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December 2020 | Volume 14 | Issue 4



Basketball Preview


Briarwood, Chelsea, Oak Mountain and Spain Park’s basketball teams have high hopes for the upcoming season.

People prepare nonperishable food items during a Backpack Buddies packing party Nov. 7 at Vineyard Family Services. Held the first Saturday of the month, the event is open to volunteers to come pack food bags for students, including those in Shelby County Schools. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.

See page B6

‘Tough as Nails’

Nonprofit expanding efforts to aid kids, families By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE

Ellis begins his days extremely early and always has. From the time he was around 6 years old, he would get up at 3 a.m. every day to help milk cows on his father’s dairy farm and make deliveries to customers around town. “I’d come in from the milk route and had

While working as an associate pastor in 2007 at Inverness Vineyard Church, Ward Williams decided to take a leap of faith and start a nonprofit ministry. “I went to a conference that talked about how lots of people never go inside churches to get help, and to be effective, we may have to leave the walls of the church and offer different opportunities that people are receptive to,” Williams said. He founded Vineyard Family Services out of a passion to reach the community and help men become involved, committed and responsible dads. Although he had no idea what it took to start a nonprofit, Williams said he spent time researching and learning for about a year before starting VFS. Not long after it began, the 2008 recession hit, and things were difficult for a while. “There was a time where we had $100 in the bank and had to spend $4,000 to meet the next payroll, and we got a reimbursable grant,” he said. “I needed to raise $10,000 in one month to survive, and did so with the help of friends and family, most from church.”

See ELLIS | page A28

See VFS | page A30

Departing Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy described as dedicated leader who was perfect fit for past five years.

See page B20

INSIDE Sponsors .......... A4 280 News ..........A6 Community...... A14 Chamber.......... A18 Business ......... A22

Sports.................B4 Events .............. B14 Schoolhouse.... B18 Faith ................ B29 Calendar............B31


Butch Ellis, the longtime attorney for Shelby County and former state senator, at his law office in Columbiana. Photo by Erin Nelson.

Attorney Butch Ellis, 80, continues his half-century of work for Shelby County By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE


y 11 a.m. on a Wednesday morning, Shelby County Attorney Butch Ellis has reheated his cup of coffee for the fifth time. He made it when he arrived at his office at 4:30, and over six hours later, he hasn’t finished it.

A2 • December 2020

280 Living

Four Ways to Prepare Your Finances for 2021 This year has had most of us feeling like every time we get comfortable, we’ve had to switch gears. Whether you run a small business or are managing your family’s finances, planning for next year may seem even more daunting than usual, so we have a few tips to help you prepare for 2021.

Look at where you want to be at the end of the next one to five years, and map out how to get there. Set some “stretch goals” that are ambitious, as well as some attainable goals that you can achieve with a modest amount of effort. My family’s goal is to take a big Disney trip next year, so we are saving for that. Knowing what you’re saving for will help make it easier.

Give your financial health frequent check-ups. With our physical health, we are sure to make appointments, maintain healthy habits, and talk to our doctors about anything unusual. I advise my Valley Bank customers to think of their financial health the same way. Meeting with your banker or financial advisor once a year may not be enough.

Evaluate your expenses. I often see where one spouse pays all the bills and the other has no clue what goes in and out of the accounts. Have everybody sit down and look at what you’re spending versus what you have coming in. It’s easy for things to slip by. At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, I signed up for a grocery delivery service. I haven’t used it since April, but I was still paying $14 a month until I realized it and stopped the service. The little things add up, so make sure you’re not throwing money away on them.

Take advantage of what your bank has to offer. I can often tell when one of my customers is struggling. Things start not looking the same - maybe they’re late on payments or there is some other warning sign. At that point, I’ll reach out and try to solve the problem with them. As an example of how we can help, right now we have a great 0% APR credit card for those who qualify, and I am helping some clients transfer balances to try to get a handle on debt they have accumulated during the pandemic. See what your bank is offering now and consider how these tools can help. What financial success these days really boils down to, for me, is the relationship I have with my customers. They’re my family. Most people who walk into my branch, I know their names, I know their families, I know what they have going on. You deserve a relationship with your banker that helps alleviate stress and sets you up for success. To start a new banking relationship with Valley Bank, call 205-378-5700.

Brandy Hamilton is retail market manager at Valley Bank in Alabaster. ©2020 Valley National Bank. Member FDIC. Equal Opportunity Lender. Equal Housing Lender. All Rights Reserved.


December 2020 • A3

A4 • December 2020

280 Living

About Us Editor’s Note By Leah Ingram Eagle Well, it’s December. We’ve finally made it to the last month of 2020, which for many of us will be a year to forget. Since March, things have been crazy, hard, stressful, unpredictable and so many other things. While we don’t know what 2021 will bring, it’s at least a clean slate, a chance to start over with the hope that things will be better and we can return to some sense of normalcy, whatever that looks like. To wrap up the last 280 Living issue of 2020, I sat down with Shelby County attorney Butch Ellis. He’s been at his job for over 50 years with no plans of retiring anytime soon. You can also read about a wonderful nonprofit organization serving both children and

adults in Shelby County. Vineyard Family Services is now in its 15th year and has continued to serve throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Its founder, Ward Williams, also serves on the Shelby County Commission. Sports Editor Kyle Parmley has boys and girls high school

basketball previews to share, along with a final round of football coverage of the season. There are also several events happening this month, so check out the previews for those and see if you’d like to attend any of them. We also have photo pages looking back through the year from Photo Editor Erin Nelson. I hope this month brings some peace and joy to you and your family and that you all have a Merry Christmas!

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December 2020 • A5

A6 • December 2020

280 Living

280 News

Council discusses COVID-19 testing, approves resolutions By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The city of Chelsea held a communitywide COVID-19 testing in conjunction with Golden Point Labs on Nov. 16 at Liberty Baptist Church. One hundred thirty people signed up to be tested, and Mayor Tony Picklesimer said it went smoothly. The following resolutions were approved during the Nov. 17 City Council meeting: ► To reappoint Planning Commission members Scott Weygand and Crystal Etheredge. ► To reappoint Tiffany Bittner as the council liaison to the library board for another fouryear term. ► To accept the lowest bid for the Chelsea Sports Complex II - Sports Lighting Installation Project from S & G Waldrep Electric, Inc. for $50,000. ► To accept a quote from Iconic Custom Carts & Accessories, LLC for $7,564.57. ► To award Nick Grant funds to Chelsea Middle School for $636. An ordinance was also approved to amend the city’s business license code. During the community report, Community Center Program Director Jane Ann Mueller gave an update on the youth basketball program. Practices began in late November, and games begin in January. Five hundred thirty kids registered to play and will be divided into 68 teams. “It’s exciting to have that many of our Chelsea kids in the program,” Mueller said. Mueller also discussed the Santa Extravaganza that will take place Dec. 19 from noon to 2 p.m., following the Chelsea Christmas

The Chelsea City Council during its Nov. 17 meeting. Screenshot by Leah Ingram Eagle.

Parade. The event, which usually draws over 500 children and families, will look a little different this year, but it will include musical performances by Santa, Cinderella and a jazz band. Librarian Dana Polk shared that a donation was made in memory of former Fire Chief Wayne Shirley, which she used to purchase

several fire safety books. The library recently held its annual food drive amnesty program, with all donations going to Heavenly Smiles. Santa Claus will also visit the library 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and visitors can sign up for a time slot. Interim Fire Chief Joe Lee has hired some

new staff and said the Station 33 rescue truck and engine are now staffed and making calls.


► Dec. 1: City Council meeting ► Dec. 15: City Council meeting ► Jan. 9: Bulk trash pickup day

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A8 • December 2020

280 Living

Council approves 3 school grants, residential district rezoning During its Nov. 3 meeting, the Chelsea City Council approved a rezoning request from The Sproul Company for 34 acres of property located at 11880 Shelby County 11 from A-R (AgriculturalResidential) to PRD (Planned Residential District). Screenshots by Leah Ingram Eagle.

By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE During the Nov. 3 Chelsea City Council meeting, Mayor Tony Picklesimer spoke about the playground at Melrose Park and the ribbon-cutting that was held the day before. “The playground is officially open,” Picklesimer said. “It’s spectacular, and I want to commend City Engineer Keith Hager for his work on it and the vision he had for it to be as big and special as it is. It is the largest playground in Shelby County by far, and the reason we were able to build something this big and nice is because the Shelby County Commission made a large donation to our project, and we really appreciate the cooperation we have with them.” The council approved three Nick Grant Awards for Chelsea schools: ► $13,500 to Chelsea High School for its band to purchase a new Polaris Ranger Crew to carry the equipment around and also a trailer to carry the buggy around. ► $15,000 to Chelsea High School for the science lab to purchase eight advanced microscopes with screen displays and eight ocular microscopes. ► $21,099.32 to Chelsea Middle School to purchase lockers for the field house. The city partnered with the Shelby County Board of Education to rebuild it after a fire destroyed the field house a few years ago. A new locker room has been built, and this grant will pay for the lockers in it. Other resolutions approved by the council: ► The reappointment of Mary Robertson to the Library Board. ► To accept a quote and authorize payment for special bulk trash pick-up by Republic Services. “We did have quite a number of trees down in the city as a result of Hurricane Zeta, and a recommendation was made to me by a council member that we contract with Republic Services and help our citizens get some of the trees

and debris that were blown down removed,” Picklesimer said. “I appreciate the council taking care of our citizens that way.”

► To assume the responsibility of streets in the Adams Mill Subdivision (Adams Mill Drive and Laura Lane) and release the bonds associated with these streets. ► To declare property as surplus and authorize its donation. ► Approval of city of Chelsea bills to be paid (with two exceptions). A public hearing was held to approve a rezoning request from The Sproul Company of Alabama Inc. for 34 acres of property located at 11880 Shelby County 11 from A-R (Agricultural-Residential) to PRD (Planned Residential District). Two residents from Brynleigh Estates spoke about how they would be affected by the rezonings, and the developer, Robert Sproul, answered questions from them and the council. The council unanimously voted to approve

the ordinance. City Attorney Mark Boardman gave a first reading of an ordinance to update the city’s business license codes for 2020 and subsequent years to bring the city up to the standard of its surrounding cities. During the community reports, Emily Sims said the Chelsea Public Library is hosting a food drive to benefit Heavenly Smiles and account fees will be waived for donated items. Chelsea Fire Chief Joe Lee encouraged those who receive fire dues to pay them. Community Center Director Jane Ann Mueller said there were more than 600 children in fall sports, and 400 signed up for basketball. She said membership is at 1,843, down from a normal 2,000-2,400. “The numbers are a little down during to COVID,” she said. “Classes are being offered and are up and running.”

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The Chelsea City Council recently approved a resolution to update its business license ordinance that had been in place since 2011. Staff photo.

City updates business license ordinance By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The Chelsea City Council recently approved a resolution to amend its business license ordinance. City Clerk Crystal Etheredge said the ordinance had been in place since 2011, and because so much has changed in the past nine years, it was time for updates to be made. “Being one of the fastest growing cities, we kind of have to keep up with changes in the times,” she said. “We had a suspicion ours were not on par with other surrounding cities our size.” The city hired a third party (HDL) to do a business license ordinance review and fee schedule to see where Chelsea was compared to other cities similar in population and proximity. Etheredge said one of the facets they were looking at in terms of the fee schedule was to make a couple of adjustments in some areas like big box retail and construction. The business license year is from January to December. Renewals typically go out in November, but due to COVID-19, it will be in December. There will be no penalties or interest until after Feb. 15. The city previously had a third party administrator handle the business licenses, but the city took it over last year. By doing it, the city could save the money on processing and transaction fees. “It made good sense to bring it in house,” Etheredge said. “It’s going to be worth it in the long run.” While all businesses won’t see a change in their rates, here is a list of the ones that are changing:


► Up to $250K: $200 ► $1 million: $750 ► $2 million: $1,000 ► $5 million: $1500 ► $10 million: $3,000 ► Over $10 million: $3,000 plus 50 cents per thousand


► Construction residential general contractor: $300

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CHANGES IN DEVELOPERS AND HOME BUILDERS PER YEAR ► Up to $1 million in sales: $300 ► $3 million: $500 ► $5 million: $750 ► Over $5 million: $1,000


► Beer: $100 ► Wine: $100 ► Liquor: $250 ► Restaurant alcohol license: $250 “This just got us up to the average of surrounding cities,” Mayor Tony Picklesimer said. “We are not the highest, but we’re no longer the lowest.” Earlier this year, the city contracted with a company to find businesses that were operating within the city without a business license. With over 2,500 businesses in the city, Etheredge said she was surprised to find out there were around 500 found operating without a license. “We contacted them and sent a bill,” she said. “They had to get compliant and purchase a business license and pay any penalties assessed and move forward. For those that were not doing business anymore, we were able to close those accounts so they don’t show up as delinquent.” Picklesimer said the city is not trying to get anything it’s not entitled to, but if people are doing business in Chelsea, they need to have a business license.



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A10 • December 2020

280 Living

Chelsea council sworn in for new term By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The Chelsea mayor and City Council members took their oaths of office during a swearing in ceremony Nov. 2 at Chelsea City Hall. The ceremony was conducted by Shelby County Probate Judge Allison Boyd for Mayor Tony Picklesimer, Cody Sumners (Place 1), Scott Weygand (Place 2), Chris Grace (Place 3), Tiffany Bittner (Place 4) and Casey Morris (Place 5). The mayor and four council members are all entering their second term. Chris Grace is serving his first full term after taking the vacated spot of David Ingram in 2019. Picklesimer said it was a pleasure to serve another four years with this council. “None of the things we get to do would happen without these five people,” he said. “They do so much more than many of you realize. I get way more credit than I deserve based on what these people do.” Scott Weygand will continue to serve as mayor pro-tempore. Several resolutions were approved by the council after the swearing in ceremony. ► Approval to ratify the use of present depositories for municipal funds. ► All administrative personnel and municipal employees of the municipality continue in their respective duties at their current salaries. ► Reappointing of Crystal Etheredge as city clerk. ► Reappointing of Lori King as city treasurer. ► Reappointing of Joe Lee as interim fire chief. ► Appointment of Mark Boardman as the city attorney. ► Approval to authorize city officials to execute financial documents or contracts. ► Appointment of Cole Williams and Tom Holcombe to the Chelsea Planning Commission. ► An ordinance establishing the time and place for regular City Council meetings to be held each month and governing the rules and procedures of the City Council for 2020-24.

Above: Chelsea City Council members and mayor — from left: Cody Sumners, Scott Weygand, Chris Grace, Mayor Tony Picklesimer, Tiffany Bittner and Casey Morris — were sworn in for their new terms Nov. 2 at Chelsea City Hall. Left: Chris Grace is sworn in to serve his first full term after taking the vacated spot of David Ingram in 2019. Photos by Leah Ingram Eagle.


December 2020 • A11

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Public buildings and services around Chelsea and Hoover have a variety of closing schedules for the Christmas and New Year holidays. Photo by Erin Nelson.

Public building closing schedule for Christmas, New Year holidays By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE and JON ANDERSON Public buildings and services around Chelsea and Hoover have a variety of closing schedules for the Christmas and New Year holidays: ► Chelsea City Hall: Closed Thursday, Dec. 24, for Christmas Eve and Friday, Dec. 25, for Christmas Day; also closed Friday, Jan. 1, for New Year’s Day.  ► Chelsea Public Library: Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Thursday, Dec. 31, for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  ► Chelsea Community Center:  Closed Dec. 19 (event after Christmas parade), Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. ► Shelby County Schools: Closed to students Dec. 18 through Jan. 4; students return Tuesday, Jan. 5. ► Hoover City Hall and city offices in the Hoover Public Safety Center: Closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; also closed New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  ► Hoover Public Library: Closes early

at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 23; also closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. ► Hoover Recreation Center: Open 8 a.m. to noon on Christmas Eve; closed Christmas Day; open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26; open 8 a.m. to noon on New Year’s Eve; closed New Year’s Day.  ► Jefferson County offices (including Hoover satellite office): Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  ► Shelby County offices (including Inverness license office): Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  ► Alabama Department of Revenue Jefferson-Shelby Taxpayer Service Center at Hoover Public Safety Center: Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  ► Hoover City Schools: Closed to students Dec. 21 through Jan. 1; students return Monday, Jan. 4.  ► Garbage and recycling: Garbage pickup will be delayed by one day on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

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The site of the former Ditsy Daisy, off U.S. 280 in Chelsea, burned last December. The fire has recently been ruled as an arson by the former owner. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.

Chelsea business fire ruled arson By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE A fire at a Chelsea business last year has been ruled an arson by the owner. A call was placed to 911 at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 8, 2019, regarding a fire at The Ditsy Daisy, located at 16383 U.S. 280 in Chelsea. The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department and Chelsea Fire and Rescue Department responded to the call. After the fire was extinguished, the preliminary investigation led them to believe the cause of the fire was suspicious. Both departments began investigating and worked together following the incident. Warrants were recently signed for two people, both turned themselves into the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 22 before being

released on bond. The store’s owner, Cynthia Michelle Butts, 32, from Sylacauga was charged with arson and criminal mischief. Her total bonds were $25,000. Terry Noil Parnell, 61, from Sylacauga was charged with hindering prosecution and had a bond of $10,000. Both Butts and Parnell surrendered to the Shelby County Jail on Oct. 22 and before being released on bond. A press release from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department on Oct. 23 asked that anyone with additional information about the case should call the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office at 205-670-6000. You can also submit an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at 205254-7777, or on their website at crimestoppers metroal.com.


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A12 • December 2020

280 Living

Shelby County commissioners sworn in for 4-year terms By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE On Nov. 11, the nine Shelby County commission members were sworn in for their next four-year terms. During the ceremony, Probate Judge Allison Boyd gave the oaths of office. ► Kevin Morris (District 1), begins his second term, serving since 2017. ► Tommy Edwards (District 2), begins his fourth term, serving since 2008. ► Jon Parker (District 3), begins his fifth term, serving since 2004. ► Ward Williams (District 4), begins his second term, serving since 2016. ► Elwyn Bearden (District 5) begins his third term, serving since 2012. ► Mike Vest (District 6), begins his third term, serving since 2012. ► Lindsey Allison (District 7) begins her eighth term, serving since 1992. ► Rick Shepherd (District 8), begins his fourth term, serving since 2008. ► Robbie Hayes (District 9), begins his fifth term, serving since 2005. Bearden was named chairperson, and Hayes was named as vice chairperson for the commission. Also, during the meeting, the commission passed a resolution for the schedule for its meetings for this term. Beginning Nov. 23, all Shelby County Commission meetings will be on the second Monday of each month at 8:30 a.m. and the fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m.

The nine members of the Shelby County Commission are sworn in for their next four-year terms by Judge Allison Boyd during a ceremony Nov. 11. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.

Two award bids were approved for two upcoming highway projects. First, the bid for intersection improvements and placement of a traffic signal at Shelby County 41 and Hugh Daniel Drive was awarded to Selective Inc. for $503,363.50. This company also completed the tunnel project at Mt Laurel. This was the second time the project has been up for bid. The first came in at over $100,000 over budget and was rejected. “We are tickled to death to get this price, although it’s still more than we’d like to pay, we are signing contracts,” County Engineer Randy Cole said. “They are ordering materials from subcontractors, and we are anxious to get that in as soon as we can.” The other was for construction of the traffic

Happy Holidays

circle at the Shelby County Airport to Winston Contracting LLC for $889,924.09. Cole said the Pelham-based company is reputable, and he is pleased it won the bid, which was priced less than the amount of the grant. “We will pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement,” Cole said. “I’m ecstatic that this came in under estimate. As soon as all of the contracts are signed and utilities are out of way, we will start work. This will be a big enhancement to the appearance and safety out there.” Boyd thanked the commission and county staff for a smooth election process in November. She said the turnout was unprecedented at about 69.5%, and absentee ballots increased from 3,500 to more than 16,000.

“It was astronomical growth,” Boyd said. “We were as prepared as we could be under the circumstances; nobody knew what to expect. I could not be more complementary to the county staff. We will certify on Friday.” Allison said some elections have not gone as well as they’d like but thought this year was “amazing, especially with the numbers we were dealing with,” and she said she got “very few phone calls” about it. County Manager Chad Scroggins thanked the sheriff’s office for their help and having deputies at all the polling locations and also for bringing back the ballots themselves. “Sheriff [Samaniego] himself really supported operations throughout the county and 43 precincts,” he said.


