Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer Interns for Walker County

From Left: Emily, Stephanie, Aundrea, Bullet, Mary Caroline and Jeff


As the heat index rises, the lightning bugs become aglow, and an abundance of fresh produce returns to our kitchens, it is clear that summer is again upon us.  For the Walker Area Community Foundation, the onset of summer signals the arrival of a new batch of students from The University of Alabama who serve for eight weeks as Jean O’Connor Snyder Interns.  The internship is a partnership between Alabama’s New College, David Mathews Center for Civic Life, and the foundation.  The interns, who spend the summer working for the foundation and various community partners throughout Walker County, immerse themselves in life in the area. Years past have brought interns who discover a passion for service in Walker County, and we hope this year will be no exception.  This summer’s interns have diverse backgrounds and interests, yet their common denominator is each student’s steadfast dedication to service.  We hope that throughout the summer you will have a chance to meet and get to know the interns on a personal level. 

So without ado, here are this year’s interns…

Aundrea Bevis is a fifth year senior pursuing a double major in Psychology and the Sociology of Health. She is passionate about health in regards to its social dynamic and is interested in addressing health disparities in communities due to the class system. She is especially interested in mental health disparities and addiction and recovery. Aundrea is originally from Suffolk, Virginia, but her current hometown is Killen, Alabama. In her free time she likes to cook and run. 

Emily Pickert is a junior at the University of Alabama studying nonprofit management with a concentration in the arts through New College. She loves the arts, especially visual arts, and hopes to one day open and run her own organization dedicated to them. She is incredibly excited to work with Walker County and to learn about and meet many new people.

Jeff Rogers is from Birmingham, Alabama.  He graduated from Mountain Brook High School in 2013 and joined the University of Alabama Class of 2017, majoring in Chemical Engineering. He is passionate about public education and hopes to make an impact in shaping the way we interact with students to make their experience in school more productive and personal.  He enjoys reading, golfing, and listening to music in his spare time.  This summer Jeff will be working with the Walker Area Center for Technology.
Stephanie Ray is from Birmingham, Alabama and is currently pursuing a dual degree in Elementary and Special Education at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. She is also studying Nonprofits through New College. She is passionate about Education and Education policy, specifically concerning low-SES and at-risk individuals. Her dream is to establish a mentoring program and facility for foster youth and at-risk youth. This summer, she will be working closely with the Walker Area Community Foundation on connecting nonprofits throughout the area.

Mary Caroline May is a recent graduate of The University of Alabama, where she pursued an interdisciplinary degree in Community Development through New College.  Her admiration and passion for Walker County brought her back to Jasper this summer to serve as intern coordinator after she spent summer 2014 working on the foundation’s Early Childhood Education initiative.  Mary Caroline is passionate about connecting with people and seeing communities and individuals develop and realize their goals.  She plans to attend The University of Alabama School of Law in August.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What Parents Should Know when Preparing Kids for College

How many of us as kids dreamed about all the heroic jobs we could have when we were older? We  wanted to rescue people from harm, care for animals or maybe be the next President. 

How many of us as parents still dream these dreams for our children? We hope they will do something with purpose and make enough money along the way to support their family. It is important that we research all the facts first or we could be in a world of financial trouble with children struggling to find jobs.

Youth Leadership Walker County heard interesting presentations on this at our recent meeting.  I have tried to highlight the "takeaways" from each panel participant's talk. 

Shawna McCullar, the Career Coach for the Walker County and Jasper City School Systems

  • If you aren't doing well on the ACT, take the SAT. ACT tests for achievement, SAT tests critical thinking. You may do better on one than the other...and colleges accept both.
  • 30% of the students in a certificate program at our community colleges already have a 4 year degree
  • 60% of the jobs in Alabama require a two-year certificate or associates degree, 20% require no degree / certificate at all and 20% require a four year bachelors degree.
  • If you do not receive a full-ride from a four year institution, you will save your family A LOT of money by starting at a community college
  • Students should be looking at the following websites before choosing their higher education institution:
    • According to their website, "O*NET OnLine is an interactive application for exploring and searching occupations". 
    • which helps with career planning, financial aide, life after high school and many other resources

Ronica Raines, Bevill State Community College (BSCC), Director of Alabama Access to Higher Education

Mrs. Raines gave the following thoughts about Dual Enrollment:

  • Students have the opportunity to attend Bevill State Community College while in high school to simultaneously earn both high school and college credits 
  • Students should first look at the Stars Guide to find classes that will transfer but are also needed in their chosen work field.
  • Some of these Dual Enrollment classes actually happen in the high schools, while others occur on the BSCC campus

LaToya Cosby, BSCC Director of Student Support Services

Ms. Cosby's presentation was full of "takeaways" that our students learned were necessities when applying for and keeping jobs.  What are soft skills and why are they needed? Good question and one that can be answered in many ways:

  • Soft skills are not technical but intangible skills that define a person 
  • Hard skill examples:
    • typing, writing, math, reading and the ability to use software programs;
  • Soft skills examples: 
    • Etiquette, 
    • Getting along with others, 
    • Listening 
    • Engaging in small talk
    • Teamwork
    • Communication
    • Flexibility
    • Patience
    • Time management
    • Motivation
  • Soft skills are not easy to come by. They have to be practiced and honed over the years. Students should start working on these now!
  • Soft skills should be included on cover letters and resumes as they are just as important now as hard skills.

