3 years ago

Just call her Mama B : the story of one of Alabama’s most generous women

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — There are some people that donate large sums of money because it will bring them positive publicity and notoriety, and then there are those who do it because they care about making an impact. Many Alabamians might not have heard of Joann Bashinsky, but her decades-long record of serving others both personally and financially means more to her than any recognition.

Mrs. Bashinsky currently resides in Birmingham, Ala. and spends most of her days figuring how she can give back to her community. Over the years, she has donated to more causes and institutions than one could count. With her Torch-Bearer’s Sunday School Class at Mountain Brook Baptist Church, she has served as a medical apartment volunteer at UAB, provided Christmas presents to underprivileged families, and provided school supplies to needy children. Separately, she has donated large sums of money to some of the state’s most prominent academic institutions.

At the University of Alabama, she donated the funds to create and maintain the Bashinsky Computer lab. “The generosity of Mrs. Bashinsky has significantly impacted the College and our students,” Culverhouse College of Commerce Dean Kay M. Palan wrote.” Her vision and commitment to supporting the college’s learning technologies is unmatched and demonstrates forward-thinking about the role technology plays in higher education.”

Similarly, her gifts to Samford University have received widespread acclaim and helped faculty and students alike. Over the years, she and her late husband Sloan Bashinsky have donated over $16.5 million to the school. Through the Samford Legacy League, she has contributed to scholarship funds of students of high financial need who would not otherwise be able to attend.

“Those of us at Samford recognize and appreciate the tremendous ongoing support we receive from Mrs. Joann Bashinsky,” wrote Samford VP of University Advancement W. Randall Pittman. “This generous support has enable many young people to grow in their intellect, creativity, and faith as they passed through here on their way to a life time of service.”

But while Mrs. Bashinsky take great pride in helping all of those groups accomplish their goals, her true passion is in helping children any way she can – especially making sure that any child that wants to go to college has that opportunity.

“I’m proud that I send a lot of children to college. Any child here that wants to go to college, I’ll help them,” Mrs. Bashinsky said.

But those strong words are definitely backed up by her actions. Her late husband started scholarships for Golden Flake employees’ children through the Bashinsky Foundation. Mrs. Bashinsky described her late husband as a very generous man. When he passed, she said it was her turn to “pick up the ball and run with it.” To this day, she has continued to see his work through, and has personally donated more than $1 million dollars in scholarship money.

“When I was growing up, my parents weren’t able to send me to college. But ever since I’ve had a dollar, I’d send a child to school to better their education,” she said. Right now, she is personally helping put three separate individuals through Samford.

Perhaps more impressive than all of the financial contributions is Mrs. Bashinsky’s work with children at Big Oak Ranch.

Big Oak Ranch is an Alabama-based “christian home for children needing a chance,” founded forty-three years ago by John Croyle. Over 2,000 children have called Big Oak home, and the organization takes no and no federal money. Therefore, it relies solely upon the generosity of individuals like Mrs. Bashinsky.

Mrs. Bashinsky (pictured center) with children from Big Oak Ranch
Mrs. Bashinsky (pictured center) with children from Big Oak Ranch

“Children are dropped off at the Ranch by parents who either can’t afford them or don’t want them. These children just need a second chance, so I help them,” she said.

When John Croyle first approached Mrs. Bashinsky at the Golden Flake office with his plans for Big Oak, she was immediately impressed, and told him she planned to double the initial donation plan. She founded the Women’s Auxiliary with Phyllis Hoffman to provide items for the children in order for them to live a normal life.

In 2006, she began personally planning a designing a boutique for the girls, so that they could shop for clothing, make-up and accessories just like any other young child. In a short matter of time, the old Big Oak warehouse was revamped and converted into a marvelous shop.

“There’s not a place in Birmingham that you can find anything like it. It has everything: clothes, makeup, shoes, records, you name it,” she said. The store even includes a section for even younger girls, known as “Boutique Too.”

But there is a catch; the girls do not just get to go into the store just because they are a Big Oak resident. Mrs. Bashinsky instituted a points system, wherein the children had to acquire points from good grades, good deeds and memorizing Bible verses to make their purchases with.

