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 hours ago

Ainsworth encourages Alabamians to ‘Ring for the Resurrection’ on Easter

(Will Ainsworth/Contributed, Pixabay)

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth is asking all Alabamians to join him in a “Ring for the Resurrection” campaign on Easter Sunday. The effort is intended to promote unity at this COVID-19 time of prolonged separation and to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion.

Ring for the Resurrection, which was created by Ainsworth, calls for all churches and individuals across the Yellowhammer State to ring a bell at noon on Sunday, April 12, in joint celebration of the holiday.

“Social distancing guidelines require us to remain apart from our extended families, church members, and other individuals on a sacred religious holiday that normally encourages us to gather together,” Ainsworth said in a statement on Wednesday. “But I realized that the simple act of ringing a bell can allow us to remain physically distant while being united in spirit.”

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“My wife, Kendall, our twin boys, Hunter and Hays, and our daughter, Addie, will be among those ringing a bell at noon on Sunday to celebrate the miracle of Easter,” he concluded. “While Gov. Ivey’s stay-at-home order, the public’s health and safety, and simple common sense prevent Christians from gathering in large groups even on the holiest of days, all of us can join together in spirit as we ring a bell to recognize that Christ has risen.”

This comes after Ainsworth earlier this week unveiled a new website designed to provide small business owners with a one-stop online information hub related to the ongoing pandemic.

RELATED: Ivey announces campaign encouraging Alabamians to pray for medical personnel, first responders

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

1 day ago

Ivey announces campaign encouraging Alabamians to pray for medical personnel, first responders

(Governor Kay Ivey/Twitter)

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced her new “Ribbons of Hope” campaign from the steps of the Alabama State Capitol.

Through this campaign, Ivey is encouraging the people of the state to tie ribbons around a tree, pole, mailbox or other fixture in their front yard as a symbol to remind everyone to pray for medical personnel, first responders and for one another during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

These “Ribbons of Hope” will symbolize faith, hope, love and prayer, per the governor’s office. Ivey was joined by several local pastors Tuesday to officially tie the first ribbon on a tree in front of the capitol.

During these unprecedented times, Ivey reportedly hopes these simple gestures will create unity among Alabamians and become a beacon of encouragement for everyone who sees them.

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“As an effort to remind the people of Alabama we are all in this together, I ask that each household tie a ribbon in their front yard to remember our medical personnel, first responders and for the health and protection of our family and friends,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Let’s use whatever ribbon we already have from a past celebration and may we see a beautiful array of color line our neighborhood streets,” she continued. “These ribbons will serve as a reminder to the people of our state that we are lifting each other in prayer, and that just like after the great flood in Genesis, we are mindful of the hope and promise of God during this pandemic.”

The governor was joined by First Baptist Church of Montgomery Pastor Jay Wolf, 89.1 FM Faith Director of Ministry Relations Billy Irvin, Hutchinson Street Missionary Baptist Pastor Courtney Meadows, Alabama Baptist Convention Hispanic Ministries Coordinator Anel Robiyana, His Vessel Ministry Minister Jo Hancock, Former Pastor at Frazer United Methodist Church John Ed Mathison and First Baptist Montgomery Lay Leader Soo Seok Yang.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

Food companies serve free meals, treats to those in need and front-line workers during pandemic

(Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

Mary Drennen said she didn’t really understand the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic until she and others handed out free meals March 30 on Birmingham’s Southside.

“It’ll tear your heartstrings up,” the Nourish Foods co-owner said. “It’s a greater purpose that we didn’t even realize that we could serve until this disease came about, or virus, however you call it. It is certainly rewarding for us to know that our business can step in and provide something for people that they literally have no access to.”

Nourish Foods is one of several companies – local and national – that have stepped in to help where they can to support those who are on the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus.

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1918 Catering helping others during COVID-19 pandemic from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Drennen and her business partner, Tiffany Davis, have connected with students who are not attending school for the rest of the year.

“Now that they’re without that one or two meals that they would have gotten at school, that’s obviously not an option,” she said. “We’re trying to work through that problem with Avondale, Woodlawn, Gate City areas in particular. Those are the first ones that we’re working with to find a solution for that.”

And they’re not alone. Every Monday, Krispy Kreme is giving a dozen doughnuts to each healthcare worker who visits.

Brittney Payne, a sterile surgical technician at UAB Highlands, said the sweets give healthcare providers their due.

“It’s nice,” the wife and mother of three said, “because healthcare workers don’t get enough credit for the things they do, especially when you work and go home to your family.”

Cristin Buentello said it’s not uncommon for her to pick up a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts on her way to or from her job at Brookwood Hospital and Women’s Center.

The 12 glazed rings she picked up this week at the Hoover Krispy Kreme location were for her co-workers.

“It helps us all out and gives us a little treat,” said Buentello, a surgical assistant. “Any little thing is nice, like food, getting water. Everything’s helping us right now: a little pick-me-up.”

Starbucks is giving a free tall brewed coffee – hot or cold – to front-line responders through May 3. In addition, the Starbucks Foundation is donating $500,000 to support front-line responders.

The $500,000 comes in equal donations to Direct Relief to support the delivery of personal protective equipment and essential medical items, and to Operation Gratitude to deliver 50,000 care packages and handwritten letters to first responders and health care workers.

Similarly, companies and volunteers have rolled up their sleeves to help people who have been adversely affected by the pandemic, including children who might not otherwise be fed because their schools have closed for the school year.

Nourish Foods is among companies offering gifts for healthcare providers at UAB. Some community philanthropists are donating money to be used at area restaurants to provide food for health care workers.

UAB’s Food Services staff is organizing this project through its Meals For Heroes link.

Full Moon Bar-B-Que established its Feed a Friend program, accepting nominations for families to receive a free meal. That program was to have ended this week but is being extended indefinitely until the shelter-in-place order is lifted.

The barbecue restaurant chain’s Tuscaloosa location gave 180 lunches to staffers at Druid City Hospital, while its Montgomery restaurant gave 500 lunches to schoolchildren through the Mercy House nonprofit. The company also gave 100 lunches to the Levite Jewish Community Center and served lunches at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

“Serving our communities is always a top priority at Full Moon Bar-B-Que and we are dedicated to providing meals in this trying time,” co-owner Joe Maluff said in a prepared statement. “Now more than ever, people need hope and we believe a warm meal can do just that. Full Moon Bar-B-Que aims to serve the communities surrounding each of our locations the best way we can throughout this pandemic.”

Last week, J&R Bar & Grill – formerly Peyton Place Restaurant – gave free lunches to first responders. On April 2, 1918 Catering gave free lunches to healthcare workers with ID at its location in Homewood.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Alabama History@Home is an online window into state’s past and more

(ADAH/Contributed)

Have you ever wondered what Alabamians’ recipes looked like during World War I or wanted to see what houses looked like in your community in the 20th century? Or maybe you’re looking for lesson plans to help your children learn while they’re staying at home.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) has partnered with art and history organizations throughout the state to introduce Alabama History@Home, an online resource for exploring Alabama’s history.

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Current History@Home Partners include AL200 Alabama BicentennialAlabama HeritageAlabama Historical Association, Alabama Museum of Natural History, Alabama Public Television (APT)Alabama State Council on the Arts, Auburn University College of Liberal Arts – The Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & HumanitiesBirmingham Civil Rights InstituteEncyclopedia of AlabamaHistoric Blakeley State ParkHistory Museum of MobileMcWane Science CenterSloss Furnaces National Historic LandmarkNewSouth BooksThe Historians ManifestoUniversity of Alabama MuseumsUniversity of South Alabama Archaeology MuseumU.S. Space and Rocket Center and the Wiregrass Museum of Art.

“The state archives have been working steadily in recent years to increase the amount of historical resources available to the public online,” said ADAH Director Steve Murray in a news release. “When our staff, like all Alabamians, began adjusting to the necessity of doing work and school at home, we realized that we needed a single point of entry to make exploration of those resources as simple as possible for the public.”

With new, free content added regularly, ADAH and its content partners hope that the virtual opportunities, including tours and exhibits, video series, crafts and activities, digital photo collections and publications, can provide new and engaging learning opportunities for the public.

