3 weeks ago

Talladega’s Union Village provides homes, independence to people with disabilities

Jim Bob Rutlin has come home at last.

Rutlin is one of the first residents of Union Village, an innovative community in Talladega for low-income blind, deaf and deaf-blind individuals.

“It gives me a sense of independence,” said Rutlin, a blind part-time Braille transcriber at the library at the Alabama School for the Deaf.  “It says we’re grown, we pay taxes and we can have a place of our own. This is home for good, and I thank God for that every night.”

The Presbyterian Home for Children (PHFC) is partnering with the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (AIDB) and two Birmingham-based foundations to expand the village, which features affordable, safe, secure and accessible housing for people who are blind, deaf and deaf-blind.

Since 2017, PHFC has owned and operated the village on part of its 80-acre Talladega campus for AIDB consumers. The rental income from the houses goes back to help support PHFC’s programs for homeless children, at-risk teens and young adults, and families in crisis from across Alabama and the Southeast.

Meanwhile, AIDB provides the community’s residents with services including job assistance, transportation, employment opportunities and on-site medical care.

“Union Village is an example of how organizations working together can do something extraordinary,” PHFC President and CEO Doug Marshall said. “There are very few, if any, communities like this in the country. Now more than ever there is a need for safe, secure and affordable housing for low-income men and women who are deaf, blind or deaf-blind. And income from the rentals will help to offset a portion of PHFC’s operating costs to serve children, which is and will always be its core ministry.”

Alabama nonprofits unite to create Union Village for deaf and blind residents from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Now, the Daniel Foundation of Alabama and the Independent Presbyterian Church (IPC) Foundation are stepping in to lend a hand and help the village grow. They are donating funds to PHFC to build two additional houses.

“We are excited to partner with these organizations in support of Union Village,” said Maria Kennedy, Daniel Foundation executive director. “Our mission focuses on improving quality of life and meeting basic needs. It’s heartwarming for us to know that we are part of an effort to offer houses that are affordable and designed to meet the specific needs of blind, deaf and deaf-blind people. It’s a win-win for all four organizations.”

IPC Foundation Executive Director Denise Moore said her organization is proud to help these residents step out on their own.

“The IPC Foundation is committed to providing people with hope and the tools to lead full, happy lives through education, medical assistance and safe housing,” she said. “We have a long history of supporting the work of the Presbyterian Home for Children and Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. We are honored to partner with them again to help provide safe, affordable housing and necessary services for the people at Union Village.”

Beth Adams added that the IPC Foundation is excited about this project.

“We are thrilled to be a part of this much-needed program to meet the needs of our blind, deaf and deaf-blind neighbors in Alabama,” said Adams, president of the IPC Foundation board. “The foundation continues to seek partnerships with nonprofits that work to make a critical difference in the lives of Alabamians.”

The all-electric village is a three-phase project, Marshall said. The first phase has been completed and includes five large cottages with 28 residents. Plans are to add 42 tiny duplex-style, accessible homes during the second and third phases.

The first two 475-square-foot houses were built this past fall, one of which is Rutlin’s home. The second two houses are under construction and set to be completed in September.

“The houses are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Marshall said. “They feature zero-step entry into the house, minimal thresholds, 9-foot ceilings and strategic placement of lighting. They are also very energy efficient, which will help lower power bills.”

Shaded by large oak and pecan trees, the community will eventually include walkways, gardens and picnic areas, making it easy for residents to meet and enjoy the outdoors.

Tamara Kidd, social worker and AIDB Support Housing Program supervisor, said she is thrilled to see this village take shape. A recent survey conducted by the AIDB Regional Centers showed that a significant percentage of AIDB’s consumers were interested in living in this type of community.

“For years, we’ve wanted to have safe, affordable housing for our consumers,” said Kidd, who has worked at AIDB for 16 years. “Finally having a safe community that is affordable and accessible within the city limits is a dream come true for our residents and for AIDB. Safety is the No. 1 priority for our consumers, and the Presbyterian Home for Children has been a blessing to provide that for them.”

Marshall said he is looking forward to the continued expansion of the village.

