The Wire

  • Poarch Creek Indians’ Robbie McGhee: We don’t mind supporting a lottery ‘if it is something good for the state of Alabama’


    The possibility of a lottery in Alabama’s future is something that has been put forth by both gubernatorial candidates, incumbent Republican Gov. Kay Ivey and Democratic nominee Tuscaloosa Walt Maddox in recent weeks. In an interview that aired on Huntsville’s WHNT on Friday, State House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) has gone as far as predicting the legislature would take up lottery bill during the 2019 session.

    Given that, it is looking more likely voters may have an opportunity to vote up or down on a lottery for Alabama. One place that it appears less likely a lottery would run into opposition is from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI), which operate three casinos in Alabama.

    In an interview that aired on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” on Friday, PCI’s governmental relations advisor Robbie McGhee indicated his tribe would not oppose a lottery given this renewed interest in it.

    “It is something we have spoken to in the past that the Poarch Band of Creek Indians doesn’t have a problem with the lottery,” McGhee said.

  • Anniston Star chair, publisher Josephine Ayers gave 4 times to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during 2018 cycle


    A reoccurring theme within Anniston Star editorials and from its editorial staff on social media as of late has been to protest Rep. Mike Rogers’ (R-Saks) unwillingness to sit down with the paper’s editorial board.

    Phillip Tutor, the commentary editor of the Star, has argued for Rogers to come to the editorial board and “to talk with him and hear his views on important things.”

    According to Rogers, he has declined those invitations because of what he indicated was coming to a hostile atmosphere where there was little to gain.

  • Krispy Kreme offering coffee-glazed doughnuts this week only: Here’s where you can get them in Alabama


    Krispy Kreme will offer their new “Coffee Glazed” doughnut and “Original Glazed” flavored coffee starting Monday, and 13 Alabama locations will participate.

    While the new coffee will become a permanent fixture on the menu, the coffee-glazed doughnuts will only be available through Sunday.

    In addition to enjoying both new products throughout the week, Alabamians can grab a free Krispy Kreme coffee, of any size, on National Coffee Day – Saturday, September 29 – at participating locations, with no purchase necessary. Krispy Kreme Rewards members receive the extra perk of a free doughnut with their coffee on that day.

    Here are the participating locations:

2 months ago

Fair winds and following seas: Alabama woman embarks on sailing adventure from Germany to Gulf Shores

(M. Segrest)

Michelle Segrest is thinking a lot about trash these days.

“Trash and water,” she says. “Those have both been on my mind lately.”

And not in a save-the-environment and conserve-our-natural-resources kind of way. Segrest is all for that, but right now she’s talking about plain ol’, everyday trash and water – where to throw it away and how to drink it and bathe in it.

Segrest and her boyfriend/traveling companion, Maik Ulmschneider, have just a few days to figure it all out. That’s when they set sail from Ulmschneider’s home in northern Germany to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where Segrest, a Decatur native and former Birmingham resident, lives now.


It will be a 6,000-nautical-mile journey on the 43-foot Seefalke. The duo will hit at least 12 countries and eight bodies of water, including a 20 to 40 day trek across the Atlantic.

During that leg of the trip, fresh water will be limited, and trash … well, that’s still up in the air.

“We can’t carry huge garbage bags full of trash, because there’s just not room,” Segrest says. “We’re still trying to figure that one out.”

In the grand scheme of things, that’s a minor detail for Segrest and Ulmschneider, who will chronicle their six to eight month journey via their websiteFacebookYouTubeTwitter and Instagram. They’ve branded themselves as “Sailors & Seadogs.” Segrest and Ulmschneider are the sailors, and their beagles, Capt’n Jack Sparrow and Scout, will be along for the ride.

The voyage was set in motion five years ago, when Segrest, an Auburn University journalism graduate who was then editor of a pumps and systems magazine, met Ulmschneider, a pump engineer.

“I met him while working on an article in Germany,” Segrest says. “We became friends first, and more developed later. He loved to sail and wanted to take me sailing.”

Ulmschneider comes by his boating skills honestly, learning to sail more than 20 years ago in the German Navy. Segrest loves the water and grew up fishing with her father, but it wasn’t until she met Ulmschneider that she really learned to sail.

“He wanted to take me sailing because that was his passion, so my first big sailing experience was on the Baltic Sea,” she says. “This is not bikini-and-martini sailing. This is heavy wind, rough conditions, high waves, and it’s super, super cold.”

And Segrest loved it.

During the next few years, she started her own company, Navigate Content, moved down to Gulf Shores and bought her own boat, a 15-foot catboat she named Protagonist.

“I love the physical labor of sailing, and I love the art of sailing,” Segrest says. “You’re working in the conditions and the wind, and you’re not in control. You’re really just responding to the elements around you. There’s something really cool and adventurous about this. Some people just hate it – it’s too slow, or too hard, or they get sick. Or it just really becomes a part of you. You connect with the sea and the art, and you want more. And that’s me. I just fell in love with it.”

“I think lessons learned at sea are lessons learned for life,” Ulmschneider says.

“The boat is seaworthy, and the crew is fit,” he says. “We are equipped for the worst but hope for the best, so there are no particular worries or concerns. … If there is any concern it probably is how we are going to cope with our regular jobs while at sea. But I am sure we will figure that out, as well.”

The goal has always been to get the Seefalke – which is painted bright orange, a nice coincidence for the Auburn graduate – to Alabama.

“We have some ideas of some ways to use it as a business in Gulf Shores,” Segrest says. “We want it here also because we want to sail some waters that aren’t in Northern Europe.”

“There’s only so much space on the boat, and you need to use every square inch,” Segrest says. “There’s a great quote: ‘I never realized how little I needed until I went out to sea.’”

And with luck, she might just find out how to handle bags of trash.

Details on the couple’s trip can be found here and those who want to “join the crew” and follow the trip in real-time via GPS can go to the couple’s Patreon account.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

Early snapper closure due to more anglers, bigger fish

(David Rainer)

Honestly, I’m not surprised that Alabama saltwater anglers caught so many red snapper in six-plus weeks that the private recreational season had to close earlier than planned.

Thankfully, the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR), with its Red Snapper Jackpot, managed to squeeze in its final day of competition before the season ended Sunday, July 22. The season for the charter-for-hire boats fishing the rodeo ended at midnight on July 21.

The unbridled enthusiasm anglers exhibited for snapper fishing this year surpassed anything I’ve witnessed in my 26 years of covering the outdoors in Alabama.


Alabama Marine Resources Director Scott Bannon said the angler effort surprised everyone.

“On the weekend of June 9, there were more people snapper fishing than I have seen in my 21 years with Marine Resources, including on rodeo weekend,” he said. “The effort was tremendous. Our Chief of Enforcement, Jason Downey, was on patrol, and he said there were 200 boats surrounding him on the Bridge Rubble.

“The number of people who went fishing this year has been phenomenal. And it’s good that people had the opportunity to fish.”

The motivation to catch snapper likely came from the dire situation that snapper anglers faced in the spring. Without some kind of relief from NOAA Fisheries, the possibility of even a short snapper season looked grim.

Instead, the five Gulf states came together to request an exempted fishing permit (EFP) that would allow each state to set its season under an approved system that allowed each state to catch a certain quota of snapper.

The Alabama Marine Resources Division’s mandatory Red Snapper Reporting System, better known as Snapper Check, allows Marine Resources officials to monitor the harvest on a near real-time basis, one of the reasons NOAA Fisheries approved the EFP for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Marine Resources based its proposed 47-day season on the data gathered from last year’s snapper season. That data included daily catch rate, size of the fish and the amount of angler effort (man-days fishing for snapper).

When the 2018 season was set, Bannon repeatedly used the word “potential” when discussing the length of the season. It could be longer or shorter, depending on the daily catch rate and weather.

The weather turned out to be a factor, but not because it was bad. It was so good that anglers only had a couple of days with rough seas during the 28 days of the private recreational season.

“Without the EFP, there may not have been a federal fishing season,” Bannon said. “The individual state seasons could have consumed all of the total allowable catch.”

Based on the 2017 daily harvest rate of red snapper, Bannon said Marine Resources considered a 50-day season, but reduced it to 47 days because they anticipated a “little bit” of increased effort to catch Alabama’s quota of 984,291 pounds of red snapper.

Bannon said when the snapper harvest numbers for June were published, he knew the season would have to be closed before Labor Day.

With the unparalleled artificial reef habitat off the Alabama coast and good weather, anglers of all skill levels were able to enjoy great snapper fishing. Huge red snapper were posted on social media every day during the season.

Last year, the data indicated an average of 1,770 anglers fished for snapper per day. In 2018, preliminary data showed that the average anglers per day was much higher than in 2017. The increased number of anglers, along with an increase in size of the fish being landed, resulted in higher daily landings for the 2018 season.

“We don’t like working with pounds,” Bannon said. “We’ve seen with the evolution of the snapper seasons that with larger fish you obviously reach the total allowable catch quicker. The product of our management efforts in the Alabama reef zone is the increased abundance and size of fish being caught.”

Bannon said the downside of the 2018 season is anglers have not fully embraced the benefits of reporting their catches through Snapper Check. He said the 2018 reporting rate is between 35 and 36 percent, up from last year’s 30 percent, but still disappointingly low.

“I still feel that people don’t fully understand how much better data we could get if we have a higher compliance rate with Snapper Check,” he said. “Real numbers make a difference in the landings estimate. With the state programs, we can maintain greater awareness on the fishing effort and landings allowing us to maximize the days of fishing.”

“The purpose of the EFP is to show that states can manage their fishery to a quota, and that we would manage it effectively to prevent overfishing and set seasons that work for our anglers and are guaranteed a certain amount of fish. If you just open a federal season, it’s a free-for-all across the Gulf. If the weather was bad in our part of the Gulf we lose those days while others are fishing.”

The weather was so good that one charter-for-hire captain told Bannon that he had never been able to fish the entire month of June before this year.

“The positives we see are, one, we had an allocation higher than what we caught last year.  And, two, we saw an increase in the number of people who were able to fish,” Bannon said. “We opened for a season we thought would benefit the largest number of people, and the data shows a lot of people went fishing.”

Dr. Sean Powers, head of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama and one of the ADSFR judges last weekend, said the good news is the red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico continues to get better.

“About five years ago, the Gulf Council removed the overfishing (catch rate too high) status from red snapper,” Powers said. “Just recently, the Council removed the overfished status. Based on the numbers in the stock we are not in an overfished status, meaning the biomass is no longer below the threshold we think jeopardizes the stock. Although we want to rebuild the stocks a little further, it is no longer overfished.

“That means the seasons and bag limits will stay relatively constant for a while. The (computer) models show an increase in the number of fish over the next couple of years. The stock is very healthy right now, especially off Alabama. Every year we seem to get good recruitment (juvenile fish entering the fishery), and those recruits have that artificial reef habitat. Plus, there is a lot of natural habitat in the deeper water that acts as a reserve, because people don’t have to go that far to catch their limit of snapper.”

Bannon said if the red snapper fishery continues to be managed by the states it will reduce the chances that overfishing will become a problem again.

“The takeaway is we had 28 days of incredible red snapper fishing that a tremendous number of people took advantage of,” Bannon said. “And we have shown that the states can responsibly manage the red snapper fishery.  The sustainable management of this red snapper season will go a long way to ensuring continued and expanded state control of this fishery.

“But folks need to know there are a lot of other fish in the Gulf to catch now that red snapper season is closed. You can catch beeliners (vermilion snapper), king mackerel and Spanish mackerel, and the triggerfish and amberjack seasons open back up the first of August.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

3 months ago

Bill ‘Bubba’ Bussey receives heart stent, shares special moment with Alabama nurse


Bill “Bubba” Bussey, beloved radio co-host of the Birmingham-based and wildly popular “Rick and Bubba Show,” said his Friday morning procedure went well and was all smiles in an Instagram photo he shared after a successful heart stent placement.

“We are out! All good, now just a lot of recover time and being very very still. Your prayers have been heard and felt!!!” he wrote on Instagram.

Bussey, in his early 50s, was on his feet Friday, writing on Instagram that “Bubba seems to be feeling better,” sharing a playful moment with an “unnamed nurse” he helped with her “volley.”


