The word ‘champion’ conjures up different images in the minds of people when tasked with reflecting on what a champion is. Merriam-Webster defines a ‘champion’ as one that does battle for another’s rights or honor. For the communities of Decatur and Hartselle in Morgan County, Alabama, champion means that much and more. During the week of March 26-30, The Partnership’s Meals on Wheels & More program invited Community Champions to join volunteers on delivery routes to meet the customers and engage in conversation with those who receive the daily meals.
Hartselle Mayor Randy Garrison took time out of his busy schedule to join volunteer Alisha Ricketts on her meal route. Mayor Garrison said of his experience, “I truly enjoyed the time I spent last week with (Alisha). She really goes above and beyond with her folks, they all seemed to look forward to seeing her and many of them were happy to talk with us.”
The Community Champions Week is part of Meals on Wheels America‘s March for Meals. During this time, local programs are encouraged to invite local, state and federal officials, local celebrities and other prominent community figures to deliver meals, speak out for seniors and raise awareness for the power of Meals on Wheels. Community Champions week within March for Meals provides local Meals on Wheels programs a wonderful opportunity to engage powerful figures in the community, garner media attention and helps raise public awareness for the nutritional and social needs of seniors.
Members of the Quilt Lover’s Guild of Decatur donated more than 400 hand-sewn quilted placemats to The Partnership’s Meals on Wheels & More and Senior Companion clients in an effort to bring recognition to local programs that serve those in need. Quilters Ivy Veinot, Dianna Smith and Mary Harris delivered the placemats to The Partnership’s Decatur Office on Central Parkway.
Quilter Ivy Veinot said that the Quilter’s Guild had a goal of 325 placemats, roughly the number of Meals on Wheels & More clients served each day by the program. Ms. Veinot pointed out that each placemat was hand-stitched and, if combined, the placemats would equal 15 queen-size quilts.
Donations of fabric were received from all across the Tennessee Valley for the project that began last December. Quilters from multiple guilds throughout the region contributed their efforts. Of those who donated their talents, Cathy Owen and Teresa Harrison were two “instrumental people” that Ms. Veinot said were invaluable to the success of the quilting project.
Partnership Chief Executive Officer Michael Tubbs was on hand to receive the Guild’s donation and said, “A homemade quilt becomes a treasure. I remember my grandmother made a double wedding ring quilt for my wife and me when we got married and it is on the bed today.”
Drivers for Meals on Wheels & More will deliver the placemats to their clients when they deliver their meals. Senior Companions, who serve their clients up to four hours per day up to three days a week, will have the opportunity to talk about the placemats with their clients. Ms. Veinot said she hopes that when the quilted placemats are delivered that someone is able to write down the recipients’ reactions. CEO Michael Tubbs replied, “They’ll be placed where they will be appreciated. Any gift is special. A homemade gift is really special, a legacy. So, thanks.”
Quilter Dianne Smith said, “We quilt a lot for ourselves, but we also like to make things for someone in particular. This makes (the quilts) a little bit more special. We know how thrilled they will be when they get these. These are good programs so we’re glad to help.”
This year’s Senior Programs Volunteers of the Year are recognized for going above and beyond in their service to others.
Each year The Partnership recognizes its Senior Program volunteers at its December in-service event at the Central Office in Decatur, Alabama. This year’s event highlighted those Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions who have made a measurable difference in the lives of those they serve. Clients and client families are asked to highlight some special moments they shared with their respective volunteers over the last year and submit for consideration for Volunteer of the Year.
Senior Program volunteers are members of the community who are 55 or older and serve as Foster Grandparents in the local school systems to support students who need some individualized instruction or as Senior Companions in clients’ homes to help ease the burden of care for elderly and disabled residents. They each receive a small stipend for their time that does not interfere with their retirement income limits as social security recipients.