“It’s pretty amazing that the Lord has put these two very different institutions – PHFC and AIDB – side by side, and now we’re working with two more nonprofits – the Daniel Foundation and IPC Foundation – on something so wonderful,” he said. “This village gives these residents a chance to be independent and all they can be. Together, we’re changing lives.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 hour ago

License plate to support Alabama business proposed — Must meet 1,000 application benchmark

A license plate that will support Alabama small businesses will be created if 1,000 apply for one by July 31.

Funds from purchasing the plate will be given to Main Street Alabama, which will in turn provide workshops and grants to small businesses around the Yellowhammer State.

The tag can be applied for here. A $50 fee accompanies the application.

“With this program, individuals can show their dedication to their favorite small businesses, who in many cases are their friends and neighbors, with a tag that gives back to them with workshops and grants focused on strengthening their business,” said Main Street Alabama state coordinator Mary Helmer in a statement.


Helmer added, “Small businesses keep it local by consistently sponsoring the local baseball team, providing gift baskets for the local charity drives and creating jobs in their community.”

Main Street Alabama is a non-profit entity and an offshoot of Main Street America organization.

The artwork on the tag was created by Chris Seagle, a graphic designer based in Birmingham.

The idea for a car tag supporting small business originated among a group of elected officials in Jefferson County.

Casey Middlebrooks, a member of the group and a Hoover City Councilman, said that his fellow officials “felt Main Street Alabama had the statewide presence and resources to facilitate support to small businesses throughout the state.”

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

2 hours ago

Ivey urges Alabamians to complete Census — Billions in funding, congressional seat at stake

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) on Friday released a video public service announcement urging Yellowhammer State residents to complete the 2020 Census.

The deadline to complete the Census recently was moved up to September 30, meaning there is less than seven weeks left for Alabamians to either self-respond or respond to Census Bureau field staff.

Leaders from the public sector, as well as industry, economic development, charitable and civic organizations, have warned for months that Alabama has a lot on the line during the 2020 Census response period.

Projections have shown the state will lose a congressional district and corresponding electoral college vote — likely to a far-left state such as New York, California or Illinois — if Alabama’s response rate continues to lag.


“Complete your 2020 Census today,” Ivey said to begin the new PSA. “We only have until September 30.”

“Without you, Alabama stands to lose billions in funding, a seat in Congress and economic development opportunities,” she continued. “It only takes minutes to complete. Go to my2020census.gov or participate by phone or mail.”

The governor concluded, “Be counted — if not for you, for those in Alabama who depend on you for a brighter tomorrow.”


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

2 hours ago

Report: Birmingham golf tournament Regions Tradition canceled for 2020

A report from WBRC in Birmingham on Friday says that the yearly golf tournament Regions Tradition has canceled the 2020 edition due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event organizers say it will be back in early May of 2021.

WBRC says they were told by a “source close to the tournament” about the decision to cancel the 2020 version.

The tournament had previously been rescheduled from its normal late spring/early summer slot until September due to COVID-19 concerns.


Regions Tradition is a tournament on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, a series of competitions held each year for golfers over age 50.

According to Alabama NewsCenter, the annual Regions Tradition tournament has an economic impact on the Birmingham area between $20 million and $25 million every year.

The Tradition was first held in 1989 and is one of the five major golf tournaments on the Senior Circuit.

Regions took over as the event’s sponsor in 2010 and relocated the tournament to the Birmingham area beginning in 2011.

Steve Stricker won the tournament in 2019, a title he will now keep for two years.

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

Jefferson County health officials say coronavirus pandemic precautions will continue into 2021

Two impactful figures in Jefferson County’s healthcare system advised on Friday that the coronavirus pandemic and resulting precautions such as mask-wearing will remain a major factor in public life at least through the end of 2020.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson and CEO of the UAB Health System/Ascension St. Vincent’s Alliance Will Ferniany briefed reporters on coronavirus information during a Friday morning videoconference.

“This pandemic is not going away by the end of December,” warned Ferniany.

Wilson said it was “very likely” that he would push to keep a mask order in place across Jefferson County “through the flu season” which would indicate the ordinance would stay in place at least through the spring of 2021.