Early this morning, Bussey said in an Instagram post with the St. Vincent’s East location stamp that he shared a special moment with a retiring nurse:

“So many people to thank for the great care I got this weekend… but this lady ‘Miss Sandra’ was retiring after 30 plus years of nursing. I was her last patient, of her last shift!! She checked my pulse on the way out the door! Happy retirement Sandra! Thanks for letting me be a part of this special moment.”

From all of us at Yellowhammer News, get well soon, Bubba!

3 months ago

In new book, Alabama’s Victoria Hallman reminisces about time as Hee Haw Honey

(Photo Courtesy Victoria Hallman)

Victoria Hallman and Diana Goodman were in attorney Bruce Phillips’ office one day reminiscing – Goodman about her time dating Elvis Presley, Hallman about her relationship with Buck Owens, both about their time as Hee Haw Honeys on the long-running television variety show “Hee Haw.”

“We sat in his office and talked it up and started telling stories,” recalls Hallman, an Alabama native and longtime fixture on the Birmingham music scene before she headed to Hollywood. “Bruce said, ‘You two sound just like this show my wife watches, “Sex and the City,” except yours is true.’ We thought about it and decided we should write a book.”


That was 2010, and this week, “Hollywood Lights, Nashville Nights: Two Hee Haw Honeys Dish Life, Love, Elvis, Buck & Good Times in the Kornfield” was published.

The book includes both women’s stories, both written by Hallman, who has done freelance writing for Flower magazine and her own blog.

“I wrote as Diana, and I wrote as Victoria,” Hallman says. “I called her every Monday night, and we did about an hour’s worth of conversation each time. The next day, I would sit down and write as Diana, using her words as much as possible.”

It’s almost two books in one, with sections labeled “Diana” and “Victoria.”

“I told Diana her life is so interesting, many of the Elvis fans will probably just skip over my part and go to her part, and my fans may skip to my parts,” Hallman says. “It was purposefully written to be like that.”

Hallman’s early years in Birmingham included stints with bands like the Ramblers, Bob Cain the Cain Breakers and the Bachelors. She was a big draw during the 1970s at the popular Bachelor’s Showboat on Morris Avenue in downtown Birmingham.

Eventually, Hallman went to Hollywood to work with Bob Hope, whom she met when she was an opening act for him at a Homecoming performance at the University of Alabama.

Hallman’s section of the new book begins with her meeting Owens, one of country’s biggest stars, while she was performing with Hope. She began performing on the road with Owens and his Buckaroos, and a relationship developed.

“There’s just a magic about creating music that’s … very intimate,” Hallman says of the romantic relationship developing. “There’s a creative process that ‘s very sexy. We were together for awhile. It wasn’t a secret.”

In 1979, Hallman joined the cast of “Hee Haw,” the TV series Owens had hosted for a decade with Roy Clark. The show featured some of country’s biggest stars performing their music, as well as comedy segments with the cast, including Minnie Pearl and young women known as the Hee Haw Honeys. Many of the comedy bits took place in the “Kornfield.”

The Hee Haw Honeys included Hallman, Goodman, Linda Thompson (who would marry Bruce Jenner), Gunilla Hutton, Barbi Benton, Misty Rowe and Lulu Roman, among others.

Hallman has fond memories of her time on “Hee Haw,” which lasted until 1990. In the book, she talks about working with guest stars such as Ed McMahon, Kathy Mattea, Naomi Judd, Ray Charles and others. In addition, she talks about the camaraderie among the Hee Haw Honeys.

“We’re still great pals,” she says. “Misty Rowe and Lulu and I and Barbie sometimes have been performing in a Hee Haw Honey reunion stage show. We stay in constant contact. We were members of a sisterhood that has stayed intact all these years.”

Although there was a downside to her long run as a Hee Haw Honey, Hallman wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“’Hee Haw Honey’ kind of eclipsed everything else, and it was hard to be taken as a serious actress or singer, but it was apparently the way my career was supposed to happen,” she says. “George Lindsey would tell you that happened with him and Goober, but he finally came to terms with it, and so have I. It’s great. I have to be glad of it.”

“Hollywood Lights, Nashville Nights,” which is available on Amazon, details Hallman’s first marriage to (and divorce from) Jim Halper. She has been married to Franklin Traver for 25 years, and they live in Nashville.

Hallman still has family in Alabama and has returned to Birmingham to perform from time to time, including at the final City Stages music festival and, in 2012, when she was inducted into the Birmingham Record Collectors Hall of Fame.

“No town has ever held my heart like Birmingham,” she says. “Any success I’ve had is because of Birmingham. The more I’m in Birmingham, the happier I am.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Bilateral lung transplant gives Montgomery teen chance to graduate, better future


Quintarius Daniels has had a hard road to travel in his 17 years of life, but thanks to University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine surgeons, he now has a bright and less complicated future ahead.

On Oct. 17, 2017, Daniels, a Montgomery, Alabama, native, had a bilateral lung transplant at UAB Hospital after years of battling pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that had ravaged his lungs and compromised their function. On May 18, Daniels walked across the stage at Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School, having earned his high school diploma – not to mention ditching his oxygen tank and being crowned prom king in the past seven months.


“I’m so excited to be where I am today,” Daniels said. “Before I had my transplant, things were hard, because I couldn’t do things other kids could do.”

Daniels was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis as a child. Pulmonary fibrosis is a scarring of the lung tissue that causes permanent damage to the lungs. As the scar tissue builds up and thickens, it prevents the lungs from transferring oxygen to the blood supply and diminishes the supply of healthy, oxygen-infused blood to the heart, brain and other organs.

The reduced lung function makes it increasingly hard to breathe. While the condition may develop slowly over time, many patients diagnosed die within the first three to four years following diagnosis. There is no cure for pulmonary fibrosis, but certain medicines and therapies can help manage the disease.

Lashunda Harris, Daniels’ mom, noticed he was very sick one morning when he was about 2 years old. She quickly rushed him to the hospital, and he was later transferred to Children’s of Alabama, where he was diagnosed. For the past 15 years, Daniels has lived with an oxygen tank, which can hinder a child looking for a normal life.

“He was very limited as a child,” Harris said. “It was hard for him during P.E. at school to be able to do things every other kid could.”

In October 2017, Harris arrived at Brewbaker Tech to pick up Daniels from school. When she arrived, the school nurse brought him to the car in a wheelchair, which was unusual.

“The nurse said he wasn’t feeling good and his chest was hurting,” she said. “We went straight to Children’s.”

After a week’s stay at Children’s, Daniels was transferred to the cardiac intensive care unit at UAB Hospital. It was there they met Charles W. Hoopes, M.D., director of Lung Transplantation in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, who told them that Daniels had been placed on the waiting list to receive a lung transplant.

After more than a week on a temporary mechanical support system to help his other organs rest and recover, and five days of being on the list, Daniels received a double lung, or bilateral, transplant.

“Dr. Hoopes is a wonderful person,” Harris said. “He’s like another parent.”

Daniels says he was excited – and maybe a little scared – for the transplant, but he knew that it would mean things might start to be a little easier for him.

“I was excited and scared because I didn’t know how it would feel to have a new set of lungs,” Daniels said.

After the transplant, Harris says, Daniels is much more of a free spirit. This spring, he was able to run for the first time and often races with his sister. Daniels was also crowned his high school’s prom king, and he’s been able to enjoy time with his friends without having to worry about an oxygen tank.

“I’m very happy that I can live a more normal life as a teenager,” he said. “After the transplant, I’m now able to do more.”

Daniels was thrilled to walk across the stage without the cumbersome oxygen tank to receive his high school diploma. He plans to enroll with the University of Phoenixand later become a video game designer.

“I’ve cried a lot since this transplant,” Harris said. “They’ve been happy tears. We still have a long way to go, but I am so happy he made it through.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Ray Perkins returns to Tuscaloosa but it’s his daughter working for Nick Saban

(Paul W. Bryant Museum)

Ray Perkins, who caught touchdown passes from Steve Sloan, Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler, is back in Tuscaloosa where his daughter now works for Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

The man who once said he would “walk to Tuscaloosa” to follow Paul “Bear” Bryant as coach of the Crimson Tide told Alabama NewsCenter he has bought a house and moved in.


Rachel Perkins, who studies at the university on a Bear Bryant scholarship, helps Saban in football as a recruiting student assistant.

Perkins had nice things to say about scholarships that Bryant set up for former players and their sons and daughters.

“Coach Bryant had already made a list of people from Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama and asked them to start raising money to pay for scholarships to the sons and daughters of his players,” Perkins said. “Now who else would have thought to do that?”

Alabama won two national championships and three SEC championships when Perkins played in 1964, ‘65 and ‘66. Freshman were not eligible to play on the varsity then.

Perkins was coach of the NFL’s New York Giants when he left to coach the Crimson Tide.

What does the man who played for and succeeded arguably the best coach of all time think about the coach many believe has surpassed the legend?

“I think he takes advantage of every little thing,” Perkins said of Saban.

“Here’s where I’m coming from: I’ve always been of the opinion that my job as a coach was to help the guys who play the game.”

Perkins, now 76 years old, said he enjoyed his years in football, playing and coaching the game.

He was a team captain and an All-American in 1966 and a draft choice of the Baltimore Colts, where he joined another outstanding quarterback in Johnny Unitas.

Perkins caught a 68-yard touchdown from “Johnny U” in the 1970 American Football Conference championship game as the Colts beat the Oakland Raiders to earn a berth in the Super Bowl.

Perkins had quite a career in the NFL as coach of the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, Raidersand Chargers.

He grew up in Petal, Mississippi, and most recently was head football coach at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi.

Now that he is back in Alabama, Perkins has a house in the town where he is remembered for national championships, touchdown passes and his days playing for the Bear.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 months ago

Birmingham’s top 4 best chicken salad spots (plus a recipe!)

(Julie Tucker/Birmingham Mom's Blog)

My love affair with chicken salad began my freshman year at the University of Alabama. Anyone remember the chicken salad at the (now-closed) Crimson Cafe on the strip??

{A moment of silence, please, as we mourn the loss of their perfectly-proportioned, not-to-mayonnaise-y chicken concoction filled with crisp Granny Smith apple chunks and walnuts. The consummate mixture of flavors and textures. Sigh…}

I know some prefer plain, “vanilla” chicken salad — the kind without all the fun mix-ins. Not me. The more chunks, the better. This brings me to the first of my Birmingham recommendations.

Chicken Salad Chick


Originally started in Auburn, Alabama, franchises are popping up all over the Southeast, including four Birmingham-area locations (Homewood, Southside, Riverchase, and Lee Branch). There’s bound to be one convenient to your office or home.

What I love about Chicken Salad Chick is the variety of chicken salads: their menu offers twelve — you read that right, TWELVE — variations on this Southern staple. They offer everything from savory (think mix-ins such as onions, bacon, basil) to fruity (cranberries, grapes, apples, pineapples) to spicy (Sriracha, jalapeños, buffalo sauce).

Not in the mood for any fun mix-ins? The Classic Carol (simply chicken, mayo, celery and seasoning) is always a winner. My personal favorite, which just happens to share the name with my daughter’s favorite story-book character, is the Fancy Nancy. The Fancy Nancy has crunchy pecans, grapes and apples. Order it with or without bread or crackers, and voila — an easy gluten-free meal option!

Ashley Mac’s

If you’ve ever been to Ashley Mac’s, you know what I’m talking about. We first fell in love with her food, but then we fell in love with her heart and mission. As if we couldn’t love this restaurant more than we already do, Ashley Mac’s is always supporting local schools, fundraisers, and events.

With three Birmingham-area locations (Cahaba Heights, Inverness, and Riverchase), Ashley Mac’s offers a menu full of delicious options (don’t get me started on the melt-in-your mouth sour cream biscuits, strawberry cake, or the poppyseed chicken casserole), and their chicken salad is one of the best. It’s simple, yet hearty. It’s nut-free for all those who don’t care for a nutty chicken salad: it features celery, spices, and grapes. Order a heaping scoop atop a crisp green salad or enjoy it on a buttery croissant roll.


No Birmingham-area chicken salad blog post would be complete without mentioning O’Carr’sam I right?! O’Carr’s has two Birmingham locations (Homewood and Downtown) and is the gold-standard of everything chicken salad.

Their chicken is finely chopped (I’m assuming in a food processor) with just the right amount of mayonnaise, pecans and sweetness. I always order my chicken salad with their fabulous “eat by color” fruit salad side. I always admire the placement of the rainbow assortment of fresh fruit and the crackers so artfully wedged into the chicken salad scoop — it’s almost too pretty to eat! Almost.

