REAL ESTATE SPOTLIGHT
Closings down 14% but market still healthy, observers say
By JON ANDERSON
Rising interest rates and inflation caused a slowdown in the housing market in 2022, but Realtors and home builders say the industry is still healthy.
The number of home closings along the U.S. 280 corridor in north Shelby County fell 14%, from 1,748 home closings in 2021 to 1,504 in 2022, according to data from the Greater Alabama Multiple Listing Service. That included a decline in sales of existing homes from 1,476 to 1,267 and a decline in new home sales from 272 to 237.
The 35242 zip code — which includes Inverness, Greystone, Meadow Brook, Oak Mountain, Eagle Point, Brook Highland, Highland Lakes, Mt Laurel, Shoal Creek and Liberty Park — saw existing home sales drop from 1,103 to 973 and new home sales fall from 123 to 82.
The 35043 zip code — which includes Chelsea and surrounding areas — saw existing home sales drop from 522 to 449. However, new home sales in 35043 were slightly up from 149 to 155 in 2022.
See REAL ESTATE | pages A28-30
Surveillance video captures a robbery suspect entering the Walgreens pharmacy at 1801 Montgomery Highway on March 23, 2022. Photo courtesy of Hoover Police Department.
Robberies hit more than 20-year low in Hoover
By JON ANDERSON
The city of Hoover had only 15 robberies reported in 2022 — the lowest amount in more than two decades, records show.
The number of robberies reported fell 38% from 24 in 2021 to 15 in 2022. Six of those were robberies of individuals, six were robberies of businesses, and three were shoplifting cases that turned into third-degree robberies when force was used, Hoover police Lt. Daniel Lowe said.
One of the robberies of an individual was determined to be unfounded, and another was downgraded to a theft when it was prosecuted, Lowe said.
Over the previous 21 years, the average number of robberies in Hoover per year was 56, and the number climbed as high as 105 in 2004, records show.
Police are extremely pleased to see the drop, Chief Nick Derzis said. That’s especially true given that Hoover’s most recent population
estimate was about 93,000 residents in July 2021.
“That’s something I think all of us at the Police Department are very proud of. We start each year hoping we can keep our community safe. We work very hard to do it, and it’s kind of extraordinary when you see some of the things we were able to accomplish this past year,” Derzis said.
See CRIME STATS | page A26
Peer Assisted Learning Systems program members work with and mentor disabled peers. Local baseball and softball teams become area foes. Sponsors A4 City A6 Business A10 Community A16 Schoolhouse A18 Events A24 Sports B4 Camp Guide B11 Opinion B14 Calendar B15 INSIDE facebook.com/280living See page A18 See page B1
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New homes under construction in the South Point community of Chelsea Park on Feb. 9.
Photo by Erin Nelson.
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Editor’s Note By Leah
Is it just me or does January always seem to last forever and February goes by so quickly?
I hope we get to enjoy a bit of spring weather before it skips straight to summer!
We are at the downhill slide of the school year. My son is wrapping up middle school and will be going to high school next year. He has already had to fill out course selection information. It’s a weird feeling when you have a kid going into high school. First off, it makes me feel really old, and second — where did the time go? I really enjoyed my high school experience and hope he does as well. (He’d be quick to tell you that middle school has been his least favorite time).
In other family news, our daughter will turn nine this month, so we’ll get to celebrate her birthday
on the 11th.
Last spring break, we went to Disney and Universal Studios and had the most amazing trip. As of press time, we didn’t have any set plans, but hope to get away for a few days and do something fun.
This month’s issue is focusing on an always-hot topic: real estate. We’ll take a look at the local market, how much house
you can get for your money, mortgage interest rates and more. A big thanks to our Hoover editor, Jon Anderson, for tackling that cover story.
We celebrated two years in our house in December and we got in just in time — the end of 2020. Not long after, home prices in our neighborhood shot up like a rocket. For our readers who are zoned for Hoover, Jon also takes a look at crime in the city. There are some great stories featuring schools in our area in this issue, along with plenty of sports. I hope you enjoy this issue!
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A4 • March 2023 280 Living
Oak Mountain competes in the boys 4x200-meter relay during the Class 7A state indoor track and field meet at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Feb. 4.
Photo by Erin Nelson.
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Community corrections program director provides update to commission
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
Shelby County Commissioner Lindsey Allison said that Julius Cook, the executive director of the community corrections program in Shelby County, does a yeoman’s job with a very, very difficult task.
Cook addressed the commission during its Feb. 13 meeting and gave an update and overview of the program.
He said the quasi-government agency, which is actually a nonprofit, provides alternative programs for sentencing in the county.
He said that the state Department of Corrections is releasing people at a very high rate (most with six months or less on their sentence), and local counties are becoming responsible for supervising them.