“Once we began building Alabama History@Home, the decision to include content hosted by other archives and museums was an obvious one,” Murray said. “The result is a terrific compilation of content originating from every corner of Alabama.”

According to ADAH, Alabama History@Home is an opportunity for cultural organizations to make a statement about the importance of working together in the face of challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are all in this together, and like Alabamians at their best throughout history, we will do all we can to help our neighborhoods, our communities and our state in overcoming this crisis,” Murray said.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History is the state’s government-records repository, a special-collections library and research facility and home to the Museum of Alabama, the state history museum. It is located in downtown Montgomery, directly across the street from the State Capitol. The ADAH is closed through April 18, 2020. Visit www.archives.alabama.gov for the latest information about agency closures and cancellations.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Alabama animal shelters still on the job meeting pets’ needs in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

(Greater Birmingham Humane Society/Contributed)

This year, 7-year-old Diana Bailey received an early birthday surprise – a new furry friend to help fill her days at home during the nation’s coronavirus crisis.

“I told Diana that if she was good, she could have a dog for her birthday in August,” said Jeannine, the girl’s mom. “But when we were sequestered, I thought this would be a good time to get a dog because we would be at home and would have more time to housetrain it.”

After scouring the web, Jeannine, a talent and employment manager at Alabama Power’s Corporate Headquarters in Birmingham, and Diana found their “dream dog” at Crossing Paths Animal Rescue Center in Cleveland, Alabama.

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Jeannine completed an application, and on March 25 she and her daughter headed to Crossing Paths Rescue to meet their new friend, a mixed-breed puppy named Lindsey.

“Having a dog has been great for Diana,” said Bailey. “She is an only child and is out of school. This has given her something fun to be excited about while she is at home. She has been super cute about taking the dog out to play, and we’ve been taking her on walks.”

Bailey encourages others to consider following in her family’s footsteps.

“I think all of us are trying to find ways to make the best of this situation,” said Bailey. “Getting a dog was a really great way to turn a negative into a positive. We’re stuck here, and now we’re stuck with a cute new puppy.”

Fido needs a home

Mary Ellen Tidwell, president and founder of Crossing Paths Rescue, said with so many dogs in need of a “forever” home, the door of this small center is remaining open during this difficult season.

“A lot of people want to feel like they are making a difference during this time,” she said. “Everybody is working at home, so what better time is there to foster or adopt a pet and have more time to socialize it? Why not step up?”

Crossing Paths Rescue, founded in 2007, is a group of volunteers who find loving homes for hundreds of dogs every year. The no-kill center rescues dogs in Blount and Jefferson counties that have been abandoned or have little hope of finding a home.

Crossing Paths has established a satellite facility in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to raise awareness in the Northeast about the great need of homes for Alabama dogs. Through this partnership, Crossing Paths Rescue has delivered dogs to families living as far away as Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, New York and even Canada.

Tidwell said the center’s staff is taking every precaution and practicing social distancing during this time. The adoption contract and fees can be completed online, and the dogs are microchipped in advance.

“When people arrive, their dog is ready to go,” she said. “We bring the dog to the car, or they can come in and get it and go. We do everything within 15 seconds.”

Tidwell said people who cannot adopt or foster a dog can meet another need – purchase pet supplies, pet food or litter, and donate it to a local shelter or rescue center.

“Even though we’re in the worst of times, we’re seeing the best of people,” Tidwell said. “These dogs don’t have a voice, but we can take up the gauntlet and fight for them and make a difference.”

Check out the available dogs or apply to foster or adopt one by visiting www.crossingpathsanimalrescue.org.

Speaking of pet food

Meanwhile, the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS), like some other major animal shelters in Alabama, has temporarily closed its doors to the public while the COVID-19 epidemic continues. The shelter has delivered its more than 200 pets to foster homes but now has another way to help dogs and cats.

On Thursday, April 2, GBHS turned its Adoption, Outreach and Education Center on Snow Drive in Birmingham into the COVID-19 Regional Pet Pantry. The drive-through pantry provides food to financially strapped pet owners as well as to rescue centers and shelters that need help to feed animals.

GBHS is feeding the hungry pet community with more than 40,000 pounds of food it received from the GreaterGood nonprofit.

“We’re very lucky that we have this bulk amount of food that we can distribute to animals in need,” said Lindsey Mays, GBHS director of marketing. “Many people have been furloughed or laid off, and we don’t want them to have to worry about feeding their pet. It is important that we help each other during this stressful time so we will be stronger when we come out on the other side.”

GBHS is looking for “community captains” to identify needs of neighboring pet owners who may be shut in or not have transportation to pick up food or supplies. Community captains will safely check on neighbors, report which pet supplies are needed to the GBHS COVID-19 Regional Pet Pantry and schedule a time for pickup.

“We are grateful to be able to serve pet owners, fosters, rescues and other shelters,” said Allison Black Cornelius, CEO of GBHS. “We know that many families are struggling financially right now, and it is our hope that the GBHS Regional Pet Pantry will alleviate a little of their stress and ensure that our community’s pets are not forgotten.”

To receive pet food for yourself, neighbor or rescue facility, and schedule a date to pick up the items, complete an application at gbhs.org/regionalpetpantry. Anyone who does not have internet access can drop by the facility Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations of pet food are welcome and can be delivered to the pantry Monday-Friday between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 days ago

Alabama churches enter an unprecedented Holy Week finding peace in Christ

(Pixabay)

“Surreal.” That’s how Patrick Curles described his experience preaching to an empty church during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

As strange as it may have sounded four weeks ago, preaching to vacant pews on Sunday morning has become the new reality for Curles, executive minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, and pastors all across Alabama.

Buddy Champion, pastor at First Baptist Church Trussville, hopes the challenging circumstances have helped him sharpen his message even further.

“The energy you get from a sanctuary full of people isn’t there,” he remarked to Yellowhammer News. “While I’m preaching to the camera I don’t see faces in their seats in the church, now I picture them with their families gathered around listening together. This motivates me even more to make sure God’s Word is clear.”

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On March 17, the Alabama Department of Public Health issued an order preventing gatherings of more than 25 people in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. While a similar order on March 27 lowered that number to 10 persons, worship services had effectively been shut down at that point.

In unprecedented circumstances, churches began to adapt.

Trinity has directed its members to the livestream of its service on Youtube and its traditional radio broadcast. Whether by informing its members through email or the posting of daily video devotionals from senior pastor Claude McRoberts, Trinity has sought new ways to stay connected to its congregation.

While FBC Trussville’s 10:00 a.m. virtual worship service has become an important connection point for the church, according to executive pastor Lance Pate, the daily interactions with members have become a point of emphasis, as well.

“We are all learning how to minister to our age groups from a distance,” he said.

This includes an online daily Bible reading plan with F260. Preschool, children and student ministries at FBC Trussville have daily interaction with families through the newly-created fbctfamilies.org site which offers devotions, activities and games. And JELLO (Jesus Especially Loves Little Ones) is now an online song and movement time for preschoolers on Facebook live every Thursday.

Like Champion, Curles and the ministry staff at Trinity have tried to seize on the new circumstances as a way to reach people at a time when they are most receptive.

“It is important to remember that every challenge is an opportunity,” he pointed out. “Worshipping remotely and out of our normal routine has in many ways made our services more important to people. I think that worshipping in this way provides a different perspective on what we do in worship, certainly makes it more real and important, and the difficulties help to open our hearts more to the work that God wants to do in each one of us.”

For most believers in Alabama, and in many other places across the nation, this is the first Easter Week of their lives in which they will be unable to celebrate Christ’s resurrection in a corporate manner. During the most important week on the calendar for Christians, worship will be confined to their homes.

Pate says there is one constant onto which Christians sitting at home may hold.

“Not being together is tough and we will miss the corporate celebration but it doesn’t change what Christ did for us all,” he said. “We are reminding our people that nothing will stop each of us from personally celebrating Easter. We’ll come together online for both Good Friday and Easter, but families are now challenged to make very strategic plans so that their families understand the power of the cross and Christ’s resurrection.”