Homewood Gourmet

If you’ve never been to Homewood Gourmet in Homewood (in the TCBY shopping center), stop what you are doing right now and GO!

The owners used to work for Emeril Lagasse in New Orleans and came to Birmingham after Hurricane Katrina. Everything on their menu is absolutely superb (do NOT miss their signature Baby Bleu Salad), and their chicken salad is my husband’s and my go-to favorite. One bite, and you’ll realize their chicken salad is as fresh as it gets — it tastes made-to-order— the celery is incredibly crisp and it has the perfect chicken-to-mayonnaise ratio.

A Twist on a Classic

In closing, Birmingham has amazing choices for all things chicken salad.  I’ll leave you with one of my favorite comfort food casseroles my mom used to make for us growing up. Enjoy!

Hot Chicken Salad Casserole:

– Chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

– 1 C chopped celery

– 1 C chopped walnuts

– 1 T minced onion

– 1 C mayonnaise

– 3 T lemon juice

– Salt and pepper

– 1 sleeve of Ritz cracker crumbs

– Butter

Directions: 1. Mix all the ingredients except the last two. 2. Top with cracker crumbs and drizzle with melted butter. 3. Bake in a greased baking dish at 350º for 15-20 minutes.

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Julie Tucker is a mom to two toddlers, an Etsy Shop owner, and a contributing writer for Birmingham Moms Blog

3 months ago

Tiger Cage Accelerator helps turn new business concepts into business startups

(Auburn University)

“It’s a tour guide into the business world.”

That’s how Matthew Hanks, a doctoral candidate in kinesiology, described the new Tiger Cage Summer Accelerator Program for Auburn University student-led startups. “It’s assuming you know very little about starting your own business, then guiding you through it,” said Hanks, one of 12 students from eight business startups involved in the first-year program.

The Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator — located in the Auburn University Research Park — is operated and managed by the Harbert College of Business. The eight-week crash course welcomes students into the world of startups by teaching:


–How to protect intellectual properties
–Pricing strategies
–Marketing and sales strategies
–Competitor analysis
–Product development
–Communications skills
–And, of course, how to make the perfect pitch to investors

“The purpose is to accelerate their business ideas and turn them into business startups,” said Harbert College Director of Entrepreneurship Strategy Lou Bifano, former vice president for business development at IBM. “In eight weeks, we compress the amount of time it takes to provide them with a set of learning experiences to try to minimize the mistakes they might make and to increase the probability that they are going to be successful in launching a business.”

Bifano isn’t alone in this adventure. The Tiger Cage Accelerator has brought on three long-time business professionals as Entrepreneurs in Residence who serve as mentors for student startups.

“What’s so exciting is the infrastructure of this program is really coming into place and this is not just a Harbert College of Business initiative,” said Entrepreneur in Residence Scott McGlon, who has helped build and manage startups for the past 20 years. “This a university-wide initiative to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

McGlon joins Kevin Sandlin, who specializes in helping startups in the Atlanta area, and Zilliant CFO Phil Fraher, who brings venture capital expertise.

“We bring in the real-life scenarios that these startups will go through,” McGlon added. “We are trying to prepare them for what’s going to be taking place and keep them on track with milestones we outlined for them. Really, it’s all the way through execution. Whether it’s a marketing plan, a social media plan, customer discovery – everything that you could imagine that a startup is going to go through.”

The summer program received a boost from a $1 million permanent endowment established by 1982 Harbert College alum Benny M. LaRussa and his wife, Lynn.

“We piloted the program last summer. It is great to have the resources and assistance to scale it up,” said LaKami Baker, Managing Director of the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship.

The program format is a set of interactive lectures each morning with periods in the afternoons for business plan and communications skills work. “A cornerstone is being able to communicate verbally, communicate in writing, and being able to inspire people that this is a great business idea,” Bifano said.

For example, Michael Knotts, a doctoral student in industrial engineering, credited the accelerator for vastly improving his communications skills with would-be clients. “We’re learning to conduct what we call problem interviews,” said Knotts, who claimed his method of metal-additive manufacturing is less expensive and faster than existing products. “We’ve already gone out to different industries where we think that there’s a problem, or a need, where our product fits. We’ve gotten fantastic feedback.”

McGlon is excited to see the fruits of the accelerator already beginning to pay off. “Three businesses have a high probability of securing patents,” he said. “We’ve discovered that over the past few months, one has already generated revenue and has great momentum.”

Three of this year’s Tiger Cage business pitch competition finalists received spots in the accelerator. ESCAPE Therapy, a specially-fitted electrotherapy garment, won the Tiger Cage competition and $50,000 in funding and services to help launch the business. Hanks, a member of the ESCAPE Therapy team, is already seeing the benefits.

“None of us were business-minded individuals as our concept was founded on our passions,” he said. “The next hurdle for us was trying to figure out the nuances into getting this thing to actually take off.”

Dawn Michaelson, a doctoral student in consumer and design sciences and fellow ESCAPE Therapy team member, explained how that happened. “We’ve been taken through the process of making sure that our experiences and the people that we have talked to for our product are actually part of a larger customer segment,” she said. “There really are a lot of injured patients with the same experiences (need), so we know that our product will be viable in the marketplace.

“The Accelerator has shown us what we need to plan for next. On Fridays, we are asked, ‘Where are you with your company?’ ‘How are you progressing?’ ‘Where do you need help?’ The program is helping us structure our company with our product, but it’s also helping us with the company formation. We’re getting help on both angles.”

Olivia Cook, doctoral student in public administration and public policy, and co-founder of Snippety-Snap, a camera phone stand and integrated mobile app, said, “We are getting a better understanding of how to go out there and figure out who our customers are. With this – it’s helping us fine-tune our ideas and our product that we’re trying to bring into this big world.”

(Courtesy of Auburn University)

4 months ago

4 tips for saving money on a vacation for Alabama families


My family and I love to travel, but we realize how expensive travel can be for some families. Luckily, Birmingham is equidistant from a lot of fabulous locations like the beach and the mountains.

We also have a great airport, and it’s not too far of a drive to Atlanta if we need access to something bigger. So, how does my family afford to travel so much? We keep it simple, really. I’ve got four great tips I want to share with you in hopes of encouraging you that you can go on a vacation without breaking the bank.


Think Locally
We have so many fantastic resources for “day” or “long weekend” trips. DeSoto Caverns near Fort Payne, Huntsville Space and Rocket Center, and the Civil Rights Memorial & Center in Montgomery are just a few places I thought of off the top of my head. When thinking about local travel, it’s important to think seasonally too. We have wonderful farms nearby, like Old Baker Farm, that host seasonal events, or you could take your family to see the Barons play baseball on an “away game” weekend. Short trips over a few hours or a long weekend help scratch the wanderlust itch without costing serious cash.

Bring a Friend (or Two)

One of my favorite ways to travel is with family or friends. Splitting costs with other group members allows everyone to have fun while spending less. When traveling with friends, a big bonus is having children who are similar ages that will entertain one another. If you bring the grandparents along, they can have a fun evening with the kids (or maybe even a low-key one) while you and your spouse enjoy some one-on-one time. Sometimes there’s a lot of truth in the saying, “the more the merrier”!

Eat In

I love going to the beach, but vacationing during peak season makes maximizing our budget trickier. Condos are usually more expensive than hotel rooms, but they come with great upgrades like a full kitchen and, usually, washers and dryers. Having a full kitchen means that some meals can be eaten in, which saves on the overall cost of the trip. Washing clothes before you pack up to head home also makes less work for Mom in the long run (winning)!

Plan Ahead

Last-minute trips can be fun and exhilarating, but they don’t leave much room for saving and planning. Some vacations require a little more forethought. Certain destinations, like the Disney Parks or Disney Cruise Lines, have apps or websites that allow you to determine the cost of your vacation before you book, and they break down the savings by weeks or months so you know exactly how much you need to set aside for your trip. Talk about convenience! Planning ahead is often a great way to start saving money on a family vacation.

These are just a few of my tried and true tips for maximizing our vacation fund, but I’m sure there are plenty of other great ones out there.

What are some of your best tips for saving money on a family vacation? 

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Sarah Gilliland lives in Birmingham, is the mom of fraternal twin girls, and is a contributing writer at Birmingham Moms Blog

4 months ago

Huntsville non-profit leader determined to ‘beat the odds’

BTO Team, Dominique Mallory is 3rd from left (Photo: Matthew Walker)

Dominique Mallory said he may not have grown up in the best environment in Memphis, Tenn., and he may have made mistakes like doing drugs and going to jail for fighting, but he is intent on “beating the odds” of a bleak future — and helping other young men do the same through his Huntsville non-profit, B3ating Th3 Oddz.

The organization celebrates four years of growth this week with inaugural “Homecoming” events beginning Monday, June 11 at the Calvary Hills Teen Center in Huntsville.

“A lot of people did not come from a good background,” said Mallory, 27. “A lot of people had to grow up by themselves, or take on full responsibility at a young age. But we knew there was something on the inside of us that was bigger than how we were raised, or bigger than what our culture was growing up.

“When people said we aren’t going to be successful, or that we weren’t going to be fathers, or we weren’t going to be community leaders, it’s like – NO – there’s nothing that is impossible. So we’re beating the odds, and that’s where we got the name.”


BTO, as it’s called, began in 2014 as a Bible study with Mallory and couple of guys at the Alabama A&M University Health and Wellness Center bowling alley.

Mallory said, through consistency, the group grew and that, at first, it was “a culture shock” to get young men together from all different races and backgrounds and realize they “could actually come together and talk about something other than [ourselves], which is Christ.”

Since then, Mallory said the organization has “touched the lives” of more than 650 young men through its three programs: BTO Life Night – a men’s Bible study that meets 7 p.m. every 2nd and 4th Monday at A&M’s Wellness Center, BTO Fitness – an hour-long workout session with a certified personal trainer every 2nd and 4th Saturday at 10 a.m. at the A&M Wellness Center, and BTO Mentoring – after-school sessions, community projects and outreach programs for boys 6-18 years old.

B3ating Th3 Oddz became a 501(c)3 in October of 2017.

As the organization grew, Mallory formed a team and developed a purpose statement: “Preparing men to live life on mission.” He said much of what BTO does is focused on mindset change.

“First we’ve got to be able to know that we are somebody and that we mean a lot, not only to our families, but we mean a lot to God,” he said. “We are valuable and when we start realizing that, we’ll start having confidence in ourselves and we’ll stop making so many bad decisions and we won’t get caught up with doing the wrong thing, and we’ll stick with doing what’s right.”

Mallory said he was inspired to launch BTO when he got into trouble and his then-employer and mentor gave him a second chance.

“I made a few mistakes and a few bad decisions, and Mr. Daniel Kasambira gave me a chance and an opportunity when he actually had the opportunity to fire me,” Mallory said. “That’s how all this came about — I wanted to create something positive for young males. There is no specific [race being served], I just knew there was a crisis on the inside of me that I was introduced to, and I wanted to expose that light to other young men that helped transform my life.”

Mallory, who received his master’s degree in social work from Alabama A&M, works full-time as a social worker for Decatur Youth Services, helping people find jobs, managing cases, and teaching parenting skills programs, including a fatherhood program at the Morgan County Jail.

He said he speaks, teaches and mentors in BTO using what he has learned through observation, research and his own life experiences.

“I try to first build a relationship with young men who come to the programs and let them know – hey, I’m a human just like you,” Mallory said. “I’ve done that, I’ve made mistakes, and there are still things I’m struggling with and trying to work on, to get better in every area of my life. So I don’t want you to feel like the decision you made or what you’re going through right now, that you got to stay stuck there.”

Mallory, who attends All Nations Worship Assembly in Huntsville, said he is humbled by BTO’s growth and influence and that he “has a heart filled with gratitude” that God is allowing him the “opportunity” to influence other young men.

“The reason I probably have the determination I do to try and do better is because growing up, I was always overlooked, I was always the underdog,” he said. “I always knew I could have a great life and do things, and God had a purpose in me, but I had people laugh at me and talk about me and things like that, and it almost messed me up in a way, where I walked around with a chip on my shoulder, but now it’s like God is showing me, Dominique, if you just trust me with your life, I will make sure you live an effective life, and that’s all I care about — to have the opportunity to introduce men to Christ and to help take care of them with these programs. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

More information about this week’s BTO Homecoming activities:

— Monday, June 11from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: All Men’s Life Group (Praise worship & Bible study) with guest speakers Adrian Davis & Jeremy Kelsey.