This year’s nominees are a testament to their dedication to their roles. Just read what others had to say about a few of these phenomenal individuals:
“Mrs. Johnson is always pleasant, happy, helpful and kind. She helps the teacher and the students each day. Mrs. Johnson always has something positive to say to the staff and the students. We LOVE Mrs. Johnson!” (Teacher Angie Whittington about Foster Grandparent Martha Johnson, Woodmeade Elementary)
“Mrs. Ballard has been in the education field for so many years and has made such a positive impact on many students. She encourages the students daily whether it is or writing their name or reading a book for the first time. She also encourages me as a teacher when I get frustrated or when I feel that I have exhausted my ideas.” (Teacher Lauren Bentley about Foster Grandparent Estelle Ballard, Hanceville Elementary)
“Ms. Mayo stays very busy in the classroom helping the children, making books, sharpening pencils and eager to meet any needs that she sees. She is especially great at loving on the children. Her genuine display of selfless service is witnessed and received by all. We all want to be like Ms. Mayo when we grow up.” (Principal Tiffany Spencer, Austinville Elementary)
“The most important thing about Sylvia is she always comes in smiling and asking, ‘How are you today?’ She always helped so much by taking me to the doctor appointments, running errands for us and doing some meals for us. Besides being a Senior Companion she has become a friend for life.” (Client Daphene H. about Senior Companion Sylvia Turner)
“Edith has been a great help to me. My mother has dementia, which can be a challenge because she is 99+ years old and in complete care. Edith takes great patience with my mother and is a calm presence to her. Thank you for placing this sweet woman in my home.” (Client family member Susan E. about Senior Companion Edith Noble)
“Rose is heaven sent for my mom. My mother gets along so well with her. Rose is always in a cheerful mood, which rubs off on all of us when we are around her. She takes care of all of my mom’s house living needs, including food, medicine and house cleanliness. Just sitting with Mom and watching TV would be enough but she does much more. She even gets my mom to walk outside often.” (Client family member Kim H. about Senior Companion Rose Sutton)
Selecting one Volunteer of the Year for each program was an obvious challenge for Chief Executive Officer Michael Tubbs. After careful contemplation, Mr. Tubbs singled out two nominations that represented the ideal candidates for Volunteer of the Year. On hand to support their respective volunteers were Foster Grandparent Coordinator Michele Andrews (pictured with Ms. Mayo and CEO Michael Tubbs) and Senior Companion Coordinator Carrie Waynick (pictured with client Kim H., Ms. Sutton and CEO Michael Tubbs).
This year’s winners were: Jo Mayo, Foster Grandparent of the Year and Rose Sutton, Senior Companion of the Year.
The 2017 United Way Campaign set a new Partnership pledge record, exceeding last year’s pledge amount by 4%.
The Partnership’s 2017 United Way Campaign results once again prove that there are heroes among us. Using the theme “Superheroes” for this year’s campaign, United Way Committee members went all out to highlight the effect that agency employees have on others when they give back to their communities.
The campaign was a one-day event held as part of the annual in-service for all Partnership employees. Members of the Decatur Police Department greeted employees as they arrived, taking selfies through hero-themed frames, before the attendees proceeded into the venue at Ingall’s Harbor Pavilion located on the Tennessee River. As agency staffers entered the building they were greeted with superhero decor as hero music filled the venue. Action figures, co-workers in costume and United Way t-shirts were all front and center at the entryway. No one could escape the camera action upon arrival, leading to each and every employee being captured superhero style in a custom superhero frame.
Throughout the two-week period prior to the main event employees had the opportunity to participate in a Scavify contest with a variety of prizes available ranging in value from $25 to $250. Leading up to the prize drawings, guests from United Way of Morgan County (Alabama) spoke to the audience about the impact donations make on those programs funded by United Way dollars.
After the dust had settled, the 2017 United Way Campaign resulted in: 42 first-time givers, 25 one-time givers, 127 increased givers, 121 recurring givers and 315 total givers (77% of all Partnership employees) for a grand total of $37,150. The 2017 Campaign topped last year’s campaign total of $35,720 by 4%.
After more than a year since its ground breaking, The Village at Mill Creek in Millbrook, Alabama, is now a completed reality. The 56-unit senior housing development broke ground in October of 2016. But with record-setting rains that the area had not seen in nearly 100 years construction often stalled, pushing back the grand opening a few weeks.
The Village at Mill Creek features 56 two-bedroom, two-bathroom units with income-based rents for qualifying seniors ages 55 and older. The grand opening event was held on Tuesday, December 5th inside the 770 square foot Community Building and welcomed more than 50 local officials, community leaders, NeighborWorks America representatives and Partnership employees.
Partnership CEO Michael Tubbs welcomed guests by acknowledging the partnerships that made the development possible and the benefits to the small community in Elmore County, Alabama. Tubbs noted that the final construction reveals a “homey, roomy and well-laid out” project. Millbrook Mayor Al Kelley remarked, “From the very start I knew it was going to be a quality project. And now we are inviting you to be a part of our community.”