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December 2020 • A13

Robbie Hayes reelected to Shelby County Commission By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE Only one of the members of the Shelby County Commission had a contested race during this election cycle. Incumbent Robbie Hayes, who represents District 9, defeated Susan Lane and will be serving his fourth full term on the commission. Of the 15,000-plus votes that were cast Nov. 3, Lane received 3,545 votes (22.54%) while Hayes received 12,160 votes (77.32%). In Shelby County, voter turnout was at 69.56%. The total number of ballots cast was 114,752 out of 164,967 total registered voters. Hayes began serving on the commission in 2005, filling the vacant spot of Don Armstrong, when he began his position as property tax commissioner. He has since been elected in 2008, 2016 and now 2020. His district includes U.S. 280 from Chelsea to Westover, Four Mile and some of Columbiana. It extends into Pelham and includes Weatherly and Ballantrae. From there it covers some of Interstate 65 up to the back edge of Oak Mountain State Park. “There are probably 30,000 folks in the area [District 9],” Hayes said. “We had over 15,000 people vote, and I was very pleased with the turnout for both candidates.” Hayes said although he and Lane represent different parties and have different philosophies on politics, that did not get in the way of their friendship. They have known each other for over five years, and Hayes said both he and Lane, who serves on the Westover City Council, want to do what’s right for the county. “She and I have talked about it on multiple occasions, that it [our friendship] was a priority,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that didn’t change. In a nation of nasty politics, we had decided not to let that happen to us.” Hayes had to run his campaign differently this year, because of COVID-19. Unable to go door to door, he utilized social media, made phone calls and put up more campaign signs. “I used to go out in previous campaigns and go door to door,” Hayes said. “I missed the

Robbie Hayes won reelection to the Shelby County Commission. He has been a member since 2005 and will be serving his fourth full term. Photo courtesy of Robbie Hayes.

personal contact. I’ve never been a huge social media person, but it was neat to see the responses when I would post an endorsement and see that 80 to 100 people had liked it. I could spend a whole day and not get to 100 homes.” Upcoming projects Hayes is looking forward to in his next term include the 280 County Services Building, construction beginning at the intersection of Shelby County 39 and Shelby County 47, more parks and walking trails, and new infrastructure, including the

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Chelsea Business Park. “I’m looking forward to things the city is doing and ways the county might help develop that,” he said. Hayes lives in Chelsea, where he has had his optometry practice for 30 years. He sees himself not as a politician, but as a public servant and plans to continue working at his practice and for the county as long as he can. “My next birthday, I’ll turn 60,” he said. “I don’t feel 60. I enjoy doing both and will keep going as

long as I can keep doing it in a good way.” The other members of the Shelby County Commission serving another term are: ► Kevin Morris (District 1) ► Tommy Edwards (District 2) ► Jon Parker (District 3) ► Ward Williams (District 4) ► Elwyn Bearden (District 5) ► Mike Vest (District 6) ► Lindsey Allison (District 7) ► Rick Shepherd (District 8)

A14 • December 2020

280 Living

Community Have a community announcement? Email Leah Ingram Eagle at leagle@starnespublishing.com to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.

Chelsea library thrives despite circumstances By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE While many local libraries have only recently reopened — many remain closed — the Chelsea Public Library almost has not missed a beat since the COVID-19 pandemic began. “When [Mayor] Tony [Picklesimer] first called and said we’ve got to close, my first response was how can we work?” librarian Dana Polk said. ”I just couldn’t imagine staying home, so we did close I think for one day then we immediately went to curbside service.” Polk said she heard of the curbside idea at a conference she attended at the Vestavia Library. It’s an ongoing service offered at the city’s Library in Forest, and Polk knew it would be a way for her branch to remain open. “I thought that’s something we can do here,” she said. “It was something I wanted to implement since I saw the program at another library and thought it was the perfect time to put it in place and work out the tweaks.” While half of the library staff chose to stay home and took unemployment due to health reasons, she said six employees kept the library operating. They did reduce their hours some, but once the word got out about them offering curbside service, Polk said they stayed busy. The library now has a permanent parking spot for curbside pickup. “We were constantly pulling holds or getting phone calls asking us to select books for people’s kids and getting email messages requesting books,” Polk said. She would take photos of the new books when they came in and post them to social media so that their patrons would know about the recent additions. Visitors came to Chelsea Library, recently

Upcoming events ► Thursdays: Tot Spot at 10:30 a.m. ► Through Jan 2: Winter reading challenge. Read books, get points and be entered to win prizes. ► Dec. 5: Santa visits the library, and guests can take their own photos from 1-4 p.m. ► Dec. 8: Music and Books ► Dec. 12: Lego Club resumes ► Dec. 10: Adult Book Club ► Dec. 14: Teen Book Club featuring dinner and a book.

The Chelsea Public Library was only closed for one day after the COVID-19 outbreak before switching to curbside service to continue serving its patrons. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.

named the second best library in the county behind North Shelby, from other Shelby County libraries that were not open, including North Shelby, Helena, Alabaster, Vincent and Columbiana. “People appreciated they could still get books,” Polk said. Aside from doing the curbside service, the Chelsea Library was closed to the public from mid-March until reopening May 11. The library held its summer reading program, and other programs were done via Facebook Live or virtually. Book clubs were on the outdoor patio, while still being offered on Zoom. “When we reopened, we went back to offering

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as many programs as we could,” Polk said. “We had summer movies at the Chelsea Community Center so everyone could be spread out.” Once she ran the numbers, Polk said they only missed last year’s circulation by a small margin. Fiscal Year 2019 circulation, including e-books and computer logins was 123,356, and circulation for FY 2020 (which ended Sept. 30) was 122,791. “April and May were way down, but June through September exceeded the previous year,” she said. The library staff continues to take measures to keep their patrons safe and their library

clean. All door handles are covered with a product called Nanoseptic, a product that sterilizes the handle. Staff and patrons are encouraged to wear masks. Computers, tables and chairs are wiped down after each use, and hand sanitizer is available throughout the building. While circulation has remained steady, customer traffic is about half of the normal amount. In the summer months, they’d normally have around 5,000 people each month, and this summer, it was around 2,500-2,700 each month. “We are hoping after the first of year, if not sooner, to bring back other events including coding club, STEAM, KZT and game day,” she said. “We are waiting to see what happens. We are just glad to be here. We’re here doing what we can do.” For information, visit cityofchelsea.com/225/ library-home.


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December 2020 • A15

Briarwood Presbyterian Church will host three holiday events in December. Staff photo.

Briarwood Presbyterian Church celebrates holiday season Here are three of the most popular events that will be held to celebrate the Christmas season:


► Dec. 9-11, 6:45-8:45 p.m. Hundreds of church members participate in this three-night event, featuring live biblical scenes depicting the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Several scenes utilize live animals. Every year visitors find this a memorable and enjoyable way to witness Jesus’ birth and life with narrated drama in each scene. There is no admission charge. For details, please visit briarwood.org/wtn.


► Dec. 19-20, 6 p.m. The Briarwood Music and Drama Ministries present this program of sacred

contemporary and classical choral music. Live actors will depict the message in the music. No admission fee, but seating is limited and reservations are required. See briarwood.org/events for details.


► Dec. 24 at 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 p.m. The 3, 5 and 7 p.m. services will feature music of the season and the Christmas story as related in the Scriptures hallmark this service, concluding with the entire Worship Center lit only by candlelight. A more intimate Candlelight Communion service will be observed at 9 and 11 p.m. While there is no charge, seating is limited, and reservations are required for each service. Visit briarwood.org/events for more details and reservation information. A full calendar of events is available online at briarwood.org/advent. – Submitted by Dave Balius.

St. Vincent’s One Nineteen hosts virtual hands-on cooking class for families Looking for an interactive learning activity for your child that also happens to provide a meal for the family? Join Donna Sibley, RD, for a Zoom virtual family night hands-on cooking class, which includes the following menu: ► Pizza Extravaganza ► Warm Autumn Salad ► Holiday Mocktail

The class will take place Dec. 10 from 5-6:30 p.m. Cost is $15 and includes a list of ingredients for you to purchase, equipment list and recipes. To register for the class and get additional information, please call Keena Hall at 205-408-6550. – Submitted by Deborah Wiggs.

This year, the National Wreaths Across America Day ceremony for the area will be held virtually Saturday, Dec. 19. Photo courtesy of Sean Sullivan.

Wreaths Across America goes virtual Each December on National Wreaths Across America Day, the organization’s mission to “Remember, Honor and Teach” is carried out by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as at more than 2,100 additional locations in all 50 U.S. states, at sea and abroad. This year, the National Wreaths Across America Day ceremony for the area will be held virtually Saturday, Dec. 19. The event will have necessary modifications to the ceremony plans and laying of veteran wreaths to ensure the safety of all. Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and

expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery that began in 1992. National Wreaths Across America Day is a free, non-political event that honors and remembers our nation’s veterans who are laid to rest in 2,100 different locations nationwide. Alabama’s will be held at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, which has 6,500 veteran graves. The virtual ceremony can be viewed at youtube.com/channel/UCEWtn9vS4R02prxzKCqYTkA. For more information, visit wreathsacrossamerica.org. – Submitted by Sean Sullivan.

A16 • December 2020

280 Living

Fire department to escort Santa around city On Dec. 19, the afternoon following the Chelsea Christmas Parade and Santa Extravaganza, the Chelsea Fire and Rescue Department will have three separate Santa routes running simultaneously around the city. Staff photo.

By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE On Dec. 19, the afternoon following the Chelsea Christmas Parade and Santa Extravaganza, the Chelsea Fire and Rescue Department will have three separate Santa routes running simultaneously around the city. Beginning at 2:30 p.m., all three Chelsea fire stations will be taking Santa around to greet Chelsea residents from atop the fire trucks. Listed below are the stop times and intersections for each station. All times are approximate and pending emergencies.


► 2:30: Essex Drive and Cliff Road ► 2:40: Woodbury Drive and Forest Park Road ► 2:50: Woodbury Drive and Landale Drive ► 3: Forest Lakes Parkway and Forest Lakes Lane ► 3:10: Forest Lakes Lane and Forest Lakes Boulevard ► 3:20: Foothills Ledge and Foothills Parkway ► 3:30: Chesser Park Drive and Chesser Loop Road ► 3:40: Chesser Plantation Lane and Chesser Circle ► 4: Sydney Place ► 4:10: Hodgens Road and Shady Branch Circle ► 4:20: Chelsea Station Drive and Chelsea Station Circle (Clubhouse) ► 4:30: Brynleigh Drive and Brynhurst Drive ► 4:40: Break ► 5:10: Branch Drive and Brook Circle ► 5:20: Highway 338 and Rich Drive ► 5:30: Highway 338 and Charob Lake Trail ► 5:40: Pin Oak Drive and Sassafras Circle ► 5:50: Sweet Gum Drive and Beech Circle ► 6: Twin Oaks Circle and Twin Oaks Way


► 2:30: Twelve Oaks in cul-de-sac ► 2:40: Shelby Forest Drive and Shelby Starnes_vert_11122020.pdf


Forest Trail ► 2:50: Shelby Forest Way and Shelby Forest Court ► 3: Woodbridge Trail and Woodbridge Drive ► 3:10: Grand Vista Way and Alta Vista Drive ► 3:20: El Camino Real and Caballo Circle ► 3:30: Highland Ridge Drive and Highland Ridge Lane ► 3:40: Willow Branch Lane and Willow Branch Circle ► 3:40: Sunset Lake Drive and Sunset Lake Circle ► 3:50: River Birch Road and Mimosa Circle ► 4: Windstone Parkway and Windstone Circle ► 4:10: Hunter Hills Drive and Hunter Hills Circle ► 4:20: Ashton Woods Drive and


4:57 PM

Woodcrest Circle ► 4:30: Break ► 5: Baron Drive and Baron Lane ► 5:10: Emerald Lane and Emerald Park Drive ► 5:20: Lime Creek Lane and Lime Creek Way ► 5:30: Lime Creek Lane and Lime Creek Bend ► 5:40: Lime Creek Lane and Lime Creek Circle ► 5:50: Crossbrook Drive and Crossbrook Circle


► 2:30: Shorefront Lane and Shoreline Way ► 2:45: Chelsea Ridge Road and Shelby County 49 ► 3: Tara Drive and Bonnie Blue Lane ► 3:10: Liberty Cove and Liberty Court

► 3:20: Liberty Ridge Road and Country Cove ► 3:30: Liberty Creek Circle and Helms Drive ► 3:40: Polo Field Way and Polo Downs ► 3:50: Polo Field Way and Huntington Trace (Clubhouse) ► 4: Greenbrier Place in the cul-de-sac ► 4:10: Break ► 4:45: Parkmont Lane and Parkmont Way ► 4:55: Fairbank Lane and Chelsea Park Bend ► 5:05: Chelsea Park Bend and Chelsea Park Ridge ► 5:15: Fairbank Way and Preston Lane ► 5:25: Lake Chelsea Drive and Lake Chelsea Court ► 5:35: Springfield Drive and Springfield Circle ► 5:45: Grayson Place and Crossbridge Road









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December 2020 • A17

City of Chelsea opens new playground at Melrose Park

Mayor Tony Picklesimer, center left, and Jeff Jones, the director of the Chelsea Community Center, center right, cut a ribbon during the ceremony for the new playground at Melrose Park at the Chelsea Community Center on Nov. 2. Photo by Erin Nelson.

By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The city of Chelsea is home to a new playground. Located behind the Chelsea Community Center, the playground at Melrose Park had its official opening with a ribbon-cutting Nov. 2. This is the first of three construction projects in the area. The splash pad is also under construction and should be open May 1, followed by an amphitheater. All three sites will have Melrose Park in the name. Melrose was the original name of Chelsea when the city was home to a train station. “The railroad that runs in front of City Hall is not very far from the park, so that’s why we chose it,” Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer said. The playground has been in the original plan for that park since the property was purchased. Picklesimer said he didn’t have an idea the city would be able to build anything so elaborate, but after receiving money from the project from the Shelby County Commission, the three-story structure was purchased. Picklesimer said this is a great example of what can happen when there is a partnership between the municipality and the county it’s in. “There’s simply no way we could do anything this size without the cooperation from the Shelby County Commission, and on behalf of the whole city of Chelsea, thank you so much to Chad Scroggins for the county’s contribution to this,” he said. “I looked at that as being a generational

decision, something that would be around for a long time. Because we had the money with help from Shelby County, I didn’t want to skimp on it,” Picklesimer said. Construction on the project began in the fourth quarter of 2019 and continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. City Engineer Keith Hager said there was a committee that went to several parks in the area and didn’t find what it wanted. He believes the new playground would rival anything in Shelby County. “I reached out [to the building company] and had some pieces made for our park that were a little different and tried to incorporate all ages of children and all-inclusive areas of the playground,” Hager said. “There are different sections for different ages of children.” Picklesimer said nobody is more responsible for how the playground turned out than Hager,

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adding his vision is truly incredible. “It makes me want to be 6 years old again,” Picklesimer said. Built by Playcraft Systems, the structure is three stories high and has seven towers all interconnected, featuring swings, slides, climbing walls, rope sections, monkey bars and more. It can accommodate ages 3 to adolescent age and is also all-inclusive for those with special needs. Covering the ground in the playground area is rubberized safety flooring, a safety foam-type flooring that is safe and weather resistant. Once the playground area was complete, the construction zone by the splash pad had to be fenced to make it safe for people to have access to the area. Hager said the Chelsea City Council wanted to allow the temporary use of the playground while the other portions of the project were completed.

A separate building is under construction that will house restrooms and also double as a 100person tornado shelter that should be finished in the spring. The mayor also thanked the Park and Recreation staff and community center staff, citing what a terrific job they do. “None of these things happen without a team putting it all together… and these folks do it all,” he said. “We have such a terrific staff and team in our city, and I’m proud of each and everyone of them.” Picklesimer added that Chelsea is all about family, and the city wanted to create a place for families to come and enjoy and spend time together. “It’s really good to live in the city of Chelsea,” he said. “We welcome people from all over to come and enjoy this playground with their kids.”

A18 • December 2020

280 Living

Chamber Small businesses honored for impact on community By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The Shelby County Chamber held its eighth annual Small Business Awards on Oct. 28. Normally held at the chamber’s monthly luncheon, this year’s event was done virtually via Zoom. Hosted by the chamber’s Small Business Work Group, the event celebrates the positive economic impact small businesses have on Shelby County, recognizes successful companies and spotlights the businesses that play a vital role in building Shelby County communities and the overall economy. The five categories for 2020 were based on number of employees (1-5; 6-10; 11-20; 21 and above), and a new small business of the year (less than 25 employees, open less than one year) was named. Nominees were reviewed by an independent panel of judges based on five categories: ► staying power – longevity of business operations ► growth of number of employees – impact of the business on the Shelby County job market ► increase of sales/unit volume – indication for continued growth ► response to adversity – challenges faced in the business and methods used to solve them ► evidence of contributions to the community. The 44 businesses nominated were: ► 2 Pesos ► 4th & Inches Nutrition ► 12 Stones ► A.C. Legg Inc. ► Bay Leaf Modern Indian Cuisine ► Beignets & Lattes ► Boohaker Family & Cosmetic Dentistry ► Brown Sugar Desserts by Renea ► Buck Creek Coffee House ► By George ► Candlewood Suites Alabaster

Above: Pinspiration Birmingham, located on Cahaba Park Circle off U.S. 280, offers a variety of do-it-yourself crafts. Photo by Erin Nelson. Left: Pinspiration Birmingham owner Eleny Christen holds up her nomination certificate. Her business was named Shelby County Small Business of the Year by the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 28. Photo courtesy of Pinspiration Birmingham.

► Chelsea Coffee House ► Chelsea Family Fitness ► Chiropractic Today ► Columbiana Tractor ► Complete Communication Services ► Cowart Drug Co. ► Dale’s Southern Grill ► Dr. James Beretta, P.C. ► The Garden Market ► Happy’s Variety Store ► Iconic Custom Carts ► Just a Tish: Wine & More ► Magnolia’s Gift Shop ► Manna Market ► Montevallo Drug ► Montevallo Family Dentistry

► La Nueva Michoacana ► Partners Tax & Accounting ► Pelham Diner ► Piggly Wiggly (Columbiana) ► Pinspiration Birmingham ► Sav-Mor Food Outlet (Calera) ► Sawyer Solutions ► Shabby Chik Shabby Kidz Boutique ► Shaggy Chic Pet Grooming ► Station 31 Kitchen ► Swimming Pool Service ► The Art Studio ► The Ryan Clinic ► TherapySouth (Helena) ► Vacation Concierge ► Whiskers & Wags Pet Boutique

► Workout Anytime (Calera) The 2020 winners were: ► Category 1: 12 Stones Staffing and Consulting ► Category 2: Shaggy Chic Pet Grooming ► Category 3: Candlewood Suites Alabaster ► Category 4: A.C. Legg Inc. ► 2020 Shelby County Small Business of the Year, New Business: Pinspiration Birmingham Pinspiration Birmingham owner Eleny Christen said it was an honor to win the award. “It’s been a tough year for all businesses, but it’s awesome to be able to continue to celebrate our wins. Thank you to everyone for your continued support,” she said.


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December 2020 • A19

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A20 • December 2020

280 Living

Scroggins provides projections for 2021

Shelby County Manager Chad Scroggins gave his first the State of the County presentation via Zoom on Nov. 10. Scroggins, who has been working with Shelby County since 2003, took over the county manager’s role in March. Screenshot by Leah Ingram Eagle.

By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE Shelby County Manager Chad Scroggins gave the State of the County presentation, hosted by the Shelby County Chamber, on Nov. 10. During the program, he discussed progress made last year and what’s in store for Shelby County in 2021. Scroggins, who has been working with Shelby County since 2003 and took over the county manager’s role in March, said he is grateful to serve the over 218,000 residents in the county. This was his first time to give the State of the County presentation; it was also the first one that has been virtual. He said 2020 has been a unique year and that it’s been both a challenge and an opportunity to step in and lead the county’s government operations in a manner that is consistent. “I appreciate our staff most of all for what they’ve done through this pandemic,” Scroggins said. “I’m proud of our staff ... and their dedication and all they’ve done.” His presentation covered the time frame from October 2019 through September 2020. The year in review included the proposed Coosa River Express, which the commission denied. The February meeting brought in the largest number of attendees probably ever. After that, COVID-19 began to impact daily life, which changed operations, policies and procedures of the county to make sure they could still serve the public. More recent events include Hurricane Zeta, which caused a significant amount of damage across Shelby County.

The presidential election brought record numbers of voters to the polls. Over 99,000 voters in Shelby County voted Nov. 3, with an additional 18,000 completed absentee ballots, totaling about a 60% voter turnout. COVID-19 had obvious effects on the county’s economy. Shelby County’s unemployment rate was 2% in February and jumped to 9.5% in April. In September, it was down to 4%. The average daily inmate population at the Shelby County Jail has reached the maximum. In March, Gov. Kay Ivey gave an order to all counties that the Department of Corrections would not take in any additional inmates charged or those who were parole violators. “Normally, after 30 days someone that comes into jail is transferred to a state facility,” Scroggins said. “Our population is up to 550-560 inmates within our county jail. It’s not designed to carry that many inmates.” Total budget expenditures for FY2020 were $119,112,350 and projected for FY2021 is $109,395,975. The top four expenditure categories are public safety ($33,118,776); highway department ($17,667,624); water services ($13,831,655); and the county landfill ($8,629,142). Total budgeted revenues for FY2020 were $119,847,706 and for FY2021 is $112,300,872.