— Tuesday, June 12from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Fitness & Nutrition Seminar with Certified Fitness Trainers Brenson Crenshaw & Jon Howell

— Wednesday, June 13from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Mental Health Panel

— Thursday, June  14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Financial Education Seminar with guest speaker Christopher Cunningham- Financial Specialist Wells Fargo Corporate Office

— Friday, June 15 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: Poetry Night

— Saturday, June 16: BTO Day Party

The Life group, Fitness & Nutrition Awareness Seminar, Mental Health Panel, & Financial Education Seminar events are for men only. The poetry night & day party is for everyone.

All events will be held at Calvary Hills Teen Center 2900 Fairbanks St NW Huntsville AL 35810.

Learn more about B3ating Th3 Oddz at their website, and through social media:

Instagram: @b3atingth3oddz

Facebook: @B3ating Th3 Oddz

Twitter: @b3atingth3oddz

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is managing editor of Yellowhammer News

4 months ago

Alabama student’s drive and determination to graduate garner national attention

(Alabama NewsCenter)

Determination can yield great results. Just ask 19-year-old Corey Patrick.

The recent Tarrant High School graduate conquered many obstacles to earn his diploma, so much so that his story has garnered national attention.

For one, he would get up at 4 a.m. daily to ride the bus to school from the West End community in Birmingham to Tarrant High.

For his trip, there was no such thing as a straight shot. He had to make several transfers to get to school and, according to his mother, it wasn’t unusual for him to return home after 6 p.m. weeknights.


But one photo changed it all. Members of the community have stepped up to help after seeing Patrick walking in his graduation uniform after getting off the bus. MAX transit driver DeJuanna Beasley said she posted the picture because she was inspired by him, and to date, nearly 40,000 people have liked her photo.

One person who “liked” the story and was moved to action is Birmingham resident Michael Nabors, a retired University of Alabama employee. Nabors said he was motivated by the young man’s grit and was determined to find him and mentor him. And he did.

Nabors has helped arrange local and national interviews for the recent grad, while being a source of encouragement and family support.

In addition to a number of local and national news outlets, Patrick’s story also caught the attention of nationally known comedian Rickey Smiley, a Birmingham native.

Smiley recently interviewed Patrick on the Rickey Smiley Morning Show. Smiley also gifted the young man a car at the studio of radio station 95.7 Jamz recently.

Patrick will be using that car to get to his new job this summer as he was recently hired by Golden Flake.

Jacksonville State University recently offered a full scholarship. Patrick has said he is interested in studying computer science.

We recently caught up with Nabors, Patrick and his family at church services at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Pratt City, where graduates were honored.

The soft-spoken Patrick expressed gratitude for all of the support.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Andrew Zimmern: Birmingham the ‘hottest small food city in America right now’

(E. Harney/Alabama NewsCenter)

Andrew Zimmern knows about eating. And at this moment in America, he says Birmingham’s the place to do it.

“I think if you’re not eating in Birmingham these days, you’re missing out on something really unique and special,” the noted chef and TV food personality said in an exclusive interview with Alabama NewsCenter. “I think Birmingham has solidified itself as the hottest small food city in America right now.”

Zimmern spoke to Alabama NewsCenter after strolling the food and vegetable stalls at Pepper Place with local chef Frank Stitt, whose Highlands Bar & Grill was named the outstanding restaurant in America last month by the James Beard Foundation. Not only that – the same night, the Beard Foundation named Highlands’ Dolester Miles the nation’s outstanding pastry chef. Last week, Miles was featured in a full-page spread in The New York Times. Another of this year’s Beard winners – South Carolina barbecue pitmaster Rodney Scott, best chef Southeast – has announced plans to open a restaurant in downtown Birmingham.


Highlands was a finalist for 10 years running, which Zimmern said is far more significant than the restaurant ultimately taking home the top prize.

“I think to be nominated is its own reward. Because when you’re nominated for restaurant of the year, in America, and there’s four or five other nominees, that’s amazing,” Zimmern said.

“The way I look at it is the inverse: Frank and Pardis were nominated umpteen times for that award,” he said, recognizing the team of Stitt and his wife, Pardis, who manages the operation. “That says more than the people who were nominated once or twice. To be that relevant for so many years, everyone knew – at least I knew – that eventually they were going to win that thing.”

Zimmern admitted he’s become “kinda addicted” to Birmingham. It was his third trip to the city to tape episodes for his TV empire. But this time he made the most of it, taping for two separate shows – The Zimmern List, broadcast on the Travel Channel, and a yet-to-be-named show coming this fall to the Food Network. It will focus on food entrepreneurs aspiring for culinary greatness. Three Alabama enterprises were interviewed in Birmingham for the new show: Chubbfathers, which has a food truck as well as a bricks-and-mortar place in Alabaster; Granny’s Fish ‘N Grits, a food truck usually found near Birmingham Daiquiris on Ninth Street North at Third Avenue North, and Highway Kabobery, a Huntsville-based food truck. It’s the first time Zimmern has filmed two shows for two separate networks at the same time in one city.

Zimmern was downright gushy about Birmingham and the hospitality it shows every time he’s in town. He went so far as to proclaim that the people of Birmingham are on par – possibly even nicer – than folks in his hometown of Minneapolis, who are known for their welcoming ways.

He tweeted his affection for the Magic City: “I’m on the road, 230 days a year at minimum, 40/50 cities in USA. I never get as nice a welcome as I do in Birmingham. People stop their cars, pause on the street or use social and actually say ‘nice to have you back.’ It’s amazing. Love the B’ham people! Thank you for the love.”

Nor did Zimmern temper his deep affection for the Stitts, longtime friends whose restaurants have spawned numerous chefs who have launched their own restaurants in Birmingham, and beyond.

“Birmingham is extremely blessed to have someone who is as talented as Frank. But more importantly, who is as inclusive, gracious and as civic-minded as Frank is.

“Frank is a great chef. Pardis is an incredible businesswoman and hostess. But they’re better people,’’ Zimmern said.

“I think when you look at the history of restaurants in America, 50 years from now, Highlands is going to be written about. It’s 35 years old, and it’s better now than it’s ever been. I mean, how many restaurants can say that?”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Uninsured in Alabama — and what we did about it

(Laura Wilder/Birmingham Mom's Blog)

Hi, we’re an uninsured American family. Ok, we do have homeowner’s insurance and car insurance and life insurance, so we’re not totally living on the edge. But no, we do not have traditional health insurance.

Our Story

Health insurance has always confused me. What exactly am I paying for? For us, 2013 was a fairly uneventful year, medically. By October of that year we were deciding which health insurance plan to use for 2014. I crunched some numbers and realized we actually would have come out cheaper that year had we not had insurance at all, but had just paid out-of-pocket for the few needs we had. I called our insurance company and asked for a refund.


The girl on the phone was confused. I explained that we ended up paying more due to having insurance than if we hadn’t had it at all, so would they refund me the difference? Obviously, the answer was no, but what concerned me more was that she didn’t understand why I was asking for a refund. I explained we paid our monthly premiums, which, in part, pays the insurance company to negotiate our bills for us. However, they had apparently done a poor job as we would have come out cheaper NOT paying them at all and just paying the healthcare providers up front. She still wasn’t tracking.

By the end of October, my husband sustained a foot injury which required a lot of attention and then in November we found out I was expecting our second baby. So by the end of 2013, we broke even. However, I was still concerned with how much we were paying between premiums, deductibles, and co-pays. It didn’t seem like we were getting a deal.

In the summer of 2014, our second baby boy was born and we were thrilled. Unfortunately, at just three weeks old he was admitted to Children’s of Alabama for an 18-day stay to treat an infection. It was all very scary and stressful. Thankfully, he came through it all fine. However, between his birth and his additional hospital stay, we were left with thousands of dollars of medical bills. Again, how was insurance benefiting us? My pediatrician assured me we would’ve been crippled with the dollar amount if we hadn’t been insured.

I requested a line item bill from the hospital so I could see for myself. I was stunned at the markup. A standard pack of diapers was $36. A bag of saline and a needle for his PICC line was over $10. Every single, even seemingly-small, item used or requested in a healthcare facility is tracked and billed. But here’s the thing, your insurance company certainly isn’t paying full price for those diapers or that bag of saline. That’s why the hospital is placing such an exorbitant charge on it in the first place. They know the insurance company will negotiate it down. But are they negotiating it down to a truly fair price? Are their negotiations worth what you’re paying them every year?

Thankfully, we finished out 2014 with no more major medical issues and went into 2015, which was also uneventful medically. By the end of 2015, when we were once again deciding which health insurance plan to use, I came across a Facebook post in my homeschool curriculum group, of all places. A mother was asking for advice on health shares. It was a fascinating conversation. What in the world was a health share? I looked it up and was amazed at what I found. It seemed too good to be true.

Here was an alternative to traditional health insurance, that didn’t leave people vulnerable to crippling debt that can come without having coverage of any kind. It was a way to truly be in control, not only of our medical bills, but also our overall health.

The Switch

My husband and I talked it over. He was leery at first. After all, all we had ever known was traditional insurance. This seemed like a big risk, especially with two young children to consider. We watched some moving testimonial videos of people who had made the switch. Almost every single person talked about how nervous they had been leaving the norm. We sought wise counsel on the matter. We talked with those who did not participate with a health share but who could consider what we were looking at and give us guidance objectively. In the end, we made the plunge. We did not sign up for health insurance for 2016.

I was anxious. Had we made a huge mistake? I kept reminding myself, if it didn’t work out, we could always re-enroll in traditional health insurance in the fall. It was basically an experiment for just one year. I was also excited. Our health share certainly didn’t have a “network”. We could see whichever healthcare provider we wanted. Our health share also encouraged lots of natural healthcare alternatives.

Now, I’ll quickly break down how our health share works. Anything under $300, we pay for. Well visits, sick visits, minor injuries, chiropractic care, etc. Anything that costs more than $300, we submit to our health share and the cost is covered by the members. Let’s say we have an ER visit and all bills total $1,000. We would pay the initial $300 then the remaining $700 would be covered by our health share members. Again, this is a very basic breakdown of how it works.

And so January 2016, our uninsured journey began. The year was mostly uneventful, until the very end. I had my first miscarriage after Christmas and ended up in the hospital. I came home December 31, 2016.

When I received my hospital bill for my 14-hour hospital visit it was around $47,000. They had automatically given me a “discount” so the final bill was $25,000. This “discounted” amount still seemed exorbitant for 14 hours, especially since it did not include the ultrasound, anesthesiologist’s fee, nor my doctor’s fee. I called the hospital and ended up being able to negotiate it down to $5,000. When it was all said and done, the whole ordeal was around $7,000. We submitted our bills to our health share and began receiving the money to pay for it.

But along with the money, we received cards, notes, and letters from these members. Some empathizing with the deep pain we were walking through, almost all praying for us. It was truly touching and humbling. I have saved almost every single note, card, and letter we received. Strangers praying for us and writing out Scripture, sharing stories.

We have since had lots of expensive medical needs. We’ve even had to seek help from a fertility specialist. Being part of a health share has been a comfort.

Yes, it is expensive at times since we come out-of-pocket up front. There have been times when we’ve had to decide which non-urgent medical need takes priority.

However, one way we have been able to off-set upfront costs is to take advantage of using a flex card. We’re able to put pre-tax dollars in this account via my husband’s employer, and we use that for random sick visits or planned check ups. We estimate how much we’ll need for the coming year and go from there. Participating with a health share has given us more peace of mind than any insurance company ever has. We know exactly what we’re paying for, and typically we know exactly how much we’ll have to pay. We don’t wait around to see if or what the insurance company decides to cover.

I will admit one frustration of being self-pay is the shocking lack of knowledge most doctor’s offices have in regards to charges. Whenever I have called a doctor’s office ahead of time to ask how much a visit or procedure will be, they do not know. They either have to call their central billing office, ask their office manager, or give me a vague “range”. I’ve said before that if I’m going to a salon to get my haircut, I would never set up an appointment without knowing if it was going to cost me $50 or $500. Why would I walk in blindly to a healthcare facility to receive a service? Yet this is what often happens — especially with insurance. One of the major downfalls of the majority of our society being insured is that they do not realize how much healthcare costs. People have no idea if they’re getting a good deal or not. And mostly, they’re not.