Alabama House of Representative for District 88 Paul Beckman re-emphasized the importance of forming partnerships to create affordable housing in the area. Beckman said, “Things like this would not be possible without a team effort.” Beckman introduced Developer Fred Bennett of The Bennett Group who shared his philosophy about housing development. “If the mayor is supportive, move forward. If not, shake the dust from your boots and move on.”
Of the 56 units available, all 20 units in Building One are leased. The remaining 36 units in Building Two will be leased after the flooring installation is complete. Future resident Louise Taylor, who currently lives in a senior housing development in Millbrook, said she learned of the development from an employee at a local retailer. She completed the application and sent it in. She received notification that her application was approved while she was on vacation. Once she is moved in to her unit, what Ms. Taylor is looking forward to the most is taking advantage of the picnic area with the barbecue grills and the adequate parking for both residents and guests.
Each day for our Children’s Services staff is a new day, a different day, and not always the day anyone would expect–or want–to have. Recently our Early Head Start staff were faced with the task of acquiring emergency resources for a formerly-enrolled family from the eastern region of our service area. The family moved out of our service area into events that very few of us will ever be forced to endure. The mother of the family recently experienced the death of her 23-day-old infant. Her husband left her with their two-year-old and little else. Facing homelessness, a penniless existence and nowhere to turn, the mother moved in with her own mother with her two-year-old in tow.
Normally, moving in with a parent can be a source of rejuvenation, a time of recuperation and an opportunity to plan next steps. This mother, however, had stepped into a dangerous and unstable situation. She was able to secure employment but was forced to hesitantly leave her two-year-old with a grandmother in an unpredictable environment.
The staff continued their efforts by contacting the local HUD office and had a housing application ready for the young mother to pick up. Next, they contacted local businesses that were hiring. Then, an application for the nearest Child Care Partnership (CCP) was made available and the toddler was put on the waiting list while the mother applied for a paid position with the same CCP.
Staff scheduled a meeting with the young mother during her lunch hour and in one day were able to complete all applications, only to find out this mom had only four days to vacate her current housing situation. The news that seemed so overwhelming to this mother who had suffered so much pain was fuel for the staff. They rallied their resources and proceeded to accumulate beds, furniture, bathroom and kitchen supplies. These indefatigable servants kept the mule hooked to the plow and were able to find space at a local multi-family housing development. With the aid of several area churches they acquired the deposits required before move-in and got utilities set up. And, to top their efforts, they were able to have Christmas set up for the young family.
In the words of one staff member, “This mom finally has some HOPE for the first time in a long time.”
Monday, October 30, 2017, was not your run-of-the-mill Halloween Eve in Decatur, Alabama. Instead of the moans and howls of ghosts and goblins on Decatur’s residential streets, the air was replaced with the roar of generators and buzzing of lawnmowers. Weatherization Day 2017 in Decatur, Alabama, featured a major undertaking at the home of Partnership Foster Grandparent Billie Dean Stewart and her husband Jerry that featured insulation work, electrical upgrades, landscaping and cosmetic touch-ups.
The Stewarts, who are in their 70s, have been active in the Decatur community for decades. Billie Dean ran her own daycare for more than 35 years and is now a volunteer with the Partnership’s Foster Grandparent program. Billie Dean’s husband Jerry is retired from the City of Decatur and is currently disabled. As often happens with homes of seniors, repairs had become both physically and financially overwhelming. The Stewarts applied for Weatherization assistance years ago. Because of the long waiting list they were not able to have the necessary maintenance done on their home. Thankfully the Stewarts were approved this year to receive the home improvements they so desperately needed to make their home safe, healthy and energy efficient.
The project began a week prior to the actual work day with some pressure washing of the home’s exterior, yard work that involved raking leaves and mowing the lawn, and cleaning out the gutters. The pre-work went rather smoothly until the assessor discovered what could have been a major obstacle to the re-insulation of the Stewart home. The Stewarts’ wiring was determined to be a fire hazard, stopping the workers’ progress dead in its tracks. The Stewarts were forced to stay in a hotel the weekend before the scheduled event while contractors worked non-stop for two days to completely rewire the home.
The virtual roadblocks were no match for the Partnership’s contributing partners, volunteers and staff who turned out in droves to offer whatever skills they had to make Weatherization Day 2017 a success. Shrubs were trimmed, railings painted, porches refinished and planters filled with colorful annuals. All the while contractors worked inside and out adding and replacing insulation throughout the Stewart home. The tireless efforts of everyone involved were given for one simple reason: to serve our community while shining a light on the importance of Weatherization Programs for income-eligible residents.