FY2020 completed projects in Shelby County include: ► New trail at Cahaba River Park. ► A restroom building at Joe Tucker Park in Helena. ► Census 2020: Shelby County led state of Alabama in Census participation. ► A new welding lab at Jefferson State Community College on Valleydale Road that will provide workforce development. ► Opening of the Shelby County Arts Center and Old Mill Square Park in Columbiana. ► Alabama National Cemetery Overlook Project. ► Shelby West Corporate Park pavilion, parking lot and walking trail at the lake. FY2021 ongoing projects include: ► County Services Building on U.S. 280 at Shelby County 41. ► Chelsea community park: County aiding with playground and pavilion. ► Shelby County 11 Sports Complex: Addition of walking trails and cross-country course. ► Veterans Park Alabaster: County aiding with development. ► New community athletic field at Thompson High School complex. ► Updates to Heardmont Park: Additional amenities.

► Inverness Greenway construction. ► Oak Mountain State Park Road: Safety improvements and bike lane construction. ► 4H Center, Discover Shelby Conference Room. ► Intersection/roundabout construction for Shelby West Corporate Park and Shelby County Airport. New FY2021 capital project and initiatives: ► Return of the Parks and Recreation grant funds ($150,000 available, applications accepted through January). ► Additional trails planned at Cahaba River Park. ► Continued work to extend Dunnavant Valley Greenway (from the 1996 soccer fields to Mt Laurel). ► Use RPCGB Apple Study Process to explore sidewalk extension in Columbiana. Looking forward to 2021: ► Completion and startup of the county services building. ► Community development block grant program to the county level. ► Comprehensive growth and development plan. ► Continued economic growth through a global pandemic.


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December 2020 • A21

Individuals, organizations honored with Diamond Awards Kendall Williams, director of the Shelby County Schools Education Foundation, poses with her certificate. The SCSEF was one of this year’s Diamond Awards presented by the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce. Photo courtesy of David Bobo.

By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce presented its annual Shelby County Diamond Awards via Zoom on Nov. 19. Twenty-one people and organizations were nominated for the awards. The three categories included Public Servant of the Year, Citizen of the Year and Nonprofit Organization of the Year. Nominees were evaluated on the following criteria: ► How the organization or individual has made a positive difference in the county or a specific municipality. ► Significant accomplishments achieved by the organization or individual. ► How the organization or individual has improved the county or a specific municipality. Nominees also had to either operate, work or live in Shelby County. Nominees in all categories in alphabetical order: ► Bruce Andrews, Shelby County Arts Council ► CASA of Shelby County ► Faye Lacagnina ► God Did It Ministries ► Grace Klein Community ► Gretchen DiFante ► JaneAnn Mueller ► King’s Home ► Matthew Powers ► Michael Woolley ► NAMI Shelby ► Pat Lozito ► Ricky Rushton ► Sav-A-Life Shelby ► Second Shift ► Shelby County Arts Council ► Shelby County Schools Education Foundation ► Stephanie Douglas ► Tony Picklesimer ► Traci Fox ► Two by Two Rescue Chamber President and CEO Kirk Mancer

101 121 120 said this is a great group of individuals and organizations that exist in Shelby County and thanked them for all they do to make Shelby County a great place to work and do business. Winners of the 2020 Diamond Awards: ► Citizen of the Year: Faye Lacagnina Lacagnina contacts all Shelby County RSVP members on their birthday, sends cards and furnishes them with facemasks. She has a heart for shut-ins and goes out of her way to provide hot meals. She assists with senior care, veteran care and donation collections. ► Public Servant of Year: Gretchen 115



119 COVID-19 has greatly limited the ability DiFante, city manager for the city of Pelham DiFante has elevated the expectations to meet104 in person, the organization realized of local government in Shelby County and the importance of staying connected and has brought a professional mindset to the city. She been conducting support meetings, education 118 demands excellence and accountability, and she meetings and family-to-family meetings via 105Zoom. is always ready to do whatever possible to make sure Pelham is the 117 best city possible. “Congratulations on the work you do that ► Nonprofit Organization of the Year: makes our county and community second to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental 106 Illness) none,” Mancer said. of Shelby County In order to qualify, the nominated organiza116 Since 2009, this local affiliate of NAMI tion or individual had to meet any one of the has provided support, education and advo- following: operates in Shelby County; works 107 cacy for those with mental illnesses. Because in Shelby County; or lives in Shelby County. 108




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December 2020 • A23

Coming Soon Greystone Chiropractic will soon be moving its office to 6600 Tattersall Lane in Tattersall Park. The new location is under construction. With the goal of helping the Birmingham community achieve higher levels of health and wellness naturally, it offers specific chiropractic care, nutritional recommendation, ergonomics advice, breast thermography and the latest information to assist clients in restoring optimal health. 205-981-8090, greystonechiropractor.com


Miami Fusion Cafe opened its second location Nov. 16 at 5511 U.S. 280 in Greystone. The original location is in downtown Birmingham at 2015 Fifth Ave. N. The restaurant features a fusion of flavors from the Caribbean and beyond. 205-730-9003, miamifusioncafe.com


Christian Brothers Automotive recently announced its new Greystone location at 6612 Tattersall Lane in Tattersall Park will open Dec. 7. The new location will be Christian Brothers Automotive’s fifth shop in Alabama and the third in the Birmingham area. The Houston-based company delivers a variety of professional auto-care services including upkeep, maintenance and repair. 205-727-9519, cbac.com


Brazilian blowout, facial waxing, and Redken and Pureology specialists. 205-678-9644, ohhair.com Hammer & Stain has moved its former Hoover location to 611 Doug Baker Blvd., Suite 111, at the Village at Lee Branch shopping center and opened in early November. Hammer & Stain is a DIY workshop allowing makers to create fully customizable and personalized wood pieces in a fun class atmosphere. 260-242-0376, hammerandstainbham.com




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News and Accomplishments Bryant Bank, with a location at 5319 U.S. 280, has been recognized by Newsweek as the best small bank in Alabama. It was Newsweek’s first ranking of the financial institutions that best serve their customers’ needs in today’s challenging times. For more details on this recognition or the methodology, please visit newsweek.com/americas-best-banks-2021/bestsmall-banks-state. 205-408-6401, bryantbank.com


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Personnel Moves Cyndel Brown has been named Branch Sales Manager of the CB&S Bank’s Doug Baker office at 1301 Doug Baker Blvd. Brown began working for CB&S Bank in 2010 at the Russellville - Franklin Plaza location as a part-time teller and currently has 10 years of banking experience. CB&S Bank is a $2 billion community bank headquartered in Russellville that operates 56 offices in the Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee markets. 205-408-7160, cbsbank.com


Relocations and Renovations Oh Hair Beauty Salon recently moved to 10699 Old Highway 280, Suite 1-2, in the Chelsea Village Shopping Center. Owned by Ginger Boroughs Brazier and established in 1999, the salon offers haircuts for women and men, hair color, foils, perms,






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A24 • December 2020

280 Living

Business Greystone Chiropractic moving to Tattersall Park

Left: Dr. Lee Goldenberg, second from right, with his staff and Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato, right, at the groundbreaking of the new location of Greystone Chiropractic on Oct. 2. Below: A rendering of what the completed Greystone Chiropractic will look like upon completion. The office is set to open in February 2021. Photos courtesy of Dr. Lee Goldenberg.

By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE Greystone Chiropractic recently began construction on a new, modern building to house its holistic health facility in Greystone. After being in Birmingham for the past eight years and operating for the past six years in a space in Greystone Terrace, owner and chiropractor Dr. Lee Goldenberg has planned a new facility to better serve his patients and the community. “After spending six years in our current facility, we’ve built up enough to build our own place and do it right,” Goldenberg said. “We were constantly rearranging the office and wanted to be able to start over by doing it the right way from the beginning.” Goldenberg said he has been eyeing Tattersall Park since it began and knew he wanted to relocate there. He said he believes it will be a great place for the practice to grow and expand. The new location will be next to Walk On’s Bistreaux and is expected to be completed in February 2021. As of press time, the outside was nearly complete, and work was beginning on the interior. “Our office has always had the mission to help our practice members experience the unlimited healing potential within them,

naturally, in a stress-free and nurturing environment,” Goldenberg said. “It has been an honor to be able to serve the community in the manner we have, and now increase those efforts in our new space.” Goldenberg is the sole chiropractor and has three assistants who help him run the office. He said in the future, he would like to expand the practice to include counseling on nutrition, strength and ergonomics. There will be room to grow, as the space has an attached 3,000-square-foot rental unit. However, he hasn’t decided whether to keep it for expansion or lease it out. While he does see patients from around the greater Birmingham area, Goldenberg said about 85% of his clients are within a 15-minute drive

of Greystone, including Chelsea, Inverness, Cahaba Heights and Mountain Brook. The effects of COVID-19 have not slowed down the building and design process for the new location. Goldenberg said all the prep

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December 2020 • A25

Downtown Birmingham Cuban restaurant expands to 280 By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE Luis Delgado wants to bring a Pepper Placelike atmosphere to the U.S 280 corridor. Along with opening his new restaurant, he has a vision to bring live music, car shows and more. Delgado, owner and chef of Miami Fusion Cafe downtown, has been bringing the Caribbean flavors of his childhood to the Birmingham metro area for nine years and recently opened his second location of his Caribbean restaurant in the Greystone area. A native of Caugas, Puerto Rico, Delgado moved to Miami when he was 9 years old and learned how to cook from his grandmother. “I was the nosey one in the kitchen all the time,” Delgado said. “I found out cooking was my art and became passionate about cooking at an early age. By the time I was 7 years old, I was cooking full-blown meals.” When he arrived in Alabama 15 years ago, he saw his culture wasn’t represented in the restaurant industry and wanted to change that. “I started catering for church members, and people noticed the food was different and said I needed to open a restaurant,” Delgado said. Deciding to turn his hobby into work, Delgado opened his first restaurant in a gas station in Alabaster 10 years ago with $750, a panini press and a camping stove. After moving to Pelham then Hoover, the restaurant closed in 2015. Delgado said he became depressed and homeless during that period, even spending time at The Turning Point Foundation in Thorsby. Soon after, he got a call from his father-inlaw in Miami asking him if he wanted to open up the restaurant again, and Delgado said “only if I can give second chances.” So, he opened up Miami Fusion Cafe in downtown Birmingham. He worked with organizations including The Foundry and The Lovelady Center to give opportunities to people who may not otherwise have been given a second chance. Delgado loves helping others, and the restaurant will be doing its fifth angel tree this year. Last year, they helped 396 families

Miami Fusion Cafe • WHERE: 5511 U.S. 280 • HOURS: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday • CALL: 205-730-9003 • WEB: miamifusioncafe.com

Miami Fusion Cafe opened a second location at 5511 U.S. 280, Suite 114 on Nov. 16. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.

in Alabama. After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, Delgado received 37,000 pounds of food donations from people all over the state. “We have used our restaurant the last four years more for ministry than anything else,” Delgado said. “Our motto is ‘Building a Family, Not a Business.’” He used his food truck, El Conquistador, to feed first responders and the homeless, and he gave away almost 3,000 meals during a

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two-month period. His Greystone location came along through a struggle. His downtown location was damaged during riots in June, and Delgado knew he had to pivot. After a GoFundMe was started for the downtown location, and knowing that so many people were working from home and business wouldn’t be the same, he decided to move east and open a location on 280. Pleasantly surprised with the deal the

landlord offered him, Delgado will have the ability to use parts of the upstairs area above the building for live music, outdoor seating and a private party area. The new location will be like three restaurants in one. Each day it will serve an early breakfast — cafe con leche, pastries, French toast, omelets, grits and biscuits — before switching to lunch — Cuban sandwiches, pork plates and fusion — and finally to dinner — fillet, snapper and more. For those who haven’t tried Cuban food, Delgado said he brings samples out to see what his customers like. “It’s an opportunity for people who don’t know the culture to come try it,” he said. “If someone tells me they’ve never had it, they’ll get treated like they’re on a Caribbean island.” Delgado has never sold alcohol at his restaurants but will do so at the new location. A mojito bar is located in the main dining area where drinks will be made and delivered to tables. He said it will be a “restaurant with a bar, not a bar with a restaurant.” The downtown location will continue to be open and used for preparation for the food trucks, private events and more. Delgado hopes to have a tiki bar next door to it in time for the 2022 World Games and also wants to have the first international restaurant in the Birmingham airport. “This is not a restaurant that you’ll come to where you feel like you don’t belong,” he said. “Always know it will be clean, with quality food and that our heart is behind everything.”


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A26 • December 2020

280 Living


Daughter-mother duo bring transitional style to life By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE When Alex Hechart’s husband asked her what she would do if she could do anything, she said it would be decorating people’s homes to make them feel cozy and warm. From there, Hechart said the idea grew, and she decided to go for it. She, along with her mother Donna Woodfin, launched Home with Hechart, a home interiors and e-design company in January 2020. “Mom and I loved design,” Hechart said. “I grew up watching her reorganize and decorate our house. I would come home, and the sofa would be in a different place, and the lamps would be new. I grew up not loving it but grew to appreciate it more, and then I found myself always talking off work to [America’s Mart] market in Atlanta or Scott’s [Antique Market].” Woodfin added: “It’s been such a fun challenge — getting to do something we love — and getting to go it together.” Hechart and Woodfin said they believe every client is unique, and their space should reflect that. Their goal is to help their clients turn their

space into a home with their inventory that includes everything from furniture, lighting, art and textiles with price points for different budgets. While the women do have different tastes in decor (Woodfin likes modern clean lines, creams, whites and grays, and Hechart likes rich colors and textures), they collaborate their ideas and decide what will work best for their customers. “We kind of mix them together to make the room have a little bit of both,” Hechart said. “Together we create a transitional style.” Home with Hechart offers three design packages. The full-service design is the most extensive, and is for three or more rooms; partial-service design is for one room; and their hourly design services are for clients looking for party preparation, home styling tips or staging for a rental or real estate property. The duo work out of Woodfin’s Mountain Brook home in a room they have converted into an office. There is a possibility of moving into another space in the future, but they say they are still looking for the right spot. “We could be able to have clients

Alex Hechart, seated, and her mom Donna Woodfin work together at Home with Hechart. The duo selects and curates home decor for clients in Alabama and across the United States. Photo courtesy of Alex Hechart.

come in the store and shop and also have a back office area to meet with clients and do shipping,” they said. Most of their consults are done online. They have the clients send them dimensions of the space along with pictures of pieces that want to incorporate. They say one of their

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favorite things to do is rework special things already in the home to make it feel more alive. “We have our first meeting with a client to talk about space and budget,” Hechart said. “I use software where I put the room together virtually to see how it will look in

the space and create a shopping list. If it’s good with the client, we go ahead and order everything and ship it directly to their door. While some of their customers are hands on, many prefer to be let Hechart and Woodfin handle everything. “Some people want to be very involved in the process, and that makes it super fun and even more challenging,” Hechart said. “There is a mix of both extremes all the way in the middle as well. We can be as involved or not involved as people want.” The ladies say most of their customers have found them online through Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and their website. They have also gotten several client referrals. Not even a year into the business, they said they are both very surprised at how quickly it has taken off, but are also very excited. They said they are thankful that they’re very busy and have already hired their first fulltime employee. With the holidays coming up, they are also listing Christmas items on their website and will be offering a home decorating service for Christmas at an hourly service rate. Some of their inventory is also available for purchase at The Mercantile in the Brook Highland Shopping Center off U.S. 280. Customers can also shop the inventory on their website, which is updated with new items daily and now has a registry option. The whole thing has been a learning curve. While it hasn’t been easy, they say it’s been totally worth it. “When you’re doing your passion and dream, work is so much more fun — it’s not all work anymore just enjoyable,” Hechart said. For more information, visit homewithhechart.com or Instagram @homewithhechart.

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December 2020 • A27

Lifelong friends Katy Nelson and Anna Nash collaborated on “Christmas Matters,” a devotional released for the 2020 holiday season. Photo courtesy of Anna Nash.

Hope for the holidays Pair authors Advent devotional leading up to Christmas holiday to celebrate fullness of season By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE Anna Nash and Katy Shelton became best friends in kindergarten. They grew up together in Crestline, attended Briarwood Christian School and were college roommates at Auburn University. As life happened, Shelton moved to Atlanta while Nash remained in Birmingham. They grew out of touch for a while, but remained Facebook and Christmas card friends. It was when they reconnected at a college reunion that Shelton told Nash she had written a novel. “She asked me, ‘What would you think about being my personal editor?’” Nash said. Nash accepted, and the friends reconnected. Last Christmas, Shelton asked Nash about co-authoring a book together on the parables in the gospel of Luke. “She told me to pray about it for 24 hours, and if my answer was no, she’d take it,” Nash said. Instead of a book, Nash came up with the idea of creating an Advent devotional. Luke was the perfect gospel for the project, as readers can explore one of the 24 chapters a day leading up to Christmas. Designed to help readers understand the richness of the gospel in daily living with a blend of Christmas, the devotional is intended to begin Dec. 1 and end with the resurrection story on Christmas Day, which is coincidentally Nash’s birthday. “It’s counterintuitive to a typical Christmas devotional,” Nash said. Throughout the writing process, Nash took a break, and Shelton did some of the writing. Each devotional has their initials on it to identify who wrote it. The three words Nash uses to describe the devotional are hope, joy and comfort — all things that the celebration of Christmas offers in a non-tangible way that so many people need, particularly this year. “Surely it will be difficult to focus on the birth of our Savior because we are overwhelmed by so many hurts of 2020,” Nash said. “In the midst of current circumstances, through our book we hope to make Christmas

In the midst of current circumstances, through our book we hope to make Christmas more special than the last by offering words to help others remember what the holiday season is really about.


more special than the last by offering words to help others remember what the holiday season is really about.” The duo hopes the message reaches many people, as this holiday season will bring more stress and emotional challenges than ones in the past. Things like not being able to travel, loss of family members, lack of physical and emotional connection, finances and more will make this holiday season more difficult than before. “We anticipate that this perspective will provide readers a simple and personal way to experience and celebrate the fullness of Christ during the Christmas season and beyond,” Nash said. Although they were planning to launch “Christmas Matters” next year, a local company reached out to them wanting to publish an e-book for 2020, and they agreed the timing would be perfect. It will be released on Amazon on Black Friday, Nov. 27. The e-book will be $7.99 and available through the Kindle app, which can be downloaded on any device. Shelton now lives at Lake Martin, and Nash lives in the Altadena area and owns Innova Coffee with her husband, Tyler. For more information, visit christmas mattersbook.com.

A28 • December 2020

280 Living


CONTINUED from page A1 30 minutes to clean up and get to school,” Ellis said. “By 3:15 in the afternoon, I was back in boots heading back to the barn. I had to be in bed at 7 p.m. every night. Weekends and summer vacation meant I’d be working all day, every day.” That strong work ethic established at an early age has followed Ellis throughout his life. He is the longest serving and oldest county attorney in Alabama, representing Shelby County since 1964. Now 80, Ellis has no plans to retire any time soon. When asked about a potential date, he laughed and said, “You can read about my retirement in the obituaries.”


After two semesters at the University of Montevallo, Ellis transferred to Auburn University. He wanted to play football for the Tigers but said he wasn’t good enough. He started out studying mechanical engineering, then switched to chemical engineering before deciding to transfer. He had offers from other colleges and said he wonders what may have happened if he had taken a different path. He transferred back to Montevallo, finished his undergraduate degree there, then started law school at the University of Alabama, following in the footsteps of his grandfather who also had a law practice in Shelby County. When he returned home the summer after his first year of law school, Ellis’ grandmother told him that local attorney Wales Wallace had called and asked if he would like to work with him at his law practice over the summer. Before the summer was over, Wallace told him when he graduated law school, he would like him to come back and practice with him. Ellis continued to work for him on breaks and during the summer up until he graduated from Alabama. “He had the best law practice in Shelby County and was the best trial lawyer I’ve ever been in the courtroom with,” Ellis said. “He was a wonderful, brilliant man who was also in touch with the people.” Although he had offers from other firms with double the salary Wallace offered, he decided to come home and joined the practice when he was 24. He had married his longtime love, Diane Bentley, and they were expecting their first child. “Most of my practice in the early years was representing private individuals and civil matters, but over time as the courts took away the immunity of government entities, counties and cities began to get sued and things got more and more,” Ellis said. “Now, my practice has evolved into being more governmental than anything else.”


