and 2 years ago

Meet ‘Mama B,’ one of Alabama’s biggest hearts

Joann Bashinsky has had one of the biggest hearts in Alabama, but most just know her as “Mama B.”

Her long history of being one of the state’s most generous philanthropists has been documented by Yellowhammer News before, and now she and the folks with the Auxiliary of Big Oak Ranch are at it again.

On September 25, they unveiled a brand new boutique store made to look like a castle, which Bashinsky calls the “granddaddy of them all.”

Big Oak Ranch is an Alabama-based “Christian home for children needing a chance,” founded 44 years ago by John Croyle. Over 2,000 children have called Big Oak home, and the organization takes no state or federal money. Therefore, it relies solely upon the generosity of individuals like Bashinsky.

In 2006, she began personally planning and designing a boutique for the girls at the home, 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 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 original 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. 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 girls boutique, the boys immediately wanted one for themselves, so Bashinsky got right back to work. The boys got their own shop, which is called “Outfitters” and 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.

Now, the new boutique is ready to shine.

Watch:

“This is the third boutique, and this is the grandaddy of them all, because I don’t think I’ll be here to build any more,” Bashinsky said.

She added, with a laugh, “I don’t mean I’ll be dead, I just won’t be building.”

Once a month Mama B and the Auxiliary open the boutique so the girls can come and spend their points on everything from shoes and clothes to toys and everything in between — really anything girls could want, the new store has it.

Brodie Croyle, the founder’s son and now Big Oak’s executive director himself, told Yellowhammer News that he is “very excited” about the new boutique and “pumped up” for the girls that will get to enjoy it.

“How it works is our girls earn points by getting good grades, doing chores, helping Mama with stuff that maybe she didn’t ask them to do, come in here learning bible verses, or doing the different things they have to do to earn these points,” Croyle said. “There is never money that swaps hands in here.”

This system teaches the girls that you only buy what you can afford, that you must earn the privilege of having it, and how to budget and save money.

Croyle praised the beloved Bashinsky for her longtime, genuine love of the kids at Big Oak.

“She’s been around so long, and she’s been a part of our family – and I don’t say that lightly – for such a long time,” he emphasized. “This is her heart, this is what she loves and she loves our kids just like she loves her own.”

Many people have supported Big Oak Ranch in various ways since it was founded in 1974, yet Mama B has reached a legendary stratosphere. In August 2006, Bashinsky and Phyllis DePiano felt God was calling them to organize a support mechanism for the home. After much planning, the Auxiliary of Big Oak Ranch was formed and became a public 501(c)(3) non-profit. This means that the Auxiliary functions as a fundraising and volunteer service group for Big Oak, promoting and furthering its mission of helping children needing a chance.

At the end of the day, Big Oak exists to meet the needs of abused, neglected and abandoned children by giving them a solid, Christian home and a chance to realize and fulfill God’s plan for their lives. Their motto: “Our children are not bad kids, they just come from bad circumstances.”

Their cornerstone has remained fundamentally rooted in Isaiah 61:3 –

“And they shall be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.”

Bashinsky pointed to the importance of the religious pillar of the organization as crucial to its success and the wellbeing of the kids.

“One thing that I’m proud of is Big Oak Ranch takes no federal or state money and operates debt free. So they can’t tell us what we can and can’t do,” Bashinsky added.

Big Oak currently serves 140 children. For more information about Big Oak Ranch Auxiliary, click here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn.
This report was compiled with the help of Yellowhammer Radio’s Ford Brown, who also produced the video content.
Listen to the Ford Faction on Yellowhammer Radio every day from noon to 3:00 p.m. on WYDE 101.1 FM.

2 hours ago

AlabamaWorks announces results of inaugural Innovator Awards

The inaugural AlabamaWorks! Innovator Awards were presented by Governor Kay Ivey and Deputy Secretary of Commerce Ed Castile on Thursday during the AlabamaWorks virtual conference.

A release outlined that the awards were developed to highlight people and programs across the Yellowhammer State that take an innovative approach to solving workforce challenges and help advance Ivey’s Success Plus attainment goal of adding 500,000 skilled workers by 2025.

At the time of the inception of the awards, Alabama was unaware of the impact COVID-19 would have on the state’s workforce. Although the attainment goal has not changed, economic and workforce recovery post-COVID-19 will hinge on innovators like those recognized.