At the end of the day, we all want our children to be successful and we as parents can help.  

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

What Do I Receive?

The opportunity to be with the 40 high school juniors of Youth Leadership Walker County each month is one of the great joys in life for me. They are eager to learn about their community and to develop their leadership skills. The meeting in December is always fun yet a true learning experience.

This was the problem given to them this month:  
Pretend you are a family of four and create a budget based on $1,580...about the amount a family at the poverty line brings in each month. 

After they grappled with that concept, they participated in the Poverty Simulation conducted by Alabama Possible.  I'm telling you, this was EYE-OPENING for our students!

They became a family of four, or three or six.... 

or in some cases a homeless person all by herself...

The simulation is designed to show the life of a distressed family over the course of a month. Students went through 15 minute "weeks" in which they had to work, pay bills and figure out how to make ends meet.  They had a few minutes in between each week to plan....

When the bell rang to "start" the week they did several things based on their scenario. 
Some went to school because they were children...

Some went to work and some paid bills or went to the local pawn shop to trade items for cash...

Some ended up in jail with "Sheriff Keene"

And some families were evicted because they did not pay their mortgage on time.

Regardless of the scenario students all agreed that living at the poverty level is no game. It is tough on families.  It is confusing.  It is scary. It's incredibly hard to work and make all the things happen that must happen in order to make a life for your family.  Our students gained a new appreciation for those in need and realized the hardships many of their friends at school go through daily.  

So many times when we talk about poverty we think about service.  Helping those in poverty becomes an act we perform, an event for an afternoon.  But is that really what community service is all about?

They discussed what it means to truly be a community servant.  Together, they decided that in order for service to work there has to be both "giving" and "receiving".  What is an act of kindness or service you have given to your community?  Answers come quick... 

getting an angel on the angel tree 

giving to a local charity 
buying supplies for those in need 

The harder questions seems to be, what is an act of kindness or service you have received from your community?  Many times we hear, "I haven't received anything".  The longer they sit, the more they remember.  

"My friend helped me with a math problem I was struggling with." 

"My church family cooked dinner for us when my mom was in the hospital."  

"My friend listened to me when I was struggling with something."

"A lady in front of me in the drive-thru line paid for my order.  I didn't even know her."

When we really begin to think about it, we all give and we all receive. Constantly. 

If we truly believe that, then community service becomes not an act we perform, but the very life in which we live.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ready to serve

Introducing our two newest Board members, Doug Warren and Robbin Reed Allen:

        Replacing Pat Willingham on our Board, Doug holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Auburn University, and received his MBA from the University of Alabama.
       In 2009, Doug became President/CEO of Community Health Systems, Inc., and all its for-profit and not-for-profit affiliates. He serves on many boards and executive committees. He is a graduate of Leadership Alabama and a member of several professional and civic organizations.  
       Robbin has the distinct privilege of holding the chair held by Mr. John T. Oliver, Jr. for the past nineteen years.  In January 2015, Mr. Oliver will move to Emeritus Status and will continue to attend our meetings and share his thoughts with the Foundation board and staff. 
       Robbin graduated from Walker High School, attended Walker College and graduated from the National Center for Paralegal Studies in Atlanta GA.  She is now the Corporate Paralegal, Secretary and Treasurer of Reed Energy, LLC. 
       She also serves on several boards and executive committees. She is a graduate of Leadership Walker County and a member of several professional and civic organizations.       
     Both Doug and Robbin are ready and willing to serve their community!

Believing every child should go to camp: Jackson Family Fund Established

It is our joy to share with you the addition of our newest fund, the Jackson Family Fund.  Founded with the belief that orphans and foster children should be afforded the privilege of attending programs like Camp McDowell, Nell Jackson along with, Anne and Eddie Jackson and Janet and Eddie Faught created this fund to provide educational enrichment experiences.  The donation reflects a passion for children without parents and to support the ministry of the Episcopal Church for the same.  This fund will strive to find and assist first children from Walker County and then any other county to attend similar life changing sessions.