Systemic Healthcare Issues

I do not propose to offer a solution to our country’s healthcare crisis. I have learned over these past few years that the problem is not just with insurance companies and their executives. Certainly, they are part of the problem. But other parts of the problem are with healthcare facilities, “boards” who run these facilities, and doctors who have no business sense or do not know how much their services cost or if their rates are comparable. Medical supply companies and pharmaceutical companies are another part of the problem. What they charge a pharmacy to purchase their medications is outrageous. I’m certainly not anti-profit. However, a drug I’m currently on would cost me $2200/month if I purchased it from a big-box pharmacy. But I’m able to purchase it for $267/month from a local pharmacy. At first I was very upset that the big-box pharmacy would place such a high markup on that drug. But I learned from an employee that the pharmaceutical company sells it to the big-box pharmacy for a much higher price than they sell it to local pharmacies, because they know the bigger companies will pay. The greed is astounding.

If you were going to purchase diapers and Walmart charged $10/pack and Target charged $50/pack, where would you go? Also, companies keep their prices competitive for obvious reasons. Why don’t pharmacies or other healthcare services? I would guess it’s because they don’t have to because most people don’t know they’re being ripped off.

As I said, I’m not proposing a solution as the problem is complicated. What I am proposing is an alternative. If your family is paying too much in monthly premiums and not getting enough coverage, consider a health share. There are several out there. I realize this is not a solution for every family, but it is a viable solution for a lot of people, and sadly, a lot of people have no idea they exist. I’m always happy to share what I know and to share our personal experiences. Feel free to reach out to me to ask questions if this is something your family is considering.

There’s no perfect way to tackle healthcare, but I do believe some ways are better than others and for our family, a health share has been the better way.

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Laura Wilder lives in Leeds, homeschools her two sons (a daughter is on the way), and is a contributing writer for Birmingham Moms Blog.


4 months ago

Bringing kids to Starbucks: A complete guide from a former barista


Here’s the skinny on bringing kids to Starbucks . . . Starbucks can be a bit overwhelming, and ordering for your child can be risky business. I had the privilege of working there for four years and have experienced serving the youngest customers of them all! I’ve served them drinks that are horrible for them and the parents will regret within 20 minutes, but I’ve also helped parents make okay-ish choices when it comes to choosing a beverage.

Before we get to the part about what drinks to order for your kids, let me chat with the moms out there with older babies who are fully capable of ordering their own drinks. Make sure they aren’t terrorizing your friendly neighborhood baristas!

It might not be all that surprising that as a barista I was treated poorly by customers on multiple occasions. Some of the worst incidents were caused by teenagers being teenagers with their friends. I ask that you talk to your children about treating baristas with respect.


And if you really feel empowered to help your teenager get a grasp on life, help them apply for a job at Starbucks. Starbucks taught me so much, including the “proper” way to sweep and mop. (Mom bonus!) It taught me about career ladders and hourly employment in a (mostly) fun environment. You get the privilege of working with a variety of people and an opportunity to make lifelong friends.

On the note of your older babies ordering drinks, LET THEM ORDER FOR THEMSELVES. Maybe it is because I am an extreme extrovert and have been since the moment I was born, but I do not understand parents ordering for children if they are above 10 years old and know what they want. I have asked kids, “And what would you like?” Then I’ve watched them lean over to the parent and whisper the order.

Here’s the deal: Typically, your12-year-old has not provided enough details, so the barista is going to have follow-up questions. Prevent yourself from being the unnecessary translator. Encourage your child to have basic dialogue with the barista. As a mom to a child who is at risk for social-emotional development delays, I acknowledge that this isn’t easy for everyone. But if your child is fully capable of ordering for him or herself, please encourage them to do so.

This simple interaction is such a teaching opportunity for your child. Your child is learning how to communicate with an adult in a customer service interaction. In one Starbucks visit, you can reinforce basic manners such as “please” and “thank you” or more advanced manners such as how to politely request customization of food/beverages or cleaning up after themselves. I have watched kids (teenagers!!!) smash coffee cake into leather seats for fun. I’ve also had a teenager purposely spill a drink and then walk away. Do not raise those children. Teaching your children to have respect for a barista or anyone in a customer service role prevents your children from becoming coffee cake-smashing teenagers.

If you stop yourself from raising coffee-cake smashers, as your children get older, a coffee shop stop might be something special for you to do together. I always enjoyed stopping by the Cahaba Heights store on my way to work in the morning and watching the families go through the line together. They would sit in the café and review homework before starting their days.

What to order when bringing kids to Starbucks

Now, for the moms ordering drinks for the little ones, here’s my drink advice to you! Once you get past the mom-judgement of having a toddler with a Starbucks cup, here’s what to order:

— Steamed* Milk or Cold Milk with A Flavor
Starbucks has expanded beyond the basic milk types that existed when I was a barista. When I was a barista I left work each day covered in soy, non-fat, 2%, and whole milk. It was a lovely smell . . . Fast forward to 2018, and there are plenty of milk options including coconut and almond milk! So for the kiddos, find your milk of choice and decide if they would like it hot or cold. After that, pick a flavor! Remember that some flavors come in sugar-free options and some do not.

How I would order it: I would like a kid’s-size vanilla crème with sugar-free vanilla at kid temperature.

— Steamed* or Cold Apple Juice
As a 27-year-old woman, I have an unhealthy obsession with apple juice. When working the late shift at Starbucks, I sometimes enjoyed my giant sized “partner beverage” of apple juice before going home. You can ask for steamed or cold apple juice or purchase a box of good ol’ AJ. Remember to specify if you would like the drink hot or iced. If you order it iced . . . you will get ice in the actual cup. I realize that might be obvious to some of you, but my barista experience would tell you, it is not for some folks.

How I would order it: I would like a tall cup of apple juice with no ice.

— Lemonade
Admittedly, I don’t love the Starbucks lemonade. But if your child loves lemonade and is feeling the Starbucks fury while waiting in line . . . you order that lemonade, Girl.

How I would order it: I would like a tall cup of lemonade with ice.

— Blended Strawberry Lemonade

There are 51 grams of sugar in a tall-sized blended strawberry lemonade, so I would not order this ever. However, if you are a bold and daring parent and are brave enough to fight the sugar high, you do you.

How I would order it: I’ll take a glass of water instead.

Steamed* Or Cold Milk or Chocolate Milk
This is basically the same as #1; however, it is worth saying that there is a difference between syrups and sauces at Starbucks. Syrups include things like vanilla, hazelnut, or raspberry. Sauces include mocha, white mocha, and the beloved pumpkin spice. In Starbucks lingo mocha = chocolate. Milk + mocha = chocolate milk. Make sense?

How I would order it: I would like a tall coconut milk with one pump of mocha added.

— Smoothies
I realize I beat up the blended strawberry lemonade over sugar, but I’m not going to beat up the smoothies over it. One, the strawberry smoothie is a tad bit better, and the chocolate smoothie is better regarding grams of sugar per ounce. Secondly, the smoothies have a whole banana in them that has approximately 14 grams of sugar by itself. Overall, I don’t dislike the smoothies. Be aware that there is whey protein and fiber in the smoothies. One time a momma-to-be called my store and yelled at me for letting her drink whey protein. I took the verbal beating and gently reminded myself that telling a pregnant woman what to eat has never gone over well and now was not the time to start. Also, it is important to know that this only comes in a grande size.

How I would order it: I would like a strawberry smoothie with coconut milk.

— Iced Passion Tea / Herbal Tea+
Starbucks herbal teas do not have caffeine. Let me share with you what isn’t an herbal tea: chai tea, black tea, green tea, and matcha. I know matcha is all the rage these days, but beware the beautiful green substance if you are limiting your child’s caffeine intake. Instead, try the passion iced tea or one of the hot herbal teas.

How I would order it: I would like a grande iced passion tea lemonade unsweetened.

— Hot Chocolate*
Is this the same as #5 and #1? Basically. But it is worth noting that Starbucks hot chocolates have both syrup and sauce. This is something to consider if you’re trying to provide a sweet treat without sending your sweet babe into a sugar daze. These chocolatey delights have vanilla and mocha in them. And when the fall rolls around and you want to enjoy a salted caramel hot chocolate . . . you guessed it, there is even more syrup. These fall time drinks have vanilla, mocha, AND toffee nut included. Don’t forget that all hot chocolates come with whipped cream and a mocha drizzle. Admittedly, I left off the drizzle most days. It was a bad barista habit I failed to break.

How I would order it: Truthfully, I probably wouldn’t. But if I had to . . . I would like a kid’s hot chocolate with one pump of mocha instead of two and no whipped cream.

— Caramel Apple Spice*
THESE ARE SO GOOD BUT ARE ALSO FULL OF SUGAR. I’ve already expressed my love for apple juice. This drink is apple juice, cinnamon dolce syrup, whipped cream, and caramel drizzle. For the kiddos, I’d avoid this one. But if you’re going to enjoy a warm drink of #treatyoself, enjoy this!

How I would order it: I would like a tall caramel apple spice with half the pumps of cinnamon dolce.

— Evolution Fresh Juice
I’m a big fan of the evolution fresh juices. I like cold-pressed juice in general, and I really love their orange juice. These juices only come in a bottle and I have watched a six-year-old have a breakdown because he didn’t have a Starbucks cup. Simple solution: ask your friendly barista for a cup and a straw! Healthy juice + cup/straw = happy kid.

How I would order it: You won’t really order this. But if you don’t see many flavors available in the front case, ask the barista if there are other options in the back.

In case you can’t tell, most of these drinks are full of sugar. It really is a “picking your poison” type of situation. Always remember if your baby just wants the cup, ask for an extra cup or order a glass of water.

One last recommendation . . . take a look at the Starbucks app! If you create a beverage to order, you can check calorie, sugar, and caffeine content there.

*Be sure to ask for this drink to be at kid temperature!

+ For hot teas it is tough to control the temperature of the hot water, so be careful!

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Alyson Stemas lives in Homewood and is a contributing writer at Birmingham Moms Blog

4 months ago

Former Miss Alabama sees daughters competing for Miss Alabama, Tony Award

(Walker Family)

Like mother, like daughter. Like other daughter.

That’s the way the old saying goes for the family of Angela Tower Walker. Angela was Miss Alabama 1986 and came close to winning Miss America.

Now, three decades later, Angela has her eyes on two competitions this week: Saturday night’s Miss Alabama Pageant, in which daughter Callie is trying to follow in her mother’s footsteps; and Sunday’s Tony Awards, in which daughter Scarlett, making her Broadway debut in “Carousel,” just may see her show take home theater’s top award for Best Revival of a Musical.

“I’m super proud of them, obviously,” says Angela, whose trek to the Miss Alabama crown started when she was a freshman at Birmingham-Southern College and was invited to enter a preliminary.


“I had no idea what I was doing,” she says. “But I ended up winning the pageant and going on to the Miss Alabama Pageant in 1978. I was quite clueless when I was competing, and I was second runner-up. I was completely surprised.”

That first year piqued Angela’s interest, so she continued to compete both in Texas (she’s a native Texan) and in Alabama. She was first runner-up to Miss Alabama Tammy Little in 1984, and in 1985, she won the title, becoming Miss Alabama 1986.

“I thoroughly enjoyed being on the road and making appearances as Miss Alabama, and competing in Miss America was very exciting,” she says. After the national pageant, where she finished as fourth runner-up, Angela went to see David Letterman’s late-night show in New York, and she appeared in a small segment with him.

After her reign as Miss Alabama, Angela owned a dance studio in Birmingham for a number of years and has been teaching ballet and coaching other contestants for more than 30 years.

She married Mike Walker in 1993, and they have three children: Scarlett, 23; and twins Callie and Michael, 20.

Broadway Bound

Angela’s two daughters, both singers and dancers, followed her into the pageant system.

Scarlett won both Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen (in 2010) and Alabama’s Distinguished Young Woman (in 2012), finishing as first runner-up nationally in both programs. She had appeared early on in a production of “Annie,” but after her pageant years, she left performing behind to study broadcast journalism.

“My mom knew I was lost without the arts,” Scarlett recalls. “She said, ‘You know, I really think you would be good at theater.’ … That conversation changed my life forever.”

Scarlett became a musical theater major at the University of Alabama and appeared in productions of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” “42nd Street,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Little Shop of Horrors” in Tuscaloosa. In Birmingham, she appeared in Red Mountain Theatre Company’s “Les Miserables” and “La Cage Aux Folles.”

