brother and sister who grow their own peppers and turn them into hot sauce; and a veteran who, for every bottle he sells, sends one to a soldier overseas. These owners are passionate about what they do, and they are excited to tell their stories.”

The Meadows are posting the stories on their website blog and social media. They are including a “teaser card” in each box to give customers a taste of what makes the hot sauce different.

“People who like hot sauce really like hot sauce, and they love talking about it,” Bethany said.

The Meadows’ story

Starting new ventures is not unusual for the Meadows family.

Eight years ago, Bethany, a single mom with five kids – four of whom are adopted – met and married Jeff, who has two children of his own. Bethany was already operating a marketing agency. Several years later, the couple launched their real estate and construction companies.

The Meadows and their family now have big plans for the future of Get a Little Hot, like adding barbecue sauces and marinades to the product lineup. But more daring than that, they want to take their story nationwide by creating a YouTube reality series with their family dinners and love of hot sauce at the center.

“Since other activities like sports have been taken away during the quarantine, people have been home with their families and have had more time to reconnect,” Bethany said. “I think a reality show based around our family and hot sauce will resonate with people right now.”

Jeff said getting their new business off the ground has been hectic but fun.

“Since we are also working full-time jobs, time is probably our greatest challenge,” Jeff said. “However, we are getting our adult kids involved and making it a family company. As with any new business, we are working hard to get our name out there and build our reputation as a seller of quality Southern hot sauces.”

Customers can choose from three subscription services (one to three bottles of sauce mailed monthly or quarterly), select a gift box or basket, or buy individual bottles of a sauce. To sign up for a subscription or make a purchase, go to www.getalittlehot.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Ron Brown wrote that moving to Alabama was ‘the single greatest decision’ of his life; Now he’s running for Hoover City Council

Ron Brown with his wife and children (Courtesy R. Brown)

Ron Brown has gone viral — multiple times — for his love for the Yellowhammer State. Now, he wants to give back through serving the residents of Hoover as their newest councilman.

Brown on Thursday held a press conference at Hoover City Hall announcing his candidacy for City Council Place 2. The municipal elections will be held August 25.

Originally from Chicago, Brown earned a law degree from Birmingham School of Law. He first rose to viral fame after penning the powerful column entitled, “I’m a black man from Chicago who moved to Alabama, and here’s what I found,” for Yellowhammer News.

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That column, which can be read here, is especially meaningful as the nation currently faces civil unrest following the death of George Floyd.

Brown also went viral in recent weeks for a video he posted on social media specifically about this unrest, warning would-be outside agitators, looters and rioters to stay away from Alabama. That video has been viewed over one million times and can be found here.

Brown’s family moved to Hoover six years ago. Brown and his wife have been married for 13 years and have two sons.

In a statement, Brown explained what motivated him to run for the city council.

“Everyone wants change but sometimes in life, you have to put yourself out there to encourage the change or simply become the change,” Brown said. “Hoover, Alabama is a great city to live and to raise a family but I believe it has the capabilities to be so much more than a city…. It can be a destination.”

The Hoover City Council Place 2 seat is currently held by Council President Gene Smith. Smith, instead of seeking reelection, is running against incumbent Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato.

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