“What we're seeing is already some of those people are being re-arrested,” Cook said. “What we want to do here in Shelby County is provide services on a grand scale, so that we can holistically treat these individuals that are coming in and out of prisons and jails. What we can do is we can handpick those individuals that are in prison who have no disciplinary issues and bring them back and reintegrate them back into society.”
They used to have a work-release facility, which Cook said was a “difficult challenge.”
“It got to the point where it was more than we could actually deal with, due to the population that we serve,” Cook said. “Our population
is no longer low-risk and we could just not supervise them the same way in that facility.”
About two years ago, the program went to the newest trend of electronic monitoring, which Cook said has really taken off, with about 50 people currently in the electronic monitoring program.
The community corrections program also offers drug court, mental health court and veteran’s treatment court programs, which Cook said are important to help treat the individuals
“Ten to 15 years ago, the individuals in drug court, mental health court or veteran’s court would have never been in prison,” Cook said. “Now they've been in prison two or three times.”
Other programs offered include the prison diversion program, DUI deferred program, a pretrial release program, community service, visitation and exchange services, drug and alcohol testing, court referral and probation.
For education and treatment services that cannot be provided in-house, the program refers to treatment facilities throughout the state of Alabama and also uses local provider Central Alabama Wellness.
Cook said about 65% of the program’s budget is client pay — their clients actually pay fines and fees to participate in the programs. Another 10% is contracts and grants and the remaining portion comes from the county, which provides the program approximately $270,000 each year.
“Our budget usually hovers around $1.6 to $1.8 million a year, and we have about 20 employees that provide all of these wonderful services,” Cook said.
Commission chairman Kevin Morris said it was refreshing to have Cook come and speak during their meeting.
“You can immediately sense not only the passion, but the care for what you do,” Morris said. “And in no time do I feel like you're checking boxes or you're truly taking this as an effort.”
Morris added, “I do think we as a county continue to look at partnerships that we know just can't be filled everywhere else. We don't have that ability to sit back and say, ‘Well, not our problem,’ but it is our problem. … Because the type of things that you mentioned — those individuals go back into the population, and these things become repeated and impact the very quality of life we've been working on.”
Commission discusses proposed redistricting plans
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
The Shelby County Commission held a public hearing regarding redistricting maps and boundaries during its Jan. 23 meeting.
As the county grows, districts have to be redrawn to keep them as even as possible based on the population.
“The commission districts are not drawn or changed based on anything more than population,” County Manager Chad Scroggins said. “We don’t poll any type of percentage of demographics other than the population of the residents of Shelby County. They’re drawn in a manner to divide up the county by 24,780. That's the ideal number based on the population we have. The commission district lines move a little bit to get the closest to that without being obscured.”
Scroggins added that they try to keep
subdivisions together in the same district. A person sits down and maps out to get that ideal number. When a district grows in population, it actually shrinks the district’s area, he said.
“Most of our districts have grown rapidly over the last 30 years, and we continue to see these growth patterns move in the centralized areas,” Scroggins said. “Most of them have infrastructure and amenities and that's why people move there. In our rural areas, they simply don't move there as quickly.”
Christy Hester, director of development services, said the county looks at the growth areas and population totals to come up with what would be a good representative.
“We have been through several versions trying to come up with a good distribution,” Hester said.
The commission planned to take a vote during the second meeting in February to
approve the districts.
The county’s comprehensive plan is in the public comment phase and residents can share their thoughts at planshelbyal.com. The 288page document has been in the works for the past 18 months, and two public meetings were held in January to give residents the opportunity to ask questions and give their input.
Shelby County CFO Cheryl Naugher gave a financial review of the first quarter of fiscal 23, stating that the budget variances were all positive.
According to County Engineer David Willingham, the traffic signal at County Road 11 and County Road 36 is operational and the city of Chelsea has taken over maintenance duties.
Willingham also said that he has recently met with ALDOT director John Cooper regarding improvements for a 6.6-mile stretch along Interstate 65 from Exit 238 in Alabaster to Exit
231 in Calera.
“One of our top priorities is seeing that through,” Willingham said. “We will get together with our municipal partners and see what we can do to help facilitate this project to move and not just sit idle. It is a very expensive project and we are looking at what we can do to speed that along and make it come to fruition.”
Other items approved during the meeting:
► Purchase of a half-ton truck for $41,636.50 from Donohoo Chevrolet for development services
► Purchase of a boat for $239,263 for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office
► Reappointment of Kenneth Mobley to the Shelby County Human Resources Board of Directors for a six-year term
► Purchase of 1.29 acres of property from Kings Ranch/Hannah Home
A6 • March 2023 280 Living
Left: A map showing the proposed redistricting of the county. Map courtesy of Shelby County Commission. Right: Development Services Manager of Planning & Community Development Josh Osborne, Christy Hester and Chad Scroggins discuss the redistricting process during the Jan. 23 meeting. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.
