The Village at Hixon Pond Is a Dixieland Delight

Fort Payne community welcomes a new affordable housing development to the area

IMG_8207On a crisp January day, the community of Fort Payne joined 19 other counties in Alabama as home to high-quality housing that is affordable for its residents and provided through Community Action Partnership of North Alabama’s Housing Business Unit.  Fort Payne is a small town of approximately 15,000 residents with a median family income of about $45,000 per year, nearly 20% below the state average and more than 32% below the national average.

Thanks to a partnership with the City of Fort Payne, led by Mayor Larry Chesser, citizens of DeKalb County, Alabama, now have a 56-unit multi-family development to call their own.  During the property’s grand opening ceremony, Mayor Chesser commented, “It’s something we’ve needed in Fort Payne.  We’re looking forward to the next one,” referring to discussions about a complementary development for seniors nearby.

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Guests at the event included development partner Fred Bennett of The Bennett Group, Fort Payne Chamber of Commerce members, representatives from Regions Bank and architects McKean & Associates, property residents, and Partnership employees from the Children’s Services program.  Also on hand to offer support was retired Partnership CEO Michael Tubbs, who was at the helm at the planning and construction phases of The Village at Hixon Pond.

The first time I saw this property it was a slope and a pond, and I didn’t think for the world we’d be able to put 56 two- and three-bedroom units up here.  The thing I’ve noticed with the units the company has across the state is that they start out as apartments but end up as a home and that’s the difference.  We’re not just creating community but creating a home for the people who live here. 

-Michael Tubbs, retired Partnership CEO

Those who joined Mayor Chesser and Michael Tubbs as speakers at the Hixon Pond Grand Opening event included current Partnership CEO Tim Thrasher, development partner Fred Bennett,  and Hixon Pond residents Bonita Eileen and April Jelks.

The Partnership’s housing portfolio includes affordable housing properties all across the state of Alabama plus developments in North and South Carolina totaling more than 1,700 units of single family, multi-family, and senior housing.  Each development undergoes a rigorous, competitive application process with the Alabama Housing Finance Authority before being awarded.  According to AHFA’s website, funds are limited and each project is prioritized using a system for determining which projects will receive HOME funds and Housing Credits.

Construction has begun for the 2017 AHFA-awarded property in St. Clair County (AL) with The Village at Rock Springs in Moody.  Cullman County (AL) will become The Partnership’s next affordable housing site as the 2018 property awarded by AHFA once construction begins on The Village at Bridge Creek.

 

 

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Burn Less, Save More

Senior Volunteers Learn Energy Saving Tips for the New Year

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The Partnership’s Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions kicked off the new year with a Home Energy Saving Workshop.  The TVA Energy Right Solutions workshop, presented by Director of Homeownership Candy Ayers and Energy Director Angela Ingram, offered the volunteers in attendance ways to be smarter about how they use energy.

Cost savings measures in the workshop ran the gamut from updating lighting to LED bulbs to sealing leaks and upgrading to appliances with higher Energy Star efficiency ratings.  Candy and Angela followed-up the presentation with a Q&A with volunteers.  Each attendee who completed a provided survey received a Home Energy starter kit with energy-saving products such as caulk, weather stripping, foam sealant, and LED bulbs.

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Senior Programs volunteers are income-eligible and most are on a fixed monthly income.  All volunteers receive a tax-free stipend to supplement their incomes.  Thanks to the tips presented to the group, the volunteers walked away with some valuable money-saving strategies for making the most of the energy they use while also being economically friendly.

To learn more about the Home Energy Workshops, please contact The Partnership’s Director of Homeownership Services Candy Ayers or Energy Director Angela Ingram.

Going Strong

Alabama House Representative Terri Collins was on hand at The Partnership to spread good cheer just before the Christmas holidays.  Rep. Collins presented Partnership CEO Tim Thrasher and Partnership pre-K liaison Dee Ard with a check for more than $10,000 from the Starting Strong funding for Morgan County Pre-K classrooms.