“We have pretty good evidence that our face-covering orders, and our help from the public wearing face coverings, has made a difference,” remarked Wilson.

“We still have a ways to go but we’re starting to bend the curve downward,” Wilson told reporters.

The remarks made by Wilson and Ferniany are similar to what Mobile County epidemiologist Dr. Rendi Murphree told Yellowhammer News in recent days.

Ferniany said that UAB is making a significant investment in rapid testing that should be ready for action by the end of the year, the availability of which should make dealing with the virus more manageable.

Wilson highlighted a standard he felt more people should understand.

The county health officer said that any person exposed to someone positive for COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days, even if they go out and get a test showing they do not have the virus.

“Fourteen days is the maximum amount of time from being exposed to the virus where you could still develop symptoms,” Wilson said to explain the policy.

Ferniany said UAB Hospital is currently treating around 90 patients, down from a peak of 130. He relayed that 40 of the COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized are in the ICU.

RELATED: Alabama coronavirus update: Hospitalizations begin to decrease, new cases falling

The executive also said that the toughest aspect of caring for COVID-19 cases currently is the shortage of nurses. He said the hospitals he oversees are down “several hundred nurses” with the partial explanation that traveling nursing companies are luring workers away with higher wages.

Wilson reported additional good news for Jefferson County. He said that the area is not experiencing a higher rate of black citizens dying from COVID-19 than white citizens.

“So far we’re not seeing a racial disparity in terms of deaths in Jefferson County,” he relayed.

“Forty-one percent of our deaths in Jefferson County with COVID-19 are African American. The African American population is 43%,” Wilson stated.

Yellowhammer News asked Wilson what kind of benchmarks he would need to be passed to trigger a loosening of coronavirus precautions and whether that would be dependent on a vaccine.

“We’re not going to be out of the woods for quite a long time,” Wilson responded.

“The bottom line will be the amount of disease activity we have in the community, and the trajectory of that,” he continued.

With respect to the vaccine, Wilson replied, “It is really hard to predict what is going to happen with the vaccine: How effective is it going to be, how widespread we’re going to be able to vaccinate people and how soon. There are way too many unknowns for us to say much about that.”

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

7 hours ago

Rep. Aderholt: GOP control of House not out of reach, Senate should remain Republican

Before the onset of the pandemic, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill were optimistic about the possibility of recapturing the House and maintaining control of the Senate.

However, the mood of the body politic has changed with the arrival of COVID-19 and has made the future a bit murky. Still maintaining a level of optimism is U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville), who thinks Republicans could make gains this election but is unsure if they can make enough gains to assume control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

During an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Aderholt offered his view of those prospects on both sides of the U.S. Capitol as they stand now.


“Republicans always want to be optimistic,” Aderholt said. “We’ve got about 18 seats that we’re down right now. And the question is, can we pick up that and plus a seat or two to get the majority. To say it is a sure thing — it’s not. It’s going to be a tough election year, especially in the congressional districts where the Biden folks are going to be getting out, or the anti-Trump. I don’t think they’re so supportive of Biden, but they’re just anti-Trump.”

“I think we can pick up seats,” he continued. “I think it is entirely possible because of Donald Trump. He is going to be at the top of the ticket, and he is going to really help some members that really get the vote out to help them. The question is nobody knows will there be how many we can pick up. I won’t be surprised if we do pick up some seats. The question is, will we pick up 18 to 20, enough to take the majority. And that’s something we won’t know until closer on.”

Aderholt did not think Democrats could regain the U.S. Senate and added that he saw the seat currently occupied by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) flipping to a Republican seat, which makes those prospects more difficult for Democrats.

“I’m still optimistic the Senate can stay Republican,” Aderholt added. “I know there are three or four seats that are still toss-ups, so to speak that are Republican-held now. Obviously, I think we’re going to win the Doug Jones seat. That will be a pick-up for us. I don’t think the ones that are questionable, Republicans that are having a hard time right now, I don’t think we’ll lose all of them. We might lose one or two. But I think at the end of the day, we’re still going to stay over 50.”

@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.