Julius Cook, executive director of Shelby County’s community corrections program, speaks to the county commission on Feb. 13.
Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.
Council approves 2 analyses for city employees
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
The Chelsea City Council approved a performance appraisal system and staffing analysis, along with a job classification and compensation analysis for city employees, during the Feb. 7 council meeting.
Councilman Cody Sumners explained that Condrey and Associates will complete a compensation analysis and job classification to look at the jobs the city currently has and compare them to other cities, in order to determine how to classify them. The study will also look at the pay for each job and come up with a pay scale.
The second study, done by Facer Management Consulting, will include a performance appraisal system to come up with an evaluation system for city employees that will allow them to receive step raises based on merit. Sumners said a staffing analysis will look at the current jobs in the city to see if any additional positions are needed or any changes that need to be made.
The timeline for both analyses will be around three to four months.
The council also approved an annexation request for David Brogdon (Tall Timbers) for 36 acres of property located off Shelby County 11, directly across the entrance from Brynleigh Estates.
During the mayor’s report, Mayor Tony Picklesimer shared that the council would host a work session at Chelsea City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 16, to discuss the Chelsea High School master plan. Coverage of this meeting can be found at 280living.com.
Picklesimer mentioned that
progress continues at phase two of the athletic complex and it still appears to be on schedule to have rec baseball being played there in March.
“The complex is beautiful and something for all of us to be proud of and look forward to seeing that come to a conclusion,” he said.
Chelsea Fire Chief Joe Lee provided an update on the department, stating that he recently made updates to the five-year plan. He also shared
statistics from 2021 and said the transport truck that was ordered in 2021 has arrived and will be ready to put in service soon.
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Councilman Cody Sumners discusses specifics of the analyses for city employees at the Feb. 7 Chelsea City Council meeting. Photo courtesy of City of Chelsea Facebook page.
‘Excited about the possibilities’
and fieldhouse addition would be paid for by the city of Chelsea. The competition gymnasium would be a partnership between the cities of Chelsea and Westover, SCBOE and the Shelby County Commission, with the city of Chelsea taking the largest portion.
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
At the Jan. 24 public meeting on the proposed Chelsea High School master plan, Mayor Tony Picklesimer told the audience in attendance and those watching online that he wanted feedback from the community and for them to be able to ask questions regarding the plan.
“Tonight is about teamwork,” Picklesimer said. “To be a shared vision and shared possibility. It will require many different groups of people coming together to make it [the master plan] happen. Thank you to the groups that have shown enough interest in this venture to come tonight.”
All five of the Chelsea Council members were in attendance, along with almost the entire Westover City Council and Westover Mayor Larry Riggins. Also in attendance was Shelby County Schools Superintendent Lewis Brooks, Assistant Superintendent of Operations David Calhoun and newly appointed school board member Amber Polk.
Brooks shared that the school district is working with the city in regard to Chelsea High School and said he was excited about the possibility of things that can take place.
Calhoun said he met with city leadership in the fall to discuss the potential at the school campus and worked to identify future projects.
Those included a possible classroom addition, expanding the current cafeteria and reworking the front administrative entrance and giving the school a dedicated front entrance.
“A lot has been said about the capacity of the building,” Calhoun said. “To set the record
straight, it's equipped to hold and accommodate 1,500 students. As this community grows, we have the ability to add 30 new classrooms on two levels.”
Other items listed on the master plan include a covered batting pavilion for the softball team, an expansion of the visitor’s locker room and fieldhouse addition, a new home side for the bleachers at the football field with a new press box, a concession stand with restrooms and additional parking.
The largest expense would be a new $19.2 million (48,000-square-foot) competition gymnasium. Rick Lathan of Lathan and Associates gave a digital tour of the building that would include a multipurpose room, dressing room spaces, greater seating capacity, concession area and more. The common areas would be used by
all students, along with the banquet and meeting spaces.
“It's a gym, but it's a lot more than a gym,” Latham said. “There are ways to cut costs and that’s simply to cut square footage.”
Lathan and Associates has been doing work for the Shelby County Board of Education for the past 32 years.
Brooks shared other upgrades planned for the high school that will be paid for by the SCBOE, including putting in new bleachers in the current gym at the end of this school year, as well as refinishing the gym floor and painting new striping and logos.
As for who is responsible for paying for the project, classroom additions and cafeteria expansion would be paid by the SCBOE, the new home seating press box and concession area
Both the city of Chelsea and the city of Westover collect an extra one-cent sales tax designated for education and projects that are specific to the four area schools that serve those communities.
Picklesimer shared that the city of Chelsea’s one-cent sales tax currently generates around $2.5 million per year. However, the tax is scheduled to sunset in October 2025, so it would be up to the council to extend it. He said this is doable, but the councils have to agree and make that decision.