Friday, September 27, 2013

It’s good to share the good stuff

You know, sometimes it’s just good to be able to talk about the good stuff.  During the week after our recent Annual Luncheon Cristy Moody, Director of Operations shared with our Board of Directors this statement “I hope you all agree it’s been a good week, a good month, a good year for our Foundation. “  Every day we strive to work hard to “connect” the right people, groups and funding to make your community a better place.  Our Annual Luncheon gave us an opportunity to let you know about a few of those connections at work through our speakers representing three of our ongoing initiatives.

·        Connecting Ideas: Jera Stribling, Alabama Giving

·        Connecting Philanthropy:  Natalie Adams, New College, University of Alabama

·        Connecting Leaders:  Edward R. Jackson, WACF Board Member and Cathy Wright, Clarus Consulting Group
We appreciate Jack McNeely, Publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle, writing to his subscribers about his opinion of who we are and what we are doing after attending the luncheon. I thought I would share it with you just in case you did not see it and thank you Jack for telling “our story”.

Community Foundation ‘connects’ the dots

by Jack McNeely

Publisher, Daily Mountain Eagle

I attended my second annual luncheon of the Walker Area Community Foundation along with hundreds of other business and community leaders Wednesday, and I again came away with an uplifted spirit of cooperation and optimism.

I consider these annual luncheons a pep rally of sorts, a way to energize the good folks of Walker County.

The Walker Area Community Foundation was established in 1995. It started with a $6 million investment from the sale of Walker Regional Medical Center and a goal to forever help support the charitable needs of the area and improve our quality of life.

Today, the Community Foundation has nearly $25 million in assets. Since its inception, the Foundation has directly invested nearly $10.5 million in community grants.

In 2012 alone, the Community Foundation distributed $3,626,636 in community grants and awarded $22,900 to nonprofits, including our very own Christmas Shoe Fund.

A total of 1,101 gifts were made to the Foundation in 2012 from individuals, families, organizations and businesses. Whether big or small, your contributions are the lifeblood of the successful foundation.

This year the Community Foundation has chosen a theme of “Connecting: In a word, that’s what we do.”

If you pick up a copy of the Community Foundation’s annual report, you will see an outstanding drawing by Madison Redmill, who last year as a junior at Walker High School participated in Youth Leadership Walker County.

Her artwork reflects the concept of a community that connects leaders, ideas, partners, philanthropy, nonprofits and generations.

I have worked with newspapers in several markets the size of Jasper and Walker County and none have had the luxury of a successful community foundation.

You should consider yourselves very fortunate to have such a cog that keeps the wheels of progress moving forward despite what obstacles or pitfalls may be ahead.

I applaud Community Foundation President Paul Kennedy, his dedicated staff and the volunteer board members for their commitment to helping those in need.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reed Family Fund Established

Sudie and Robert Reed are no strangers to the Walker Area Community Foundation.  As donors, they have been constant supporters of the Foundation and its mission for more than a decade.  Sudie is one of the Foundation’s original President’s Cabinet members and was instrumental in the programming stages when the foundation began.  In December 2012, the  entire Reed family, established our newest Donor Advised Fund.  The Reed Family Fund will support general philanthropy while keeping in mind the importance of serving the basic needs of Walker County families.

We asked the Reed’s a few questions on why the Walker Area Community Foundation and why now.  We think you’ll appreciate their responses.

WACF:  Why did you start the Reed Family Fund?

Reeds:  Walker County has been our home for over 40 years. Through hard work and a lot of help from the good folks in this area we have realized many successes.    What better way to say thank you to our friends and neighbors, former employees and business partners, than by setting aside money that will hopefully benefit the entire community for many years to come.

 WACF:  The Foundation, of course, is thrilled you entrusted us with your fund.  We’re curious, why did you choose a donor advised fund with the Community Foundation over beginning a private family foundation?

Reeds:  We did consider a private foundation but, in today’s world, red tape, regulations and requirements are so overwhelming, we were concerned that would take the “joy” out of our giving.  Our community is so fortunate to have this foundation in place so setting up an advised fund was the better choice for our family.  We believe the Board of Directors will thoughtfully and successfully manage the money and we have the highest confidence in the awesome staff that you will help us to see the real needs in our area, to find opportunities for betterment, and to be in touch with the “great ideas” that are out there that perhaps just need a boost to get off the ground. 

 Upon voting to accept the fund, John T. Oliver, Jr. founding board member and Past President of the Foundation responded, “the Bob Reed family is well known in this community for their involvement in and contributions to many charitable institutions and organizations.  Their recent gift to the Walker Area Community Foundation is truly amazing and certainly establishes their family as pioneers in philanthropy in our area, as well as statewide.  I am certain that this wonderful support will inspire others to think in a positive way about giving back to their community.  Gifts like this make me proud to live here.”

We look forward working with the Reed Family and are so appreciative they chose us as their partners in doing good for our community.