Curles sees several ways in which Christians can enjoy worship this week.

Although difficult and inconvenient, these circumstances are not new, according to Curles.

“The Apostle Paul reminds us that every challenge and temptation we face has presented itself to the church before, and God will provide a way forward,” he said. “That, at the least, is a comfort. Early Christians were not able to worship together because of persecution, so they worshipped together in small house churches. For Christians, although this may be new to us, it is not new to the Church of Christ Jesus.”

He also thinks there is an ability to embrace its uniqueness.

“Lean into it and make it special,” he advised. “Christians believe that they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and that, therefore, Christ is with us and lives within us. We do not have to be in a sanctuary to be in the presence of God; He is present to us at all times and in all places it we only recognize His presence and draw near to Him in faith. Use this time to draw near to Him in fresh ways and embrace the break in routine.”

Finally, he focuses on the fact that the pattern of Christianity is death and resurrection.

“Jesus’ life was one of death and resurrection and He thereby made a way for us to know God again,” he said. “Then, we begin the Christian life by dying to ourselves and our life apart from God and are raised to new life in Jesus Christ. It seems that God is giving us all an opportunity examine how we have left Him and return home in faith during this Lenten season.”

As the staff at FBC Trussville continues its outreach in the community and with its members during this crisis, providing encouragement has been at the center of its communication.

“As the church, we’ve been trying very specifically to connected with every member to make sure this situation doesn’t become overwhelming and discouraging,” Pate stated. “This can so easily happen. For example, our Seasoned Adult Ministry has a group of 50 people contacting each of our 1000 senior adults each week. We want everyone to hear from us and know we’re all in this together. It’s also been our goal as a staff to offer God’s Word of hope in all of our contacts.”

What can sometimes seem to be a delicate balance between religious liberty and government order has been tested in some corners of the country during the COVID-19 crisis. However, congregations in Alabama have largely appeared to move forward with the greater good in mind.

Champion underscored his view that the spiritual and physical health of his congregation must both be considered in the decision being made.

“I’m thankful our government is doing it’s best to allow churches to continue helping the spiritual and emotional well being of communities,” said Champion. “I realize they are not limiting Easter worship or any worship service out of power or control. We are all being limited for health and safety reasons. As much as I miss being with the people, it would be devastating for me to have this virus run uncontrolled through our congregations.”

For those overcome by fear and the chaos it fuels, Curles and Pate both counsel that there is one direction to look.

“Peace is not the absence of anxiety, it is the presence of a Person, Christ and His Holy Spirit,” remarked Curles.

“With all the confusion in the world right now, the Bible is the only real answer,” concluded Pate.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer News

4 days ago

Alabama farmers to host virtual field trips every Friday through May 22

(Pixabay)

How do peanuts grow? When do Alabama farmers grow different fruits and vegetables? What’s the difference between a cow, a bull and a calf?

Alabama farmers will answer all those questions and much more during Virtual Field Trips offered through Facebook Live on the Alabama Farmers Federation Facebook page every Friday at 10 a.m. through May 22.

“Parents and their children are making huge adjustments as their homes become classrooms, and we want to help by offering entertaining and educational field trips from some of our farmers,” said Jeff Helms, Alabama Farmers Federation Communications Department director. “While these videos will target third through fifth graders, people of all ages will learn more about how farmers grow food, fiber and timber.”

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Viewers are encouraged to ask questions through the comment section, and each video will include links to educational activities centered on the featured commodity.

Currently scheduled topics, subject to change, are:
●      April 3 – Peanuts and other row crops.
●      April 10 – Fruits and vegetables.
●      April 17– Beef cattle.
●      April 24 – Honeybees.
●      May 1 – Catfish.
●      May 8 – Greenhouse and nursery products.
●      May 15 – Forestry.
●      May 22 – Cotton and other row crops.

To receive Facebook notifications about the Virtual Field Trips, respond as “Interested” in the event or follow the Alabama Farmers Federation page.

This Virtual Field Trips project was developed in conjunction with Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama (GSSA). For additional virtual programs from GSSA, visit GirlScoutsSA.org.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 days ago

Andy Andrews: A prayer of perspective

(Pixabay)

Andy Andrews has written a prayer he calls “A Prayer of Perspective.”

The Alabama native shared the prayer in an email to friends and followers saying, “It may seem like things are falling apart, but there is still much for which we can be grateful. I hope this message of truth resonates with you.”

Known as a world-class storyteller and inspirational voice, Andrews has sought to offer encouragement throughout the coronavirus pandemic. He has produced two videos aimed at helping people deal with the crisis: Perspective on the Coronavirus and Imagination control and the Chicken Little Syndrome.

Andrews’ entire prayer as follows:

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Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank You for today and for the future being designed by this present. We know the hardest steel is created from the hottest fire and that the most valuable diamond is a product of great pressure. Therefore, it is not surprising that times of calamity and distress have always been producers of the greatest people.

Lord, despite all we see and hear, we vow to remain grateful for we know that You will allow us to see the truth with proper perspective even during this situation. Let those of us who have enough to eat during this time not forget those who don’t. Neither should we forget that in our midst are children who have never had enough to eat.

Let those of us with roofs, walls, and dry places to sleep remember the 1.6 billion people in the world who lack adequate housing. Similarly, for those of us forced to work from home, remind us to be grateful that we have a home from which to work. And for those of us who are working, let us remember those who, for whatever reason, cannot.

Allow those of us who are inconvenienced during this time to remember we are “inconvenienced” in a country that—because of its many blessings—has a totally different definition of inconvenience than do many countries around the world. There are billions of people (and we know this) who would do anything for the chance to live at the level about which we sometimes complain.

May those of us who’ve had to cancel vacations, remember those who have never been able to take one in the first place.

For those of us who complain about the shortages of medical equipment and test kits for the virus, remind us that a shortage is always better than none at all. And let us remember the times throughout history when disease swept through populations and there were no test kits because no one knew what to test for or where to begin looking for a vaccine.

Thank you for the opportunity to live in today’s world and in a country like America. Though we do not deserve Your attention or Your mercy, thank You Lord, for both.

Finally, Father, we ask for your blessing in the same way King David did so long ago, by saying, “Lord, when doubts fill my mind and turmoil fills my heart, quiet me; give me renewed hope and cheer.”

Amen

1 week ago

‘Don’t let the corona get on ya!’ — Alabama retirees sing during COVID-19 crisis

(Wesley Gardens/Facebook)

An Alabama retirement community shared a helpful message on social media this week amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

In a video posted on Facebook, residents of Wesley Gardens Retirement Community in Montgomery joined with facility driver Lee McBryde (while practicing social distancing by staying six steps away) to dance and sing some important lyrics during the COVID-19 crisis such as properly washing hands and covering up when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread.

“Don’t let the corona get on ya!” McBryde sang as residents danced around him while holding containers of disinfectant wipes.

Watch:

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1 week ago

Friends launch Local Distancing to support Birmingham businesses

(Local Distancing/Facebook, YHN)

Three friends in Birmingham were wrestling with a major dilemma created by the coronavirus pandemic: How can you lend support to your favorite restaurants and local businesses while maintaining the proper social distancing practices?

Their solution — a pay-it-forward approach. Local Distancing, an online platform, allows customers to help these Birmingham area enterprises pay their staff, cover overhead and survive the crisis without having to leave the security of their home.

Through the Local Distancing web site, consumers can purchase gift certificates from a wide range of restaurants, breweries, retailers and other Birmingham businesses. The site also includes links to GoFundMe accounts for displaced workers.

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The initiative appears to have struck a chord in the community, with more than 4,000 unique visitors in the first week eager to support more than 150 Birmingham businesses listed on the platform.

“Local businesses are the heartbeat of the Magic City, and they need our help during these challenging times,” said Vince Perez, a senior project manager at the Alabama Department of Commerce and one of the initiative’s founders. “This is a way that all of us can let local business owners and their employees know that we’re in their corner during this crisis.”

The way Local Distancing’s founders see it, buying online gift certificates represents the most practical way for loyal customers to support their favorite local businesses right now while remaining at their homes.