“Since the construction of Chelsea High School in 1992, in my opinion, Chelsea has never had the best of anything,” Picklesimer said. “With this competition gym and new home stadium with this master plan, we would have not only the best in Shelby County, but one of the premier facilities in the state of Alabama. This is something I feel like our kids deserve, something our community could be proud of and I think it would be a game changer for the city.”
Lathan said if the plan was approved, the construction timeline would be around 15 months and could potentially be complete by fall 2024.
“There are a lot of neat things we can do if we manage our money wisely,” Picklesimer said. “Everything is possible in my opinion. There’s a multitude of things that can happen if we can get together and make this work.”
Picklesimer released a statement on Jan. 30 clarifying that the master plan was completed by the Shelby County Board of Education at the request of members of the Chelsea City Council — the request was not made by the mayor's office.
Visit 280living.com for continuing coverage of the Chelsea High School master plan.
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Superintendent Lewis Brooks speaks to the crowd about the master plan for Chelsea High School during the Jan. 24 meeting. Photo by Leah Ingram Eagle.
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Buckle, a new store at The Summit, is one of America’s favorite denim destinations while staying true to its mission: to create the most enjoyable shopping experience possible for its guests. Popular items feature jeans, on-trend tops, shoes, and accessories. Hours are Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
Mavis Tires & Brakes recently opened in Greystone. Mavis stocks popular tire brands. Hours of operation are Monday-Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Southern Immediate Care is now open in Chelsea. The medical facility is equipped to handle a wide range of medical issues and offer a range of services including diagnostic tests, treatment for common illnesses and injuries, sports injuries, employment physicals, and drug testing. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday (excluding major holidays).
The Florist in Chelsea is now open and is a full-service floral and gift shop providing a wide range of flowers and gifts at affordable prices.
Blue Sushi Sake Grill recently opened at The Summit, offering “creative ingredients with energetic vibes and premium cold sake with happy moments to give you a fresh and fun new way to experience sushi.”
Dr. Rekha Chadalawada of Summit Pediatrics has
Business news to share? If you have news to share with the community about a brick-and-mortar business along the 280 Corridor, let us know at 280living.com/about-us
opened a second location off Valleydale Road across from Jefferson State Community College’s Shelby-Hoover campus at 1200 Providence Park, Suite 100. The original location of Summit Pediatrics opened in Chelsea in 2013. Dr. Chadalawada also has been a part of Sylacauga Pediatrics since 1999. Sylacauga Pediatrics and Summit Pediatrics have a combined four pediatricians and four nurse practitioners. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. The practice sees patients from birth to age 21.
McKenzie Strategies is now open at 200 Chase Park S., Suite 226, near the intersection of Riverchase Park and U.S. 31. The new mental health group practice offers non-emergency counseling services to individual adults/ adolescents/children, couples and families experiencing issues including, but not limited to: depression, anxiety, trauma, stress management, grief, life transitions, self-esteem and identity issues, relationship issues, and school issues. Founded by LPC and Clinical Supervisor Matt McKenzie, the practice includes three full-time licensed counselors — Savannah Becotte, MA, ALC; Ryan Jackson, MA, ALC; and Kristin Williams, MA, ALC — who are accepting new clients for in-person and telehealth appointments using private pay (sliding scale options available), Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and Medicaid. The practice also includes FLY (Freedom Lies in You), a program for area military veterans and police/fire first responders seeking peer support and coping skills. 205-517-3102, mckenziestrategies.com
Jeremiah’s Italian Ice plans to open this spring in the former Ditsy Daisy spot. The franchise, owned by Chelsea residents, will offer gelato, Italian ice and soft ice cream. jeremiahsice.com
NEWS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS
The nominating committee for the board of directors of America’s First Federal Credit Union has nominated Katie Voss and Ross Mitchell to fill two positions on the board of directors for the next three years. Voss is vice president of risk management for Brasfield & Gorrie and was first elected to the America’s First Federal Credit Union board of directors in 2020 and currently serves as vice chairwoman. Mitchell works for Tenet Healthcare as vice president of external and governmental affairs for Brookwood Baptist Health in Alabama and director of government relations in Tennessee. 205-995-0001, amfirst.org
Byars Wright recently announced Gabe Clement as its new president. Clement joined Byars Wright as a broker in 2014 before launching the agency’s Birmingham branch in 2019 and becoming sales team leader in 2021. He is one of Byars Wright’s six shareholders. byarswright.com
Alicia Huey, a Greystone resident, home builder and developer with more than 30 years of experience in the home building industry, recently was elected as the 2023 chairman of the National Association of Home Builders during the association’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas. Huey is president of AGH Homes, a custom home building company she founded in 2000. In addition to building high-end custom homes for buyers on individual lots, AGH Homes has also built in several golf course communities in Hoover and Vestavia Hills.