In addition to being the attorney for Shelby County, he has served as the attorney for the city of Pelham since 1964, when the city was incorporated with a population of 624 people. He has since added Helena, Calera, Montevallo and Wilton to this list of cities and towns he represents. His work ethic comes from his hardworking farmer father and his “saint” school teacher mother. “My dad said to show up at your job 30 minutes before the boss, work all day harder than everyone else, and work 30 minutes after the boss leaves,” he said. Ellis stays healthy by exercising five days a week. For years, he went to the gym at 4:30 every morning for an hour and a half workout.

Above: Butch Ellis, the longtime attorney for Shelby County and former state senator, sits at his desk at his law office in Columbiana. Far left: Newspaper clippings, collected by a friend of Ellis’ at his law office, from an issue of the Shelby County Reporter published Feb. 2, 1995, show coverage of Ellis’ Appreciation Day Banquet. Left: A story in the Shelby County Reporter published Nov. 10, 1983, highlights the election of Butch Ellis to the Alabama Senate. Photos by Erin Nelson.

Now, his workouts are done in his office — sit ups, push ups and dumbbell lifting before jogging around the streets of downtown Columbiana. He takes the weekends off from exercising, making sourdough bread instead. He eats breakfast and lunch at his office every day, and enjoys the view from his balcony on the third floor of the Ellis, Head, Owens & Justice office building on North Main Street. Ellis spent three terms (11 years) in the Alabama Senate, beginning in 1982. Even though some thought he would run for governor, Ellis said he knew immediately politics was not what he wanted. He said he only ran for his third term in 1990 because Shelby County was on the verge of bankruptcy and he wanted to do what he could to help. “I decided to run one more time to find a solution, and I won,” he said. “My family told me that night if I ever run again, they’re not only going to vote against me, but would endorse my opponent.” Ellis was successful in his objective to rescue Shelby County from a dire situation, and he was able to get legislation through for a 1-cent sales tax that would be used to pay off the county’s debt. It was limited

to 10 years, but the $50 million debt was paid off in just seven years. He said the disappointing thing to him was believing he could change things. “You go down there and find out you can’t change anything, maybe bend it two or three percent, but you can’t change it, and it gives you a sense that maybe you’re wasting your time.” Former Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock has known Ellis since 1988 and said his legal counsel and professional guidance have enabled Shelby County to prosper and provide residents with timely services. “Butch’s fingerprints are on all county services and initiatives for over five decades: water services, environmental services, law enforcement and correctional programs, road and bridge improvements, court system advancements, public facilities and community services,” Dudchock said. “I learned so much from him in dealing with difficult people and elected officials at all levels — federal, state and municipal. I would not have been able to serve the county for over 30 years without his consistent guidance and influence. Butch’s over 50 years of legal service as county attorney will never be equaled.

He is a true gentleman, a legal scholar and a friend to many. Butch Ellis epitomizes the best of Shelby County.” County Commissioner Lindsey Allison said she would hate to see what Shelby County would look like without Ellis being such an intricate part of its foundation and growth. “Though I have only been involved with Butch either through the legal community or county government for 37 years, his contribution and reach to quality of life in Shelby County over the past 60 years is touched by no one,” Allison said. “Butch’s excellence in character leads this county through so many areas. The fact that he is involved in the decision making for various governments, organizations and individuals means issues are well thought out and considered before a decision is made. Butch makes anyone involved in the process better — much better to do their job, simply by his involvement.”


Looking around his office, it is obvious Ellis is a family man. He has dozens of photos of his family, his favorite being a black and white picture of his four oldest

grandchildren when they were young. Ellis and his wife have three children and five grandchildren. His two daughters, Kelly and Christy, live just yards away on the family property, and his son, Corley, lives nearby. “Our family is extremely close, and we spend a lot of time together,” Ellis said. “One of the greatest blessings in my life is that my children are extremely close and love each other.” Working long hours for many years, Ellis said if he had to do anything over, he would have spent more time with his children when they were growing up. He’s glad the family remains close, and said he is proud of his children. Christy is a Realtor and works with Corley at Ellis Properties. Kelly is a pharmacist and recently opened Just a Tish Wine & More in Columbiana. Corley is also serving in the Alabama House of Representatives and has previously served on the Shelby County Commission. Ellis said his son is a better legislator than he was. “He had a general bill pass through both the House and Senate last year without any opposition,” Ellis said. “I never did that. He’s got a good personality for it. He’s all the things people think I am, but I’m not.” Corley said everything he is and everything he has he owes to his parents. It was his dad who instilled in him the desire to be a public servant. “At a very early age, well before I knew anything about the political process, I would watch him work with people to resolve issues and conflict,” Corley said. “He was a master at navigating through the legislative process. I recognized it then, and today the people I meet in Montgomery still talk about it. I would argue that he is one of the best legislators to ever enter the Alabama Statehouse. Although I am obviously very proud, it has left some pretty hard footsteps for me to follow in.” All of his life, Corley had had people tell him what a great attorney, senator or friend his dad was. While all of that is true, he said all of those come in a distant second place to what he and his two sisters know: that he is the best father they could have ever hoped for. When he takes time off, he enjoys spending time at the cabin he built on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, in 1988. It can only be reached by boat or float plane. He goes several times each year, and the entire Ellis family went over the summer and spent several weeks there together. He said the place is a big part of their lives.


Ellis plans to continue working as long as he is healthy, saying “It’s the best alternative I’ve got.” Also, Diane has already told him what his schedule will be when he does retire. “My wife says I can retire any time I want to, but she has two rules: One, I must leave the house no later than 6 a.m. and two, I can’t come back until 6 p.m.,” he said. “She said she doesn’t want me looking over her shoulder and telling her how to do things.” Over his tenure, Ellis said he has met a lot of extremely important people and formed friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime. While his personal pride is in his family, he takes extreme pride in Shelby County and how it’s run and the people in charge of it now. “I play a very small role in it, but it’s very gratifying to me to still participate and continue the growth and development I’ve seen,” he said.


December 2020 • A29

Stay Connected, Stay Engaged, Stay Safe OLLI@UA is a member-led community of lifelong learners. Members enjoy learning new things, meeting peers with similar interests and traveling together. During these unprecedented times, OLLI transitioned to offer accessible, interactive and fun courses completely online that provide members opportunities to stay connected, even when they are apart. Registration for the spring semester begins in December. For more information or to register, Call 1-855-424-0909 or visit olli.ua.edu/bhm.

A30 • December 2020

280 Living

People prepare nonperishable food items during a Backpack Buddies packing party Nov. 7 at Vineyard Family Services. Held the first Saturday of the month, the event is open to volunteers to come pack food bags for students, including those in Shelby County Schools. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.

“Very soon we will form different partnerships and recruit mentors and do activities with the kids involved with the justice system. It will be called Wise Advisors, and we have already had the first two recruiting classes,” he said.


CONTINUED from page A1 Now in its 13th year, the faith-based agency has expanded from not only promoting responsible fatherhood, but also feeding kids in need and helping families in crisis. VFS was named a 2019 Best Small Business of the Year finalist from the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and was also awarded the 2016 Nonprofit of the Year by the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce. “All of our programs have to do with responsible fatherhood; it’s the core of what we do,” Williams said. “Everything added has been a component of that.”


During the COVID-19 pandemic, VFS did not slow down or cut its services in any way. It actually expanded its offerings. “Families have been in a bigger crisis over the last nine months,” he said. “With the generosity of volunteers who donated food and other items, we gave out family emergency boxes that included $50 worth of food. We have given out a lot of these since March.” It’s something Williams is proud of, and he said he encourages other organizations to find ways to help people. “You can’t make an excuse to stop serving because of COVID-19,” he said.


One of the most recognizable programs at VFS is Backpack Buddies. In Shelby County alone, there are more than 10,000 public school children on the free meal program at their school. Backpack Buddies exists to help fill in the gaps on the weekends and holiday breaks. The program provides public school students with nutritious and easy-to-prepare food that they can take home when other resources aren’t always available. This program is made possible by sponsors, donors and grantors that invest their money, time and hard work. It serves Shelby County Schools, along with Alabaster and Pelham City Schools, and feeds approximately 1,000 students weekly throughout the school year. When school is out for the summer, the participants receive provision through the many summer feeding programs offered throughout Shelby County. ​Packing parties are open to anyone who would like to volunteer. They take place every first Saturday of the month for the entire school year starting at 9 a.m. at the VFS office on Pelham Parkway. Once the bags are packed, they are delivered to schools, and school counselors make sure each buddy privately receives their bag on Fridays for over the weekend. Buddy participants are selected based solely on need by the school professionals, which include the counselors, teachers, principals, vice principals and county social workers. Families cannot apply to be on the program but can make a request with the school counselor at their child’s school. Schools served on the U.S. 280 corridor include Chelsea Middle School (sponsored by North Shelby Baptist Church), Chelsea Park Elementary (sponsored by Chelsea Church of God), Forest Oaks Elementary (sponsored by VFS), Inverness Elementary and Oak Mountain Middle School (both sponsored by Meadowbrook Baptist Church) and Oak Mountain Intermediate and Oak Mountain Elementary (both sponsored by VFS).


The F.I.T. Dad program is Fatherhood Initiative Training. It is provided to noncustodial


Above: The Vineyard Family Services staff at their office in Pelham. Photo courtesy of Vineyard Family Services. Below: People donate their time during a Backpack Buddies packing party Nov. 7. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.

Assisting Ward at VFS are Community Outreach Director Stephanie Grissom, Grant Manager Charity Havercroft, and Case Manager Ashley Loftis. Spurgeon Henderson serves as a fatherhood facilitator, and Derrick Williams is a life skills facilitator. “We have a fantastic staff,” Williams said. “You don’t grow without great staff, and we’ve been extremely fortunate to be supported by individuals throughout the community and by people’s generosity. We get funding from different state agencies and other foundations, but a lot does come from people. We live in a good place where people have been generous for a long time.”


fathers in Shelby County, but any father who wants to improve their parenting skills is welcome. During this 13-week program, which meets once a week, resources are made available to help participants find a job, obtain a GED, get legal advice, addiction support, group counseling and one-on-one counseling. “We’ve probably had a couple of thousand go through the program,” Williams said. “It’s a class to help men be an involved, committed and responsible father.” For the women, there is a class that serves as an awareness and communication program just for moms. The class helps women in situations

when they are separated from kids.


VFS provides in-home and mentoring services to assist parents who have children ages 12 or older who have been or are currently in juvenile detention, are at-risk for being placed in juvenile detention or are court-referred. Williams said the ministry recently received its first federal grant on mentoring to assist in this program, which teaches life skills classes and follows the client for a period of time while they transition out back to their regular lives.

There are several ways to invest in VFS. Monetary donations are always appreciated. A church or group can adopt a school, or provide information on places they can send grant requests. Resources are a tremendous help. Items needed for the food drives include buddy food items, hygiene items, family emergency boxes and Christmas stockings. The gift of time can also be given by attending community packing parties, corporate packing parties or hosting a fundraiser. While it took about 10 years before Williams felt the organization was financially stable, he said the last five years have seen growth, and it is close to being a million-dollar organization. “That was one of the dream goals,” he said. “I feel that if we grow at the same rate, we will be there in about two years. We just got our first federal grant, and that will open up other avenues. “I feel like we’re just getting started. We’re no longer worrying about not serving, but about how we’re going to grow and have the most impact.” For more information on this program, visit vfsdads.com.


December 2020 • A31








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Calendar B31

Jags advance to state volleyball championship for 1st time By KYLE PARMLEY

Spain Park’s Audrey Rothman (8) spikes the ball during the Class 7A state volleyball championship final against Hoover at Bill Harris Arena on Oct. 29. Photo by Erin Nelson.

Spain Park High School’s volleyball team made history this season, advancing to the Class 7A state championship for the first time in program history. In the state final, Hoover defeated Spain Park 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-23) on Oct. 29 at Bill Harris Arena, giving the Bucs their first volleyball title. Hoover (50-1) capped off an unbelievable season with its 50th consecutive victory over crosstown rival Spain Park. In the opening set, Hoover unleashed its powerful offense with a bevy of kills from Gabrielle Essix and Rya McKinnon. The Bucs went on a 9-0 run to jump out to a 14-4 lead and cruised to the 25-15 set win. McKinnon was named MVP of the state tournament, and the junior finished with a match-high 21 kills and 11 digs. Spain Park was much more composed in the second set, getting off to a good start before Hoover once again took control. After a 14-14 tie, the Bucs scored 11 of the final 14 points of the set to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the match. “These are the games you play for,” said Spain Park outside hitter Audrey Rothman, who led the Jags with 15 kills, eight assists and four digs. “You want to go and play in the state championship.” The third set was a back-and-forth affair, tied at 23-23 before the Bucs won the final two points and the title. “I thought our team played really well after they settled in after the first set,” Spain Park head coach Kellye Bowen said. “We went back to our normal rotations. We just didn’t figure it out in the first set but in the second and third, they settled in.”

Hoover advanced to the final eight for the eighth straight season, but the Bucs were never able to win it all in those previous trips. Spain Park (27-11) last made it to the state tournament in 2003, when Chris Camper was coaching the Jags. The Jags have risen from a doormat to a threat over Bowen’s six years as head coach. During a couple of those seasons, Spain Park has had a team worthy of the final eight, but upsets and bad matchups have prevented the Jags from getting there. “This is the first team that’s ever made it this far, because of our talent and because of the hard work and dedication that we put in,” senior libero Katelyn Walsh said. “I’ve never been a part of a team that cared this much and sacrificed as much to be here. We got to make history for our school.” The Jags’ season was a bit bumpier than Hoover’s. With much of the roster playing together for the first time, it took much of the season before Spain Park began to find its consistent peak form. “They did it together, they worked together,” Bowen said. “They were gritty, which we were not at the beginning of the season, but in the postseason that’s all they were. They did what they were coached to do. They played their hearts out.” In the championship match, Essix contributed 17 kills, and setter Aly Durban had 47 digs, earning both players all-tournament honors. For Spain Park, Emily Breazeale (six kills), Rothman and Walsh (17 digs) were named all-tournament players as well. Spain Park’s Brooklyn Allison tallied seven digs. Spain Park will welcome most of its team back next season, with Walsh, Bella Pretnar and Abby Byrd concluding their Jags’ careers at the state championship match.

B2 • December 2020

280 Living

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December 2020 • B3

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B4 • December 2020

280 Living


PREP FOOTBALL HIGHLIGHTS The high school football season has ended for the teams in the 280 Living coverage area, but it was a memorable one in many aspects. Briarwood advanced to the playoffs for a 28th straight year and Oak Mountain had one of its most memorable campaigns in recent memories. Here’s a look back at some of the late-season moments.

Photos by Todd Lester, Erin Nelson, James Nicholas and Barry Stephenson Left: Spain Park quarterback Bennett Meredith (3) put up great numbers for much of his first season as the Jags’ starter, none more impressive than the season finale. In the Jags’ wild 63-62 win over Hueytown on Oct. 29, Meredith completed 34-of41 passes for 514 yards and four touchdowns. Below left: Briarwood’s Tyler Waugh (30) had a stellar, game-changing performance in the Lions’ 31-17 win over Hartselle in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs Nov. 6. Waugh rushed for four touchdowns in the second half and intercepted two passes in the victory. Below right: Chelsea wide receiver Gabe Ruffin (5) had a big hand in the Hornets’ season-ending victory against Calera on Oct. 30. In the 31-14 win, Ruffin caught five passes for 96 yards, scoring two touchdowns.

Oak Mountain quarterback Evan Smith (9) was nothing shy of sensational in the Eagles’ two playoff games. In a 41-28 win over Austin in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs, Smith ran for 320 yards and scored four touchdowns. In a 24-21 loss to Hoover the following week, Smith went for 217 yards and two more touchdowns on the ground.

Spain Park wide receiver Cooper Kelley (10) capped off his career in style, playing a big role in the Jags’ seasonending victory against Hueytown. Kelley caught nine balls for a whopping 232 yards and three touchdowns in the contest.

Briarwood linebacker Parker Hutson (11) did plenty with the ball in his hands this season. Even though the Lions fell to Oxford 35-14 in the second round of the playoffs Nov. 13, Hutson had an interception return for a touchdown in the game.


December 2020 • B5

B6 • December 2020

280 Living

Oak Mountain’s Wilder Evers (4) shoots a free throw in the second half of an Class 7A state semifinal game against Lee-Montgomery on Feb. 27 at the BirminghamJefferson Civic Center. Photos by Erin Nelson.

HIGH SCHOOL HOOPS PREVIEW: BOYS Jags, Eagles have eyes set on capturing state title

By KYLE PARMLEY The campaign the Oak Mountain High School boys basketball team put together last season was one of the best in school history. The Eagles went 22-9, winning Class 7A, Area 5, and advancing to the state final four for the first time as a program. But the mantra of Chris Love’s program won’t allow the 2020-21 version of the Eagles to dwell on last year’s success. Oak Mountain lives by a philosophy of, “It doesn’t matter, get better.” Resting on the laurels of a previous season will not benefit the Eagles in the future. “We’re just trying to get better right now,” said Love, the Oak Mountain head coach. “If we do our job of getting better and take every day and every game and work to get better, then we’ll be playing our best basketball in January and February and feel like we’re going to have an opportunity to do something special.” Much of the core of last year’s team returns, placing high external expectations on Oak Mountain to once again be in contention for a 7A state championship. The Eagles’ most significant loss was point guard Zane Nelson, a player that brought plenty to the table last year. He was Oak Mountain’s leading scorer. “Zane had as good a senior year as I’ve ever been around,” Love said. “He put [the team] on his back and led us. The thing was Zane was our energy guy.” It will be a team effort to replace all of Nelson’s contributions. Love said it starts with the Eagles’ three seniors, Noah Young, Colin Patrick and Connor Freel. Young will work his way into the mix beginning in mid-November, after helping the Oak Mountain football team to a quarterfinal playoff run. Patrick took advantage of the offseason improving all facets of his game, preparing for his increased role.

Above: Oak Mountain’s Will Shaver (32) dunks the ball as he’s guarded by Sparkman’s Nick Sawyer (2) during a Class 7A Northeast Regional final game Feb. 18 at Pete Mathews Coliseum in Jacksonville. Left: Spain Park’s Cam Crawford (5) dribbles the ball as he’s guarded by Austin’s Jaylon Barrett (11) during a Class 7A Northwest Regional semifinal game Feb. 13 at Tom Drake Coliseum in Hanceville.

“I put on 15 pounds, worked on shooting and ball handling, and on the mental side you’ve got to bring the energy and leadership,” he said. Freel was a junior varsity player a season ago, but Love said he has improved his game to the point he is expected to be in the Eagles’ rotation this season. “I’m trying to be a better leader and I’m trying to bring a lot of energy,” Freel said. Love said Oak Mountain will be more patient on the offensive end this season, with key players such as Wilder Evers and Evan Smith expected to have the ball in their hands more this season facilitating the offense. “We’re going to have four or five guys that average seven to 10 points,” Love said. Brady Dunn will bring a deft shooting touch to the Eagles and others such as Ryan Giegel and Matthew Heiberger will step into much

bigger roles. That’s before considering the emergence of forward Will Shaver, a highly-recruited junior. Love said Shaver dropped 40 pounds in the offseason and is in as good of condition as he has ever been. Shaver has become more athletic and able to do more things on the perimeter, like defending and shooting the 3-pointer. “He’s kind of taken his game to the next level,” Love said. Oak Mountain will compete against the likes of Hoover, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County in Area 5. “If we’re not ready to play, we’re going to finish fourth in our area,” Love said.


Chris Laatsch cautions against evaluating the progress of a program merely on the team’s

win-loss record. Schedules are not created equally, and many factors come into play in a given season. But there’s no denying the immense progress the Jaguars made from year one to year two under Laatsch, as they improved from seven wins in 2018-19 to a 20-win team last winter. “The buy-in, the belief and the effort and them understanding what we’re trying to do, I was pleased with the atmosphere with our program,” Laatsch said. Last season, Spain Park advanced past the area tournament and won its Class 7A Northwest Regional semifinal game. The Jags even gave eventual state runner-up and area rival Mountain Brook all it could handle in the regional final. “Records are not a good test of the quality of a team, but I do think what I can judge is the atmosphere, buy-in, work ethic, passion and camaraderie of our kids, and those things are definitely in place,” Laatsch said. Spain Park graduated four seniors from last year’s squad but returns all five starters (including two others who could be considered starters). The program has ascended in two years to

See PREVIEW | page B8


December 2020 • B7


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B8 • December 2020

280 Living

Above left: Josh Harrington (14) drives to the basket while Colby Blackwell (23) plays defense during a Class 7A Northwest Regional final game between Spain Park and Mountain Brook on Feb. 18 at Tom Drake Coliseum in Hanceville. Photo by Sarah Finnegan. Above right: Briarwood’s Landon Nuyt (22) drives the ball as he’s guarded by John Carroll’s Kaleb Wright (15) on Jan. 10 at John Carroll Catholic High School. Photo by Erin Nelson.