After the opening of the boutique, the boys immediately wanted one for themselves, and Mrs. Bashinsky got right back to work. The boys got their own shop, called “Outfitters” designed in the style of a Bass Pro Shop. There, the kids can use their points to buy toys, games, and even outdoor items like Kayak boats.

Over the years, Mrs. Bashinsky has enlisted the help of celebrities to aid with her Big Oak projects. People like singer Taylor Hicks, former Alabama and NFL Quarterback Joe Namath, and celebrity chef Paula Dean have come to help with their time and their money.

For Mrs. Bashinsky, it does not end with the money. During her time helping with Big Oak, she has made a personal investment in each child and knows them all by name.

Former Alabama/NFL Quarterback Brodie Croyle, who is the son of Big Oak’s founder, could not think more highly of Mrs. Bashinsky’s contributions.

“There’s a whole lot of people that get involved with Big Oak Ranch, but Mrs. B is truly committed. She is passed involved; she is truly committed to our children,” Brodie Croyle said. “A lot of people just write a check and move on, but she is 100 percent involved. She knows them by name, she knows when their birthdays are. That’s why they call her Mama B.”

Mama B (pictured right) with Brodie Croyle (center)
Mama B (pictured right) with Brodie Croyle (center)

With her love for all of the children, “Mama B” has made a constant effort to make sure that she treats them all the same. “I didn’t do for one that I didn’t do for another,” she said.

Croyle agreed, and said that she’s shared with so many kids that it is hard to keep track of them all. ““When she says she can’t pick a moment, it’s because every time she’s with them there is a moment,” he said. ““Our kids know when somebody cares, and our kids know when someone is actually listening. Kids gravitate towards that. They couldn’t care less how much money you donated – they want to know that you care.”

At the core of Mama B’s generosity and love for kids is her deep Christian faith. “I’ve been a christian all my life. My mother always said that anytime the doors of the church are open, I was to be in it,” she said.

Croyle noted that Mama B knows that it has nothing to do with her, or anyone else; it has to do with God. ““God has given us a great opportunity, and God has given us great people like Mrs. B that allow us to sow those seeds. But we all know that the only true change is through God Almighty,” he said.

Her faith is so strong, that it has even had an impact on her caretaker, Mrs. Pauline. ““We’ve talked about so many things that I don’t think an employee would talk about with another employer,” she said. “She has always been there for me. By the love in her heart, she’s always come to my rescue.”

Mrs. Pauline has worked for the Bashinsky family for over thirty years. “We’ve had out ups and downs,” she said. “But by the grace of God, we’ve worked it out,” she said. To this day, the two go to church together every Sunday: service and Sunday School.

Despite getting older, Mrs. Pauline thinks that Mama B has only gotten more generous with age. Croyle agreed. “You’re not gonna be able to slow Mrs. B. down,” he said.

With all the love and generosity, Mama B has gained a reputation for being a straight shooter. “You never question where you stand with Mrs. B.,” Croyle said. Pauline also added that Mama B is not afraid to tell you when she is none too pleased. ““When it is not done right, you will hear from her, you can count on that,” she said.

But in the end, her mind is always on what is best for “her kids,” and she always needs more help with her Big Oak ventures. “We need more members,” she said. “More members will really help us support these children.”

2 hours ago

ADCNR named Agency of Year at Sportsmen’s Caucus Summit

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recently received special recognition by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation with the presentation of the State Agency of the Year Award at the 16th Annual National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Sportsman-Legislator Summit in Greensboro, Georgia.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is honored to recognize the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) as the State Agency of the Year,” said Jeff Crane, CSF President. “The DCNR has been a consistent supporter of CSF, NASC, and the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and, through this support, the Caucus in Alabama has grown tremendously to become a strong and effective voice for sportsmen and women. CSF thanks Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Deputy Commissioner Ed Poolos, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes for their continued support and steadfast dedication to Alabama’s vast natural resources.”


Hosted by the CSF, this year’s Summit brought together 50 legislators and leaders from state fish and wildlife agencies to discuss the theme “Partners Advancing America’s Conservation Movement: NASC, Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Industry and NGOs.” Topics discussed included promoting hunting and fishing, boating access, chronic wasting disease (CWD), the spread of invasive Asian carp and a variety of other issues affecting sportsmen and women.

