2 years ago

Mobile Energizer ‘elves’ bring Christmas to Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind

Mobile Energizers members played Santa’s elves Nov. 13, shopping for students at the Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind in Mobile.

The six Alabama Power retirees scoured the toy aisles at Target at Shoppes at Bel Air Mall in Mobile, searching for the perfect toy for each child. During the school’s Dec. 12 Christmas party, about 65 sight- and hearing-impaired children will receive gifts, thanks to the Mobile Energizers.

Everyone at the school – students and staff – looks forward to the party every year, said Principal Mandy Sullivan. The school’s atmosphere nearly crackles with excitement.

“The children are so happy. It’s almost the feeling of Christmas morning,” said Sullivan, who has served two years as principal of the Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind. “Probably some of our students don’t get a lot of gifts at home, so this really means a lot.”

On the morning of the party, the teachers treat Energizer volunteers to a potluck breakfast. Every teacher brings a covered dish, casserole or donuts. After breakfast, students assemble in the gym, where Santa calls each child – one by one – to pick up their gift.

“No one opens a gift until every child has one,” Sullivan said. “We count down, and everyone opens their gift at the same time. Even the three- and four-year olds know, and even the new students understand this. It’s really neat to see.”

Each teacher creates a wish list for their class after talking with every student about what they want, which is provided to the Mobile Energizer shoppers.

“The children get the gift specified by their teacher,” Sullivan said. “About 99 percent of the time, the Energizers get the exact toy the child asked for. They do an amazing job.”

It takes some planning to shop for so many children, said longtime Mobile Energizer Mary Jo Hrabe, who serves as secretary. The Energizers organization is made up of retirees of Alabama Power, Southern Nuclear and Southern Company Services in Alabama.

Hrabe and her husband, Chuck, president of the Mobile Energizers, joined Carolyn Feltus, Joe Hall, Cathy Odom and Carol Mitchell in shopping from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Later, they met at Alabama Power’s West Mobile Office, where the group spent four hours wrapping the presents. Mary Jo Hrabe made special labels for the presents. Girl’s gifts were packaged in red and boy’s presents in green, for easy distribution by Santa.

“This is an event we’ve done for 12 years, and we really enjoy it,” Hrabe said. “The children are very orderly, they’re so good.

“Seeing them open their gifts brings tears to our eyes,” she said. “The Southwest Regional School for the Deaf and Blind is one of the 501(c)(3) agencies we’ve donated to each year, and it’s so worth it.”

The Mobile Energizers delivered the gifts to the school Nov. 16 for safekeeping before the party, which is always held the week before school lets out for the holidays, she said.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

10 hours ago

Regions Bank offering disaster recovery assistance to Alabama customers impacted by Sally

Regions Bank on Thursday evening announced a series of generous financial services that are available to help people and businesses in portions of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi that were negatively affected by Hurricane Sally this week.

According to the Birmingham-based company, options include payment extensions, the waiving of certain fees and interest rate discounts, along with additional offers.

“Regions Bank has been part of the Gulf Coast and our inland communities for many years, and we will be here in the days, weeks and months to come as storm recovery moves forward,” stated John Turner, president and CEO of Regions Financial Corp.

“These financial services are designed to make the recovery easier, and we encourage all customers impacted by Sally to contact us and discuss your individual needs,” he continued.


Disaster recovery financial services available for a limited time will include the following:

  • No check-cashing fee for FEMA-issued checks cashed at Regions branches in impacted areas
  • Regions Mortgage Disaster Relief Purchase and Renovation loan programs
  • Personal and business loan payment assistance
  • Regions fees will be waived when the bank’s customers use other banks’ ATMs in the impacted areas for 30 days beginning Friday, Sept. 18
  • One penalty-free CD withdrawal
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on new personal unsecured loans
  • Business loan payment deferrals available up to 90 days beginning Friday, Sept. 18
  • Payment extensions available for qualified credit card holders
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on standard rates for new business loans and/or lines of credit up to $1 million to help with recovery needs in affected areas
  • An interest rate discount of 0.50% on a new unsecured business term loan of up to $50,000 with a term of up to 36 months, including waived origination or loan document fees and options for the first payment to be deferred up to 90 days

People and businesses in need of assistance are encouraged to contact Regions to discuss individual needs and sign up for applicable services.