CONTINUED from page B6 one with expectations of being one of the top teams in the state this season. Josh Harrington is back and a player Laatsch called the Jags’ most valuable player a season ago. “He’s tiny, but he’s mighty,” Laatsch said. “He just makes plays. If there was a play that needed to be made last year, he just always seemed to make it.” Cam Crawford is garnering the most recruiting attention on Spain Park’s roster, as the guard’s explosive athleticism and skill give opposing teams nightmares. Junior forward Colin Turner is also back, adding muscle to his 6-foot-8 frame in the offseason to be an even better player. J.R. Lambert can do a little bit of everything on the floor for the Jags. He had a big game against Mountain Brook in the regional final last year. Braden Diclemente is also a returning starter. Laatsch lauded his shooting touch and said he has also worked to improve every aspect of his game. Blake Hay and Blake Floyd give the Jags two other players with plenty of experience as well. Hay started at the beginning of last season before suffering an injury, but he is back and healthy. Floyd moved to Spain Park for his senior year, coming over from Pelham, where his dad Joel served as the head coach. Joel Floyd is now an assistant on the Spain Park staff. “To have a chance to work alongside him, I’m learning from him every day. He’s going to be a tremendous asset to our program,” Laatsch said. Jax Hovanec is a utility player capable of playing four of the five positions on the floor. Also on the roster are Deacon George, Dawson DeFalco, Jayson Webb, Pierson Cole and Zach Gray. There are no secrets with a team coached by Laatsch. His teams will play a strong, fundamentally-based game on the offensive side and keep teams off balance on defense by featuring multiple looks. Laatsch also has no shortage of confidence in his current team. “Our goal is a state championship,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good teams. There’s a lot of teams with a lot of people back, but our team has a lot of people back, too.”


Above: Chelsea’s Paul Lanzi (5) moves toward the goal, guarded by Clay-Chalkville’s Patrick Underwood (13), during the second half of a game Nov. 12, 2019, at Chelsea High School. Above right: Briarwood head coach Bobby Kerley calls a play from the sideline in a game against John Carroll Catholic on Jan. 10 at John Carroll Catholic High School. Left: Chelsea’s Holton Smith (11) shoots a 3-pointer during the second half of a game against ClayChalkville on Nov. 12, 2019. Photos by Erin Nelson.


The philosophies of Chelsea head coach Nick Baumbaugh haven’t changed. His Hornets teams have always hung their hats on playing tough half-court defense and being patient offensively as they search for the proper shot. Once again, this season, that is what Chelsea will look like on the floor. Something Baumbaugh has had to adjust, though, is his level of patience in teaching the game to his young team. After graduating nine seniors and not having a normal summer due to COVID19 restrictions, the Hornets do not have much experience. But the coach has liked what he’s seen in the preseason and the early portion of the regular season. “This fall has been really, really good with a new weight program, trying to get more explosive, quicker and more basketball central to what we’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s been productive so far, and our kids have responded

well to that. We’re trying to mesh a lot of young kids into what we’re doing.” Holton Smith returns the most experience for the Hornets, and Brady Arnette, Paul Lanzi and Alex Redd played last season as well. “We’re excited about this year,” Baumbaugh said. “It’s just been trying to figure out who’s really going to help us.” One of Chelsea’s primary focuses this summer was shooting the ball, something that has carried over into the school year. Baumbaugh said several players show up before school to get shots up, impressing him with their desire to improve despite the tough circumstances of the offseason. Based on what Baumbaugh has seen early on, he believes the Hornets will be effective at creating offensive opportunities by driving the lane.

“One of our strengths this year across the board is our kids getting to the rim,” he said. “Even though we want to be patient, I also want to take advantage of our strength.” The Hornets have six seniors this season in Riley Edmiston, Josh Bass, Arnette, Smith, Warner Jones and Luis Lopez-Miranda. Edmiston has taken the role as the Hornets’ top player early in the season. Bass got some playing time last year and will take on a much bigger role this season. Warner Jones has taken on the role of being a versatile center. Lopez-Miranda has never played organized basketball, but he can really shoot, according to his coach. Baumbaugh also noted the likes of Caden Cook, Cooper Griffin, Carson Camper, Thomas Simpson and Matthew Gray as players he expects to contribute in a big way. Kevin Legrand and Carter Abrams are also on the team.

Over the last few years, the Briarwood Christian School boys basketball team has been able to utilize more of a free-flowing offensive game, taking advantage of the talent and experience on the floor. The Lions are going to have to pull the reins back some this fall. After graduating several key players from last year’s group, Landon Nuyt is the returning player with the most experience. “Landon’s an explosive guy,” Briarwood head coach Bobby Kerley said. “He can create a shot that we don’t have to create for him.” Briarwood’s personnel is going to dictate a more deliberate and structured game this year. But just because the Lions are emphasizing discipline and toughness does not mean they don’t expect to be competitive. “I’m really hopeful this is a great team to watch,” Kerley said. “We’re going to have to share the ball a lot, we’re going to have to be incredibly disciplined, we’re going to play a more controlled pace of basketball and really try to excel on the defensive end.” Early in the season, expect John Elliott to provide much of the secondary scoring for the Lions. There are several football players on the Briarwood basketball team, and it will likely be December by the time most of those guys have settled into their roles for the Lions. At the center position, Will Brewer, Miller Stubblefield and Tyler Smith will all contribute in a by-committee approach for the Lions. Stratton Ponder and Christopher Vizzina will take most of the minutes at power forward. Ponder has great length and can shoot the 3-pointer well, while Vizzina — also the quarterback on the gridiron — brings a high level of toughness and leadership. Kerley also mentioned players such as Chandler Key, Brooks Donnelly and Jonathan Stevens who will help the Lions in a big way. The roster also includes Nicholas Frost, Baylor Gann, William Lloyd, Grant Mears and Buddy Campbell. “We always try to be tough and be fighters, but we’re going to have to be a lunch pail type of team. It may not always be the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but I hope people really enjoy watching those guys,” Kerley said. Briarwood is probably not the favorite to win Class 6A, Area 9, with the likes of Mountain Brook, Chelsea and Homewood to compete against, but Kerley will take his team into every game with a sense of belief it has what it takes. “We really do have a fighter’s chance in every game we play,” he said.


December 2020 • B9

B10 • December 2020

280 Living

Oak Mountain’s Julia Tucker (22) dribbles the ball as she’s guarded by Homewood’s Kate Gann (30) on Nov. 14, 2019, at Oak Mountain High School. Photo by Erin Nelson.

HIGH SCHOOL HOOPS PREVIEW: GIRLS Reigning champs Lady Jags not ready to take step back Left: Avery Masdon (14) drives the ball down court during a Class 7A Northwest Regional final game between Spain Park and Vestavia Hills on Feb. 18 at Tom Drake Coliseum in Hanceville. Photo by Sarah Finnegan. Above right: Spain Park’s Katie Flannery (22) shoots a 3-pointer in the second half of a Class 7A state semifinal game against McGill-Toolen on Feb. 27 at the BirminghamJefferson Civic Center. Photo by Erin Nelson.

By KYLE PARMLEY The Spain Park High School girls basketball team is by no means starting over. The Lady Jaguars won the Class 7A state championship last winter for the second time in three years behind the consistent dominance of Sarah Ashlee Barker. With Barker now at the University of Georgia, most programs would expect a down year. But Spain Park returns all of its other starters, and the Lady Jags have their sights set on another successful season. “Obviously, it will be less dominant on one player,” Spain Park head coach Mike Chase said. “All the load of everything is spread between more players. We’re going to be deeper this year. We can be a little more diverse in some of the things that we do.” If there is one thing Barker passed down to her successors at Spain Park, Chase said it’s the leadership that she learned from the ones before her. “She learned that from her teammates and she’s passed that on to those guys,” he said. “We’re not going to have a dominant leader, but we’re going to be leader by committee, and we’ve got a bunch of [players] that are going to step up and take that challenge.” Things certainly won’t be made easier without one of the top players in the state, but this year’s team will resemble more closely the ones Chase has spent much of his career coaching at Clay-Chalkville and Spain Park. “If I had to coach outside my box, it was last year, having a player that was dominant in virtually every aspect,” he said. “In the past, we didn’t have a leading scorer, we just had kids who could all score.” There will still be several familiar faces on the floor this winter for the Lady Jags. Senior Avery Masdon will be one of the team’s go-to forces, along with junior returning guards Mackenzie Culpepper and Camille Chase. All three will be able to share the ball-handling duties, something Chase is not worried about. “They’re natural point guards, they just

played a different position,” Chase said of their roles in previous seasons. Alanah Pooler, Katie Flannery and Haley Russell return as well, giving the Lady Jags plenty of experience from the forward position as well. The Lady Jags also added to the mix Jordy Griggs, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from California who has already garnered national attention. She can do it all, according to Chase. She is a “phenomenal athlete, long, can jump and can run.” Chase expects there to be a learning curve

for Griggs but believes she will continuously improve throughout the season. Jaycee Haynes, Kerri Barnes, Alex Baskin, Stephanie Tooson and Paxton Gillispie round out the Spain Park roster. While the Lady Jags have high hopes for the 2020-21 season, Class 7A, Area 6 will do them no favors. Spain Park is the defending state champion, Vestavia Hills and Hewitt-Trussville are programs on the rise, and now Gadsden City enters the fold, bringing in a program that won its area last year as well.

“Three good teams are already coming back in our area, and you bring in an area champ,” Chase said. “Nobody’s going to go 6-0….When we get to January, we’ve got to be clicking.”


Much will look different about the Oak Mountain High School girls basketball team this season. The Lady Eagles’ personnel will be dramatically different, forcing a different playing style to be employed. Instead of being older and experienced as it has been over the last couple years, this team will skew toward the younger and inexperienced side. But there is one trait head coach Beth Parmer hopes remains exactly the same from one year to the next. “They were determined,” she said of last year’s squad. “When it came area [tournament] time, they knew what they had to do. The determination of that group, they were not going to be defeated and [would] do everything they could to get there.” Last season’s Lady Eagles squad broke through and advanced to the Class 7A Northeast Regional for the first time in many years, putting together just a 10-18 record overall but winning the games that mattered most. “We all came together, and we had one goal in mind and didn’t stop until we reached it,” senior guard Riley Sullivan said. Julia Tucker and Anna Fleming are the other two seniors for this year’s Oak Mountain squad. Together, the three of them will be tasked with leading the Lady Eagles through this season, as a new-look team hopes to achieve the same final result. “We’re going to have to take more responsibility to get things done,” Tucker said. On the court, the Lady Eagles will no longer


December 2020 • B11

Above left: Oak Mountain’s Riley Sullivan (24) dribbles the ball during a Class 7A Northeast Regional semifinal game against Gadsden City on Feb. 13 in Jacksonville. Photo by Ingrid Schnader. Above right: Chelsea’s Ellen Fleming (32) drives the ball toward the goal, guarded by Vestavia Hills’ Ally Smith (10), on Nov. 12 at Chelsea High School. Photo by Erin Nelson. Counterclockwise, from left: Briarwood’s Anna Martin (20) moves to steal the ball from John Carroll’s Emma Bauer (10) during a Jan. 10 game at John Carroll Catholic High School. Briarwood’s Caroline Mays (5) takes a shot while guarded by John Carroll’s Claire Boone (14) on Jan. 10. Chelsea’s Mackenzie Titus (44) shoots a free throw in a game against Vestavia on Nov. 12 at Chelsea High School. Photos by Erin Nelson.

have the advantages that post presences Hannah Edwards and Taniyah Smith provided over the previous few years. “We are going to look dramatically different than we have in years past,” Parmer said. “When you have that kind of a change, you have to kind of go back to the drawing board and see what you can do with the personnel that you have.” But Parmer is choosing to look at this as an opportunity to employ some new strategies that would not have worked as well with previous teams. “We’re going to be able to do some things that we haven’t been able to do in the past and do them much better,” she said. “I’m looking forward to that.” Parmer has also really liked what she has seen from some of the younger players and believes they will be able to step into bigger roles this year. Junior Abby Gordon was a starter last year, while junior Charity Shaw and freshman Raegan Whitaker have impressed. Janya Piedra, Lauren Schuessler, Tamia Threatt, Gabriella Plaia and Vica Hood are also on the squad this season. Oak Mountain competes in Class 7A, Area 5 with Hoover, Thompson and Tuscaloosa County. It will be no easy task for the Lady Eagles to advance out of the area for a second straight year, but Parmer is hopeful. “If we can make it back [to regionals] this year, which we have a legitimate shot to do, being there last year will help us.”


It is a double-edged sword to have enjoyed the contributions of last year’s senior class for as long as the Chelsea High School girls basketball program did. While all five of them were key pieces to Chelsea’s success the last couple years, now the Lady Hornets must find a way to live without them. But head coach Jason Harlow sees the other side of it as well. Now entering his third year leading the program, he believes that senior class laid a strong enough foundation for the future teams to withstand the losses of that core group. “Even though we graduated five really good seniors that did a tremendous amount for our program, we do have some really good players coming in,” he said. Part of that foundation is how the Lady Hornets conduct themselves on the practice court. Harlow said he never has to coach effort with his team, and that encourages him greatly. “We practice how we want to play, give all the effort we can,” said senior Ellen Fleming. “We don’t take drills off, everyone works hard, and we’ve got a lot of good girls with great mentalities.” Fleming is one of four seniors for Chelsea this season, along with Mackenzie Titus, Halle Eidson and Mary Henley Carney. Titus is a post player for the Lady Hornets and recently signed to play soccer at Mississippi State. She is looking forward to being one of the leaders of this year’s team. “It didn’t hit until official practices,” she said. “We were all waiting to see if we were going to even have a season [because of COVID-19]. When things got serious, me and Ellen decided to step up in practice.” The Lady Hornets are looking to push the pace a little more than in years past, much of that beginning with junior point guard Sydney Schwallie, who has continued to elevate her

game after two strong seasons with the varsity team. Nia Cummings, Ashley Washington and Mary Cartee are also juniors, with Cartee transferring in from Hewitt-Trussville. Sophia Brown and Lexi Redd are sophomores expected to contribute right away, with Brown already having a full year of varsity ball under her belt last season. “I couldn’t take her off the floor because of what she does on the defensive end and from a rebounding standpoint,” Harlow said. Nora Breedlove, Hardy Erwin and Madison Moore will also provide the Lady Hornets minutes. Chelsea will play in Class 6A, Area 9 with Briarwood, Homewood and Mountain Brook. If the Lady Hornets are to build off of last year’s school-record 26 wins and second straight area title, they will have to be at their best. “We understand we’re in a different area with teams with a ton of basketball tradition,” Harlow said. “We have our hands full, but we are going to play hard [and] have maximum effort, and we feel good about where the chips are going to fall.”


This is the season the Briarwood Christian School girls basketball team has been anticipating. The Lady Lions are coming off two

consecutive playoff appearances, have a roster loaded with experience and have some younger players expected to contribute right away as well. Caroline Mays, Bennett Shaw, Anna Martin, Emily Scott, Mary Stewart Bowen, Abby Johnson, Maggie Flemming, Maddie Vaughn and Vaeda Burkhead will all suit up for their final season as Lady Lions and make major contributions. But they are not the only players on the roster. Kate Saunders and Claire Lehane are juniors who have a big part in Briarwood’s success, along with freshman sensation Mary Beth Dicen. “I have 100% confidence in every girl on our team,” head coach Lorie Kerley said. “I don’t feel like we have any weak links, so we have depth. I’m really excited about that.” Out of the seniors, May has been a key contributor in years past and will be once again. Martin’s defense is her calling card and is the player the Lady Lions count on to cover the opposition’s best perimeter player. One of the most exciting developments for Kerley is how Briarwood will now get to use Vaughn, who has served as the team’s primary point guard the last couple years. With Dicen stepping in to play the point, Vaughn has shifted off the ball and has found

much more freedom to operate in a scoring role. “Being able to full-time move Maddie off the point has been a game changer for us,” Kerley said. “She’s getting so many more looks at the basket because she’s not worried about getting the ball up the floor.” Saunders will be a starting post player for Briarwood for the third year and has worked hard to improve her finishing ability around the rim, according to her coach. Lehane will also get plenty of minutes as the backup point guard. Dicen’s ability, despite being a ninth-grader, will allow the Lady Lions to push the envelope on the offensive end. “Mary Beth loves to push the ball up the floor,” Kerley said. “She’s super quick, and she gets it up the floor so fast. I’m hoping this year we’ll really be able to play at a faster space. Our personnel has just fallen into place this year for us to play fast.” Briarwood will be in Class 6A, Area 9 with Chelsea, Homewood and Mountain Brook. Chelsea and Homewood advanced to the regional tournament last year, and Mountain Brook has a new coach and transitioned down from 7A. But Kerley likes her team and believes the area will be a fun one to watch. “It’s a challenge,” she said. “I really think the girls believe that we can compete in this area. I know as coaches we feel like we can.”

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280 Living

Varsity Sports Calendar BRIARWOOD Dec. 1: @ Altamont. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3: vs. Calera. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8: @ Calera. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m. Sullivan Tipton, left, and Jared Henderson, right, stand with their trophies. Photo courtesy of Brian Tipton.

Local duo qualifies for national disc golf tourney Sullivan Tipton from Oak Mountain (2020 graduate) and Jared Henderson from Trussville (2021 graduate) won a disc golf doubles tournament, qualifying them for the United States Disc Golf Championship Doubles at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  Tipton and Henderson have been playing together for little over a year, and they competed in a three-day tournament. Team Young Guns led from start to finish in a tournament with more than 60 teams from over 25 different states. Tipton and Henderson were the second youngest team at the tournament. – Submitted by Brian Tipton.

Dec. 10: @ Woodlawn. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11: vs. Gardendale. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18: Boys vs. UMS-Wright. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21-23: Smoky Mountain Tournament. TBD. Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Dec. 4: vs. Huffman. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.


Dec. 7: Girls vs. Mountain Brook. 7 p.m.

Dec. 1: vs. Clay-Chalkville. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 8: @ Pelham. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 4: vs. Hoover. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 11: Boys @ Sylacauga. 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 11: vs. Vestavia Hills. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 8: Boys @ Thompson. TBD.

Dec. 15: vs. Oak Mountain. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 12: Boys at Bragging Rights Classic. TBD. Huntsville.

Dec. 19-22: Boys at Alexandria Tournament. TBD. Alexandria High School.

Dec. 15: @ Chelsea. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 28-30: Boys at UMS-Wright Christmas Tournament. TBD. UMS-Wright Preparatory School.

Dec. 17-19: Boys at Oak Mountain Invite. TBD. Oak Mountain High School.

Dec. 17-19: Boys at Oak Mountain Tournament. TBD. Oak Mountain High School.


Dec. 21-23: Girls at Oak Mountain Ladies’ Classic. TBD. Oak Mountain High School.

Dec. 21-23: Girls at Chevron Classic. TBD. Spain Park High School.

Dec. 1: @ Hewitt-Trussville. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 28-30: Boys at Plainview Classic. TBD. Plainview High School.

Dec. 28-30: Arnold Tournament. TBD. Panama City Beach, Florida.

CHELSEA Dec. 3: vs. Pelham. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10: vs. Clay-Chalkville. Girls at 6 p.m.; boys at 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 11: @ Homewood. Girls at 5 p.m.; boys at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12: Boys at Twin City Automotive Tournament. TBD. Plainview High School.


December 2020 • B13

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B14 • December 2020

280 Living

Events Chelsea Christmas parade, Santa event returns By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The city of Chelsea will hold its 21st annual Christmas parade Saturday, Dec. 19. The event will begin at 10 a.m. at Chelsea Middle School and end at the Winn-Dixie parking lot. Geographic Information Systems Coordinator Gerri Smith said the outdoor tradition will continue this year, and the parade will go on as normal. There will be 10 professional floats featured, as well as several amateur floats. The Chelsea High School band is also scheduled to perform. Following the parade, the Santa Extravaganza will take place outside under the canopy of the entrance to the Chelsea Community Center from noon until 2 p.m. Chelsea’s First Lady, Cindy Picklesimer, is coordinating the event, now in its fifth year. “It’s going to be a little different this year, but it will be great,” she said. “We decided to go ahead and make it an outside event.” The event will feature Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with Cinderella, superheroes, Beauty and the Beast, Chase from Paw Patrol and more. A balloon artist will also be making creations for the children. Musical performances will begin at noon and feature both Santa and Cinderella will perform songs, along with live music from a blues band. The Chelsea Library will have a story time with puppets along with a pre-packaged children’s craft. There will be hand sanitizer stations available, and masks are encouraged. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be seated behind plexiglass, where children can pose for photos in front of the glass. Children can also write their Christmas list to Santa and drop it in a box for him. There will not be a photographer, and guests are encouraged to bring their own cameras. For more information, visit cityof chelsea.com.