The web site does not charge businesses to participate and will not receive any portion of the gift card purchases. Moreover, it works with gift card processing companies like Square and Gift Up! that provide money immediately to businesses, instead of when the certificates are redeemed.

Instagift, a Birmingham-based firm that provides electronic gift card services to local businesses, is also supporting the effort by waiving monthly fees for new sign-ups and providing promotion on its social media.

Joining Perez in launching Local Distancing are Dylan Spencer, a web developer who built the site and founder of a marketing firm bearing his name, and Trey Oliver, an attorney at the Bradley Arant law firm. The three are childhood friends and all attended Auburn University.

“We all wish we weren’t in this situation, but here we are,“ Spencer said. “Thankfully, hard times have their way of bringing people together, and I believe this will somehow make Birmingham stronger. All we can do for now is stay home, stay healthy, and take care of our city – especially the businesses and restaurants that make it special.”

Local Distancing may just be the perfect substitute for an upcoming anniversary, birthday gift, and more, he said.

“Order food and buy gift certificates, even if to give away as a ‘thank you’ to grocery store workers, restaurant workers, delivery folks, medical workers, and the many others who are working so hard to keep us going,” Spencer urged.

You can also find Local Distancing on Twitter and Instagram under @localdistancing.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

1 week ago

Alabama-based Jack’s Family Restaurants chain raising money for coronavirus relief

(Jack's/Facebook)

Local Jack’s Family Restaurants across the South are now asking guests to join their efforts in raising funds to support organizations and families in crisis as a result of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Through the brand’s 501(c)(3) foundation, the Jack’s Family Fund, guests are invited to make a donation with every order.

Jack’s has partnered with several local media affiliates, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Mayfield Dairy Farms, the University of Alabama, Lamar Advertising Company and THINC Advertising to assist in their efforts through grants, in-kind support and other financial donations.

The endeavor began last week and continues a storied history of community involvement and charitable giving for Jack’s, which was founded in 1960 in Homewood, Alabama, as Jack’s Hamburgers. The company has grown from a walk-up hamburger stand that served burgers, fries, sodas and shakes to a powerhouse with 180 locations in four states.

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“At Jack’s we have always focused on supporting our communities in meaningful ways, especially in times of need, and we want to make sure no one goes without during this unprecedented time,” Jack’s CEO Todd Bartmess said in a statement.

“In the South, we take care of each other and appreciate that our partners and vendors share this vision and are committed to helping those who are hardest hit by COVID-19,” Bartmess added.

Throughout its 60-year history, Jack’s Family Restaurants has also supported its local communities by donating food to local schools, hosting fundraisers, partnering with area organizations to serve those in need and much more.

Jack’s has released a video ad spreading awareness for the company’s coronavirus relief efforts.

Watch:

Donations can be made to the cause online here.

You can also follow along with the company’s efforts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

1 week ago

‘We Are Magic’: Video highlights resilience of Birmingham in face of coronavirus, urges support of local businesses

(Telegraph Creative/YouTube)

Birmingham-based Telegraph Creative on Sunday released a moving video entitled, “We Are Magic,” showcasing the spirit of optimism, unity and hope that Magic City residents are displaying in the face of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Coronavirus continues to impact the city in unprecedented — and sometimes devastating — ways, but Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, who narrated the video, praised locals for being “people who dig deep and don’t quit.”

Woodfin pledged that “we will thrive the only way we know how — by lifting each other up, and helping our neighbors.”

In keeping with the theme of the project, every aspect of the video is local.

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Just over two minutes in length, the video was shot in Birmingham and features local talent, businesses and business owners, as well as music by a local musician. Some recognizable faces include Ezekiel Hameen from Z’s Restaurant; Chris and Idie Hastings from Hot and Hot Fish Club; Andrew Collins from Cayo Coco; Tim Hontzas from Johnny’s; and Kristen Hall and Victor King from The Essential and Bandit.

Telegraph Creative CEO Cliff Sims advised that the company created the video as a way to bring people together at a time when everyone is having to keep their distance in an effort to stop the virus from spreading. To keep all involved parties safe and healthy, social distancing rules were observed during the making of the video.

“These are difficult and uncertain times. We are fighting an invisible enemy that’s tearing through our communities, and it’s taking a toll on all of us,” Sims said in a statement.

“Our team created this video to show the spirit of unity that’s building, even in the midst of hardship — people buying a little extra to support local shops, tipping a little more to help out their favorite restaurants, and smiling a little longer to comfort a stranger across the street. Mayor Woodfin perfectly sums it up when he says, ‘The real magic of the Magic City is us, together. Even when we’re apart.’ The spirit of Birmingham is unbreakable,” he concluded.

Watch:


Full video transcript as follows:

They call her “The Magic City.”

She earned the name because
she rose up from nothing, seemingly overnight,
forging a place of her own.
Birmingham rising
was truly a thing to behold.

On downtown streets born from industry,
where neighborhood shops line the same cobblestone alleys,
Birmingham’s history looms over her present,
like an inventor over her apprentice,
imploring us to keep the magic alive.

Birmingham’s magic is more than a nickname.
It’s the people who dig deep and don’t quit,
with the grit and determination to build something incredible.
It’s the steel-clad bonds that make a community,
and an iron will to survive.

If we have learned anything, it’s that
the spirit of Birmingham is unbreakable.
And we will thrive the only way we know how —
by lifting each other up, and helping our neighbors.

The real magic
of the Magic City
is us, together.
Even when we’re apart.

We are Birmingham.
We are magic.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

1 week ago

Community holds ‘Park and Pray’ twice daily at East Alabama Medical Center — ‘God is in this’

(Tara Albright/Facebook)

Lee County has been one of the hardest hit areas by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Alabama, and members of the community are rallying around medical professionals who are battling on the front lines against the disease.

RELATED: Medal of Honor recipient Bennie Adkins in hospital with coronavirus

As reported first by WSFA, Alabamians from around the Opelika area are holding a “Park and Pray” twice per day in support of the hospital staff at East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC).

At 7:00 a.m. and then again at 7:00 p.m. CT, community members begin 30 minutes of prayer while parked in the hospital’s deck. Afterwards, everyone flashes their vehicle lights as a show of encouragement for the staff, who can view the event from hospital windows.

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EAMC Chaplain Laura Eason is reportedly helping to organize the powerful effort, however the idea originally came from a friend of hers.

”It has just mushroomed and just snowballed into this incredible, incredible thing,” Eason told WSFA.

Registered nurse Madeline Vick captured a video from inside the hospital on Thursday of that night’s Park and Pray. The moment, she told the TV network, gave her chills.

However, the community is apparently doing much more than just the Park and Pray to lift up the hospital staff. People have also brought signs, rocks and bricks with messages of support, as well as providing meals. Anyone wishing to sponsor a meal for the staff can contact either the Auburn Chamber of Commerce or the Opelika Chamber of Commerce.

”This entire community has been unbelievably supportive with so many things,” Vick said.

“These last few days have been really tough and, and it’s gonna get tougher, and so having the community behind us, having the churches and so many people of faith praying for that, in and of itself gives us strength, encouraged to keep on going,” she added. “Just knowing that God is in this and helping keep us safe, and providing protection over our patients in our community and our staff here. Again, it’s been incredible.”

You can watch the full feature from WSFA here.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

1 week ago

From Slapout through ‘American Idol,’ Jessica Meuse is an Alabama Music Maker on a journey

(Phil Free/Alabama NewsCenter)

Jessica Meuse would love to become “the dark version of Carrie Underwood.”

That might seem ambitious for an Alabama Music Maker from Slapout. But her talents have already taken her from Elmore County to Hollywood for her “American Idol” experience, and she is enjoying a career as a singer-songwriter.

“Alabama is definitely the prettiest place I have ever lived,” said Meuse. “I’m grateful to call such a beautiful state my home.”

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Jessica Meuse is an Alabama Music Maker enjoying her post-‘American Idol’ journey from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Meuse was born in Round Rock, Texas. She moved several times as a child, since her mother worked for the government.