More information from Regions can be accessed here.

Additionally, for questions regarding a mortgage, customers can call Regions  at 1-800-986-2462. For assistance regarding home equity and other consumer loans, dial 1-866-298-1113. The general number of 1-800-411-9393 is available for help with other questions and general banking needs.

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

11 hours ago

One of Alabama’s richest men kidnapped in Birmingham home; Suspects arrested

Elton B. Stephens, Jr., the retired CEO of EBSCO Industries, was reportedly kidnapped from his bed last Friday and held for ransom. He is currently safe, and two suspects are in custody.

EBSCO is one of the state’s largest privately held companies, with annual sales of about $3.2 billion as of 2018 counting subsidiaries. Stephens is the son of the company’s late founder. Their family was estimated to have a net worth of $4 billion as of 2014, per Forbes.

Alabama Media Group on Thursday reported that Blount County’s Matthew Amos Burke, 34, and Tabatha Nicole Hodges, 33, have been charged with burglary, kidnapping an adult for ransom, extortion and theft of property.


The pair allegedly broke into a Birmingham home Stephens is renting in the early morning hours of this past Friday. When Stephens awoke that morning, Burke was standing over him, per reports.

Burke and Hodges are alleged to have robbed the house of valuables and three firearms.

They reportedly threatened to kill Stephens if he did not comply with them or if he attempted to call for help.

“They took him to a trailer in St. Clair County where they had him wire $250,000 into their account. They returned him to his home about 4:30 p.m. [on Friday]. Police were called,” Alabama Media Group wrote.

Law enforcement officials declined comment on the pending case. Stephens says he did not previously know the suspects.

Stephens’ attorney released a statement, saying: “Elton Stephens Jr. was kidnapped in a home invasion last Friday. I ask that his privacy be respected by the press and the public to allow him time and space to process and deal with these very traumatizing circumstances.”

“We are thankful and grateful for the hard work of the Birmingham Police Department, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s office for their hard work in investigating this horrid life experience for Mr. Stephens,” the attorney concluded.

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

11 hours ago

Winston Groom, beloved Alabamian and author of Forrest Gump, dies at 77

Winston Groom, Army veteran, Alabamian, and writer of the bestselling novel Forrest Gump, passed away recently at his home near Fairhope at the age of 77.

The Tuscaloosa News first reported the news of Groom’s death, citing confirmation from a local official with the City of Fairhope.

Groom was born in Washington, D.C., but spent most of his life in the Yellowhammer State. He spent his childhood in Mobile and graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965.

While in Tuscaloosa, Groom was in the ROTC. Groom served in the U.S. Army after graduation, rising to the rank of captain and serving a combat tour during the Vietnam War.


The author lived in both Washington and New York after leaving the armed forces, during which time he transitioned from journalism to authoring books.

According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Groom returned to Mobile in 1985 at which point he began work on what would become his career-defining work, Forrest Gump, which published in 1986.

The book did not immediately leap off the shelves. It was the runaway success of the 1994 movie that catapulted Forrest Gump to the top of bestsellers lists across the nation.

As noted by many, Groom’s novel is quite different from the best picture winning film that made its central figure a pop-culture touchstone.

“Most writers never put a character into the popular imagination … but Winston did,” Don Noble, professor emeritus of English at the University of Alabama and a longtime friend of Groom’s told the Tuscaloosa News.

Groom was inducted into the Alabama Writers Hall of Fame in 2018, he is survived by his wife and a daughter.

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

11 hours ago

‘Today’ segment features Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed

A segment broadcast nationally Thursday morning on the “Today Show” featured two of Alabama’s most prominent mayors.

NBC’s Craig Melvin reported on seven mayors — all relatively young black men and most of them from the South — who have formed a group to help each other most effectively lead their respective cities.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, both first-term mayors, are part of this network.

Woodfin was the first mayor featured in the segment, responding to a question from Melvin about the unique challenges of being in their shoes as a mayor in 2020.


“All of us are dealing with the trifecta of a global health pandemic, economic crisis and racial unrest,” the Magic City leader noted. “All three of those things combined requires a deep moral compass to make tough decisions.”

At Melvin’s prompting, both Woodfin and Reed were subsequently highlighted as they spoke about being black mayors leading police departments amid civil unrest across the nation.