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Hunting with the Hunts
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
Leigh Hunt grew up hunting with her dad and later married a hunting enthusiast.
Her husband Nathan was a special operations soldier in the Army from 2001 to 2007 and served as a Blackhawk crew chief. After his time in the military, he worked at a local outdoor store before he began working with gun optics.
The couple started their business in 2008 as a U.S. distribution partner of Hensoldt rifle scopes for Carl Zeiss Optronics, and they were the sole U.S. importer for Heinzel scopes before they decided to open HDC HuntStore in 2015.
The Hunts opened their first store in Calera in August 2015, where they stayed until December 2018. Leigh said the interstate traffic and construction in the area hurt their business, so they decided to choose another location and opened on Alabama 119.
When the opportunity came to buy the former Bernie’s Grill location on Chesser Drive in Chelsea, the Hunts had a discussion with Chelsea Mayor Tony Picklesimer, who agreed to sell it. They closed on the property on Jan. 27 and immediately began the renovation process.
The largest part of the project was replacing the roof. Leigh Hunt said that other renovations would be done, both structurally and cosmetically. The 3,000-square-foot building will feature several offices and the rest of the interior will be the showroom, along with a small gunsmithing area.
HDC HuntStore’s main focus is on firearm sales. The store has a Class 3 license, which allows them to sell items including silencers, short barrel rifles and shotguns, National Firearms Act (NFA) devices, pre-May 1986 machine guns and full auto weapons to qualified government buyers.
“We do new and used guns, so we have a
little bit of something for everyone — whether they are just starting out and looking for something inexpensive to a collector who may be shopping for something special,” Hunt said.
The store sells used guns, as well as guns not found in large retail stores. They can also do special orders. The gunsmiths can also bring new life to guns customers already have.
“We don’t sell anything we wouldn’t use ourselves. We try to always make sure it’s good quality, something we would carry personally,” Hunt said.
Besides guns, their other main emphasis is
ammunition. Hunt said they try to keep hard-tofind ammo in stock, and that’s one of the things that sets their store apart from others.
It’s not just men who are customers at HDC HuntStore. Hunt said they also have a good amount of female customers come into the store looking for hunting gear or personal protection.
For those new to guns, Hunt said the store has things for all skill levels and experience.
“If you come in and you’re not familiar with firearms, we don’t just give you something and send you out the door,” she said. “We take the time to show you how to operate it and find a
gun that works for you. We want people to feel comfortable here. It’s okay to say, ‘I’m not an expert at this’ or ‘How do I load ammo?’ We are very happy to take the time to do that.”
Hunt said with the move to Chelsea, they are shifting a bit to get more guns and ammo, and other items like bows will be stocked seasonally.
Hunt said between herself and Nathan, they make up one full-time employee. She takes care of the bookkeeping and payroll. They also employ several gunsmiths and a store manager. Both Nathan and Leigh Hunt work at the store, but both have other jobs.
Hunt said their plans were to open in mid to late March, since that’s their slow time of year — after deer season and before turkey season. The couple lives on a farm in Wilsonville and has five children. They are both working and in school full time. Nathan is majoring in physics at Alabama State University and Leigh is taking online courses from the University of Alabama for family financial planning.
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HDC HuntStore will move into the former Bernie’s location on Chesser Road in Chelsea later this month. Photo courtesy of HDC HuntStore Facebook page.
We want people to feel comfortable here. It’s okay to say, ‘I’m not an expert at this’ or ‘How do I load ammo?’ We are very happy to take the time to do that..
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Working toward wellness
Massage opens a new location in Greystone
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
After spending the first part of his career as an educator, Brice Jackson decides to switch careers to become a massage therapist.
“I used to be a sixth grade teacher and massage was my side hustle,” said Jackson, a resident of the Caldwell Mill area in Shelby County. “The teaching profession has great insurance, but not great pay, so I was probably in my second year of teaching (2006) when I realized the need, and in 2008 I went to [massage] school at night and graduated in 2009.”
When asked why he chose massage therapy as his new career, Jackson said he had a knack for always finding “the spot.” Whenever friends or family were experiencing pain, he could work out the problem and create relief for them.
At one point, he was told by someone that he missed his calling as a massage therapist, so he enrolled in night classes and graduated from Red Mountain Massage Institute.
Jackson created Birmingham Wellness Massage and initially began working with a chiropractor friend before launching his own business in 2016. He worked on his own for two years, and said he didn’t plan on growing the business but was enjoying the clients he had along with networking.
Someone once told him that they liked massages, but wouldn’t want to receive one from a man, so that made Jackson start to think of what his business could be. He got some advice from a client who was also a CFO to help build some structure and find additional therapists.
In 2020, Jackson was excited to open an office in Homewood, a beautiful space that he had renovated and was set to open April 1. The pandemic derailed those plans and he had to figure out how to recoup when he was finally able to open after half of the therapists left.