When Meuse was in the seventh grade, she moved to Slapout where she joined the Montgomery Youth Orchestra, eventually becoming principal second violin. She taught herself how to play the violin, guitar and piano.

“I was not the most accepted kid in school,” said Meuse. “I was the nerdy kid. Music was the thing that I had when I went home.”

At age 18, Meuse began writing music. Her first song was called “What’s So Hard About Bein’ a Man?” She went on to self-release a CD by the same name in 2011 and has written about 60 original songs.

“I’m definitely country, but I’m more on the spectrum of Southern rock,” said Meuse.

She auditioned for “The Voice” before her “American Idol” run, but, didn’t pass the judging rounds of the “Voice” mentors.

Meuse finished in fourth place on the 13th season of “Idol.” She became the first person in the history of the series to perform an original song during the finals.

Meuse calls herself a spiritual person and has said she is driven by her faith. She has eight tattoos and designed seven of them herself. She has two on her right arm: one of a phoenix and one of a dove surrounded by three stars. She has said that these represent spiritual rebirth and the Holy Trinity. On her left arm, she has a tattoo of the word “Faith.”

“A lot of my music is about finding your inner strength, of being tough, even when you don’t feel it,” said Meuse. “There’s always a song to write.”

The effects of the coronavirus on musicians have been swift. “It’s imperative now more than ever to support one another,” said Meuse. “Our livelihood comes from performing. The importance of a fanbase and local support is more important than ever. All I ask is that people be kind to one another in this weird time we’re all living through together. Be safe. Be healthy.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 week ago

Birmingham AIDS Outreach adapts to serve clients during COVID-19 crisis

(Birmingham AIDS Outreach/Contributed)

In a typical month, Birmingham AIDS Outreach (BAO) serves about 800 people. Those services include counseling, legal aid, nutritional supplements and meal delivery. The recent coronavirus emergency has prompted the staff to be even more creative to get the job done.

“Today we had a produce truck come in, and we had to figure out how to unload that while also maintaining distances,” said BAO CEO Karen Musgrove.

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Orders to stay home, designed to limit the spread of COVID-19, have varying degrees of impact on the nonprofit’s programs. The youth center has closed and HIV testing has been suspended. The wellness center now sees clients only by appointment and is filling prescriptions over the phone. But one of the more high-touch services continues to fill a vital need – food boxes.

In a typical week, BAO provides food baskets and gas vouchers for nearly 200 AIDS patients in the greater Birmingham area. “We already exist in this world where we have to consider how to help people with compromised immune systems,” Musgrove said. “We know what it’s like to practice universal precautions; it’s ingrained in who we are.”

Those food baskets contain fresh fruit and produce, canned goods and, since this past December, cleaning supplies. Given the uncertainty of the coronavirus, staff members were concerned that few of them would be able to show up for the assistance. Instead, nearly everyone arrived for their appointment, kept safe from COVID-19 exposure by new procedures such as curbside pickup.

Musgrove has had to rearrange schedules and work areas. A few employees work from home, while volunteers are not able to help at all for now. Essential staff members are assigned to keep the population in each site to a minimum and to keep workers from intermingling between buildings.

“It’s amazing how prepared the BAO staff are, and they are going the extra mile to help our clients during this time,” she said. “The need for BAO’s essential services (food, medical services, counseling, legal and case management) is too important to the community we serve.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Full Moon Bar-B-Que brings cheer, warm meal to Birmingham families

(Full Moon BBQ/Contributed)

During this period of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 outbreak across the nation, Full Moon Bar-B-Que is offering Alabamians a way to reach out a helping hand to neighbors and friends.

Through its new “Feed a Friend” initiative, Full Moon is choosing 10 families in the Birmingham area to receive a free meal. Each family will receive Full Moon’s value meal, which includes a pound of pork or chicken, fresh bread, two sides and the restaurant’s famous cookies. The program will run through Friday, April 4.

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“Now is the time to help people in need,” said co-owner David Maluff. “Full Moon Bar-B-Que is blessed by a loyal, supportive community. During these trying times we want to focus on our own Full Moon Bar-B-Que community and help them meet the needs of people they know that may be struggling. These times are an opportunity to spread light every day in our communities and that is just what Full Moon Bar-B-Que aims to do. It doesn’t matter if it is a family of two, four, six, eight or 10, Full Moon Bar-B-Que looks forward to feeding them and delivering hope during this stressful season.”

Nominating a friend for the free meal is easy: Follow Full Moon Bar-B-Que on Facebook and Instagram. Then help spread the word and keep the momentum going by tagging two friends to Full Moon’s “Feed a Friend” social media post.

Finally, send a message through Facebook or Instagram to Full Moon Bar-B-Que with a brief description of why your friend deserves a free meal, along with that person’s address and the number of members in the family.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 weeks ago

Andy Andrews: Imagination control and the Chicken Little syndrome

(Andrews/Facebook)

Best-selling author and Alabama native Andy Andrews delivered some thoughtful advice on self-control and keeping things in perspective in his latest video.

Here is how Andrews elaborated on this perspective:

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Today, the world is changing rapidly, but that doesn’t mean it’s all for the worst. A mind left alone, however, can lead us to believe that is the case. A mind without specific direction from its owner soon begins to run out of control. And, a mind out of control feasts on “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios.

The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” If you ask me, Seneca nailed it. After all, fear, anxiety, and worry are nothing but a misuse of the creative imagination that has been placed in us.

As you’ll see in my latest video, it’s this powerful ability to control our thoughts that sets us on the path toward the peaceful life we’re searching for, especially during times of uncertainty.

Watch:

In addition to being a sought-after speaker and host of the Alabama-based podcast “The Professional Noticer,” Andrews has written the New York Times bestsellers The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. His thought-provoking How Do You Kill 11 Million People?: Why the Truth Matters More Than You Think appeared on Yellowhammer News’ list of Alabama-authored books to read in 2019.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

2 weeks ago

The story behind the creation of YellaWood’s iconic Yella Fella character and campaign

(Yellawood/Twitter)

In 2004, audiences were taken back to a time reminiscent of television in the 1950s — when cowboys ruled the airwaves and there was a good guy to save the day. That was the thematic inspiration for YellaWood’s Yella Fella when he was introduced in a commercial called “Bad Bart.”

Over time, the Yella Fella caught on, and the YellaWood® marketing team expanded on the idea, eventually creating four seasons of cliffhangers, patterned after the old Hopalong Cassidy shorts that used to play in theaters. When the Yella Fella serials launched in 2008, television audiences were greeted by the Grand Ole Opry members Riders in the Sky, a Grammy-winning quartet of singing cowboys intoning these lyrics:

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Here he comes sittin’ high in the saddle,
Rightin’ wrongs wherever he can.
A man of the West in a hat and vest
Yella Fella, what a man.
On the mighty steed named Lemon Drop
He can ride like the Western wind.
Whoopin’ villians it’s a fact
‘Til they won’t come back
Yella Fella, yup, that’s him.

It was quite a turn from the previous ad campaigns that focused on college football and basketball coaches or just Jimmy Rane, the company’s founder and CEO, extolling the virtues of Osmose Pressure Treated Pine and the little yellow tag. In fact, a year and a half before the Yella Fella commercials even launched, it occurred to the marketing team at Great Southern Wood that, while successful, their advertising was putting a lot of effort into promoting the brand of “Osmose,” the name of the company that manufactured the preservatives, perhaps even more than the company that was providing the treated lumber, Great Southern Wood. It was becoming obvious that it was the yellow tag and the color yellow consumers were recalling at the moment they made a purchase.

“Jimmy was spending a lot of money to promote the Osmose brand, which he didn’t own,” noted Slats Slaton, creative director at The Slaton Agency. “Although the commercials created a backdoor demand for lumber treated by Great Southern, the timing was right to explore the creation of a brand name that the company would own outright.”

“We had talked for years about creating our own brand,” remembered Chief Marketing Officer James Riley. “We would still use the Osmose preservatives, but instead of promoting Osmose, we’d promote our own brand of pressure-treated pine. It seemed like if there was ever going to be time to do it, this was it.”