Above: The city of Chelsea will hold its 21st annual Christmas parade Saturday, Dec. 19. Staff photo. Far left and left: Cinderella will join Santa again this year and both will perform musical numbers. Children can have their photos taken with Santa while standing in front of a plexiglass divider to provide social distancing. Photos courtesy of Cindy Picklesimer.

Meadow Brook Runs sets 26th annual race for Dec. 19 Participants compete in the 2019 Meadow Brook Runs 5K and 1-mile fun run event. This year the event will take place Dec. 19 beginning at 9 a.m. Photo courtesy of Suman Silwal.

By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The 26th annual Meadow Brook Runs will take place this year despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While many other races have been canceled or switched to a virtual format, interest has remained high for this year’s event. Race Director Dr. Robert Cosby said running is the safest activity that people can do during this time. “Our race, as I see it, is trying to facilitate people participating in a healthy activity in that regard, and we plan to go ahead,” he said. “I think that we are far enough in the pandemic process that there are not going to be any additional surprises. I’ve been to several other runs, and we are following in their footsteps.” The event will be held on Saturday, Dec. 19, and it will feature a 5K beginning at 9 a.m. and a 1-mile fun run at 10 a.m. Walkers and pets on leashes are welcome. The race, which drew around 250 participants last year, will be held at the Meadow Brook Branch of Valley Bank at 100 Corporate Parkway. It will be moved about 20 yards away from last year’s patio location to under the shelter of the bank’s drive-through. The food tables will be there, along with the awards after the race. Precautions will be in place for COVID-19, and the race will be following official public health pandemic guidelines and taking steps to reduce risk. It is recommended that everyone wear face masks and maintain 6 feet of social distance during registration, in the start, finish and food areas and during the awards ceremony. Masks may be removed during the run, and Cosby said it is recommended people depart as soon

as possible following the race. “Our race helps promote health and physical fitness for all ages in the environment of pandemic, and I believe this is the best physical fitness we can do,” Cosby said. During the Taste of 280, food will be available from a variety of local restaurants, including Jimmy John’s, Chick-fil-A, Papa John’s, The Fresh Market, Golden Flake, Bud’s Best Cookies, Ashley Mac’s, Smoothie King, Buffalo Rock, Starbucks and more. Winner’s medals may be picked up following the race at Your Office, 4000 Eagle Point Corporate Drive. Results will be emailed and posted following the race. On race day, late registration and packet pickup will be from 7:30-8:45 a.m. There is no

required entry fee, but voluntary tax-deductible contributions will go to “The Jesus Video Project of Alabama” nonprofit, and a $15-$25 minimum donation is suggested. Complimentary registration is offered to local race directors. “Based on other turnouts, I think we’ll have a quorum,” Cosby said. “I predict there will be late-minute decisions made based on the weather, the pandemic and people’s family Christmas plans. Solid runners come out no matter what. We are running to show we’re survivors, and there are good reasons to go ahead and do this. People can stay separated and have fun.” Registration can be done online, via mail or walk-up the day of the race. T-shirts are

Meadow Brook Runs • WHERE: Meadow Brook Branch of Valley Bank at 100 Corporate Parkway • WHEN: Dec. 19, 5K begins at 9 a.m.; 1-mile fun run at 10 a.m. • COST: No entry fee; donation suggested • WEB: meadowbrookruns.org

guaranteed for pre-registrations by Dec. 13. For more information or to register, visit meadowbrookruns.org.


December 2020 • B15 Santa Claus and attendees peruse the craft and bake sale area during the 2019 holiday event. Photo courtesy of Doug Adair.

Local artisans featured at Indian Springs Christmas Shoppe By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The Indian Springs Christmas Shoppe will be back for a second year. Organized by Lindsey Whitlock, the event will take place at Indian Springs Village Town Hall on Thursday, Dec. 3, from 3-7 p.m. Seven local artists will be on hand with their handmade items. The lineup includes 205 By Design, Bison Ridge Leather Company, Cathy Jo Wheeler Indian Springs Christmas Shoppe will be at Indian Art, Infinite Soaps, Lindsey Springs Village Town Hall on Dec. 3. Photo courtesy of Lindsey Whitlock. Kelly Pottery, Obsessions Jewelry and South and Main. Guests can shop a variety of creations including jewelry, pottery, woodworking, leather, wall art, soaps, candles and more. Indian Springs Kelly said the event is a one-stop shop for Christmas Shoppe locally made art, and while this year’s event is scaled back a bit because of COVID-19, she is • WHERE: Indian Springs Village glad to be able to host it again. Town Hall, 2635 Cahaba Valley Road “This year, I was holding off on planning • WHEN: 3-7 p.m., Dec. 3 as late as I could to make sure that it would be all right to host a show and have people at the town hall,” Kelly said. “It is a smaller venue, By Design. She found five other local artists to so that was a concern.” While there are fewer booths this year, there join the event and bring their handmade goods. ► Bison Ridge Leather Company: leather will be more walking room for shoppers. “It was a great show last year,” Kelly said. products including bags, journal covers and “The flow seemed to work well. While we ornaments ► Cathy Jo Wheeler Art: jewelry earcan’t completely social distance since it’s an inside event, this will help people get around rings, necklaces, bracelets and pendants ► Infinite Soaps: beard oil, face masks, a little easier.” Whitlock and her husband Mark are the only bath salts and scrubs ► Obsessions jewelry: pearl and metal two returning artists from last year. Whitlock will have paintings, candles and art and her jewelry ► South & Main: wall prints handmade platters, bowls, ornaments and canThe Indian Springs Town Hall is located at dles from Lindsey Kelly Pottery. Her husband will have his woodworking creations, and she 2635 Cahaba Valley Road. Parking will be in will have paintings from their company, 205 the field to the left of the building.

AWC hosting holiday event Dec. 12 at Veterans Park By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The Alabama Wildlife Center will host their annual holiday celebration and craft and bake sale again this year. Set for Saturday, Dec. 12, the event will take place at Veterans Park on Valleydale Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. “It will be a great family friendly event and it will be outdoors socially distanced,” AWC Executive Director Doug Adair said. Handmade craft items will include ornaments and bird houses, and original artwork from local artists from throughout Alabama. The craft and bake sale portion, items available include baked hams, homemade casseroles and baked goods, fresh honey, and more. Santa will be there in his sleigh for socially distanced pictures and to add last minute updates to his Christmas list. The wildlife center will also have their education raptors for guests to see, along with a birds of prey show. Proceeds from all items sold will go to support the rehabilitation work and conservation education work of the Alabama Wildlife Center. “These items are created and donated by friends of the AWC who support our work with all the proceeds from the sales going back to the wildlife center,” Adair said.

Holiday Celebration and Craft and Bake Sale • WHERE: Veterans Park • WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Dec. 12 • WEB: alabamawildlifecenter.org.

Masks or face coverings will be required at the socially distanced event. Masks will be provided for guests who need them. “We feel like in some ways it's going to work even better this year having it outdoors people like to get outdoors,” Adair said. “It’s a great venue where people go with families and get a little respite from the pandemic. We are pleased to be there again this year and are taking all the necessary precautions to make things safe for our guests.” The COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for the AWC, stretching their resources and volunteer base thin. If anyone would like to donate items for sale to benefit the wildlife center at the event, contact them and let them know beforehand. Monetary donations are always welcomed, and a wish list of items is available on its website, alabamawildlifecenter.org.

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B16 • December 2020

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Holiday market returns to Shelby County Arts Center By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The annual Holiday Artist Market will return to the Shelby County Arts Center this month. On Saturday, Dec. 5, the event will take place in the Grande Hall of the Shelby County Arts Center in downtown Columbiana. This will be the second year the event has taken place inside the building, which opened in 2019. Fine arts and crafts from local artists and makers will be available for purchase, including paintings, pottery, fiber art, photography, Christmas ornaments and more. The 2020 Artist Market will feature fewer artists to accommodate social distancing protocols, and registration filled up quickly. There will also be no Friday night preview this year. Bruce Andrews, executive director of the Shelby County Arts Council, said because of COVID-19 restrictions, the event had to accept 40% less vendors in order to create extra space for social distancing. Each booth space is about 10’x10’, and all spaces are located indoors. “It pains us to do that, but in the interest of keeping the show on, we’ve got to do it,” Andrews said. “It was a first-come, first-serve with vendors, and we will have between 30 and 40.” The requirement is for vendors to be a member of the SCAC, which Andrews said the net effect is they are all Shelby County-based artists, many of whom take classes at the center. The work must be the artist's original creation. This event is a way to support these local artisans. “One hundred percent of the proceeds go back to the artists,” Andrews said. “If someone buys a piece of pottery, all the money goes back to its creator. People can come and easily find gifts between $5 and $30, even some up to $300. There is something for everybody.” Andrews said the event will be streamlined

A scene from the 2019 SCAC Holiday Market. This year’s event will be about 40% smaller because of COVID-19 restrictions, but 30 to 40 artists will have their items on display at the Shelby County Arts Center on Dec. 5. Photo courtesy of Shelby County Arts Council.

to keep everyone safe. Signs requiring masks will be posted upon entry, and automatic hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the hall. There will be lanes for guests to walk. Food trucks will be on site outside the center for those who want to enjoy them before or after they shop. “We encourage people to come to the show

and enjoy Columbiana while they are there and visit the shops on Main Street,” Andrews said. There will also be Christmas music playing over audio to create a festive atmosphere. For more information, or to see a list of vendors, visit the SCAC website at shelbycounty artscouncil.com.

Holiday Artist Market • WHERE: Shelby County Arts Center • WHEN: Dec. 5 • WEB: shelbycountyartscouncil.com






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December 2020 • B17 POSE experience • WHERE: The Summit, 214 Summit Blvd. off U.S. 280 • WHEN: Nov. 20 through Jan. 3, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday • COST: $25; children 4 and younger free with an adult • DETAILS: Reservations required • WEBSITES: Reservations can be made at eventbrite.com/e/pose-atthe-summit-tickets-127811207763; Santa visits can be booked at thesummitsanta.com

The holiday 2020 experience for The Summit Birmingham will feature a festive and interactive holiday experience called POSE, along with a socially-distant Santa. Photo courtesy of Bayer Properties.

The Summit to host interactive holiday experience By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE A festive and interactive exhibit will be held at The Summit from Nov. 20 through Jan. 3. Birmingham-based Bayer Properties is bringing the installation of POSE, a type of selfie museum experience, which will feature 10 uniquely decorated rooms for guests to explore and take photos. “Though it may look different than years past, we are beyond proud to partner with some of the most talented artists and curators in Birmingham to create a thoughtful, unforgettable experience through a little imagination, technology and holiday magic,” said Mindy Rohr, marketing manager at Bayer Properties.

The installation was curated by Cultured to Create, which was founded by a small group of Birmingham creatives with varying artistic backgrounds with the sole purpose of highlighting local and emerging talent. Artists Anniece Morrison with Lilly & Rose Flowers; Marquis Tucker, Jordan Thomson and Rachel Levinson with Bendy Knees Design; and Ryan Foster from the University of Montevallo were all selected through an extensive submission process and teamed up with Cultured to Create to bring the POSE rooms to life. The carefully spaced out, Instagram-worthy rooms will feature a life-size North Pole mailbox, a 1990s themed room, an upsidedown Christmas room, optical illusion room,

How My Chamber Investment Works for Me “Shelby County is a great place to live and do business, and The Shelby County Chamber is one of the big reasons why this is true! Our business has experienced consistent growth as we have taken advantage of the numerous business networking opportunities that are available. We also really appreciate the collaborative partnership between the Chamber, the County and all of our municipalities spelled out in “ShelbyOne – Next Level Up!” – their five-year strategic plan. When you also recognize the Chamber’s efforts in business development and support, career readiness and all the ways in which it supports our County, I think you’ll better understand why I believe the future here is so bright! If your organization isn’t a Shelby County Chamber investor yet, we’d strongly recommend it!”

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an interactive colorful sticker room, a floral installation room and more. Located in Saks Plaza, Santa and his workshop will also be set up within the exhibit, allowing guests to safely visit and have pictures taken during their reserved time. Along with the indoor displays, the exhibit will also feature two interactive murals outdoors. The murals will utilize Quick Response (QR) code technology to create an interactive experience via guests’ cell phone screens. Because of COVID-19, POSE will only accommodate 20 people per hour, operating at less than 50% capacity to allow for social distancing. Masks will be required when patrons are walking around the open spaces but can

be removed for photos within the individual rooms. Temperature checks will be performed upon arrival, and hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes will be stationed around each of the rooms, with the area being sanitized every two to three hours. POSE will be open to the public Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m. Reservations are required. Tickets will be $25, including processing fees. Children 4 and younger are free with an adult. POSE reservations can be made at eventbrite.com/e/pose-at-the-summit-tickets -127811207763, and Santa visits must be booked separately at thesummitsanta.com.

B18 • December 2020

280 Living

Schoolhouse Have a schoolhouse announcement? Email Leah Ingram Eagle at leagle@starnespublishing.com to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.

Hill sworn in, Fuller receives award during BOE meeting By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE Shelby County Board of Education member Peg Hill was sworn in for another four year term by Shelby County Probate Judge Allison Boyd during the Nov. 19 meeting. Nominations were taken for election of board officers. Aubrey Miller was reelected as president and David Bobo as vice-president. Superintendent Lewis Brooks presented the Journey Shaper Award to Beth Fuller, who is the federal programs supervisor for Shelby County Schools. The award is presented to someone who goes beyond the call of duty in their work. In the spring, she and her husband worked with Alabama Childhood Food Solutions to make sure students had meals beyond the ones served in the school district and also created a video with resources and information for Shelby County families, which is now being used by the Alabama Department of Education for the entire state. “She epitomizes what our vision is to be a model of excellence, and we are very honored to give this award to her and her husband for their work,” Brooks said. In the instructional report, Deputy Superintendent Lynn Carroll said there were currently 4,390 students participating in full-time remote learning, not including those home on quarantine or for other reasons. She said a message was to be sent out Nov. 20 to parents who currently have remote learners and want to return in the third nine weeks. The deadline to inform their principal is Dec. 11. “Our biggest concern right now is our remote students who are not engaging and are not doing anything or showing up,” Carroll said. “We mailed 710 certified letters at the beginning of

Left: Shelby County Probate Judge Allison Boyd, left, swears in Peg Hill for another fouryear term on the Shelby County Board of Education during its Nov. 19 meeting. Right: Oak Mountain Elementary School Principal Debbie Horton was approved to become the human resources supervisor of the Shelby County Board of Education. Photos by Leah Ingram Eagle.

October to let them know their child isn’t doing anything, and we need them to engage. Coordinators are meeting with principals to determine how many will receive the next letter for them to return to traditional learning in January because they are struggling remotely.” Also during the meeting, Oak Mountain Elementary School Principal Deborah Horton was named supervisor of human resources. Horton has more than 26 years of experience in education and has served as the principal at OMES for the past nine years. Other approvals were made for approving personnel actions and for bus subs and aides. The board approved two emergency declarations for immediate needs at Inverness Elementary and Chelsea Middle schools. The first addressed Inverness Elementary’s

boiler system that heats the facility. A burst pipe caused leaking water to drip on the electrical circuit that provides power, which shorted out and fried the electrical system. “Anytime further disruption or damage may result, that is what prompts to go before you and ask you to consider declaring an emergency situation,” said David Calhoun, assistant superintendent of operations. With cold weather coming, Calhoun said this immediately needs to be addressed. The boiler system is original to the building, which was built in 1982. The board approved a temporary boiler to be brought in while the work is done on a permanent solution from JAMCO for $25,995. Calhoun said he hopes to have the permanent one in place within the next few days or weeks.

The second declaration was for Chelsea Middle School’s gym roof, which sustained wind damage during recent storms. Work to be done includes repairing a damaged brick wall, removing existing roof and insulation as needed, installing new insulation, installing new wood nailer at perimeters, and new flashing and sheet metal. The work will be done by Standard Roofing at a cost of $22,300. The work at both schools has been filed with insurance, and Calhoun expects to get help with those claims. Other approved construction contracts: ► Replacing outdated water heaters at several schools. The bid was awarded to V&W Supply Co Inc. for $22,486. This will be for two commercial water heaters and four tankless water heaters and accessories. ► Replacement of the HVAC system in the computer room at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center. The job will be done by Seals Air for $49,950. ► Contract for painting of the fieldhouse and press box at Vincent Middle High school. The job will be done by PCI of Chelsea for $10,700. ► A change order for the reconstruction of the concession stand at Chelsea Middle School for the board to accept a credit of $9,696.72. Facilities and Maintenance Coordinator Randy Reeves gave the architect and construction report, in which he stated that the surgery lab at Chelsea High School is complete. Additionally, the restrooms and gym lobby project at Vincent Middle High is scheduled for completion before the holidays and will be ready for use after Christmas break. The next board meeting will begin at noon Dec. 15 at the Shelby County Instructional Services Center in Alabaster.

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December 2020 • B19 Left: Penny Houston, with her husband David, at her retirement party at Mt Laurel Elementary School. She recently retired after working 25 years in Chelsea schools. Far left: Houston holds a quilt made from all of her MLES shirts she accumulated over the years. Her daughter collected them, and a coworker made the quilt. Photos courtesy of Penny Houston.

‘Mrs. Penny’ retires from Mt Laurel after long career By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE When she began working as the front office secretary at Chelsea Elementary in 1995, Penny Houston only planned to work until her children graduated. A pastor’s wife, Houston wanted to have a job that was on her children’s schedule, and this was the perfect opportunity. “My daughter started kindergarten, and I was already volunteering at the school. The lady in the front office was retiring, and I was approached to see if I’d be interested in it, and I thought it would be a good little gig,” Houston said. In October, after working in Chelsea schools for 25 years, “Mrs. Penny” retired from her position as registrar/data manager at Mt Laurel Elementary. It was her job to keep up with student attendance, enrollment, withdrawals,

report cards, grades, keeping the school’s data up to date on staff and students and more. After working 10 years at Chelsea Elementary, when Mt Laurel opened, her principal (Bill Naugher) was moving schools and asked her to go with him and apply for the registrar position. She was there through all four principals in the school’s history. She didn’t stop working after both of her children graduated high school. Now her son and daughter are teachers in the Shelby County Schools system. Her daughter, Jennifer, teaches ESL at Montevallo Elementary, and her son, Paul, is a Behavior Interventionist at Linda Nolen Learning Center. Although her original retirement date was Nov. 1, she had so many sick days built up, her actual retirement was July 1. But because Mt Laurel Elementary had a new registrar and

secretary coming in for the new school year, she was contracted part-time to help them transition into their new roles. Her last day in office was Oct. 22. She said she was always very involved with the students, and one of her favorite things to do each year was assist the school counselor with the angel tree. “That was one of my most favorite things to do at work outside of my job, was helping with the angel tree and taking care of those kids making sure they all got gifts,” she said. Houston described Mt Laurel as the best place in the world and said the people there were her second family. She did actually get to work with family: Her daughter-in-law, Haley Spates Houston, is the music teacher there. Principal Celita Deem described Houston as “one of the most loyal employees with a heart



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of gold and a true woman of God.” “We are so thankful she’s going to continue to sub for us in the office when she’s not taking care of her sweet new grandbaby,” Deem said. Being a grandmother is a new role for Houston, one she’s been waiting on for a long time. Her daughter recently had a baby boy, and Houston will be keeping him when his mom goes back to work in January. She can’t wait to take on her new role as “Lovie.” Her husband, David, is in his 32nd year as pastor at Vandiver Church of God, and Houston said she’ll still be “Mrs. Penny” to everyone there. “Not everybody can say this, but I was blessed and loved going to work,” she said. “It was a wonderful place to work and great people to work with. They gave me such a wonderful retirement party, and it was so much more than I ever dreamed or expected.”

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B20 • December 2020

280 Living

‘TOUGH AS NAILS’ Departing Hoover schools superintendent described as dedicated leader who was perfect fit for past 5 years

Left: Hoover City Schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy at the Farr Administration Building. Photo by Erin Nelson. Below left: Murphy congratulates Hoover High School senior Sophie Griffies for winning the 2020 Finley Award for outstanding character among the 683 seniors at her at school in February. Photo by Jon Anderson. Below right: Murphy helps serve lunch at Riverchase Elementary School to help celebrate National School Lunch Week in October 2017. Photo courtesy of Hoover City Schools.