“I had gone more managerial, helping the team, and then I was hands-on again,” Jackson said. “I love to [massage] and was still doing it partially, but I had to step in and do that instead of focusing on the business.”
For the next six months, Jackson was doing all things related to his business. However, while many businesses failed during Covid, Birmingham Wellness Massage thrived. More therapists were brought on board, and by August 2021, the doors to their Hoover office in Trace Crossings opened.
Birmingham Wellness Massage - Greystone
• WHERE: 2236 Cahaba Valley Drive, Suite 101, Meadowbrook (located in the Sterling Building)
• CALL: 205-224-9406
• WEB: alabamawellness massage.com
Jackson’s next goal was to open a location in the Greystone area. He said it took a while to find the right spot, but he continued to add more therapists and fine-tune how they could help more clients. The third location of Birmingham Wellness Massage opened in Greystone in December 2022.
Jackson said what makes his offices unique is that they are clinical but warm, and their therapists wear scrubs, so it feels like a medical office environment.
“Every office has a bit of a different vibe, but what makes us amazing is our therapists,” he said. “What I’ve tried to do more than anything is to try to get out of the way and serve them so they feel empowered to do their best work.”
Jackson shared that values at Birmingham Wellness Massage include simple booking,
the clinical environment and dependable therapists. Birmingham Wellness Massage currently employs 22 therapists who work across the three offices.
Several types of massage therapy are provided at Birmingham Wellness Massage, the most popular include pain relief and Swedish relaxation. Client memberships are available with no contracts, so clients can start, stop and adjust their membership as needed and also save money compared to purchasing a single massage.
Jackson said the company participates in events throughout the city and takes their massage chairs to local businesses for in-office massages.
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Birmingham Wellness Massage recently opened a third location in Greystone on Cahaba Valley Drive. Photo courtesy of Brice Jackson.
Every office has a bit of a different vibe, but what makes us amazing is our therapists.
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Pairing expert knowledge with quality window treatments and design
PAM MITCHELL, WINDOW DECOR & DESIGN
Pam Mitchell, owner of Window Decor & Design in Birmingham, has worked in the window treatments industry for about 30 years, and she has owned Window Decor & Design since 2015.
But Mitchell’s long career in the business has certainly done nothing to diminish her passion and enthusiasm for what she does everyday to help customers find the right products and applications for their homes.
“I absolutely enjoy what I do,” Mitchell says.
She also brings a lot of skill, a lot of experience and a practiced eye to her work.
“I don’t just look at the window treatment part, I look at the entire space and recommend what window treatment is best for the room,” she says.
In serving her customers at Window Decor & Design, Mitchell draws on her extensive design training. She earned her BFA in Interior Design from the Southern Institute of Interior Design at Virginia College in Birmingham in 2011.
“Having interior design knowledge and experience sets me aside from just a window treatment sales person,” Mitchell says.
She is also a Window Fashion Certified Professional and has extensive knowledge about all of the products and services she provides at Window Decor & Design.
“Knowledge of your product is key,” Mitchell says.
It is important for customers to consult a welltrained professional in selecting their new window treatments because that process can be more involved than most people think.
“There are many choices in window treatments, and not all of them may work in the space or window you are wanting to cover, therefore I am able to guide my customers in the right direction and not get overwhelmed with so many choices,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell asks the customer about how they want the room or space to function before determining the best option. She’ll walk them through how window treatments can protect rooms and items from sun damage, as well as explaining what options and features are available.
It’s also very important for Mitchell to see how a product looks and functions in the customer’s home before the customer makes a final decision.
“Seeing a product in a showroom is different from seeing it in your home or office,” she says. “Lighting changes the colors and depending on the type of window treatment chosen the application will be different in a window so it is always best to see it in your actual window.”
Window Decor & Design offers all types of custom window treatments, including blinds, shades, shutters, draperies and drapery hardware
Hunter Douglas and Graber are the top manufacturers they offer, Mitchell says.
The store also offers custom bedding and pillows, she says.
The services offered by Window Decor & Design include professional measuring, experienced installation and stylish design advice, all provided with a local flair since the business is proud to be independently owned and operated.
Modern technology is having an exciting impact on many of the window treatments the store offers, according to Mitchell.
For example, “more products are now available with motorization,” she says.
The Smart Shades made by Hunter Douglas are a good example of technological innovation in window treatments. Users can easily control their shades with a press of a button, a tap on a mobile device, using a voice command or even automatically.
Homeowners can also schedule their shades to automatically close whenever they want. They can also schedule their shades to raise and lower to keep interiors warmer or cooler, depending on the season.