In 2016, Scarlett made the move to New York. “I knew this was where I had to be to fulfill my dream,” she says.

She worked at a couple of respected regional theaters, and then, in July of last year, she auditioned for the Broadway revival of “Carousel.”

Her mom got the news, fittingly, on the dance floor, where she was teaching a ballet class.

“She called from the subway and asked if I was on speaker phone,” Angela recalls. “She announced to me and my students that she was going to be on Broadway.”

Scarlett had been cast in the ensemble of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, and she also was understudying the major role of Carrie Pipperidge, best friend to Julie Jordan, the heroine.

“Opening night was a ‘dream come true’ moment for me,” Scarlett says. “My parents were there, and the atmosphere in the theater was unreal.”

But there was more to come.

On May 27, two hours before curtain, Scarlett found out she was going on as Carrie Pipperidge.

“Those were the fastest two hours of my life,” Scarlett says. “I was nervous, elated, focused, overjoyed, grateful and very, very calm. … One of the greatest honors of the day was making my Broadway principle debut while holding the hand of one of my idols, Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller. … Also, singing one of my favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, ‘Mister Snow,’ on a Broadway stage with a 25-piece orchestra is the stuff dreams are made of.”

Following in Mom’s, sister’s footsteps

Scarlett plans to watch Sunday’s Tony Awards at a cast member’s watch party, but she’ll be rooting for sister Callie on Saturday night.

While Scarlett was honing her theater skills, Callie, too, was making a name for herself on stage.

She was crowned Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen in 2012, and in 2015 began competing in the Miss Alabama Pageant. She is believed to be the first daughter of a former winner to compete.

The past two years, she has been first runner-up to Miss Alabama, and she’s ready to win.

“I truly want to be the next Miss Alabama,” she says. “I have competed for four years in this organization, and I have never felt more ready or prepared to travel this state and promote the Miss America Organization and its empowerment of women.”

She, like Scarlett, is studying musical theater at the University of Alabama, appearing in shows such as “A Chorus Line” and “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

“I am looking to follow in my sister’s footsteps,” Callie says. “Seeing her journey with ‘Carousel,’ I have already seen that a career on Broadway is not easy. It takes hard work and dedication.”

Hard work and dedication – and a love for music — are not lacking in the Walker family.

“It’s kind of not surprising to see the trajectories they’ve taken,” Angela says, adding that son, Michael, is also in the arts, as an aspiring choral director. “My husband is a big music fan, and when they were little and he was toting them around in the car, he’d play music, and it was anything from Elvis to John Denver to Barbra Streisand. You name it, Mike exposed them to it.

“It has been rewarding seeing their drive and determination and see them reach their goals,” Angela adds.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Oprah chooses Alabamian’s ‘The Sun Does Shine’ as latest book club selection


The Alabama Legislature for three years running has refused to approve reparations to Anthony Ray Hinton, the Jefferson County man who spent almost 30 years on death row before prosecutors dropped all charges against him. Tuesday, Oprah Winfrey announced a decision that could help Hinton financially.

Winfrey Tuesday morning revealed that Hinton’s memoir “The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row,” is her latest Oprah’s Book Club selection. Oprah’s Book Club’s popularity is credited with increasing sales of the books she selects, often driving obscure titles to best-seller status.


“Over the years, I’ve chosen many great novels – very few memoirs for my book club,” Winfrey said in a video posted on “But this story reads like an epic novel, and it is all true.”

Hinton was convicted of two counts of murder in the shooting deaths of two Birmingham-area fast-food restaurant managers. A restaurant manager in Bessemer who later survived a similar attack identified Hinton from a photo lineup, even though Hinton was working in a secured warehouse 15 miles away on the night of the crime. Hinton passed a lie detector test before the trial and maintained his innocence – something on which he never wavered.

Hinton was convicted based largely on state forensics experts’ testimony that a rusty .38-caliber pistol recovered from Hinton’s mother’s home had fired the bullets that killed the two men. Hinton’s “expert,” a civil engineer by training, was such a disaster on the stand that Hinton said he knew he was doomed.

For almost 30 years, Hinton tried to survive Alabama’s death row while a series of lawyers handled his appeals. His break came after a dozen years on death row when acclaimed lawyer Bryan Stevenson took Hinton’s case. “Today is the day that God opened up my case,” Hinton wrote of that moment.

Even with Stevenson’s expertise – he had won a MacArthur “Genius” Grant for freeing an innocent man from Alabama’s death row – Hinton remained on death row for more than 15 more years and suffered through crushing legal defeats. In 2014, though, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Hinton had not received a fair trial and vacated the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals’ ruling upholding the state court verdict. The appeals court sent the case back to Jefferson County, where prosecutors dropped all charges against Hinton rather than trying a case with new testing on Hinton’s gun that couldn’t prove it fired the crime scene bullets.

“Mr. Hinton was falsely convicted of murder and spent 30 years on death row before he was finally released,” Winfrey said. “It’s unimaginable. And you will throughout the book try to imagine yourself falsely accused and in a 5-by-7 (-foot) cell for 30 years. He is a remarkable storyteller and when you read it, you will be swept away into this unbelievable, dramatic true story.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Fritz Brothers Guitars is an Alabama Maker making strings sing

(M. Sandlin/Alabama NewsCenter)

Roger Fritz used a sheet of plywood and a three-color crayon to make his first guitar.

“My father wanted me to take up the trumpet, but I wanted to play guitar,” Fritz said. “When he wouldn’t buy me one, I built my own when I was 13.”

Now more than 50 years later, Fritz is still crafting and caring for stringed instruments. He’s designed and built acoustic and electric guitars and basses for the Gibson and Rose guitar companies in Tennessee, for Kay Guitars in California – and continues his music-making skills at a wood-filled workshop in Fairhope. His satisfied customers have included guitar heroes such as George Harrison, Keith Richards and Roy Buchanan, as well as hundreds of other professional and amateur musicians all over the world.


“My father worked for the FBI, so we moved around a lot,” Fritz said. “We ended up in Mobile when I was 15. I later attended Marion Institute and Samford University, where I took music lessons from a priest. My dad eventually bought me an acoustic guitar, but by then I was playing in a rock band. That became my on-the-job training.”

The young musician continued his tuneful training by working in music stores around Birmingham. He moved to Nashville in 1978, handcrafting bluegrass guitars and mandolins for Gibson, and later migrated to northern California to open his own shop and design instruments for Kay Guitars. “I met my wife, Christy, in California, and we stayed out there for about 18 years,” Fritz said. “We came back to Mobile to care for my mother – and that’s when my brother, John, and I formed Fritz Brothers Guitars.”

The company – as well as Roger, Christy and their two children, Emerson and Greta – moved to Fairhope a few years ago. Although John left the company, Fritz kept “Brothers” as part of its name. “I’d always wanted to start my own guitar business, but after we formed Fritz Brothers, Gibson offered me my own division to run,” he said.

“So we put our company in mothballs for a while. Now I guess you could say I’m semi-retired.”

The master luthier may have slowed down a bit, but not much. He continues to craft custom-made semi-solid and hollow-body electric guitars and basses, as well as acoustic instruments.

“I also do a lot of repair work,” Fritz explained. “I usually have 10 to 15 broken guitars sitting around the shop at any one time. I’ve been doing this for so long that I really don’t have to advertise – most of my jobs come from our Facebook page that Christy does, or by word of mouth.”

He still strums a few tunes now and then. And these days, his teenage kids are playing as well.

“Both of them are musically inclined, and pretty good on the guitar and piano,” Fritz said.

And fortunately – if they ever need a guitar – they won’t have to build one from a piece of plywood.

The Product: Handcrafted electric guitars, basses and acoustic guitars, as well as guitar repair.

Fritz Brothers Guitars, 707-937-6060

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

Alabama WWII veteran inspires others to live active, purposeful lives

(K. Shamsi-Basha/Alabama NewsCenter)

Millard “Bo” Carwyle is a World War II veteran but, at age 91, he’s known by another designation: Senior Olympian.

In 1944, one of the final decisive battles of WWII had ended and Carwyle, an Army information specialist, was in the unit responsible for wrapping things up in and around Dachau, Germany.

“I was in Germany in World War II. I came to Dachau after the Battle of the Bulge, when things were cooling down and we helped get things organized,” Carwyle said at the Alabama Senior Olympics qualifying rounds recently in Birmingham.


After his return from Germany, Carwyle worked as a homebuilder and got involved in athletics. When his wife died in 2010, his children wanted him to remain active. His daughter is a runner and invited him to the Senior Olympics in Mississippi. Carwyle was reinvigorated.

“This year at the Alabama Senior Olympics, I’ll be doing the javelin, shot put, discus, long jump and hammer throw,” Carwyle said, “Excuse me for a minute. They just called my name.”

Carwyle stepped up and grabbed a discus, then placed it on his chest and under his chin, then twirled around and launched it many meters. Those watching cheered for the oldest competitor in the games.

His preparation for the Senior Olympics would be challenging for someone half his age.

“I prepare by lifting weights every day and walking lots of miles every week. I’m on the board of the Alabama Senior Olympics and the Governor’s Commission on (Physical) Fitness and Sports, so I help out with these events all over the state, which helps keep me busy,” Carwyle said.

Carwyle just returned from Indiana, where he won three gold medals.

“Age is only a number,” Carwyle said with a laugh. “I love seeing veterans and other seniors coming to events like these. It keeps me young, that’s for sure.”

Next, Carwyle participated in the javelin. He ran and tossed the spear into the air and it landed a great distance away. All the people watching cheered and he gave them high fives like he had just won the gold medal.

For Carwyle, it’s about more than cheers.

“This is important to me because I want to see as many Senior Olympics as possible,” he said. “I’ve been on the Earth this long and I feel like I’m supposed to help others live as long as they can by staying active and healthy.”

When Carwyle heard his name called for the long jump, he ran off and took his place in line.

At his age and with his accomplishments, it would be understandable if Carwyle wanted to spend his last years in leisure and comfort.

For Carwyle, the comfort is in knowing that he inspires others.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 months ago

How to host a neighborhood block party

(Ericka Jackson/Birmingham Mom's Blog)

When we got ready to buy a house a few years ago, the biggest thing that drew us to Crestwood was the incredible sense of community. Our neighbors are known to put together fun events like Easter egg hunts, water balloon fights, Mardi Gras parades, and alley parties. So when we bought our lovely little 1950’s home, we knew we wanted to be a part of encouraging that feeling of “community” on our street! Thanks to my husband’s brilliant idea to host a summer block party, you can find us hanging out with around a hundred neighbors in our yard one Saturday a year!

We’ve continued the tradition for five years now, and every year we have so much fun. It’s become a staple on our street – and something we all look forward to summer after summer! We’ve made some wonderful memories with our adult neighbors, and the kids on our street literally count down to this event all year long! We love knowing that we’re creating cherished childhood memories for them too.

If right now you’re thinking, “My neighborhood needs a block party!” – then keep reading! After five years, we’ve pretty much perfected our plan – and we would love to see it replicated in your neighborhood, too!


These days we all spend way too much time hiding behind smartphones and computer screens, and not enough time getting to know (and love) our neighbors. So here are just a few easy tips to create a fun and memorable block party that your community will enjoy year after year!

Choose a few neighbors to help co-host.

If you don’t know any of your neighbors yet, don’t let this first step deter you! You can always start small the first year and host a potluck style party for your street by yourself. However, if you have a few community-minded neighbors who don’t mind pitching in, it’s a great way to ensure an awesome event!

Our little block hosts our party each year, and we have at least 5-7 families that pitch in to make it possible. We start by choosing an early date (due to the Alabama heat, we host ours in late May or early June). Once we’ve found a Saturday where most of our co-hosts are available, we divvy up responsibilities. Everyone invites their friends throughout the neighborhood, and each family provides $30-50 worth of items so that no one is burdened with a big cost. Then they drop it all off at our house around lunchtime on party day!

Free food always brings a crowd!

As the party hosts, the neighbors on our street provide the main food and drinks each year. We grill hot dogs, get cases of individual bags of assorted chips from Sam’s (so leftovers don’t get stale), and provide condiments, paper plates, napkins, cutlery, and cups. All the neighbors bring their personal coolers over, and we fill them up with bottled water, juice boxes for the kids, canned cokes, and beer. Small chalkboards are used to label what’s in each cooler, and three borrowed tables are set up in the shade to hold the food. Then we ask the other neighbors who attend to bring a side or dessert to share!