By JON ANDERSON Kathy Murphy described herself as a workaholic when she interviewed to be the superintendent for Hoover City Schools in 2015. Now, 5½ years later, as Murphy is leaving to become president for Gadsden State Community College at the end of 2020, Hoover school board President Deanna Bamman said that’s definitely an understatement. Murphy has had quite a busy 5½ years. She came into the job with a full plate right out of the chute. The school district was in the middle of a debate over charging students a fee to ride school buses after a hotly contested effort to eliminate bus service altogether. The community also was in a state of uncertainty over a proposal to redraw school attendance zones that was being reviewed by the federal court. At the same time, school officials were being criticized for budget deficits and were defending a federal gender discrimination lawsuit filed by a former principal.


One of Murphy’s first acts was to ask the school board to rescind the school bus fee plan, which would have charged students $40.75 a month to ride the bus. Looking back, Murphy said that was an easy decision for her to recommend. “If this is a free public education, how do we charge people to get on a bus to get here?” she said. “There are children who cannot get to school without support systems to do that. … We took that one off the table pretty soon. Of course, we continue to be haunted by the experience of the school bus debacle.” Murphy then scrapped a rezoning plan put together by former Superintendent Andy Craig and went back to the community to develop a new plan. She held 13 community meetings to listen to residents’ concerns and explain the need for rezoning. Murphy said the rezoning process was difficult because she always tries to put herself in the shoes of people impacted by her decisions, and many parents clearly had bought homes in certain places with the expectation their children would go to certain schools. “I took it personally,” Murphy said. “Rezoning was painful to me because I knew I was making decisions that clearly were impacting our community.” Nevertheless, she also had a responsibility to redraw school zone lines to address school capacity issues and expectations of the federal court overseeing a decades-old desegregation case, she said. Her selling point was that all Hoover schools are terrific, she said. “There isn’t a single school in Hoover I wouldn’t put my child in,” she said. Many parents later told her that while they were upset at the time of rezoning, their children ended up having a good experience at their new school, she said. Bamman said Murphy’s commitment to listen to the community and clearly communicate the school system’s needs was a big improvement over the several years prior. Above all, Murphy has demonstrated “a desire to always get it right for kids,” Bamman said.


Murphy and her staff also tackled the operating budget deficits, cutting costs by eliminating jobs, reducing contract pay periods, cutting discretionary spending, holding off on some capital projects and working creatively to trim costs in other ways. The school system started fiscal 2016 expecting a $10.4 million budget deficit but ended 2016 about $500,000 in the black. The district had a $27 million surplus in fiscal 2017, mostly due to one-time revenue increases but also attributed to cuts in expenses and a boost in revenues coming from newly elected officials with the city of Hoover. The Hoover school board for fiscal 2018

passed its first original budget without deficit spending in 13 years. “It’s been a long time coming and much needed,” Murphy said at the time. “It was kind of like a hemorrhage that needed to stop.” The 2021 budget recommended by Murphy and approved by the school board in September included a $16.8 million deficit, but the school district is facing $18.3 million in capital projects. The general fund was balanced. Murphy said she and her staff were committed to cut costs but repeatedly has noted that cutting costs eventually can impact the

district’s ability to meet community expectations for class sizes and certain amenities that set Hoover apart.


The city’s residential growth also affects the school system, she said. The rezoning plan approved by a federal judge in December 2017 gave the school district capacity to absorb growth in western Hoover, but that plan will need adjusting as the city continues to grow, Murphy said. “I have no particular concerns about

growth at all,” she said. “I have literally said to our mayor and to some of our city councilmen, ‘Build it as big as you want, but don’t forget you have to educate the children who come in those houses.’” The new Riverchase Career Connection Center, which opened in fall 2019, also provided relief to Hoover and Spain Park high schools, but eventually a third high school and other schools will be needed, Murphy said. Those come not only with land and construction costs, but more personnel costs as well, she said.


December 2020 • B21

I never want to think that somebody has to order me to do the right thing for children. That’s my heart’s desire, and I believe I’ve lived my career and my life in such a way to demonstrate that.


Murphy, center, cuts a ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the Hoover school system’s Riverchase Career Connection Center on Aug. 1, 2019. She is joined by officials from the city of Hoover, Hoover Board of Education, Alabama Department of Education, and state and federal legislators. Photo by Jon Anderson.

Paying for all that likely will mean a need for more resources, Murphy said. City and school officials soon will need to have conversations about what form that takes, whether an increased contribution from the city’s general fund, dedicated money from front-door fees from builders, an increase in property taxes, dedicated money from internet sales taxes or some combination of those revenue streams, Murphy said. The school system has about $114 million in its fund balance right now, but that’s expected to fall to $97 million by the end of September 2021. And with monthly obligations of $12

million to $13 million, that reserve fund could be eaten up quickly in an economic downturn or proration situation, Murphy said.


As important as all those issues are, Murphy said without a doubt the biggest challenges she has faced in her career have come in the last several months, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision to close schools for in-person instruction in March was made at the state level, but local school officials still had to figure out how to serve children through the end of the

school year, Murphy said. Then, they faced the decision of how to honor and celebrate the graduating classes of 2020 in the spring and how to reopen school in the fall. Murphy said she definitely felt the weight of knowing that the health and safety of children were in her hands, as well as understanding that the mission of Hoover City Schools is to provide a free and appropriate public education every day the district can. It was difficult to track all the data related to COVID-19 and have critical conversations with health officials, state education officials, fellow

over-the-mountain superintendents, the school board, teachers and the public at large, she said. Education officials had no template for how to handle a health crisis like that, she said. It sometimes felt like they were making decisions “by the seat of the pants,” but they haven’t been flipping a coin at the central office to decide what to do, Murphy said. “There was never a time we’ve made a decision in Hoover with anything less than the very best data we could have,” she said. Murphy said she believes the gradual changes to in-person instruction were the right series of moves. “All of those have been tough calls,” she said. “None of them have been made without a lot of desperation and thought and interactions and prayer for the safety and well-being of our children while we educate them.” It has been a tremendous investment of time and energy, Murphy said. “This has clearly been the greatest challenge of my career.” Moving forward, the biggest challenge for every school district in the nation right now is figuring out how far behind students are because of COVID-19 and helping them catch up, Murphy said. Hoover teachers did the best job they could with virtual instruction, but “we are fooling ourselves if we believe any virtual or remote

See MURPHY | page B22

B22 • December 2020

280 Living


Left: Murphy conducts the coin toss during a football game between Bessemer City and Spain Park on Aug. 30, 2019, at Jaguar Stadium in Hoover. Photo by Neal Wagner. Below: Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato speaks with Murphy after delivering his 2020 State of the City speech at the Hoover Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel on Jan. 16. Photo by Jon Anderson.

CONTINUED from page B21 opportunity had the capacity to replace a caring, competent teacher,” she said. “It just doesn’t happen.” Hoover students who had Chromebooks were blessed to have them, but “the Chromebook didn’t take the place of that caring, competent teacher,” Murphy said. “There was some loss of learning that happened.”


When asked if she would change anything she had done in the past 5½ years, Murphy said there are two things in particular she wishes she had done better. First, she and her staff poured an incredible amount of time and resources into trying to help the school district get released from a decades-old Jefferson County desegregation federal court case. To do that, the Hoover school district needs to show evidence that it has fulfilled the goals of providing an equitable education to all students, particularly Black students. Murphy, noting that she spent most of her career in school districts that were predominantly Black, said she has been an advocate for all children for all of her career and is driven by that idea more than any court order. “I never want to think that somebody has to order me to do the right thing for children,” she said. “That’s my heart’s desire, and I believe I’ve lived my career and my life in such a way to demonstrate that.” However, she still had hoped to complete the task of getting Hoover where it needs to be to be released from the court case during her tenure in Hoover, she said. She feels she and other school officials have made that a priority but is sad they are not further along in the process, she said. The Hoover school district has done a lot to train its faculty about unity and diversity and still is working to diversify its personnel and ensure equal opportunities for all students regarding gifted and advanced programs and courses, she said. There are a lot of entities involved, from the U.S. Department of Justice to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the federal court, school officials and the Hoover community at large, and “it is a very slow process.” Murphy said she also regrets she didn’t design her schedule better so she could be in the schools, interacting with students and teachers more frequently and being a better mentor to other school leaders. She wishes she had worked more closely with other leaders and gotten to know them and their aspirations better so she could support them better. However, there have been a plethora of issues (mentioned above) demanding her attention at the central office, she said.


Murphy did indeed do much to shape the district’s leadership team. At her recommendation, the school board hired 10 of the 18 current principals, including the leaders of the Riverchase Career Connection Center and Crossroads School program. During her tenure, the board also hired a new assistant superintendent, two chief financial officers, a new director of equity and educational initiatives, director of instructional support, payroll director, assistant payroll director, transportation coordinator and operations coordinator. Murphy said she is proud of the progress made regarding facilities during her tenure. The district sold the former Berry High School property and used those proceeds to buy Riverchase Middle School from the Pelham Board of Education and convert it into a career tech center. School officials are tearing down parts of the old Bluff Park School while maintaining and restoring the most historic part of the campus, and have updated the tracks and football fields at the two high schools. During her tenure, the district created a new strategic plan, adjusted salaries and pay supplements, passed on creating a charter school, hired a mental health student services specialist and therapeutic counselor, shifted the New Beginnings program back into individual schools, provided Chromebooks for all K-12 students, started six prekindergarten classes and started a new partnership with consultants to address equity issues regarding discipline and positive intervention tactics.


Bamman said Murphy was the perfect fit for Hoover City Schools for the past five years. “We needed someone tough as nails, and we got tough as nails,” she said. “She doesn’t’ run from adversity or challenges. She will face them head on. … The board has a respect for Dr. Murphy and her decision making, her wisdom in running a school district and her open door always.” Even though there were differences of opinion at times, Murphy was always able to do the needed research, sit down with the board, discuss things and find common ground, Bamman said. Having a good relationship between the board and superintendent is important because if it’s not there, it can cause trouble all the way through the district, she said. “We’re losing a great leader. Gadsden State is gaining,” Bamman said. “We hate to see her go. … We’ve got big shoes to fill, but we are up to the task, and we will push on fast forward … and find us a strong leader.” Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato called Murphy’s departure a tremendous loss for Hoover

City Schools and the city of Hoover. She has helped build a lot of solidarity between city officials and the school system, he said. “We had a tremendous working relationship for the past four years, and we wish her all the best,” Brocato said. “We hope to have the same type relationship with the new superintendent.”


Murphy said she wasn’t running away from anything in Hoover by taking the job at Gadsden State. It was more a matter of an opportunity presenting itself and her skill sets aligning with what the college needs. She considers it a privilege to become a college president and to be able to make critical decisions to help people as they seek to improve their lives through education beyond high school, she said. Murphy, who was the school superintendent in Monroe County before coming to Hoover, said she hadn’t really sought Hoover out in the beginning. Initially, she was contacted by the Alabama Association of School Boards and asked to consider jobs in Hoover or Dothan. She applied for both and couldn’t have been

more blessed to be received by Hoover, she said. She is grateful for all the different groups that have partnered with Hoover City Schools to make a difference in the lives of children, she said. That includes the city’s elected officials and groups such as the Hoover City Schools Foundation, Finley Committee, Hoover Parent Teacher Council, Hoover Helps, Neighborhood Bridges and the Hoover Rise mentoring program, she said. When asked how she would describe Hoover to someone from outside the state, Murphy said the Hoover community is passionate and involved in education. “They certainly share their thoughts, and that’s not a negative thing,” she said. “This school district communicates between and among itself. It is a very interactive community.” Most importantly, the parents have high expectations for their children and, thus, high expectations for the school district, and students, for the most part, are passionate about the experiences they get, she said. “They have become accustomed to an exceptional educational experience,” Murphy said. “Our community holds our feet to the fire to deliver that, and they should.” The Hoover community puts its money behind education and, sometimes, may not realize how blessed it is, Murphy said. “I think maybe sometimes in Hoover a field trip outside of Hoover might be very telling for us — to realize that education across the state does not mirror the terrific experience our children get to have,” she said. Murphy said her experience in Hoover has truly been a blessing. “It’s been everything I hoped it to be and prayed for it to be. It is certainly the most positive experience in my professional life,” she said. “It’s been the highlight of my career without any doubt in my mind. It has presented me the greatest joy. It’s also presented me some of my greatest challenges.”


Local schools receive Niche ranks for top schools in US

December 2020 • B23


Indian Springs School was recently ranked the 2021 Best Private School in Alabama, with The Altamont School coming in second. Westminster School at Oak Mountain came in ninth, and Briarwood Christian was 15th. For public schools, Homewood High School was ranked third. Mountain Brook came in fourth, followed by Vestavia in seventh. Spain Park was eighth, and Hoover came in 10th. Oak Mountain was ranked 15th. Chelsea came in at 48th. The Best Schools rankings include categories for boarding, charter and magnet schools, as well as schools for STEM and the arts among many others. They rank the best schools in each state and also rank districts. Niche’s rankings provide an in-depth analysis of the quality of a given school, allowing parents and students to find the best fit for their individual needs with ease. Unlike traditional rankings, which rely almost exclusively on metrics like test scores and academic performance, Niche’s rankings provide a more personal view of a school. They combine user input — comments from current students, alumni and parents — with quantitative data points to produce a well-rounded analysis. In addition to academics, the factors considered include teachers, resources and facilities, extracurricular activity opportunities and student/ faculty/curriculum diversity. To see a full list of the 2021 Best Schools rankings, visit niche.com/k12/rankings/ – Submitted by Natalie Tsay of Niche.

Chelsea Park Elementary bus driver Mr. Frankie received a birthday surprise from his bus riders Oct. 14. Students on his route in the Chelsea Park subdivision surprised him with signs upon his arrival that morning to celebrate his 70th birthday. Photos courtesy of Alecia Burnham.

CHMS TEACHERS HONORED Chelsea Middle School Media Center Specialist Rebecca Rayl and Social Studies teacher Forrest Lovett recently received a plaque commemorating their outstanding contribution to Alabama’s recent bicentennial celebration. Photo courtesy of Shelby County Schools.


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Former North Shelby students inducted into UA Jason’s Society


Four North Shelby County seniors at the University of Alabama have been named to the prestigious 107th Class of Jason’s Senior Men’s Honor Society at the University of The new members. Photo Alabama. All are 2017 high courtesy of Nannette Sheaffer. school graduates. The Jason’s Society represents the highest caliber of senior class men at the University of Alabama. It is a society reserved for men who actively pursue outstanding qualities of academics, responsibility, and leadership. Founded in 1914, the Jason’s have honored outstanding students at the Capstone for over 100 years. Forty men were selected for the class of 2020. Normally, the new members are inducted during Honors Week at the Capstone in April, but because of COVID-19, the initiation was moved to this semester. New members representing the area are: ► Collin Stiffler, 2017 OMHS graduate and president of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Son of Valerie and Loren Stiffler. ► Reid Hunt, 2017 OMHS graduate and incoming president of Jason’s Society. Presently on the Executive Council of UA SGA. Son of Tami and Jeff Hunt. ► Logan Sheaffer, 2017 OMHS graduate and president of Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity. Son of Nannette Sheaffer. ► William Gray, 2017 Briarwood graduate and president of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity. Son of Nancy and Brad Gray. – Submitted by Nannette Sheaffer.




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B24 • December 2020

280 Living

PHOTOS OF THE YEAR A look back at some of the best photos from 280 Living in 2020 Top left: Patricia Callender sits on her back porch with Camo, an 8-year-old mixed breed, during a home meet-and-greet through the Shelby County Humane Society’s Paws for Seniors program Aug. 7. Following the meet-and-greet, Callender adopted Camo. Photos by Erin Nelson. Above left: The Oak Mountain student section erupts as the Eagles take the lead in the Class 7A boys Northeast Regional final game against Sparkman on Feb. 18 at Pete Mathews Coliseum in Jacksonville. The Eagles defeated Sparkman 60-51 to advance to the state semifinals. Top right: The Jags run out onto the court after defeating McGill-Toolen in a Class 7A semifinal match during the state volleyball championship Oct. 28 at the Birmingham CrossPlex. Left: Honored guests dance Feb. 7 at Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church for the annual Night to Shine Birmingham Prom, sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation for individuals with special needs across the nation and in 16 countries around the world. Below left: Vehicles wait in line at Christ Health Church of the Highlands Grandview campus for the COVID-19 drive-thru testing March 17. Below right: The Spain Park girls basketball team lifts up Camille Chase (24) as they celebrate with the AHSAA Class 7A girls championship trophy following their win against Hoover on Feb. 29 at Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.


December 2020 • B25

Above: An American kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America, rests on the gloved hand of Director of Education and Outreach Andrew Arnold as it eats pieces of a mouse at the Alabama Wildlife Center at Oak Mountain State Park on Sept. 23. Left: Students arrive at Oak Mountain Elementary School for the first day of the 2020-21 school year Aug. 13. Below: Oak Mountain’s Noah Young (2) brings the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during a game against Pelham on Aug. 28 at Heardmont Park. The Eagles defeated the Panthers 28-21.

Above left: Ashley Gann smiles as she tosses her 15-month-old daughter Rhett in the air outside of their RV at Oak Mountain State Park campground on Jan. 24. Above right: Theresa Davis looks at her daughter, Karleigh Tarwater, 14, as they share a laugh while their dog, Ella, sits between them at their home in Birmingham on April 27. Davis, a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital, worked as a charge nurse at the University of Maryland Laurel Medical Center treating COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit. Below left: A member of the nursing staff with the Alabama Department of Health performs a nasal swab at a state testing site located at Oak Mountain High School on May 1. Below right: Briarwood’s Calon Higdon (2) slides safely into second base before Spain Park’s Adam Wygle (2) can make the tag Feb. 29 at Jay D. Kynerd Field.

B26 • December 2020

280 Living

Metro Roundup HOMEWOOD

Mixed-use development in the works for Brookwood Village By INGRID SCHNADER Two local companies are planning to breathe new life into the Brookwood Village at Lakeshore Drive. The new mixed-use district will have a public green space as its anchor, and this space Brought to will be suryou by our rounded by sister paper: locally owned, upscale retailers; food and beverage thehomewood options; new star.com office buildings; hotels; and housing for both renters and homeowners. The plans include 350 high-end apartments. The two companies under contract are an affiliated entity of Colliers International | Alabama, a leading real estate professional services and investment management company; and Arlington Properties, a leading multifamily development, property management, and construction firm. They announced their plans at the Oct. 26 Homewood City Council meeting. “Brookwood will be an accessible, regional destination that is vibrant, energetic, and bustling, and one that supports positive growth in Homewood,” the companies said in a release. “The multi-use property

Brookwood Village conceptual site plan. Rendering courtesy of Sprouthouse Agency.

will be conceptualized and planned to withstand the test of time and to be conducive and beneficial to the natural evolution of the community and its needs.” Mark Stuermann, executive vice president of development at Arlington Properties, said he was attracted to the property because of what it meant to the community. “People have very fond memories growing up there,” he said. “There are so many little memories that I’ve

heard about from people about how much they love Brookwood.” It’s well-located real estate too, he said. Not only does the property have easy access to U.S. 280 and U.S. 31, it also sits between Jemison Trail and Shades Creek Greenway. Despite these advantages, Brookwood Village’s disadvantage is that it has been a single-use development. There are some offices on the property, but the development is mostly used for restaurants and retail.

“When you have places that are designed for a single use, if the economy changes or people’s patterns change, then it’s no longer a fit,” Stuermann said. “There are some offices, but in general, it’s a massive retail facility.” Under the mixed-use plans, the hotel, offices, apartments and retail offerings will all be owned under separate, local entities. Before this deal, the mall has been entirely owned by one entity. “So if the hotel needs to change

over time, that ownership group could change it, as opposed to having to redevelop the whole mall,” he said. The most important thing about a mixed-use development, Stuermann said, is it brings people there all day long. The plans include 350 apartments and between 80,000-120,000 square feet of office space. “You’ll have 500 people living at Brookwood, and they’ll walk on the trails. They’ll walk their dogs. They’ll wake up and eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. They’ll shop at Fresh Market. The office users will come in the mornings. They’ll get coffee at O’Henry’s. They’ll eat lunch. They may grab a drink with a colleague on their way home.” The hotel will have approximately 120 rooms, which means approximately 150 people could be staying at Brookwood Village each night. “The reason Brookwood worked was because it was a shopping destination and it brought people in. We’re making it a destination again, and we’re going to also program it with lots of people to kind of activate it. It will be a place for people to live there, to work there and for the community.” The conceptual planning and rezoning process could be finished by spring 2021, the developers said in a statement. After that process is complete, construction could take 18-24 months.