“The customers are really enjoying the motorized window treatments,” Mitchell says
Running Window Decor & Design is very gratifying,
► HOURS: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday-Thursday; Friday and Saturday by appointment
► CALL: 205-437-9575
► WEBSITE: blindsandshuttersof birmingham.com
“It’s empowering to be your own boss,” Mitchell says “Any business or job has challenges but I feel entrepreneurship is a path to leadership and I have
always wanted to own my own business from a very young age. I encourage more women to do it and being in control of your work hours allows you to balance family time.”
Women also have a tremendous positive impact on retail businesses, including Window Decor & Design, Mitchell says.
“Studies have shown that women account for 85% of consumer purchases,” she says.
Window Decor & Design is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday by appointment.
For more information, call 205-437-9575 or go to blindsandshuttersofbirmingham.com.
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Sheriff’s Office employees honored with awards
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office recently held their first awards ceremony since 2019. The past two years, the event was unable to be held due to the pandemic.
Those who had received promotions since that time were recognized, while other employees were presented with awards.
► Lifesaving Award – Deputy Ken Beard and Deputy Matt Glassford: The two helped a victim with a life-threatening leg injury after a motorcycle accident and applied a tourniquet to prevent additional blood loss. After the incident, North Shelby Fire District Chief Randy Sipe called Sheriff John Samaniego to commend the deputies and said their swift action more than likely saved the victim’s life.
► Lifesaving Award – Lt. Keith English, Sgt. Nick Ryske and Deputy Bob Alston: In March 2020, the three assisted in a jail incident where three inmates had overdosed and were unresponsive. Narcan was administered and all three inmates became responsive before being transported to the hospital.
► Meritorious Service – Deputy Bradley Bush: In November 2020, Bush assisted on a welfare check call on a suicidal person. He found the person in a near-unconscious state sitting in a running vehicle in an enclosed garage. He and other deputies discovered the patient had overdosed on prescription medications. His quick, decisive action
saved the person’s life.
► Meritorious Service – Kevin Hand: From 2018 to 2022, Hand was assigned to the Birmingham DEA office and responsible for pharmaceutical diversion investigations. His contributions resulted in the arrest of three different multi-state pharmaceutical trafficking rings, burglary rings and prosecution of six clinicians federally convicted of selling unlawful prescriptions.
► Meritorious Service – Lt. Owen Prescott: Prescott was tasked with developing a wellness program to improve the physical, mental and financial well-being of all Sheriff’s Office employees. The SCSO officially launched its wellness program in December 2020 and Prescott was designated as the agency’s first wellness coordinator.
► Meritorious Service Award
– Jail Deputy Laramie Crim: In December 2022, Crim was conducting a nightly watch at the jail when he noticed an unresponsive inmate. He entered a 14-man cell by himself without regard to his own safety. He called for a nurse and for other deputies to bring Narcan and talked to the inmate and rubbed his sternum and got information from other inmates, which later proved to be helpful to the medical staff.
► Special Recognition of Service
– Cold Case Detectives Deputy Jim Dormuth and Deputy Larry Strayer: Both men have served their country and
community for over 50 years, serving in the Army during the Vietnam War and retiring from federal law enforcement service with 30 years’ experience. They both received retirement plaques recognizing their outstanding leadership and professional services to the residents of Shelby County.
► Sheriff’s Award – Brandy Cannon, RN: Cannon devoted herself to caring for the inmates at the Shelby County Jail. She was also awarded the Medical Professional of the Year Award in August 2022, presented by the National Institute for Jail Operations.
► Sheriff’s Award – Deputy Darren McGairty: McGairty served as a jail deputy from 2012 to 2020. He was promoted to deputy sheriff in April 2020 and has been recognized by many outside agencies and commended by the U.S. Marshals.
► Sheriff’s Award – Deputy Nate Nichols: Nichols assisted a deputy in his second attempt to pass a physical fitness test for the Basic APOST Academy in May 2021. After the graduation, the staff learned that Nichols personally invested countless hours helping the deputy achieve his fitness goals, even after 12-hour shifts and on his off days.
► Sheriff’s Award – Sgt. Shane Plyler: In 2019, Sgt. Plyler was assigned to the administrative division and tasked to review and upgrade the records management system. During the two-year process, Plyler presented facts and research that played
a significant role in the rejection of the software. During the same time, he also took on multiple leadership roles as team leader of the Project Lifesaver Unit serving as a crisis negotiator, worked with other personnel to begin the agency’s first mobile field force and redesigned the Sheriff’s Office performance evaluation guidelines.
► Sheriff’s Award – Anna Shinbaum: For professional achievement and distinguished service for her assistance in positively identifying a suspect while assisting on a call for the Hoover Police Department in October 2022.
► Captain Jason Myrick: Dec. 25, 2020
► Captain Mark Bishop: Dec. 25, 2020
► Sgt. Clayton Smith: Jan. 8, 2021
► Sgt. Stephen Darrenkamp: Oct.