“You have to listen to all your constituents,” Woodfin advised. “Because at the end of the day, all of our jobs as mayor, the responsibility of public safety is ours.”

“And it takes a balance,” Reed said. “I think what I’ve tried to do is to have a compassion for our community, to have a compassion for our residents.”

While tangible advice and best practices are shared in the group, which communicates mainly by text message, they also offer each other support on a more personal level. Their text thread, they say, is often lighthearted and filled with ribbing each other.

This was evidenced by the mayors jokingly teasing Reed about how big his City of Montgomery office is, as seen on the segment.

Reed landed a one-liner of his own shortly afterward, when Melvin asked who was going to give him some excerpts from the text thread.

“We don’t have any Michael Cohens in this group,” Reed quipped, referencing the former attorney to President Donald Trump.


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

12 hours ago

Dr. Cheri Canon is a 2020 Woman of Impact

Dr. Cheri Canon is much more than an award-winning doctor specializing in diagnostic radiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

Also a professor and the Witten-Stanley Endowed Chair of Radiology at UAB, Canon’s impact reaches far beyond her important day jobs.

In a recent interview with Yellowhammer News, Canon attributed her success in academia to mentors that shared their experience and advice with her.


“Without this advice, I would not have been able to successfully navigate an academic career, particularly as a woman,” she said. “However, this advice has come from both men and women. I often hear women solely seeking mentorship from other women. While this is important, diversity again is key. We must understand the perspectives of men as well if we are to truly achieve our goals.”

Canon understands that she has faced challenges unique to women, but reinforces that diversity is always valuable. She is even published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology on “Gender Diversity within the American Board of Radiology.” She challenges anyone to point to a situation where diversity of thought is not superior to an echo chamber.

“Medicine is complex; radiology is complex,” Canon advised. “If we are to address issues within our field, we need to come together in an open forum that demonstrates diversity of every definition. Only then can we solve the real issues.”

While diversity remains important in her academic career and professional development, she said she selfishly loves seeing women succeed in their field. She is a co-creator for the inaugural nationwide Leading, Empowering and Disrupting (LEAD) Women’s Leadership Program, which is in its second year. The program is a collaboration between the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments across the United States and GE Healthcare to specifically cultivate more women chairs in radiology.

Indeed, Canon is an active leader on the national stage when it comes to her field. She has served as an oral examiner for the American Board of Radiology (ABR) for more than a decade and as a member of ABR’s board of trustees. Canon now sits on the ABR board of governors. Another key example is her previous service as vice chair of the American College of Radiology (ACR), as chancellor on the ACR board and served as the chair of the ACR Commission on Education. She is the president-elect of the Society of Chairs of Academic Radiology Departments (SCARD).

However, some of Canon’s most prized work comes outside of the halls of academia and medicine.

She works with Birmingham’s Momentum, which has now blossomed into a network of over 500 women alumnae leaders in Birmingham and continues to grow. Canon serves as a role model so that other women can see that they can be successful in a leadership position and still have a family and life outside of work. She recently finished her second term as president of the Momentum board but considers herself a “lifer.”

Canon told Yellowhammer News that the most rewarding part for her is watching others’ successes.

“As a chair, I feel my most important role is creating a culture wherein our faculty members can thrive and support their development, she said. “It is rewarding to see someone land their first grant, achieve academic promotion, or celebrate their first publication.”

She continued, “For me, there is no greater reward than the knowledge that someone has navigated troubled waters, or risen to greater heights, or taken baby steps toward progress, as a result of time spent with me.”

Canon acknowledged that it is important to choose a career path based upon your profession rather than a path someone else deems fit. She said while others sometimes deter young minds from entering the medical field, she feels that while it has not always been an easy road, it has been incredibly fulfilling for her.

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Dr. Cheri Canon a 2020 Woman of Impact.


Editor’s note: Yellowhammer Multimedia recently announced the third annual Women of Impact Awards. Honorees are being featured on Yellowhammer News each weekday through September 30. We will tell their stories one-by-one, utilizing written and video formats. Check back daily for more of Alabama’s best and brightest.

Lenze Morris, a native of Southeast Alabama, is a special contributing writer to Yellowhammer News for the 2020 Women of Impact series