Birmingham artist writes book, holds exhibition to show off 40 years of work By JESSE CHAMBERS Sara Garden Armstrong, a multimedia artist based in Birmingham, has enjoyed a long, successful career. She has made bold, innovative work in a variety of forms — from sculptures and installations Brought to to paintings, you by our drawings and sister paper: artist’s books. Beginning in 1976, Armstrong has presented nearly ironcity.ink 30 solo exhibitions and taken part in about 70 group shows. Armstrong also spent 35 years living as a working artist in New York City, the world’s visual art capital. To bring together a compelling picture of this long career, Armstrong recently published a book, “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers.” The monograph features essays and lavish photography that reveals the connections in Armstrong’s large body of work. The release of “Threads and Layers” coincides with a traveling exhibition of the same name. The book surveys four decades and “looks at the threads of connection in that work,” Armstrong told Iron City Ink. “It discusses my artistic processes and looks at the studio spaces I’ve called home throughout my life as an artist,” she said.

Inset: Sara Garden Armstrong stands in her studio in downtown Birmingham in front of a wall of limited edition pieces that will be showcased in the collectors edition of her new book, “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers.” Photo by Erin Nelson. A piece by Sara Garden Armstrong. Photo courtesy of Sara Garden Armstrong.

Armstrong found that she learned a lot about her own work in the process of going through all of her old images and documentation. “It was tremendously enlightening,” she said. A Birmingham native, Armstrong earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Alabama in 1977, earned a master’s degree in

education at UAB the same year and taught art classes at UAB from 1978-80. New York seemed like the next logical step for Armstrong. She made the decision to move there while teaching at UAB after spending a semester in the Big Apple. “I loved it from the moment I went up there,” said Armstrong, who quit

her job at UAB to pursue her dream. She lived in New York until about 2017 before moving back to Birmingham. She already owned a large building on Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard that she still owns and where she co-founded Ground Floor Contemporary gallery on the first floor. She then received a Creating a

Living Legacy (CALL) grant from Space One Eleven gallery downtown, funded by the Joan Mitchell Foundation, to help organize and archive her work. A curator named Paul Barrett also made an important visit to Armstrong’s studio in Birmingham. “He’s an old friend, and he was doing a studio visit, and when he saw a lot of work he didn’t know, he thought this could be a really great traveling show,” Armstrong said. The title, “Threads and Layers,” came up then, as did the possibility of writing a book. “It has been like an art piece that has just sort of taken over what I have been doing,” Armstrong said. It was worth all the effort for the artist, with not only a book but the traveling exhibition, curated by Barrett and now on tour. “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers” was shown at the University of Alabama in August and September. It is on display at the Wiregrass Museum in Dothan until Dec. 31. The show will continue to tour in 2021 and 2022, Armstrong said. The artist, despite all this talk about the past, is not wallowing in the past. The process of doing the book “has given me a great deal of insight and a sort of strength of future of moving forward with more work,” Armstrong said. “So instead of being dead-ended it is much more opening.” For more information about Armstrong and her book, go to sara gardenarmstrong.net.


December 2020 • B27

VESTAVIA HILLS Cobbie Llewelyn, owner of the Smocking Bird, works on a piece in the Homewood shop Nov. 4. The Smocking Bird will be moving to Vestavia Hills by the end of the year. Photo by Erin Nelson.

The Smocking Bird set to move from Homewood to Heights Village By NEAL EMBRY After 40 years in Homewood, The Smocking Bird sewing store is moving to Heights Village in Vestavia Hills. Cobbie Llewellyn, who co-owns the business with her husband Charles, said it will move from its location on Linden Avenue in December Brought to and, hopefully, open in you by our Heights Village at the sister paper: beginning of 2021. “This ended up being a good time,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of vestavia cleaning out to do and voice.com organizing.” Llewellyn said part of what motivated the move is the allure of Heights Village, the successful shopping center in the heart of Cahaba Heights. The Smocking Bird will be a good fit with restaurants in the shopping center, Llewellyn said. The business community there is

great, with businesses supporting one another, she said. Located just off Cahaba Heights Road, Heights Village is much more visible than the Homewood location, so Llewellyn said she hopes the increased visibility will lead to more customers for the business she has owned since 2017. When she was at home raising her children when they were younger and not yet in school, Llewellyn took solace in sewing. It was an outlet, and it turned into a passion, she said. So, when the opportunity to take over the longtime Homewood business came up after all three of her children were in school during the day, she and her husband saw it as a calling and have run the business ever since. The Smocking Bird offers fabric, sewing machines, supplies, patterns, imported laces and custom children’s clothing. Sewing classes are offered for adults and children and for sewers of all skill levels. For more information, visit thesmocking bird.com.

B28 • December 2020


280 Living

4th class of Leadership Hoover under way The Leadership Hoover Class of 2020-21 poses for a photo outside of Topgolf in Birmingham, where the group had a team-building activity in September. Photo courtesy of Leadership Hoover.

By JON ANDERSON The fourth class of Leadership Hoover is well under way with 34 people from a variety of organizations and industries. The group held an opening retreat in September at the Hyatt Brought to Regency Biryou by our mingham — sister paper: The Wynfrey Hotel, with team-building activities the hooversun.com second day at Breakout Birmingham and Topgolf, said Lori Leonard, executive director for Leadership Hoover. The goal of Leadership Hoover is to gather together a group of leaders and emerging leaders who are interested in expanding their leadership skills, deepening their sense of civic responsibility, becoming more involved in helping the community and learning about Hoover’s issues and needs. The group meets the second Tuesday of each month, focusing on a different topic each month. In October, the group learned about public safety, hearing from police Chief Nick Derzis, fire Chief Clay Bentley and 911 Center Director Linda Moore and touring places such as the Hoover Jail, 911 Center and the Fire Department’s training center. In November, they focused on small businesses and entrepreneurs, hearing from a variety of small businesses from different parts of the city and touring The Village at Brock’s Gap. In December, class members

plan to focus on economic development, learning about the effort to draw more technology companies to Hoover, tourism and events in the city and the office market. In January, the plan is to hear from a variety of government officials at the city, county and state levels, as well as department heads for the city of Hoover. In February, they will have a “one community day,” focusing on diversity. The topic in March is education, which likely will include a visit to schools, including the Riverchase Career Connection Center, and presentations from Faulkner University and Jefferson State Community College. In April, the group will have a “quality of life day,” learning about health care in Hoover and the various amenities and facilities, such as Hoover parks, Aldridge Gardens, Hoover-Randle Home & Gardens and Hoover Public Library. The nine-month program concludes in May with graduation and

presentations about projects the group will undertake this year. Projects last year included starting a program to create murals in different spots around Hoover, creating a new scholarship for worthy students who may not be at the top of their class, establishing an international food district and fair, improving the city’s webpage devoted to city parks, and creating positive signs to help young people struggling with bullying, depression or suicidal thoughts. The members of the Leadership Hoover Class of 2020-21: ► Cristina Almanza, business development coordinator, Buffalo Rock Co. ► Jeannine Bailey, talent and employee engagement manager, Alabama Power Co./Southern Co. Operations ► Yolanda Barbour, commercial account manager, Alabama Power Co. ► LaVeeda Battle, owner, Battle Law Firm

► Clint Blackmon, lieutenant, Hoover Police Department ► Orunda Bryant, senior manager for claims litigation, Kemper Corp. ► Danielle Buchanan, human resources supervisor, Regions Bank ► April Collins, owner and attorney, Collins Law ► Patricia Davis-McCulland, deputy compliance officer, Encompass Health ► TJ Dolan, financial advisor, Edward Jones Investments ► David Eberhardt, vice president for student development, Birmingham-Southern College ► Traci Fox, owner, T. Fox Salon ► David Galbaugh, vice president of sports sales and marketing, Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau ► Jennifer Hall Harris, director of client relations, Weber Mortgage ► Yolanda Hicks, senior dealer sales consultant, Cox Automotive ► Nick Hoard, owner, Nick the Marketer

► Phil Hutcheson, interim executive director/legal counselor/chief financial officer, Alabama Public Television ► Terry Lamar, director of equity and educational initiatives, Hoover City Schools ► David LeCompte, financial planner, Bridgeworth Wealth Management ► Rush Letson, president, Letson & Associates ► Jennifer Maye, director of professional learning, Jefferson County Board of Education ► Jeff Maze, partner, Sovereign CPA Group ► Tanveer Patel, co-founder and president, Concertcare ► Kristin Powell, psychologist, Blankenship & Seay Consulting ► Regis Ramos, chief financial officer of investments division, BBVA Compass Investments Solutions ► Debbie Rutherford, fashion consultant/model/public relations representative for Town & Country Clothes ► Samat Shah, president/owner, Kopri Signs & Graphics ► Mary Smith, vice president for treasury operations, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama ► Jonathan Spann, project manager/electrical engineer, Edmonds Engineering ► Carrie Steinmehl, technology manager, Hoover Public Library ► Michelle Torbor, owner and licensed professional counselor, Cardinal Wellness ► Gerard Truesdale, attorney, The Morton Law Firm ► Kimberly Nash White, principal, Gwin Elementary School ► Tahara Evans Wood, director, Hoover-Randle Home & Gardens

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December 2020 • B29

Faith Life Actually By Kari Kampakis

When your child says ‘I’m ready’ — but you’re not When my oldest daughter turned 16, I had a little breakdown. It started on a summer trip to Asheville two months before her birthday. I was taking her to Camp Hollymont, so we went early to enjoy the area and get one-on-one time. We had the best weekend, complete with horseback riding, long walks, exploring The Biltmore and seeing the Chihuly exhibit. On Saturday night, at a Spanish tapas restaurant downtown, I asked Ella how she felt about turning 16. Immediately her face lit up, and from the across the table she beamed at me, grinning from ear to ear. “I’m so excited!” she said. “I’m ready!” Ella had said this before — I’m ready — and logistically it was true. She was driving well and had driven to Asheville. But in that moment, something inside me broke. All the worries, fears and sadness I’ve been harboring about my daughters growing up suddenly came to surface, and all I could think about was what older moms told me when their kids left for college. They’re ready. They’re so ready. When it’s time for them to move out, they’re ready, and so are you. In that restaurant, I started to cry. It was out of character — never had I burst into tears at dinner — and like me, Ella was caught offguard. In typical teen fashion, she lowered her head and darted her eyes around the crowded venue, checking to see who noticed. I told myself to get it together, to not spoil her happy moment. Because this was our last

night before camp, I wanted to end on a good note, so I plastered on a smile and told Ella how proud I was of her, how I loved being with her now more than ever, which made it harder to let go. What I didn’t admit was the thought in my mind that evoked the tears. When she said, “I’m ready!” I realized how those two words — I’m ready! — had ushered in a brand new season of parenting. It’s a season I couldn’t imagine when my kids were young and the days were long and my main goal was survival. It still seemed remote as we entered the sweet spot of parenting — ages 6 to 15 — where I could catch my breath and enjoy my children without hearing the countdown clock to graduation. But in this new stage, I saw what was around the corner. I knew the theme would be letting my daughters go and cheering for them into adulthood. While it’s exciting to see plans unfold, I knew I’d miss them like crazy. Nothing makes me happier than having my family together, so with each step toward independence, there is pride yet also an ache. As they tell me “I’m ready” — I’m ready to drive, I’m ready for college, I’m ready for this job in a new town, I’m ready to see the world — my heart will break a little. Thankfully, God has a merciful way of bringing unexpected new blessings in each season. Seeing our children happy makes us happy for them. Remembering how it’s a gift to even watch our kids grow up keeps us grateful and brings perspective.

As Ella turned 16, my friend Krista Gilbert asked if I’d endorse a book called “Give Them Wings.” It was divine timing because I needed the message. This book contains wisdom from Krista and Carol Kuykendall, a seasoned grandparent, and passages like this resonated deep in my soul: “Transitions are tough. When we love passionately, we hurt deeply. Goodbyes are tough. Change is difficult. Losses cause pain. The exit of a child, especially a first or last child, forever alters the structure of a family and the definitions of individuals. The child’s physical absence leaves a gaping hole in our lives for a time and often catches us by surprise, as if we never saw it coming. Our grief is real and a necessary part of a family’s journey through transition.” Where my family is now, with three teens and one pre-teen, is challenging and still so fun. I love the laughter, the dancing, the TikTok videos, driving them around with friends, the sorority house we have upstairs and the sister bonding I see. I love the deep conversations, understanding my girls as real people, taking family vacations, seeing their talents bloom, watching them act wired at 10 p.m. when I can’t stay awake, and catching glimpses of God’s hand in their lives. Change is hard when we’re happy. Ella is now a high school senior, so we’re on the verge of letting go. I appreciate parents ahead of me who listen, empathize and share stories of hope. A pastor’s wife once told me that it’s OK to grieve the end of a chapter. She said that when her daughter got married, she wasn’t sad at all.

They had the best time planning the wedding, and the actual day was a dream. But while her daughter was on her honeymoon, she went into her old bedroom. Seeing this room suddenly empty — because her daughter had moved her childhood furniture into her new home — made this mother burst into tears. She sat on the floor and cried, and when her husband checked on her, she said she needed this moment. She had to grieve this change before moving on. Her story made me cry and realize how any pangs I feel today are only the beginning. God willing, there will be many bittersweet tears in the next 10 to 20 years. Maybe my girls will get used to it, and one day they’ll understand. Until then I’ll do them a favor by not crying in restaurants. I’ll plaster on a smile, save the tears for later and try not to spoil the moment when they excitedly say, “I’m ready!” about their next life adventure. Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis is a Birmingham area mom of four girls, author, speaker and blogger. Her new book for moms, “Love Her Well: 10 Ways To Find Joy and Connection With Your Teenage Daughter,” is now available on Amazon, Audible and everywhere books are sold. Kari’s two books for teen and tween girls — “Liked” and “10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know” — have been used widely across the country for small group studies. Join Kari on Facebook and Instagram, visit her blog at karikampakis.com or find her on the Girl Mom Podcast.

B30 • December 2020

280 Living


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December 2020 • B31

Calendar North Shelby Library

The library will be closed Thursday, Dec. 24, through Saturday, Dec. 26, for Christmas and Thursday, Dec. 31 and Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, for New Year’s Day.


Children’s Department. Ages 8-12. Meetings will be held via Zoom.

service. While supplies last. All ages with adult assistance. Registration required.

Dec. 1 through Feb. 28: Winter Family Geocaching Scavenger Hunt. Use a GPS along with picture and/or written clues to find waypoints at a local public community venue. The library provides the instructions, clues and GPS coordinates. Registered teams of one to six family members, with adult supervision required. All ages. Registration required.

using a provided kit or with stuff you have at home. Registration required.

Dec. 1 through Jan. 31: Get Yeti to Read Winter Challenge. The goal is to read a total of 620 minutes (about 10 minutes per day) through Jan. 31, 2021. Each participant who reaches the goal will receive a $5 Walmart gift card, and one winner will be randomly drawn at the end of the challenge to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Sign up through our Beanstack site, shelbycounty. beanstack.org and log your reading.

Dec. 7-13: Week of Code Craft Kits-toGo. Celebrate this year’s Week of Code by creating a bracelet or keychain using binary. While supplies last. All ages with adult assistance. Registration required.

Dec. 17: Virtual Family Storytime. 10:30 a.m. Sharing stories on the library’s YouTube channel. All ages. No registration.

Dec. 14: Wax Resist Snowy Art with Ms. Kristy. 11 a.m. Registrants will pick up a take-home supply kit in advance. Follow along with Ms. Kristy through an online video as she walks you step-by step through the creation of art. Ages 5-8 recommended, but all ages welcome. Registration required to reserve a kit.


CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING Daily: Activity Bundles. Each Activity Bundle comes with a themed picture book to check out and a free Activity Bundle to keep with eight fun worksheets to promote literacy skills for children in preschool, kindergarten and first grade. Email nscurbside@shelbycounty-al.org to request a bundle for check out. Themes change each month. Daily: Tween Advisory Council Applications. The NSL Children’s Department would like to form a Tween Advisory Council so our tweens can help us develop programs they want to have. The first meeting will be in January. Interested tweens should fill out an application to submit to the

Dec. 1-30: Reading Wonderland. Using the craft balls included in the provided kit as a base, create a snowman version of your favorite children’s book character. Bring your creation to the Children’s Department so we can display it throughout the months of December and January. All ages with adult assistance. Registration required for kits. Dec. 1, 8, 15 and 22: Weekly Craft Kitsto-Go. 10 a.m. A new craft kit is available each Tuesday for pick up through our curbside service. Registration required. Dec. 1 and 15: Bi-Monthly STEM Kitsto-Go. 10 a.m. Twice a month, we will have a new STEM kit available for pick up through our curbside

Mt Laurel Library CHILDREN’S PROGRAMMING Nov. 30 through Dec. 18: Elf on the Shelf. This year the elves are watching holiday movies. They will be giving clues to what movie they are watching. Stop by the library or check our Facebook page for clues. Submit your guess in person or through Facebook. Winners will be picked each Friday. Dec. 1 through Jan. 31: Get Yeti to Read Winter Challenge. Sign up through the Beanstack website, shelbycounty.beanstack. org and log your reading. The goal is to read a total of 620 minutes (about 10 minutes per day) through Jan. 31. Each participant who reaches the goal will receive a $5 Walmart gift card, and one lucky winner will be randomly drawn at the end of the challenge to receive a $25 Amazon gift card. Ages birth through fifth grade. Registration required.

Dec. 16: Homeschool Hangout. 1 p.m. A virtual hangout with Special Equestrians of Birmingham. Registration required at northshelbylibrary. evanced.info/signup/calendar. Dec. 16: Homeschool Art Club. 2:30 p.m. Join Ms Kaitlyn to learn how to make art out of a wood slice. Registration required. STORYTIME PROGRAMMING Dec. 8: Puppet Play. 2 p.m. Storytime video featuring puppets. Make your own puppet craft

Dec. 6: Mt Laurel Tree Lighting Treats. 6 p.m. Stop by after the tree lighting to pick up a hot chocolate treat bag. Dec. 8: Puppet Play. 2 p.m. Storytime video featuring puppets. Make your own puppet using a provided kit or with stuff you have at home. Dec. 12: Crafty Saturday. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pick up a fun Christmas craft at the library. All ages with parent help.

up your slime supplies at the library and get ready to get messy. Ages 8-12 only. Registration required. Dec. 10: Tween Holiday Wreath. 4 p.m. Tweens will pick up a holiday wreath kit at the library then meet over Zoom to create their wreaths together. Ages 8-12. Registration required. ADULT PROGRAMMING

Dec. 14: Snowman Ornament Kit. Pick up a snowman ornament kit. Registration required. Dec. 17: Virtual Family Storytime. 10:30 a.m. Share stories and fun on the library’s YouTube channel. All ages. No registration. TWEEN PROGRAMMING Dec. 1: Tween Candy Cane Slime. Pick

The library will be closed Thursday, Dec. 24, and Friday, Dec. 25, for Christmas and Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, for New Year’s Day.

Dec. 4, 11 and 18: BYO Craft. 10 a.m. Join other crafters for fun and fellowship! Bring your portable craft, or come to learn! Dec. 8: Music & Books Club. 5:30 p.m. Registration required.

Dec. 7: Dungeons and Dragons. 6 p.m. Registration required. Dec. 14: Among Us. 6 p.m. Are you an imposter or a crewmate? We’ll play via Zoom to find out! Among Us can be downloaded as a free app from the Apple and Android app stores. Registration required. Dec. 17: Teen Hangout. 6 p.m. Connect with other teens via Zoom. Registration required. Dec. 21: Teen Take-Home Craft Kit. Learn how to paper quill and make a snowflake. Registration required.

The library will be closed Thursday, Dec. 24, through Saturday, Dec. 26, for Christmas and Thursday, Dec. 31 and Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, for New Year’s Day.

Chelsea Public Library Dec. 3, 10 and 17: Tot Time. 10:30 a.m. Join Mrs. Emily each week for stories, music, games and fun.

Dec. 2, 16, 23 and 30: Minecrafternoons. 4 p.m. Join other sixth through 12th graders on the library’s Minecraft Realm. Registration required.

Dec. 10: Adult Book Club. 10 a.m. Monthly book club with discussion and fellowship. Dec 12: Lego Day. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Create with Legos and have your creation displayed on the children’s floor. Dec. 14: Teen Book Club. 5 p.m. For ages 12 and older to come eat dinner and discuss books.

Let us help spread the news! Email leagle@starnespublishing.com to submit your announcement.


Dec. 3: Mt Laurel Book Club. 7 p.m. The Book Club will meet via Zoom to discuss “The Whistling Season” by Ivan Doig. Register and leave an email through the online calendar. Dec. 14: Holiday Ornament Kit. Adults can pick up a kit to make two holiday ornaments. Kits will include supplies and instructions. Registration required.

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280 Living December 2020  

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