Fortunately, thanks to the strong partnership built over the previous 30 years, Great Southern’s decision to drop the mention of Osmose in its advertising did not damage the relationship between the two companies. In fact, even though Osmose had trademarked the “little yellow tag,” it assigned all rights to Great Southern so their advertising could continue to focus on the distinctive yellow tag. Because color is often the first thing consumers remember when it comes to brands, it was logical to not only center the advertising on the yellow tags, but to go one step further and rename the product, too.

The task of creating a new name for the brand fell on Slaton Agency copywriter Leon Barwick. He came up with a list of potential names, which was eventually culled down to five or six. In focus groups, YellaWood received the most positive comments. “It was affirming to hear each of the focus group participants speak of it like it was already a household name,” Slaton said. The new YellaWood name worked perfectly with Great Southern’s “little yellow tag” and made it easy to continue using yellow in future commercials. As an added bonus, the new treatment formula left the wood with a more natural yellow finish.

The unique spelling of “Yella” also had a natural link to the company, Slaton noted. “The spelling was relaxed, the name rolled off the tongue easily, and it was entirely Southern, which was fitting for Great Southern Wood and Southern Yellow Pine. It was a perfect transition. There was almost instant brand recognition because of the focus on yellow in the previous ads.”

By now, though, everyone agreed the “Jimmy” character used in the coaches’ commercials had run its course. It was up to Slaton to come up with a new concept in time for the 2004 advertising season. His goal was to create a single commercial direction that could run in all markets, rather than creating a different spot for each college football sponsorship, as had been done in the past. Slaton first presented a paintball-centered concept before moving on to an ad featuring a cowboy. “I knew Jimmy was a cowboy fan, and his eyes lit up when I started talking about it. I don’t remember if we even got to the third idea.” Slaton remembered.

Thus began “The Tales of the Yella Fella” series and a new chapter in Great Southern Wood Preserving advertising. “I envisioned shooting the spots at the old stockyard in Abbeville,” Slaton remembered. “But Jimmy said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right!’ And suddenly, we’re going out West to an old movie ranch.” Despite the new location, Jimmy was determined to keep his old team together, again enlisting Norton Dill with Birmingham, Alabama-based Dill Productions to shoot and direct the spots. “Until we started doing the cowboy commercials, Jimmy always had his thumb on the budget,” recalled Dill, who suggested shooting the new ads at Gammons Gulch in Arizona. Located north of Benson, Gammons Gulch is, for all practical purposes, a small western town with numerous historic buildings, not storefronts. The new location gave the commercials an authenticity they wouldn’t otherwise have. But, according to Dill, it was something else that made the location especially appealing. “I think what really cinched the deal were the owners of Gammons Gulch — Jay and Joanne Gammons. Jay is the son of John Gammons, who was John Wayne’s bodyguard, and Jimmy is a huge John Wayne fan.”

The cowboy Slats Slaton created was to be nothing like the Duke or any of the other Western actors that were so popular during the 1950s and ‘60s that Jimmy grew up admiring. “I envisioned the character to have a comedic flavor and put him in a yellow cowboy suit,” Slaton admitted. “We had a guy in Atlanta design the original costume, which was intentionally ridiculous with fancy chaps and all kinds of yellow fringe.”

While Jimmy was “still playing a sort of a goofball” in the initial Western spots, according to Dill, that began to change. According to Slaton, little by little, the comedic lines he’d written for “a cowboy in a yellow cowboy suit” were being delivered by Jimmy Rane in a manner more like the real cowboys from Jimmy’s childhood — more like John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Dale Robertson, and later, Clint Eastwood. The transition was accompanied by slight changes in the Yella Fella costume. Jimmy started adding brown to the outfit. “The more brown he wore, the more like these other actors he became,” Slaton recalled. “He single-handedly changed that character into someone who displayed the values of the Old West. The character went from a funny man to a western hero. The new Yella Fella was to be taken seriously. He was loved by many because he stood for justice and all that was good and true.”

(YellaWood)

The transformation was complete by 2005 when “Someone’s in the Kitchen” aired. Unlike the other Old West commercials, “Someone’s in the Kitchen” was shot in black and white in Abbeville. Rather than fighting bad guys, the Yella Fella appears in a 1950s-era kitchen at breakfast time to counsel a young brother and sister about character, civic duty and other moral obligations.

In addition to altering his character, Jimmy had even bigger changes in mind when it was time to shoot ads for the 2008–2009 season. Instead of making standalone spots, he wanted a continuing series with a cliffhanger at the end of each spot. “The idea of cliffhangers was Jimmy’s,” confirmed Dill. “I think it dated back to his childhood days at the movies when they’d show serials before the main feature. Hopalong Cassidy would be in the middle of some crisis at the end, and you’d have to come back the next week to see if he survived.”

The new spots were again shot out West, this time in Arizona, Utah and Monument Valley, near the Arizona-Utah border. “Monument Valley has special meaning for Jimmy because John Ford shot so many of his movies there. Monument Valley is iconic,” said Dill. “There’s no place like it, and it just says ‘Old West’ because it remains mostly untouched.”

Before shooting began, the Great Southern team stopped in Wyoming, where Jimmy purchased Yella Fella’s horse, Lemon Drop. Funny enough, Lemon Drop’s real name was Duke.

Jimmy’s wife, Angela, who had appeared in three earlier ads, was a reluctant co-star for several 2009 commercials. In the first two, she was an extra, but for the third, she took a more active role, portraying the surprised mother in “Someone’s in the Kitchen.” Angela was pressed into service a fourth time when the actress hired to portray “the lady on the stagecoach” became ill the morning of the shoot. “I told Jimmy, ‘I’ll do the commercial if you promise I will not have to say anything.’ That’s why my character only nods and makes gestures.”

In 2010, commercial production was moved to the Bonanza Creek movie ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Like the old Westerns that inspired them, the cliffhangers celebrated good triumphing over evil and emphasized the values of honesty and integrity. Launched during a period of tough economic times which began in 2007, the campaign was designed to lift the spirits of viewers in addition to promoting the benefits of YellaWood.

“At the time, there was doom and gloom about the economy,” Jimmy noted. “People were just downright depressed. We set out to create something that would be both entertaining and encouraging—and to do something that you don’t often see done with advertising. We wanted to reinforce the values that made America great and the Old West so significant. The Code of the West is all about principles like honesty, service, integrity, patriotism, strong work ethic, loyalty and family.”

Courtesy of YellaStories ,which is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Great Southern Wood, one of Alabama’s legendary business successes.

2 weeks ago

Chairs at closed Alabama beach spell out ‘TRUMP’

(Mark Levin/Facebook)

Alabama’s beaches have all been closed since last Thursday at 5:00 p.m. CT due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While the normal crowds of visitors on Spring Break can no longer be seen across coastal Baldwin County, one spot in Orange Beach was not totally vacant.

As posted on social media by Mark Levin, somebody took advantage of the state-ordered beach closures by assembling a large group of beach chairs to spell out “TRUMP.”

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While it certainly could have been a tourist from outside the Yellowhammer State who took the time to show their support for President Donald J. Trump, it is fitting that the gesture occurred in Alabama, where the president has consistently enjoyed one of his highest — and often the highest — approval ratings nationwide.

RELATED: Trump: ‘Our country wants to go back to work’

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus via the Alabama Department of Health here and find related resources from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) here.

For the latest on general COVID-19 developments, visit the CDC’s website.

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

2 weeks ago

Univ. of Alabama student starts no-fee shopping service for seniors, named ‘Hero of the Day’ by TODAY Show

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

Michael Arundel, a junior at the University of Alabama, has started a no-fee shopping service to help senior citizens amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

TODAY reported that he is offering the service back home in his Chicago neighborhood. Arundel gets food and prescriptions for those most vulnerable to the outbreak.

This led to TODAY recognizing the UA student as its national “Hero of the Day” on Tuesday.

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You can watch the full TODAY Show segment that aired across the country on Tuesday morning here.

NBC Chicago further reported on Arundel’s service and how he was motivated to help others in his free time after the University of Alabama decided to move all classes online for the rest of the semester in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“I think we are all looking for something to do during this time, and I felt this would be the best use of our time,” he told NBC Chicago.