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Starting Strong is a partnership that began more than eight years ago among multiple agencies including Community Action Partnership of North Alabama, Decatur-Morgan Chamber of Commerce, the Decatur-Morgan County Minority Development Association, United Way of Morgan County, the City of Decatur, Morgan County Schools, Decatur City Schools, Hartselle City Schools, local businesses, and community leaders.

According to The Partnership’s Pre-K liaison Dee Ard, the goal of the Starting Strong initiative was to raise quality in pre-k classrooms across Morgan County no matter where they were housed, including schools, churches, private care centers, Head Start facilities, and non-profits.

Funds raised for Starting Strong have supported new classrooms with supplies,  materials, and training opportunities.  Supporting agencies have been able to work collaboratively to support pre-k in Morgan through the initiative.  Ard said of the effort, “It was a big deal to get all of these (agencies) to come together at the table.”  The current number of pre-k classrooms that have resulted from the Starting Strong Pre-K initiative is now up to 40 classrooms with more than 700 children enrolled.

Taking the Polar Plunge

New Year’s Day for most people means gathering around the fireplace, watching football games or enjoying a helping of black-eyed peas for good luck throughout the year. The annual Polar Bear Plunge is not for most people.

Many years ago Meals on Wheels & More volunteer Wayne Holliday started a tradition of jumping into the Tennessee River on New Year’s Day at high noon as a way to bring in the new year.  Each year the crowd grew larger than the year before.  In 2017, Wayne estimated that nearly 100 “polar bears” took the plunge.

New Year’s Day 2018 was a bit different than years past.  Barely half of the jumpers from 2017 were back in 2018.  And for good reason.  Participant Michael Tubbs recounts his experience as a local polar bear at the 2018 Polar Bear Plunge:

It was bitterly cold with a wind chill of 9°F.  No one who thought of themselves first would jump into the Tennessee River on January 1st.  And they didn’t.  All those who participated thought of others, namely the recipients of Meals on Wheels & More.  The funds raised by the event help feed others with a warm meal delivered to the door.  I did it because I promised the staff I would.  I did, and I am glad I did.

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Local resident and Partnership Director of Real Estate Development Dave Truitt also committed to participating in the plunge well before the forecast was known.  Like Mike, Dave fulfilled his promise to take the plunge and has not regretted it.

I can honestly say I love a challenge. So, last year, when we realized that it was going to be below 30 degrees on the day of the Polar Bear Plunge, I got really excited. This year, I really, really hope it’s not below 30 degrees. I would really be o.k. with 60 degrees. But whatever them temperature, I’ll show up. The staff and volunteers at Meals on Wheels are willing to deliver meals to those in our city than might not get a hot meal otherwise. So if they can show up day after day, I can take one cold swim.

Last year was my first year to participate in the Polar Bear Plunge. It was a pleasure to support a program as wonderful and as needed as Meals on Wheels.

This year, I’ll just give $20.

 

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Dave Truitt and Michael Tubbs post plunge.

To help generate additional operating dollars for the Meals on Wheels & More program, t-shirts are sold at the event.  And hot chocolate is provided free of charge for all participants.

For questions about the 2019 Polar Bear Plunge, call Meals on Wheels & More director Cindy Anderson at 256-260-3103.

 

Without our volunteers, where would we be?

Community Action Partnership of North Alabama‘s (The Partnership) Senior Programs presented its Volunteers of the Year awards during the December In-service event on December 10th at the Central Office in Decatur.

Those nominated for Volunteer of the Year from both Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions were spotlighted in a room of their peers and Partnership staff.  Director of Senior Programs Tamisha Sales read some of the comments made by those nominating volunteers for their respective awards.

“She encourages each child and helps each child do his/her best work.”

“A grandparent’s presence in a child’s life gives them the attention they need and helps them develop positive behaviors that they may have lacked otherwise.”

“Our family would not be complete this year without (her).” 

“I appreciate all the hard work she does daily.” 

These are just a few of the inspiring words shared by those touched directly by the selfless men and women who volunteer their time and so much more to serve others in their communities.