“This is the largest gathering of pro-sportsmen legislators who come together to discuss issues that are of great importance to our hunting and angling traditions,” Crane said. “The 16th Annual NASC Summit was successful in that it brought together our bipartisan caucus leaders and members, fish and wildlife agency leaders, NGO (non-governmental organizations) representatives, and leading industry partners to focus on how to advance opportunities for sportsmen and women and to ensure sound, science-driven conservation policies are enacted.”

DCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said he was elated that the Department was awarded the CSF’s State Agency of the Year.

“We were very happy that we were recognized for multiple initiatives by the Department,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “The Foundation noted several reasons for the recognition, starting with Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon and all the work that has been done with red snapper. Alabama has been the leader in securing the state management of red snapper. The work we did in Congress helped inform the legislators on the issues on the Gulf Coast with the short seasons. We were able to work with the congressional delegations in Washington to implement the exempted fishing program (EFP) for the past two years and then win approval of management for the long-term.”

The EFP was in effect for the 2018 and 2019 red snapper seasons. Each of the Gulf states was given a snapper allocation, and each state managed its allocation.

Alabama’s quota was slightly more than a million pounds of red snapper in each of the two years of the EFP. The timely data from the mandatory Alabama Snapper Check program allowed Marine Resources to manage to the quota each year.

This year the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council passed regional management of red snapper. That amendment is awaiting the signature of the Secretary of Commerce and will go into effect for 2020 and beyond.

“The Foundation also recognized the work that Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director Chuck Sykes is doing with Senator (Doug) Jones (D-Alabama) and Senator (Cindy) Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) concerning funding for CWD research as well as the work Chuck is doing as the president of SEAFWA (Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies) on a myriad of hunting and fishing initiatives,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “We have also worked with Senator (Richard) Shelby (R-Alabama) and, to a lesser extent, Senator (Lamar) Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Senator (Mitch) McConnell (R-Kentucky) on Asian carp issues. We want to reduce Asian carp populations in Tennessee and Kentucky rivers and keep them contained in the rivers upstream that flow into Alabama.”

WFF’s Sykes said a great deal of the recognition from the CSF was due to Alabama’s willingness to meet and discuss the issues that are facing the nation’s sportsmen and women.

“The Department has allowed me to come to the CSF’s Summits to share a variety of programs we are doing,” said Sykes, who also serves on the executive committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “I’ve spoken at three of the last four events. The hunting and fishing days that the Department has promoted were mentioned as well as our CWD response plan and major educational campaign. The Foundation said they appreciated the time I had taken to come and participate in roundtable discussions with legislators around the country on important issues, from funding to our R3 efforts.”

The R3 effort stands for recruitment, retention and reactivation. Those R3 activities try to recruit new participants or increase participation rates of current or lapsed outdoor enthusiasts.

Sykes also said the Foundation recognized the contributions of the WFF’s Special Opportunity Area (SOA) and adult mentored hunting programs, programs in the Alabama Black Belt and the promotion of the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Day annually to help educate legislators on outdoors issues and improve Caucus participation and increase Caucus membership.

“Our legislators were happy to see the Department recognized,” Sykes said.

Commissioner Blankenship said the State Lands Division, under Director Patti McCurdy, contributed through its efforts to expand public boating access in Alabama. McCurdy has worked with the staffs in D.C. to continue to promote recreational access funding in Coastal Alabama. Through several funding sources, improvements to boating and angling access are planned for Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, the Intracoastal Waterway in Baldwin County, and the Middleton Causeway site on Battleship Parkway at the north end of Mobile Bay, Foley and Daphne.

Commissioner Blankenship also cited the work of Bee Frederick, who was the CSF’s representative in Alabama until recently, for holding annual events in Montgomery to promote the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.

“Bee was very helpful in getting the legislators more involved in hunting and fishing issues and helping us provide the scientific and management information to make informed decisions,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “The Caucus’ legislative agenda has been very helpful for the Department and people who hunt and fish in Alabama. The award highlights the work we do in Washington and in Montgomery with the Alabama Legislature. I think those relationships we built in Washington and here at the State House are very valuable when issues come up that affect sportsmen and women. We can pick up the phone and discuss the issues with the legislators or their staff. I think we have built a great amount of trust that we will provide them with balanced information so they can make good decisions.”