“I think our generation can lead by example, and we’re trying to spark interest in other communities… and I think this is a great way to do it,” Arundel added.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

2 weeks ago

Watch: Birmingham teen Levi Watkins advances to next stage on ‘The Voice’

(Warner Bros. Television/Contributed, YHN)

Fourteen-year-old Birmingham resident Levi Watkins has advanced to the knockout rounds of NBC’s singing competition show “The Voice.”

In the episode broadcast Monday night, Levi faced off in a “battle round” against fellow contestant Jamal Corrie.

The two alternated verses on “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic.

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Watkins did so well that judges Joe Jonas and John Legend lamented not selecting the Alabamian for their teams.

“Levi, wow … I kept waiting for you to mess up,” said Legend before turning to his fellow coaches and exclaiming, “but he didn’t mess up!”

Watkins earned his place on the show one month earlier with his rendition of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister.”

Blake Shelton selected both Watkins and Corrie for his team. As such, it was up to him to select the winner of the “battle round” that the two singers took part in.

“The winner of this battle is Levi,” concluded Shelton.

“There’s a lot about what Levi does that I think we still haven’t heard yet,” added Shelton in a direct address to the camera that appended the competition footage.

“The Voice” airs Monday nights on NBC.

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

How one Alabama-based gym is opening their ‘virtual doors’ during coronavirus pandemic

(Irontribe/Contributed)

As many Alabama businesses close their doors or drastically alter their operations while the state works to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), Iron Tribe Fitness, a gym founded in Birmingham 10 years ago, has decided to take their services completely online during the quarantine.

A release detailed that Iron Tribe coaches are now working around the clock via 24/7 social media access, streaming live workouts, video calls and daily text messages and emails to ensure their members still receive top-notch fitness and nutrition guidance.

Forrest Walden, founder and CEO of Iron Tribe, advised that now more than ever, it is important that members stick with their health and wellness plans.

“We created a private Facebook group for all 5 of our Birmingham locations that has been booming with live workouts, recipes and daily interactions between coaches and clients,” Walden said. “We also created a private membership site where we all of the videos, recipes and workouts live for easy access. Just because we can’t see our gym communities face to face doesn’t mean we can’t still deliver a premier service that allows members to see improvement in their overall health.”

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Walden also took his plan one step further last week and temporarily opened each of his five Birmingham gyms so members could borrow workout equipment of their choice as long as coronavirus quarantine orders stay in place. Rowers, bikes, kettlebells, battle ropes and more have dispersed throughout the city and are now getting good use in local garages, basements and wherever else members can set up a makeshift gym.

“I am amazed at the stuff I’ve seen on this group page,” Stan Felton, a longtime member at the Homewood gym wrote in the Facebook group. “Hats off to every coach from basically every location doing all they can to help everyone at home like they should be. This is why we value this community so much.”

Amid rising fear and uncertainty, Walden added that establishing a consistent at-home workout regimen can produce considerable benefits. For those looking to stick to a daily routine and maintain — or improve — their current fitness level, Walden listed the following top recommendations:

  • Wake up at your usual time each day and try to workout when you normally would. This helps create a sense of normalcy and consistency.
  • Challenge yourself by using household items to add weight to your workouts. (Here’s a blog post that lists out common household goods that can be used as workout weights).
  • Find an accountability partner that will encourage you to complete your workouts each day. Call, text or communicate through social media to check in on each other.
  • Consider downloading a mobile app like MyFitnessPal to track your daily caloric intake.

As a way to open up all of their fitness resources, Iron Tribe created a Facebook group that anyone — even non-members — can join. There, Walden outlined, group members will get exclusive access to workouts, nutritional guidance, daily accountability and more.

“We’re so excited to roll this out and serve more people in the Birmingham area and beyond,” he concluded. “Though these are strange times, I’m confident we can make a positive impact on others through health and wellness. Our mission is ‘To Create Fitness Communities That Change Lives,’ and nothing — not even Coronavirus — will stop that.”

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

2 weeks ago

Birmingham-area food businesses adjust for coronavirus

(Alabama News Center)

Eateries and producers are making changes to serve customers and keep their doors open; you can help, too.

Social distancing has changed our food-centric state in ways we never imagined. Curbside service has become the new normal for many eateries. Others are relying heavily on delivery services. Still others are altering their business models in more significant ways.

While lives depend on safe interactions, livelihoods depend on businesses remaining in business. Here are some of the ways Alabama food- and drink-related establishments are addressing the coronavirus crisis.

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Fresh veggies with your poppyseed chicken casserole

The dining rooms at all four Ashley Mac’s Birmingham-area stores are closed, but Ashley McMakin, who owns the company with her husband, Andy, is still making homestyle casseroles and salads for pick-up and limited delivery.

Now, the Ashley Mac’s team is offering something else.

“We were just trying to think of some things we could do for the community,” McMakin says, “and one thing we can get — that a lot of people cannot get at the grocery store — is produce.” So, they are packing boxes full of fresh fruits and vegetables. For $30, you can get a box of produce ranging from romaine, onions, broccoli and tomatoes to strawberries, cantaloupe and pineapple.

McMakin says they will offer the produce boxes, which will vary according to what’s available and fresh, as long as there’s a demand and they can get enough produce in. Meanwhile, a lot of what happens here is (almost) business as usual.

“Thank goodness, our business model didn’t have to change,” McMakin says. “Having a prepackaged product has saved us.” Ashley Mac’s has long been known for its Gourmet-to-Go entrees, sides, salads and desserts — some of them frozen, some fresh.

All this is available for careful walk-in pick-up (for the moment). Or you can call ahead or order online, and they will bring your items to your car. Home delivery is a new option. For a minimum $100 order, they will deliver within the Birmingham metro area.

“Our customers have been amazing,” McMakin says. “We always have had very good customers, but everyone has been extra gracious and patient. They are grateful to have what they can. … And in this time — who knows how long it will go on — having some sense of normalcy for people is comforting for them. Having something at home, something as simple as their favorite chicken salad, is comforting for them.

“I believe they are grateful to us for adapting to the times and being willing to develop new systems on the fly. We literally said, ‘We’re going to do deliveries tomorrow.’ Then we started delivering.”

These changes have allowed McMakin and her husband to keep some of their employees working.

“We’ve always been an employee-centric company, and we care for our employees a lot more than the bottom line,” she says. “My husband and I are not taking a salary right now and trying to keep as many people on board for as long as we can.”

McMakin says she’s thankful for her customers who are making this possible. “I’m grateful for their kindness and the grace they’ve shown to us and for being patient with us as we are adapting to things along with them. We’re really grateful for every person who chooses to support local and who is going out of their way to come here. Please support us for as long as you can.”

Be sure to check Ashley Mac’s social media outlets for availability of items and produce boxes. Call 205-822-4142 for free pickup or 205-968-4126 for delivery with a $100 order.

Become a co-founder, and keep a business going

Panache, Domestique Coffee’s charming little coffee shop down an alley off 20th Street in Five Points South, is closed for now. So is Domestique Coffee Café inside Saturn in Avondale, but the Birmingham-based, small-batch coffee importer and roaster that specializes in single-origin coffee beans is banking on a brighter future.

Domestique is a multifaceted business that buys coffee from specialty growers all over the world, including Haiti, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Mexico and elsewhere, so it’s not just local employees who count on this company.

So, CEO Nathan Pocus, who co-founded Domestique with his brother, Michael, says the company is inviting its customers to become co-founders, too.

They are offering a Founder’s Card for $100. Sales of the cards will help the business now and allow buyers to enjoy benefits later, including a free batch brew for a month when Domestique reopens (a $90 value), 10% off all purchases for life, free digital products for life, early access notifications for all special events, monthly discount codes to use on the company’s online platform, a ticket to the fun Founder’s Day party and more. Go to www.domestique.com to learn more.

Domestique Coffee is in area Piggly Wiggly stores as well as in Whole Foods locations throughout Alabama. But the wholesale business to restaurants across the state and the company’s own two retail outlets account for more than half its revenue.