This year’s winners of the Partnership’s Volunteers of the Year Awards went to Ms. Mattie Steele, Foster Grandparent of the Year and Ms. Sylvia Turner, Senior Companion of the Year.

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First-grade teacher Geri Harris with Foster Grandparent of the Year Mattie Steele
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Senior Companion of the Year Sylvia Turner accepts a bouquet of flowers from Senior Companion Coordinator Jordan Jones (left) and Senior Programs Director Tamisha Sales.

Not only did The Partnership recognize excellence among its Senior Program volunteers, but our Sheffield Head Start site is also privileged to have Ms. Olivia Simmons (center), the Northwest Alabama Foster Grandparent of the Year, working at the center.   Ms. Simmons is 81 years old and has been working at Sheffield Head Start for 10 years.

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Volunteers with Foster Grandparents and Senior Companion programs must be 55 or older and meet income eligibility guidelines.  Partnership volunteers receive a tax-free stipend to help support their incomes.

Who Are Senior Programs Volunteers?

The Senior Programs of Community Action Partnership of North Alabama (The Partnership) is the heart and soul of senior volunteering in a small three-county area (Cullman, Lawrence, and Morgan counties).

Services provided by The Partnership’s Senior Programs include Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions, which are both Senior Corp programs of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

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The CNCS defines Foster Grandparents as role models, mentors, and friends to children with exceptional needs. The Foster Grandparent program provides a way for volunteers age 55 and over to stay active by serving children and youth in their communities.

Senior Companions provide assistance and friendship to older adults who have difficulty with daily living tasks, such as shopping or paying bills. They help these adults remain independent in their homes instead of having to move to more costly institutional care. Senior Companions also offset the responsibilities that typically fall on family members or professional caregivers.

Income-eligible Senior Program volunteers receive a small tax-free stipend for their contributions, which helps to supplement their fixed incomes.  And all volunteers receive reimbursement for their mileage to offset any out-of-pocket travel expenses.

Those interested in becoming a Foster Grandparent or Senior Companion may apply on our website here.

Weatherization Day 2018 Brings the Lottery to Alabama

The state of Alabama does not have a lottery.  But do not tell that to Decatur resident Dora Tucker.  On October 30, 2018, the home of Dora Tucker was the site of Community Action Partnership of North Alabama’s (The Partnership) Weatherization Day 2018 event.

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After being on The Partnership’s weatherization waiting list for eight years, Ms. Tucker’s home was selected for weatherization measures in October.  Ms. Tucker has lived in her current home for more than 11 years.  But as time passed, she has been less able to meet the demands of the home, which formerly belonged to a local judge.  With grant funds provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program, Mrs. Tucker’s home received the upgrades it needed such as attic insulation, weather stripping, fireplace maintenance, and other energy-saving measures.

Although Ms. Tucker has yet to receive a utility bill that truly demonstrates the difference the weatherization measures will make, she is confident she will be better off this year than last.  “Last year I received a $700 light bill and I thought it was going to break me,” Ms. Tucker told Partnership staff.  “I have a bill but I’m scared to open it.”

In addition to the weatherization measures performed on Ms. Tucker’s home, The Partnership sent a team of volunteers to revitalize the outside of the home.  Basic outdoor maintenance was performed including trimming trees, pruning shrubs, planting flowers, and adding mulch that Ms. Tucker had been unable to do herself.  “Somebody stole everything I had.  I went away on vacation and when I came back, everything was gone.  The lawnmower, tools, everything.”  Director of Homeownership said of the external work, “In many cases since the home has gone without weatherization, the landscaping, the lawn, the exterior ends up being in need as well.  So we hop in for one day with a nice crew.  We have a great team and we get it all done in a day.”

Energy Director Angela Ingram recapped the day by saying, “When Ms. Dora came out today, she looked around and she said, ‘You know, I feel rich.'”  Alabama does not have a lottery, but don’t tell that to Dora Tucker.  “I feel like I won the lottery, big lottery, and I appreciate them for coming out giving me a hand.”  Now, after waiting eight years, Dora Tucker is a winner thanks to the Weatherization Assistance Program.