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.

 

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3 Memorable Lessons Learned From In-Service 2018

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Each year The Partnership’s employees gather together for an all-staff in-service meeting.  It is a time of reconnection and reflection and allows those in attendance to see old friends and make new friends.

This year’s in-service event was to be the last of the career of retiring Chief Executive Officer Michael Tubbs.  It was also to be the first of the career of incoming CEO Tim Thrasher.  And in between the enthusiastic introduction of Tim and the emotional farewell of Mike came some memorable lessons for all staff.

The event’s keynote speaker was Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh.  With many years of public service under her belt, Twinkle brought a familiar and personal perspective to the audience.  She shared the perspectives on giving by Sir Winston Churchill, actor Denzel Washington, and Jesus.  More importantly, Twinkle reminded the room filled with early childhood educators and non-profit leaders that the harvest is not realized before it is planted.  Through personal stories passed on from her father, Twinkle painted a picture of harvest using apple seeds.  Once an apple is cut open, the seeds may be counted.  However, there is no way to know how many apples will come from each of those counted seeds.  She commended each and every audience member for their individual work that addressed the causes and consequences of poverty.  She concluded with her lesson that, “The fact that you helped someone at a young age, that is your harvest.”

Retiring CEO Michael Tubbs addressed the audience from the floor, walking among attendees and sharing his insight into the value of results no matter how large or small.  “Results at the end of the day is how we measure how good we are.”  Mike continued to commend the progress made throughout The Partnership throughout his more than 13 years as its CEO and concluded with a simple thought: “We have to know our work.  We have to know what matters for our families.  And sometimes modest results are enough.”  With the charge to continue the already good work at The Partnership, Mike closed to a standing ovation.

The end of the day saw Tim Thrasher introduce his expectations for Leading the Way and the challenges for continuing The Partnership’s mission.  Sharing leadership behaviors from his own mentors, Tim provided stories from his past experiences that have helped him to develop his own leadership point of view.  Among those who influenced him was his late father, Bill Thrasher, a doctorate-level educator who simply taught Tim to “be a positive example with visible, memorable behaviors.”

 

Partnership Business Units Take a SWOT at Strategic Planning

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Housing Business Unit SWOT Analysis

In preparation for the upcoming agency-wide strategic planning session, Partnership business units met with consultant Shawn Howell in mid-September to identify strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities (SWOT) before diving into the overall planning phase of the process.

Leaders from Children’s Services, Meals on Wheels & More, the Housing Business Unit, and Senior Services brainstormed their respective units’ strengths and vulnerabilities to gauge what their next steps will be in planning for 2019-2020.

Lending individual points of view for each business unit’s session were retiring CEO Michael Tubbs and CEO-select Tim Thrasher.  Also in attendance for all sessions were Human Resources staff HR Director Alicia Higginbotham and HR Coordinator Sharalee Little, and Senior Executive Assistant to the CEO Allison Speegle, all with unique perspectives as long-time employees of The Partnership.

Formal Strategic Planning will conclude in late September with a cross-section of business unit staff and Board members.

 

How the NeighborWorks® America Network Opened a Window of Opportunity for The Partnership

Community Action Partnership of North Alabama is a results-driven, nonprofit organization committed to reducing or eliminating the causes and consequences of poverty for families and communities. The Partnership strives to be a local leader by engaging and investing in the communities we serve in 28 counties in Alabama.

In 2010, the Partnership became a chartered member of the NeighborWorks® America network, a national nonprofit with a mission to create opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives, and strengthen their communities. The NeighborWorks® network ensures its 248 organizations are provided with adequate resources, training, and funding.

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Thanks to the NeighborWorks America network and their variety of training programs and certifications, The Partnership’s Housing Business Unit is equipped to provide guidance to individuals and families through comprehensive homeownership services. From eight-hour homebuyer education classes to one-on-one counseling and financial capabilities workshops, residents have the opportunity to ask questions and find answers to more affordable housing solutions.

As a partner agency, The Partnership receives funding from the NeighborWorks network to coordinate resources and services that strengthen the community. Through ongoing CB&E efforts and single projects such as NeighborWorks Week, The Partnership connects with the community thanks to the support from NeighborWorks America.

The Partnership is honored to be a member of a national leader and dedicated to doing our part in creating affordable housing solutions for the communities we serve. As a nonprofit, collaboration is key to successfully serving our local communities. To provide meaningful and life-long change requires individuals and organizations committed to an issue to join forces and form deep, powerful connections.banner of employees.png

Quilters Guild Makes Heartfelt Donation to Partnership’s Senior Clients

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.

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(L-R) Dianne Smith, Senior Programs Director Tamisha Sales, Ivy Veinot, Mary Harris, Community Services Director Cindy Anderson

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.”

Senior Volunteers of the Year Epitomize Everything That Is Right In the World

This year’s Senior Programs Volunteers of the Year are recognized for going above and beyond in their service to others.

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Jo Mayo, Foster Grandparent of the Year

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.

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Rose Sutton, Senior Companion of the Year

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.

Children’s Services Staff Bring Hope to Abandoned Mother

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.”

All in a day’s work.

Image: Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother [effect added]