Proceeds from the cards will also help the company’s 12 retail employees who have been laid off. “We’ve been trying to provide for them in some ways,” Pocus says. “The plan is to provide a grocery stipend for them going forward.”

The money raised by the Founder’s Cards will also help employ these people again sooner rather than later. Many of them, Pocus points out, are photographers as well as baristas. Their skills can be used for the company’s digital platform.

Domestique began in 2014 with the brothers roasting coffee on a popcorn popper in a shed in Irondale, but the company has always been technologically savvy. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, they were ready to roll out a text-to-order app. The plan is to continue with that and make it available to their partners like Corey Hinkle, who provides breads and pastries for Domestique’s retail stores as well as other restaurants.

“As a business owner but also as a person who lives in the community, I’m torn,” Pocus says. “We want to keep everyone safe by isolating themselves and not spreading this virus. That really means total isolation for two weeks. That’s a tough ask on most people’s lives. But I think it’s necessary. Once that happens and we flatten the curve, we can get back to normal operations … and get people back to work.”

In the meantime, he says, “Order coffee online, and we’ll deliver it as long as we’re able to keep roasting.”

Then, when the world gets back to normal, you’ll want to visit Panache for a beautiful Golden Milk Latte made with ginger, black pepper and immune-boosting turmeric. It will be a welcome celebration of business as usual.

Sweet treats for sheltering in place

Big Spoon Creamery, the Birmingham-based small-batch, artisanal ice cream maker, has closed both its stores for now. But its handmade frozen treats (pint packs and sammie packs) are available for 24-hour delivery in the Birmingham area.

Ryan O’Hara, who owns Big Spoon with his wife, Geri-Martha, says everything is done online, and “it’s a great way for us to try to keep going and a great way to promote social distancing. People don’t have to leave their homes.”

He says the response has been great.

“It’s not like having our stores open, but it has been really positive. It’s a combination of a few things: (a) people just like our ice cream and want to have our ice cream, and (b) people in the community realize how difficult this is for businesses like ours, and they just want to support us.”

So every day, they deliver as much ice cream as they can. “We didn’t think there would be such a huge response,” O’Hara says. “We’ve only been doing it for three days now, but we’ve had to cut off deliveries for the day when we reach our capacity. … We’re going ‘round the clock. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We’re trying to do what we can to stay afloat.”

This home delivery allows Ryan and Geri-Martha to keep employing most of their full-time staff. Many of the part-time employees were college students who have since gone home. “We are prioritizing taking care of our people who rely on this job to support themselves,” he says.

“For Geri-Martha and I, we’ve always wanted to be a part of people’s lives — whatever that looks like. That really hasn’t changed. We’re all going through a hard time right now. Nobody’s missing this. Getting to still be a part of their lives, that’s great for us. The response has been really cool to see. We appreciate how many people support us.”

But he’s all too aware of the perils restaurant owners face.

“We want people to know that, like most in this industry, we’re in the fight of our lives right now,” he says. “We’re doing all we can. Most of it is out of our control. It’s a scary time. Most people understand that. That’s why there’s so much support for businesses like ours. The reality is, if this situation sustains, people are going to lose their businesses. We — and every other business like ours — are fighting for our lives right now.”

To place your order, visit https://www.bigspooncreamery.com/shop.

Restaurant and grocery

Little Savannah Restaurant & Bar is a fine-dining establishment, although Chef Clif Holt likes to say when you’re there, you’re simply “dining fine.” His customers are still dining in fine style, but they’re doing it at home with takeaway dinners for two and four. And Holt has figured out another way to help his historic Forest Park neighborhood where he has operated his restaurant for 16 years: He’s opening a neighborhood grocery.

Holt says he was at a grocery store last week and was shocked by the unbelievably bare shelves, “a line of nothingness.” So, he came up with a way to offset some of those shortages by partnering with Sysco, which sells to restaurants and has seen those sales plummet as restaurants close or cut back on orders. “They have a warehouse full of product, and a lot of it is fresh, short-shelf-life product,” Holt says. “Seeing as how there was a shortage in some of the stores, we decided to get together.”

The grocery will stock raw protein by the pound (ground beef, rib eyes, chicken and fresh Gulf shrimp and snapper); dairy and French baguettes; fresh produce (oranges, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and apples); and even toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water and boxes of latex gloves.

All the necessities for right now. All at fair market prices.

“We’re not going to get rich off it,” he says of the grocery. “But it’s a service we can provide at a reasonable cost and keep our flow going.”

That flow involves his employees, whom he’s trying to keep at work, fish purveyors, truck drivers and even the folks who pick up the garbage. “People don’t think about that,” he says. “We have a shortage of thought sometimes about how these things are going to go. For me, the main thing I’m trying to figure out is how we can retain as much normalcy as possible.”

Normalcy currently means dinners for two or family dinners for four with the kinds of foods Holt’s customers have come to expect from Little Savannah. Things like hand-rolled pasta Bolognese or beef Bourguignon with herbed rice, Caesar salads and homemade focaccia.

He does more, as he can.

Holt was standing outside the restaurant when he saw a couple from the neighborhood out for a walk. “You hungry?” he asked. “Of course,” they answered. “Go on your walk,” he told them. “Your dinner will be ready when you get back.” And he got to work preparing a to-go meal of fresh Gulf flounder with snap peas, potatoes and tomatoes.

“The response, the feedback,” he says, “has been really positive. People are thankful we’re doing what we’re doing. In this neighborhood, you have a community. Forest Park has always found a way to bind and make things happen. I’m just really impressed with the community at large — and by that, I mean the larger Birmingham community — and how they have been supportive. People in Birmingham really rally around their restaurants. It’s just overwhelming. I’m just continually blessed and fortunate to have the community we have behind us.

“I’m driving home at night and my daughter’s next to me, and I’m wondering how can I make it so she doesn’t know all of what’s going on? How can I lessen the impact for others? If someone asks for something, I’ll try my best to do it. As long as I can keep this going, I will,” he says.

“The reality is, you have no control over this. No one does. So stop trying to control it. Get some takeout. Check on your elderly neighbors,” he says. “This is not the worst thing we’ve faced that put us in an awkward position or affected us financially, and we’re still here.

“We’ll be able to hug people here again pretty soon.”

You can check Facebook for the daily meal specials and follow Little Savannah on Instagram for more information. Orders must be placed by 4 p.m. for pick-up or delivery the next day. Curbside pick-up hours are 4-6 p.m., and there is a $5 delivery fee. Call or text 205-616-0995 or go to info@littlesavannah.com to place your order.

Neighbors serving neighbors

Kay Bruno Reed, owner of Everything IZ, which includes IZ Weddings & Events and IZ Café, is one of the state’s busiest caterers, easily handling parties for hundreds and even thousands. On a smaller, more local level, she has been part of the Rocky Ridge neighborhood of Vestavia Hills for more than 20 years. Now, with weddings and large events canceled, she’s working to feed her neighbors — one family at a time.

She says, “Our staff has been working nonstop to keep our freezer stocked for our customers. We have been offering curbside pick-up for years but are now offering free delivery.”

She’s also stocking basic staple items like milk, bread and eggs. Reed says the response has been amazing. “Customers are thanking us for being open and feeding them.”

All of the company’s full-time employees who want to be there continue to work there. Those who have chosen to self-quarantine, she says, are taking a portion of their paid time off.

Reed approaches her work amid the COVID-19 pandemic in a positive way.

“My hope, first of all, is that it is over soon and with very few deaths.” She also says she hopes “parents will take this time to teach their children basic domestic skills while they are studying at home.

“My prayer is that this will bring our nation together for the good of all.”

(Courtesy Alabama News Center)

3 weeks ago

Alabama teachers create thoughtful gift for children stuck at home during COVID-19 isolation

(Kelli McCullough/Alabama Power)

Some school teachers in Alabama have found a creative way to encourage their students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers at Cherokee Bend Elementary School in Mountain Brook are creating and sharing a video of a teacher reading a story. Tuesday’s video featured Ms. Vansant reading “The Wonky Donky.”

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Past and future videos can be viewed at chiefpto.com/news-1, the news section of the school’s PTO website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)