Other than naming the Alabama DCNR as State Agency of the Year, the CSF handed out several other awards at the Georgia Summit.

The Friends of NASC Award went to Shimano American Corp. and Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever.

NASC Heritage Awards were presented to Rep. David Wilson (CT), Sen. Mike Bell (TN), Sen. Mark Allen (OK), and Rep. Casey Snider (UT).

During the Summit, CSF announced the signing of a partnership with Birmingham-based B.A.S.S. to further conservation efforts. Safari Club International (SCI) was also recognized for its long-standing financial support of NASC and the annual summit.

Founded in 1989, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation was formed to work with Congress, governors, and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping.

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.

11 hours ago

Huntsville Police officer shot, killed in the line of duty — Sixth Alabama LEO slain this year

A 20-year veteran Huntsville Police Department officer on Friday evening was shot and killed in the line of duty.

The officer’s name is expected to be released on Saturday. The suspect, whose name also has yet to be released, is in custody.

Huntsville PD Chief Mark McMurray during a press conference confirmed the officer’s death, outlining that the officer was shot in the heart during a drug-related task force operation and later was pronounced dead at an area hospital. The officer was reportedly wearing a bullet proof vest when the shooting occurred.

Following Lowndes County Sheriff John Williams’ death most recently, this Huntsville officer becomes the sixth Alabama law enforcement officer slain in the line of duty in 2019.

U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town of the Northern District of Alabama released a statement, saying, “All of Alabama is heartbroken again as another Alabama peace officer is gunned down in the line of duty.”


“The Huntsville Police Department investigator, whose name will be released tomorrow, will always be remembered as a good man and a fine officer. Those of us who knew him admired his dedication and professionalism. We must now direct our prayers to his grieving family and pull together in full support of the Huntsville Police Department and law enforcement everywhere who lost another brother of the badge tonight. I am beyond grief,” Town concluded.

Governor Kay Ivey also released a statement.

“I am grieved to hear of the Huntsville Police Officer killed in the line of duty and extend my deepest sympathies and prayers to his family for their unimaginable loss,” the governor stated. “It has been an exceptionally tough year for our law enforcement community, and this will be felt across our state.”

“I will also be praying for strength for the Huntsville Police as they grieve the loss of their fellow officer, as well as for their continued protection as they keep us safe. May the Lord’s peace that passes all understanding be with the family and everyone who loved this dedicated officer,” Ivey added.

Oxford Police Department Chief Bill Partridge, who is president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police, tweeted, “It seems the attack on our brothers and sisters of law enforcement continues. We have lost another officer tonight to gunfire. Please keep the Huntsville Police Department and the family of the fallen officer in your prayers. This assault must stop!”

In addition to the Huntsville PD officer and Sheriff Williams, Tuscaloosa Police Department Investigator Dornell Cousette, Mobile Police Department Officer Sean Tuder, Auburn Police Department Officer William Buechner and Birmingham Police Sergeant Wytasha Carter have been shot and killed in the line of duty this year.

State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville), a former police chief in the city, posted a powerful tribute about the unmanned officer on Facebook.

“He always wanted to be in drug enforcement, that’s all he talked about as a young officer. He worked the streets diligently until he got his dream assignment,” Reynolds wrote. “Now he is the victim of a murder, killed trying to make our community safer. There are mean evil people in this world that have no respect for human life.”

“I pray for his family, our officers, our Chief that tried to provide comfort in the worst of times, and I pray for the families and the officers that graduated the police academy this morning,” he concluded. “There is no reasoning. Bad day for the good guys.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle stated, “Our City is broken hearted tonight.”

“All of Huntsville mourns along with the Huntsville Police Department and the family and friends of our fallen officer. We owe a continual and deep debt of gratitude to the men and women in law enforcement who protect our community every day. Let it never be taken for granted the sacrifice that officers make to keep us safe,” the mayor continued.

Battle advised, “We stand side by side with our police department and in the days, weeks and months ahead – have no doubt – we will use the full extent of the law to bring the perpetrator to justice.”

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

12 hours ago

Ivey lights official Alabama Christmas Tree

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Air Force General James B. Hecker, a children’s choir and several hundred of their fellow Alabamians gathered on the capitol steps Friday evening to light Alabama’s official 2019 Christmas tree.