Neighbors on our street who have their own table and chairs usually pull them to their front yard for the evening, along with extra bag chairs and blankets on the lawns. Those who don’t live on our street mill around to find a comfortable place to sit, eat, and get to know each other. We’ve had people ask about providing “tips” to offset the cost of the party – so we set out a tip jar and split the total at the end of the night. It helps those who aren’t hosting be a part of keeping the party going!

*Don’t forget to recycle! We designate one trashcan with a sign as the “recycle” spot for plastic bottles and aluminum cans. It helps reduce the waste from the event!

Music makes any event more fun!

If free food isn’t enough to draw a crowd . . . music will certainly help! As a singer myself, I knew that live music would make this party a lot more fun. We’re lucky enough to have some awesome musicians in Crestwood (like J. Patrick Reed, pictured below) and almost every year we’ve had a neighbor play and sing for the party. Our next-door neighbor also helped found Birmingham Mountain Radio – so between sets we blast some tunes from BMR on our speakers!

Don’t have a speaker? You probably know someone who does (so ask around to see if you can borrow one!) I’d recommend setting up under a tailgating tent to keep the sound system safe from rain and sun. Just don’t forget to be aware of noise ordinances and be sensitive to a cutoff time for the music that night. We’re lucky to have great neighbors and have never had a complaint. We have actually had some neighbors post online about enjoying the music from their backyards!

Provide activities for the children.

I’m not sure about your neighborhood, but in ours, we have A LOT of children! We actually have 13 kids just on our block (with two more on the way!) We want the kids to enjoy the party as much as the parents, so we make sure to have some special things for them each year.

One neighbor borrows a “bouncy house” from their church, another buys fun things like bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and glowsticks for a small “kids’ table,” and then we set up at least one yard full of kiddie pools and sprinklers for the little ones to enjoy. We also try to have a few bowls of water set out for any neighbors who bring their pets along.

Don’t forget to spread the word!

If no one knows about your event, then no one will come! You have to do a little prep work to make sure it’s a success. Our neighborhood uses the Nextdoor app that keeps us all connected, and posting there is a great way to spread the word! The app also includes a template to print off event flyers, so we drop a few of those off at nearby houses and post one at the local coffee shop. You should also text the neighbors whose numbers you have, and post to your neighborhood Facebook page (if you have one). No Nextdoor app or Facebook page? Then try a yard sign! A simple sign that reads, Block Party This Saturday! You’re Invited, Neighbor! will get the attention of any neighbors driving by. Just be sure to put it out a week in advance!

The day of our event, we tie balloons up at both ends of our street to help people spot the party. This year I think we’re going to add some signs that read Block Party! Welcome, Neighbors! so that new neighbors understand it’s not a private event and they’re invited too.

Be prepared to stay up late!

This is totally an “optional” tip to take – but it’s one I would highly recommend! We typically start our party around 4:30 or 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon and have the hot dogs ready at 5:30 or 6:00. Most neighbors stay and enjoy the music until about 9:00. But it’s after the main party that some of our best memories have been made!

Once the crowd is gone — our street stays up. The kids all know it’s the one night of the year when they get to stay up “super late” (which they love!) They run around playing until they wind down, and then they usually end up piled together watching a movie or telling ghost stories. We grown-ups circle up our chairs in someone’s yard, light the tiki torches, and listen to “oldies” while we tell stories and laugh until our sides hurt. Some of my favorite block party memories are made in those late night circles. You don’t really know your neighbors well until you hear that sweet mom on your street exclaim, “Let’s listen to some Snoop Dogg!” at 1:00 a.m.! Ha! It feels a little like we’re back in college – if only for a night.

When we can’t hold our eyes open any longer, we divvy up the leftovers, put away the party supplies, and head to bed. We complain every year on the “day after the block party” when we all are exhausted from staying up too late . . . but it’s totally worth it for the memories we make!

Does your neighborhood have an annual block party? If not, consider starting one, Mama!

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Ericka Jackson is an Auburn graduate, contributor to Birmingham Moms Blog, and co-founder (with her husband) of The Sound of Hope, which provides holistic care to vulnerable children around the world. 

4 months ago

MUST WATCH: This Ronald Reagan-narrated Memorial Day video will give you chills


Someone cut and rearranged excerpts from President Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address and made a truly moving Memorial Day video.

The original producer is unknown, so, unfortunately, we cannot give him credit, but the result is certainly a credit to his craft.

Watch and share this video on this truly special day.

The full speech and be viewed here or read here, and below you’ll find the edited and rearranged excerpts:


If we look to the answer, as to why for so many years we achieved so much, prospered as no other people on Earth, it was because here in this land we unleashed the energy and individual genius of man to a greater extent to that has ever been done before.

Freedom and the dignity of the individual have been more available and assured here than in any other place on Earth. The price for this freedom at times has been high but we have never been unwilling to pay that price.

Those who say that we’re in a time when there are no heroes — they just don’t know where to look. The sloping hills of Arlington National Cemetery, with it’s row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or stars of David, they add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom.

Each one of those markers is a monument to the kind of hero I spoke of earlier.

Their lives ended in a place called Belleau Wood, the Argonne, Omaha Beach, Salerno, and halfway around the world on Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and in a hundred rice patties and jungles of a place called Vietnam.

Under one such marker lies a young man, Martin Treptow who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There on the Western Front he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire.

We’re told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, “My Pledge” he had written these words:

“America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully, and do my utmost as if the issue of the whole structure depended on me alone.”

We must realize that no arsenal or no weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today’s world do not have. It is a weapon that we as Americans do have. Let that be understood by those who practice terrorism and prey upon their neighbors.

As for the enemies of freedom, those who are potential adversaries, they will be reminded that peace is the highest aspiration of the American people. We will negotiate for it, sacrifice for it, we will not surrender for it now or ever.

We are Americans.

We miss you, Mr. President.

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4 months ago

Tips for a beach trip with a baby (the last one is SUCH a sanity saver!)

(Kristin Berney/Birmingham Mom's Blog)


If your baby is 6 months or older, sunscreen is an absolute must-have! Apply sunscreen before you go outside, and reapply every 60-90 minutes. I recommend using a mineral sunscreen over a chemical sunscreen to keep harmful ingredients off your baby’s skin.

I would also recommend a lotion over a spray, as lotion will ensure full coverage and sprays are difficult to apply evenly. Environmental Working Group (EWG) creates a sunscreen guide each year with great information for moms, including a list of the best and worst sunscreens for kids. Here is a link to their 2016 Sunscreen Guide, and their 2017 guide is coming out soon. PopSugar also highlighted 10 safe sunscreens for kids in this article.

Rashguard and Hat

Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect your little one from the sun. Baby Gap and Old Navy sell super cute swimsuits and rash guards with UPF 30+ for extra protection (and extra cuteness). Buy Buy Baby and Target usually have a good selection of sun hats for babies, and their prices are budget-friendly.

Keep Baby Clean

Swim Diapers and Essentials

I went to the beach with my husband’s family a few years ago, and every time we went to the pool, it was closed because a kid had pooped in the pool. We all know accidents happen, but let’s try our best to prevent our child from being that kid!

Your options are disposable or reusable swim diapers. I personally purchased both before my 1st trip with our 9-month-old. I ended up liking the reusable diapers more; they were a better overall fit and super cute without a swimsuit on!

Tip: Do NOT put on a swim diaper until your child is actually getting into the water! Swim diapers are designed to hold in poop — that’s it! They don’t absorb liquid like a regular diaper. I learned this the hard way when pee ran down my baby’s leg as we were walking to the beach!

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget to bring a wet/dry bag or a zip top bag to the beach. We also brought our portable changing pad with us in our beach bag, and it made diaper changes on the beach much easier.

Baby Powder

It magically removes all sand from hands, feet and skin. I know, right? I didn’t believe it either until I tried it.

Hand and Face Wipes

I threw some Burt’s Bees Hand and Face wipes in our beach bag, and they were really nice to have on hand, especially while snacking on the beach or reapplying sunscreen.

Keep Baby Cool


Our family brought a 10×10 tailgating tent, and I’ll never go to the beach without one! It provided shade for everyone, not just baby. Umbrellas work great too.

We also purchased a collapsible baby tent from Buy Buy Baby (hoping our little one would nap on the beach!) but that did not happen, so we never used it. But it might work for you!

Mesh Teethers

I packed a zip-top bag full of ice cubes in our cooler and gave them to my son in a Nuby Mesh Teether. It was a great distraction when he was getting fussy and also helped with teething. He LOVED chewing on the ice through the teether and letting it melt and drip all over him.

If you nurse your baby, you may also consider making breastmilk popsicles or “momsicles” to bring to the beach as well. I froze my breastmilk in an ice tray, and the ice cubes fit perfectly in the mesh teethers. Here is the inspiration behind this idea.

Spray Fan

I’ve had a spray fan since battling the heat during sorority recruitment in college, and I take my spray fan with me everywhere in the summer. I literally keep that thing in my car! My son laughs hysterically every time I spray him with it, and he loves to play with the fan.

Keep Baby Entertained

Baby Pool

I spent $10 on an inflatable baby pool at Target, and it was maybe the best $10 I’ve ever spent there (which is saying something). It kept our 9-month-old from crawling around (and eating) all the sand at the beach. We didn’t even put water in the pool; we just brought his bath toys, and he had a blast! It took approximately 2 minutes to blow up, so we were able to inflate and deflate as needed, making it super transportable.

Pool Float

While the ice-cold pool water was not his most favorite, the toys attached to the pool float were a big win for him. The big win for me was the adjustable sunshade that came with the float. If you don’t want to hold your baby the entire time you are in the pool, get a float designed for babies and enjoy some quality pool time.


Have Fun!

Watching your baby discover the sand and the ocean for the first time is pure joy. Soak in these moments, take a bunch of pictures, and don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen.

(Courtesy Birmingham Moms Blog)

Kristin Berney is the fundraising director for a Birmingham ministry and a contributing writer for Birmingham Moms Blog

4 months ago

The worst day of your life?


Last night, I couldn’t sleep. This is not an especially unusual situation for me. Sometimes I’ll sleep for an hour, wake up, and that’s it.

Other times, I can’t get to sleep at all. Not that it occurs often, but when it does, my wide-awake-full-ness usually has something to do with a gathering storm of thoughts. On those occasions, it’s as if a connection or important point is swimming just beyond my reach.

That’s how it was last night. Three people were on my mind.

All three are very cool guys, about my age, and despite having known each of them for more than forty years, none of the three have ever met the others.


They are aware of each other, for at one time or another, I have included each of them in at least one of my books. Who are they, you ask? Gene Myers, Kevin Perkins, and Roger Luker.

Yesterday afternoon, with an extra half-hour to spend, I stopped in to say hello to the guys at Paradise Marine in Gulf Shores.

Situated on the corner of Highway 59 and County Road 8, the beautiful business and property are owned by Gene (page 10 in The Noticer) Myers.

It was almost closing time. Gene and I were situated on the high cushioned stools in the accounting alcove—an area near the cash register, directly between the massive showroom and equally huge garage.

Gene is a fairly big fellow. His salt and pepper beard adds to his large presence and even though I’m a guy, I’ll admit that Gene is good looking—in a Kenny Rogers sort of way.

Furthermore, he’s smart and witty which makes him the perfect conversational companion with whom to kill a half-hour. Gene, along with every other person at the dealership—including his sons, Travis and Jarett—are the reason Paradise Marine has been the BEST on the gulf coast for many years.

Anyway, there we were yesterday…Gene and I jabbering about kids or fishing or dogs or whatever it was, when a guy burst through the door and yelled, “I need help!”

There was no, “Excuse me,” or “Hey, how ya doin?” It was just BOOM! And there before us was an anguished man in his mid-thirties, breathing hard, getting right to the point.

Had there been an accident? Was someone badly hurt? Had a child been lost?

We didn’t know.

Gene was off his seat in an instant. “What’s the problem?” he asked.

“Arrrgh!” The man made a seriously strange noise. Clenching his fists, he crossed his arms and hugged himself as if he was in pain.

“Sir?” Gene said and glanced at me. Now, I was off my stool too. “Hey Mister! Sir, what’s wrong?”

What was wrong? Well, it all came boiling out of the man at once. “I’ve been to that #%@#*% marina in Perdido three times today,” he raved. “And my boat battery is STILL not firing!”