“The workforce challenges that we face today are not the same ones that we faced six months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has completely reshaped the workforce landscape,” stated Ivey. “The State of Alabama is relying on those who are leading the charge by implementing innovative solutions in their cities, counties and regions to further economic and workforce development.”

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AlabamaWorks’ release said that award recipients are visionaries who utilize outside-of-the-box thinking to solve problems and effect positive change.

“It is important to recognize these leaders of innovation and to thank them for their hard work and dedication to the citizens, communities and industries of Alabama,” said Castile, who is also AIDT director. “Their innovative approach to workforce development will be key to opening doors, breaking barriers and propelling Alabamians forward.”

The recipients of the first-ever AlabamaWorks Innovator Awards are as follows:

Region 1 – North AlabamaWorks – Beth Brumley, Colbert County Schools
Beth Brumley built the Health Science Program for Colbert County Schools from the ground up by using her experience in the healthcare field to provide critical, real-world skills to her students. She developed key relationships within the healthcare community to provide her students enhanced learning opportunities and exposure, which resulted in increased demand for program graduates. Beth was also named the 2020 National New Teacher of the Year through the Association for Career and Technical Education. By bridging the gap between education and employer, Beth has created a formula for success that positively impacts the workforce.

Region 2 – East AlabamaWorks – The Sylacauga Alliance for Family Enhancement (SAFE).
SAFE has been a model for supportive services to empower individuals and families while fostering positive and healthy development of the community for nearly 25 years. In their program, SAFE combines occupational and employability skills to help job seekers be ready to enter the workforce regardless of barriers they may have faced in the past. Their dedication to providing practical solutions to modern problems is a testament to their heart for service and passion for helping their community and region.

Region 3 – West AlabamaWorks – Dr. Mike Daria, Superintendent Tuscaloosa City Schools
Dr. Daria has played a crucial role in the success of West Alabama’s workforce development by fostering important relationships between industry and education. His leadership has focused on increased Career Technical Education (CTE) enrollment, supporting local Worlds of Work events and the Educator Workforce Academy. Dr. Daria’s emphasis on the importance of identifying career pathways for the students in his district and then providing viable opportunities for students to take those paths, make him invaluable to West Alabama.

Region 4 – Central Six AlabamaWorks – Ed Farm
Ed Farm is the signature program of TechAlabama that focuses on encouraging children and adults to discover and pursue STEM careers. Ed Farm has a vision for a world full of invention, led by citizens who have been equipped with the necessary tools to fill or create the careers of the future. Through equipping educators and communities with innovative tools, strategies and programs they are able to support active learning for all students. With three signature tracks, Ed Farm is poised to help increase educational equity and improve learning outcomes through technology all while preparing the future tech workforce.

Region 5 – Central AlabamaWorks – Tiger Mochas, Auburn City Schools
Tiger Mochas is a collaborative effort between special education students, FCCLA (Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America) members and peer volunteers at Auburn High School. This student-led organization is serving up a lot more than hot cups of coffee to their peers because through their work, students are provided meaningful, hands-on work experience that teaches important functional, social and daily living skills. Graduates of the program leave with not only work and employability skills, but in-demand soft skills that will help them succeed in life and work.

Region 6 – Southeast AlabamaWorks – WeeCat Industries
WeeCat Industries uses a simulated workplace model to meet the growing demand for a skilled workforce. WeeCat saw an opportunity to begin teaching work ethics and employability skills as early as preschool, and rose to the challenge. Their students clock into work, run an assembly line, fill orders, check invoices, meet production quota, interview for new positions and implement quality control all while earning a “paycheck” to be spent at the WeeCat Store before they can even spell the word “school”. WeeCat Industries places invaluable skills at a crucial age in development which will shape the future of the workforce.

Region 7 – SAWDC AlabamaWorks – Ed Bushaw
Ed Bushaw with the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce researched and developed initiatives to address the region’s workforce supply to meet the needs of the growing hospitality and tourism industry in his region. His collaborative efforts with business and industry officials resulted in the development of the first Hospitality and Tourism registered apprenticeship program in Alabama. Apprentices receive classroom instruction as well as valuable real-world experience within the hospitality and tourism industry and finish the program with a credential that can be used to advance their career. Ed’s ability to adapt to the needs of industry and implement programs that address those needs are vital to the continued success of southwest Alabama.

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

3 hours ago

AT&T gives $100,000 to Hurricane Sally relief efforts in Alabama

AT&T announced Monday that it is giving $100,000 to help the citizens of South Alabama recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Sally.