The tree, standing 34-ft tall, was decorated with tens of thousands of lights as well as special ornaments marking Alabama’s bicentennial.

“Christmas is a direct reminder of the hope we find in Christ,” Ivey said in her remarks.

Caroline Blades, age 4, talked to Yellowhammer after the event. She agreed with her dad that the tree was “really pretty’ and that it “was cool to see other kids up there.”


At the event, Ivey made sure to remember the Americans serving in the armed forces, saying, “[T]his time of year it’s important to remember the brave men and women, away from home, protecting us.”

Lieutenant General James B. Hecker, commander and president, Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base, followed the governor in speaking. He said, “There is not a state in the country that welcomes their military members like Alabama.”

Watch the lighting here or below:

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

14 hours ago

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson: No plans to seek higher office beyond Mobile Mayor

MOBILE — Whenever there is an opening for a high-profile statewide office, one of the names always mentioned as a potential candidate for that office is Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.

As of late, the city of Mobile has had a good run under Stimpson’s leadership with the growth of Austal USA and Airbus Mobile while Stimpson has won two mayoral elections in Alabama’s port city. Those are the hallmarks of a potential political up-and-comer and make Stimpson a viable candidate for higher office in the eyes of some political watchers.

However, Stimpson says not to expect him to throw his hat into the ring for any higher office beyond mayor any time soon.

During a wide-ranging interview about economic development, infrastructure and education policy on location in Mobile with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Stimpson dismissed the possibility of having any political ambitions outside of Coastal Alabama.


“We all have choices to make, and my choice was to stay married to the lady I’ve been married to for a number of years,” Stimpson said. “I’m not going to change that, and so as long as that’s the way it is, I’m going to stay right where I am. But I’m honored that somebody would suggest to think that I could run for a higher office.”

According to Stimpson, he sees one of the keys to Mobile’s success as having longevity and stability at the helm. He also pointed to situations in two of South Carolina’s major cities as an example.

“We still have a whole lot of work to do in Mobile. It takes a number of years to really understand all the dynamics of being a mayor. When I look at some of the cities that have been very successful — Greenville, South Carolina or Charleston — you have a mayor that’s been there 12 or 16, or in Charleston’s case 40 years. That won’t be me. But it does take a while, and if you start getting the momentum going and things are going right in the city, it’s important to support that.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

15 hours ago

BCA’s ProgressPAC endorses five statewide judicial incumbents

The board of directors for ProgressPAC, the political arm of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), on Friday voted to endorse five statewide 2020 judicial candidates, including in the hotly contested race for place one on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

All five candidates endorsed are incumbents.

Political observers will likely consider the endorsement of Associate Justice Greg Shaw for reelection as the only non-foregone conclusion undertaken by ProgressPAC on Friday.

Shaw faces a tough primary challenge from popular State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster). Former State Sen. Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) has also qualified for the place one race, although he has yet to announce a final decision on whether he is actually running or not.


Additionally, ProgressPAC endorsed Associate Justice Brad Mendheim, Judge Beth Kellum (Court of Criminal Appeals, place two), Presiding Judge Mary Windom (Court of Criminal Appeals, place one) and Judge Bill Thompson (Court of Civil Appeals, place one). All are Republicans.

In a statement, Progress PAC chairman John Mazyck said, “All of these candidates have proven track records of being fair and impartial while serving on the bench.”

“Their commitment to the rule of law and conservative judicial philosophy made the decision to endorse an easy one,” Mazyck, of The Frazer Lanier Company, Inc. in Montgomery, added.

This came the same day that Windom’s campaign announced she raised the most of all judicial candidates last month, per public filings. She ended November with $269,699.89 total in her campaign account.

Windom was first elected to Court of Criminal Appeals in 2008 and has presided over that court since 2012. Prior to her first election, she served as an assistant U.S. attorney, as well as a deputy attorney general for the State of Alabama.

She stated, “When I was elected to serve on the Court of Criminal Appeals, I promised that I would bring justice to victims of crime, protect the constitution and apply the law as it is written, not create new laws or legislate from the bench. I am proud that I have kept those promises and I will continue to do so.”

The Republican primary will be held March 3, 2020.

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