There was a moment of silence. A pause, if you will. I glanced to my left and saw Gene’s jaw drop by a fraction as his head raised. Then, his eyes narrowed just the tiniest bit. “Your battery is dead?” Gene asked carefully.

“Yes!” The man replied, literally wringing his hands. “Right. Yes! The battery is dead. My boat won’t start. This is the worst day of my life!”

With that declaration, Gene relaxed. Sinking slowly back against his stool, he looked at me with the corners of his mouth twitching. Despite his attempt to maintain a straight face, a full-on grin was taking shape.

Me? I only raised my eyebrows, but it was enough to prompt a chuckle from Gene. The man appeared confused by Gene’s reaction.

Please understand…Gene was not rude. He never laughed in the guy’s face. It was more of a soft, fatherly, head-shaking, rueful kind of chuckle…the kind that went perfectly with what he said next…

Gene pushed away from his stool and reached out as he closed the few feet separating him from the distressed newcomer. Gene gently grabbed the guy and draped a big arm across the man’s shoulders as he steered him to a mechanic.

Gene laughed a little harder and kind of shook the fellow as they walked toward the garage. Then he said, “Awright. We are gonna get that battery workin’ one way or another. And we’ll do it fast. But I gotta tell you, ‘Dude…if this really is the worst day of your life, everything’s gonna be straight downhill from here!”

I waved goodbye to Gene and walked to my car wondering about the perspective of someone who might consider a weak battery the epitome of a horrific experience.

The worst day of his life? Seriously?

It was just too weird to contemplate, I thought.

So I didn’t.

About an hour later, I heard from Kevin (Baseball, Boys, and Bad Words) Perkins. I knew Kev had qualified for the Alabama State Championship in Sporting Clays.

Unfortunately, he had arrived earlier in the day at the shooting center in Mobile to find his 20-gauge unusable.

Despite the case in which it was housed, the Beretta had been bounced in the trunk of his car, shearing a piece from the gun and making it unsafe to shoot. He didn’t have an extra. And Kevin wasonly entered in the 20-gauge competition.

I suppose an occurrence of that sort might have pushed another person over some imaginary edge, ringing alarm bells and alerting everyone within hearing distance that this was “the worst day of his life.” But no.

Kevin simply used another 20-gauge. It belonged to a competitor who had brought an extra one.

And Kevin Perkins won the state championship.

With a borrowed shotgun.

It won’t take long to tell you about Roger (Return To Sawyerton Springs) Luker. Our parents were best friends. Roger and I were born a month apart in May and June of 1959.

During the years, Roger and I have gone through predictable periods of life. There were months when we talked every day and there were years we touched based with a Christmas card. But when we got together—whenever we got together—he was “Roge”, I was “Ange”, and it never seemed like a lot had changed.

That was true when Roger married Carol and it was true a few years later when I married Polly.

When you know someone and love someone, it can seem as if time has stopped.

If I allow my mind to drift—even a little bit—I can see Roge and Ange riding horses or shooting minnows with a BB Gun or having a carnival for the neighborhood kids and charging them a dime to get in.

I remember that not long after my parents died, Carol and Roger came down and stayed with me for several days. With the $2,500 insurance money I had received, I purchased a trailer. This was about a year before I had to sell the trailer to pay bills…about a year before I lived in a tent, then ditched the tent and lived on the beach. In any case, Roger and Carol stayed with me, loving and encouraging me, in that nasty trailer.

Eight years later, I married Polly. Roger and Carol already had two children. By the time Polly and I had kids, they had moved from St. Louis to Atlanta. And they’d had another child.

Roger’s children are now grown. Mine, it seems, are, too. Almost anyway. So, in reality, I suppose, things donotstay the same.

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I walked out into the front yard and looked at the stars.

I thought about Polly. She was, I knew, sleeping soundly, unaware that I’d even slipped outside.

I looked at the stars again and Carol came to my mind. It’s been several weeks now since she passed away.


Her ordeal seemed to last so long and end so suddenly.

As I went back inside, I thought about Roger. Polly and I want to firm up a date for him to come down and visit. Maybe, we are hoping, he can bring, Jack, their youngest, who is still in college. They won’t have to stay in a trailer this time…

I turned out the carport light and eased up the stairs. Looking down the hallway to our boy’s bedrooms, I said a quick “thank you” that they were in and safe, then I moved into our bedroom and climbed into bed beside Polly. She never woke up.

Drifting off to sleep, I thought again about my friend. I had talked to Roger earlier that evening and he was, as the saying goes, “doing as well as can be expected.” He had eaten dinner, he told me, and was about to watch a movie. We talked about Carol and both of us cried.

We also laughed.

And you know what? As many times as Roger and I talked…as often as I spoke to Carol…touching base through diagnosis and hospice—through however many days and months it has been since this all started or ended or whatever is really happening…I have not—not a single time—heard my friend or his beautiful wife Carol, refer to any day they had together as “the worst in my life.”

The truth should be obvious:

Every day—every one we have left—is precious.

— Andy Andrews

Hailed by a New York Times reporter as “someone who has quietly become one of the most influential people in America,”; Andy Andrews is the author of multiple international best-sellers including The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. He is also an in-demand speaker, coach, and consultant for the world’s largest organizations.

4 months ago

Auburn University named to 2018-2019 Military Friendly® School list

(Auburn University)

As a staff sergeant in the Air Force, Houston native Melissa Villanueva was stationed throughout the world, from Kuwait to Indonesia, serving in communications and later as a medic. These days, Villanueva has shifted her medical focus to helping animals and her location of choice is Auburn University, which recently received national recognition as a Military Friendly School.

“I have taken classes at different campuses throughout my military career, and I can say Auburn has been the best place so far,” Villanueva said. “Auburn’s ranking is high when it comes to military friendliness.”

Villanueva joined the Air Force in August 2005 “because I wasn’t sure about going to college and I wanted to travel away from home.” She was deployed to Abu Dhabi and Kuwait and her initial job was as a satellite communications technician and involved her setting up antennae for communication access for large groups. Six years into her communications role, she had the opportunity to change paths and chose to go into the medical field, working as a medic in both the clinical and inpatient settings.


“My experiences in the field of medicine sparked my interest in animal medicine,” she said, adding that “once my enlistment was at its end I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in animal medicine.”

Enter Auburn and the university’s connection to Villanueva’s love for animals. Villanueva said she always knew she wanted to work with animals and applied to three universities, including Auburn, which she determined is “one of the best schools to study animal science.”

Villanueva was accepted to Auburn in 2016 and quickly learned it also was a top university for military students.

“Auburn’s Veterans Resource Center has been such a blessing to me since I’ve been here,” she said. “The center is a place I can go to and feel comfortable in, whether it be to study, use a computer or even just talk to someone who can relate to the transition from military to civilian life.”

Villanueva said it was no surprise to her that Auburn was recently named to the 2018-2019 Military Friendly School list that will be published in the May issue of G.I. Jobs magazine.

Auburn is one of just 941 schools nationwide to receive the designation, which was based on extensive research using public data sources from more than 8,800 schools nationwide, input from student veterans and responses to a survey of participating institutions. Ratings combine survey scores with the assessment of an institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, degree advancement or transfer and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

Paul “Puck” Esposito, director of the Auburn University Veterans Resource Center and a retired Navy captain, said it’s great to have Auburn listed as a Military Friendly School but his office works hard daily to go even further, providing service above and beyond the standards of such rankings and offering a “holistic approach” for the military clients they serve.

“There’s so much more to it that doesn’t go into that rating that we offer,” he said, adding that everyone on his office’s staff has past military experience or is the spouse of a veteran.

According to a brochure about the Auburn University Veterans Resource Center, or AUVRC, which services a total of 1,100 clients, the center’s mission is to “assist, transition and support veterans, guardsmen, reservists, active duty, military dependents and survivors who receive federal Veteran Affairs educational benefits in all aspects of benefits, both campus and community.”

The Veterans Resource Center offers tutoring services, a student textbook library, an annual veterans golf classic and even a professional clothing locker with dress clothes available to help military students better prepare for interviews or presentations.

“They can come in and pull from the clothing locker and if they need it, they can keep it,” said Meg Ford Alexander ’86, a VA certifying official and outreach coordinator in the Veterans Resource Center.

Alexander said a major part of the center’s appeal is how it reconnects those who have or are currently serving in the military.

“We’re a big family uniting that population,” she said.

Villanueva agrees.

“Along with the AUVRC staff, fellow student veterans have become my family here in Auburn,” Villanueva said. “When I moved here, I did not know anyone from Auburn or even from Alabama at that. The AUVRC staff are so welcoming and create such a great environment to help veterans feel at home. I am so thankful to have them here for support.”

The center even offers an Auburn Warrior Orientation and Learning, or A.W.O.L., program, which provides a veteran-specific orientation session that helps military students not only find their classes but also such resources as financial aid. The Veterans Resource Center participates, among other programs, with the post 9/11 G.I. Bill and the Yellow Ribbon program.

Additionally, military students can follow the AUVRC on Facebook (@Auburnvrc) and can become members of the Auburn Student Veterans Association, or ASVA, which is a chapter of Student Veterans of America, or SVA. The 501(c)3 group represents veterans transitioning from prior military service into higher education.

“Veterans comprise a unique and integral part of the student body within Auburn University, and we aim to help them acclimate to a new culture when they have a very different perspective on life,” said Kyle Venable, president of the Auburn Student Veterans Association. “Our goal is to help student veterans connect with one another on campus for camaraderie, to share information about local community veteran resources and to create a culture within the local community that supports veteran academic success and leads to future employment.”

As for Villanueva, she plans to graduate in December with her bachelor’s degree from the College of Agriculture, majoring in animal science muscle foods. Her goal is to then earn a master’s degree in animal nutrition. In the meantime, Villanueva said she will do all she can to promote Auburn and its Veterans Resource Center.

“The AUVRC staff is caring and makes sure the Auburn student veterans are taken care of,” she said. “There are so many resources and information that can be used there in the center, but also it is a great place of camaraderie.”

(Written by Preston Sparks.)

(Courtesy Auburn University)

4 months ago

4-year-old Alabamian Austin Perine feeding the homeless with huge heart and wise words: ‘don’t forget to show love!’

(Alabama NewsCenter/Vimeo)

Most 4-year-olds live with only a few things on their minds: Mom, Dad, siblings, play, eat and drink.

Not Austin Perine.

He feeds the homeless.

Ask him why, and be prepared for a simple but wise answer.

“If you were homeless, would you want to be fed? Well, that’s why I’m feeding the homeless, because they’re hungry,” Austin responds.


(Austin Perine is a young Alabama Bright Light who proves some heroes do wear capes from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.)

Austin wears a superhero cape when he goes on his feeding outings with his father, T.J. Perine. At Linn Park recently, the little guy handed sandwiches and drinks to the homeless. Every time, he exclaimed, “Don’t forget to show love!”

Show Love is the name of the nonprofit the elder Perine started.

“This whole thing started when we were sitting at home watching Animal Planet and a baby panda was abandoned by its mom,” Perine said. “Just to give him an answer, I told Austin that the panda would be homeless. Then he asked, ‘Well, are people homeless?’ and I said yes. That sparked an idea for him to want to come and feed the homeless, so here we are just a few months later.”

A few of the homeless at Linn Park knew little Austin with his superhero cape, and exchanged hugs and fist bumps. Those who did not know him were flabbergasted. One homeless man said he’d never seen anything like this.

Most people are concerned with their own well-being. The few who show this level of dedication to serving others are usually adults with a giving spirit. For Austin, it’s not about age but empathy.

Austin explained how doing this makes him feel inside.

“When I feed the homeless it makes me really happy and I think what I do is very special,” Austin said. “When I grow up I want to be president. My jobs when I become president would be to feed the homeless and to chase the bad guys out of schools.”

Austin’s efforts have garnered worldwide attention from media outlets interested in his story.

“We’ve been on CNN, NBC and CBS, and we’ve been covered by news in France, Germany and England,” Perine said. “Austin has been doing his thing and has no idea; he’s just being Austin. I think it’s remarkable. Every day I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m still alive, because this is like a dream.”

Austin continued handing out sandwiches and drinks when he got a huge hug from a woman sitting on the steps at Linn Park. She had a grocery cart full of bags and clothes and other items, most likely all she owned.

“When I get hugs from the homeless, it makes me feel great inside,” Austin said.

Remember this: Austin Perine is only 4 years old.

To donate or for information visit,

(Courtesy Alabama News Center)