The donation was given to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund (GERF), a pool of money to which anyone can donate that the State sets aside for use in the wake of natural disasters.

“I appreciate AT&T for immediately mobilizing their employees and their resources to offer support to our citizens, first responders and communities,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement on Monday.

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The telecommunications giant also temporarily waived all overages in impacted areas, essentially giving unlimited talk, text and data to their customers in 195 Alabama and Northwest Florida zip codes from September 16 to September 23.

AT&T, along with all other major wireless carriers in the United States, has turned on a system that allows charitable giving via text message.

Anyone with a cellphone can text HURRICANES to 90999 which will trigger a $10 donation to the American Red Cross’ hurricane relief efforts.

Wayne Hutchens, president of AT&T Alabama, commented, “As our teams are working alongside their neighbors along the gulf coast to restore their communities, we are proud to support our first responders and organizations that are dedicated to helping our friends and families as they get back on their feet after the devastation of Hurricane Sally.”

The GERF, to which AT&T donated, is administered by the Governor’s Office of Volunteer Services and was created after Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina in 2004 and 2005, according to its website.

Any person with a credit card can donate to the Relief Fund here, via a portal made possible by the United Ways of Alabama.

“Even as we see tremendous suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally, we also see shining examples of commitment and care. This is a time for the entire state to rally behind the good people of South Alabama,” Ivey remarked on Monday.

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

3 hours ago

Doug Jones backs keeping Senate’s 60-vote cloture threshold, opposes packing the Supreme Court

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has addressed whether the United States Senate should end the filibuster as we know it.

Certain national Democrats, including U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) over the weekend, have come out in support of ending the filibuster if Democrats take back the Senate in November’s general election.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said Democrats will consider this, as well as drastic options such as packing the court.

“Nothing’s off the table,” Schumer said.

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This type of rhetoric came after Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away on Friday and it became clear that President Donald Trump plans to put forward a nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Senate’s current rule requires 60 votes to end a filibuster, otherwise known as invoking cloture.

Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2013 dropped the threshold from 60 votes to end a filibuster to a simple majority for all executive branch nominees. This paved the way for the same being done for judicial nominees, including SCOTUS nominations.

Reid in recent days told Fox News the filibuster will soon be completely gone.

“It’s not a question of if (the filibuster) is going to be gone. It’s a question of when it’s going to be done,” Reid asserted. “The filibuster is history. It won’t be in existence next year at this time.”

However, Alabama’s junior senator is pushing back.

In an interview with Vox published on Monday, Jones voiced support for the 60-vote threshold needed to invoke cloture.

Transcript as follows, courtesy of Vox:

Ella Nilsen:

I wanted to get your thoughts on filibuster reform. Do you think that’s an option Democrats should pursue if you are in the majority in the Senate but you’re dealing with an obstinate Republican minority?

Doug Jones:

I know there’s a lot of talk about that. And also know, if Joe Biden is president of the United States, Biden has a 40-year history of working with Republicans. And no matter what happens during the election season, they all like him; I’ve heard that time and time again. Joe is the kind of guy that’s a Senate institutionalist. I really believe he will want to work with Republicans to try to get things done. This ability to just go from one Senate majority to the other with or without the president, it’s not good for the country.

I think the filibuster rule is a way that you have to reach out. That’s what I do every day when I’m in the Senate, and sometimes I have to reach out within my own party to try to pull people together. I think Joe’s gonna give this a chance, and I’m very hopeful that Senate Republicans will take the opportunity to move together.

Let’s get the Senate back to some regular order where we can debate the issues of the day, have amendments on the issues of the day, vote on them up or down, let the president do what he’s going to do. But give the president an opportunity to find that common ground.

It is by finding common ground that we move forward, not by just doing it by simple whim of who happens to be in the majority, because then you’re gonna see, just like we’re seeing with executive orders playing out — a new president comes in, gets rid of all his predecessor’s executive orders, those new ones that we don’t need to see that’s happening with legislation.

We need to see some consistency. I think filibuster rule, the 60-vote margin, is a way to do that.

On Monday, Jones also addressed the potential of packing the court and other general actions Democrats could take in response to Trump nominating and the Senate confirming a new Supreme Court justice in the coming weeks.

In a Facebook livestream hosted by his reelection campaign, Jones was asked if he supported “packing the court” by increasing the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Theoretically, a Democratic-controlled Congress could pass legislation doing so, to be signed by 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, if the upcoming election goes their way. Biden could then fill the court with liberal justices, who would only need a majority vote in a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Jones on the notion of packing the court said, “I don’t agree.”

“I don’t believe in retaliatory measures,” he explained. “I just think that that is crazy.”

The senator subsequently outlined that packing the courts would destroy the U.S. Constitution’s system of checks and balances.

“I am not for retaliatory measures,” Jones added. “I think, you know we’ve had nine folks on the Supreme Court since 1869, I believe. And it’s worked out pretty well over the years. … I just don’t think that people should start trying to threaten or do retaliation measures like that.”

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

5 hours ago

Tuberville drops ad — Anyone who burns U.S. flag ‘should go to prison’

On Monday, the Tuberville campaign announced a new 30-second TV ad that highlighted his father’s World War II military service and calls for individuals who burn the American flag to be put in “prison.”

According to a release from the campaign, the ad will be airing on broadcast and cable stations throughout Alabama as well as digitally on social media outlets.

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Transcript as follows:

Tommy Tuberville walking through empty football stands and speaking into camera Tuberville: Hello, I’m Tommy Tuberville. I’m proud to have won a lot of big football games, but I’m prouder to be the son of a veteran.

My Dad was 18 when he stormed the beaches of Normandy, and we live in the greatest nation on Earth because of patriots like him.

I’ll stand with President Trump to keep American great, and anyone who burns this flag should go to prison.

I approved this message because in the Senate, I’ll donate my salary to the veterans of the great state of Alabama.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

7 hours ago

7 Things: RBG replacement fight looms, Jones pledges to stop Trump, no Labor Day coronavirus spike and more …

7. Tuberville holding a fundraiser in Florida

  • Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville has been criticized throughout his campaign for U.S. Senate about how he moved from Florida to Alabama just to run for office, and now he’s holding a fundraiser in Florida. 
  • Monday, Tuberville will be holding a campaign fundraiser in Jacksonville, Florida. The Alabama Democratic Party executive director said this decision makes sense as it’s Tuberville’s “home state,” adding that “he still doesn’t understand the kitchen table issues that matter to Alabamians.”

6. Envelope to Trump contained ricin

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  • A letter to President Donald Trump and the White House is being investigated after it tested positive for the poison ricin. 
  • The FBI said that there’s “no known threat to public safety.” The FBI will be joined by the Secret Service and the U.S Postal Investigation Service in the investigation. 

5. Hurricane Sally cleanup could cost $19 million for Mobile

  • It’s been estimated that the cost of cleaning up after Hurricane Sally could cost $19 million, according to the Mobile County Emergency Management. 
  • This estimate just includes what local areas are likely to spend on road and bridge repair, utilities and debris removal. The final cost is expected to be higher. 

4. No coronavirus spike since Labor Day

  • Alabama health officials were concerned that Alabama could see a spike in coronavirus cases after the Labor Day holiday, similar to spikes seen after Memorial Day and Independence Day. 
  • Thankfully, there hasn’t been a spike in coronavirus cases after almost two weeks, as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have leveled out and slowly declined throughout the state. 

3. Ruth Bader Ginsburg passes

  • At 87-years-old, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away after a battle with pancreas cancer. She was the second woman ever appointed to the court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. 
  • In a released statement by U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), he spoke about her career and legacy, saying that “she inspired generations of young women to reach for heights that previously felt impossible.” U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville spoke similarly of Ginsburg, stating, “She fought hard for her beliefs and carried the respect of her fellow justices, liberal and conservative alike.”

2. Jones fundraising email mentions Ruth Bader Ginsburg

  • After the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday, U.S. Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) reelection campaign sent out a fundraising email over the weekend that mentioned RBG’s passing. 
  • In the email, Jones says that he’s “saddened” by how her death has been politicized by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). He goes on to warn, “So much depends on this Senate seat. Our win in November will be a defeat of Mitch McConnell’s hypocrisy and cynicism.”

1. President Donald Trump promises to nominate a woman to SCOTUS

  • After the passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many are questioning who President Donald Trump will nominate to take RGB’s place on the court. 
  • Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign has released a statement detailing that the president will nominate a woman. Communications director Tim Murtaugh clarified that Trump has every right to make this nomination, arguing, “There has been an open seat on the Supreme Court in a presidential election year 29 times in American history, and in every single case, the president has nominated a candidate.”