► Sgt. Chris Currenton: Oct. 29, 2021
► Sgt. Robert Rodriguez: Oct. 29, 2021
► Sgt. Tommy Maddox: Oct. 29, 2021
► Sgt. Thomas Nordyke: Dec. 24, 2021
► Jail Sgt. Krystle Sargent: July 9, 2021
► Lt. Kevin Brand: Oct. 29, 2021
► Lt. Jud Barnes: Oct. 29, 2021
► Lt. Deon Tilley: Oct. 29, 2021
► Sgt. Nick Rykse: Feb. 2, 2022
► Sgt. Robin Turner: June 24, 2022
► Sgt. Crystal Motley: Nov. 11, 2022
► Captain Joseph McGee: Dec. 9, 2022
► Deputy Chief Clay Hammac: Jan. 6, 2022
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Deputies Jim Dormuth and Larry Strayer were recognized for their service upon their retirement from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. Photo courtesy of Chandler Wallace.
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PALS program members work with, mentor disabled peers
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
Beginning in ninth grade, students in the Peer Helpers program at Oak Mountain High School can become part of the Peer Assisted Learning Systems program, or PALS for short.
Taylor Korson, a special education teacher in a self-contained classroom in her fourth year at OMHS, is over the PALS program.
She explained the two types of formats of PALS. One is where the peer-helper student PALS go into the classroom for an entire period each day, while others are in the PALS Club, which is for those students who don’t have room in their schedule to be in Korson’s room for an entire period.
PALS are all Peer Helpers, but not all Peer Helpers are PALS.
“I'm on their schedule and I'm their teacher for that period,” Korson said. “Their expectations are to work with the kids, remain confidential and be present. It’s an important portion of their day — having the Peer Helper PALS come in.”
Korson said the goal is that her students have a good relationship with other peers in the school. Since most of the special education takes place in the classroom, they only leave for lunch and electives. It’s a time to socialize while also getting help from fellow students.
“Some of the PALS like to do things outside school with them, and it’s been cool to watch their relationships,”
Korson said. “While many kids have ‘early out,’ during which they can leave after sixth period, our PALS elect to stay on campus a whole extra hour to be in this class, which to me is kind of special.”
There are three self-contained classes at OMHS with students who have a wide variety of disabilities. Korson’s classroom has students from 11th grade through age 21 and anywhere from three to five PALS in her room at any time throughout the day. There are 25 Peer Helper PALS who take part in the program, which has been in place at OMHS for over six years.
Korson said when she was a student at Hoover High School, she worked in a similar program and that’s where her
passion comes from. She has been in her role since January 2019, after graduating from Mississippi State.
“I signed up for Peer Helpers thinking I would work with elementary kids,” she said. “I walked in my freshman year and it was a self-contained class. I did that all four years of high school, which developed my love for disabled people. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher.”
“My classroom focuses on job skills, so I’m trying to help my students be as independent as possible,” she said. “The plan for their future looks different for each of them.”
Her students pair their PALS to work on job skills, including working in the lunchroom wiping tables,
stocking chips and organizing food by expiration dates. On Fridays, they run a coffee cart where teachers can place online orders and the PALS and Peer Helpers work together to take and fulfill the orders.
The money made from the sales goes back into the program to keep it going. It also helps fund field trips that aren’t job-based and other things, including the prom students attend each spring.
Korson said most of her students have a favorite Peer Helper, and they light up each day when the Helpers come into their classroom.
Diana is one of the students in Korson’s class. She said that she likes her Peer Helper PALS coloring with and
helping her with work that is hard. She enjoys working the coffee cart and hopes to work at Publix one day like her brother
Lauren Duncan is a senior PALS member. Her sister was in the program before her and she has another sister who has Down syndrome.
“I feel like I had a lot of experience with it and was really interested in being part of the program,” Duncan said. “I enjoy it a lot and think it's really fun. It’s something I look forward to every week and being able to hang out with them and help them out is really fun.”
Korson’s favorite part of her job is seeing her students acquire new skills that will make their life easier when they graduate.
“When their parents are stressed about what their child’s future is going to look like, I get to come in and say ‘It’s OK.’ We partner with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services to work on setting students for success.”
The students have an outdoor garden that they tend and the herbs they grow are used by Taziki’s, who also offers internships so they can gain job experience.
There are students from every stage at OMHS and Korson said it's cool to see their love for her kids.
“The goal is they will go out in the world and in 5 to 10 years encourage people to work to hire people with disabilities,” she said.
A18 • March 2023 280 Living Have a schoolhouse announcement?
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Left: LaDarius McShan, a junior, hands a cup of coffee to Vicki Jackson, an algebra and geometry teacher, as he fulfills coffee orders through the Peer Assisted Learning Systems program coffee cart. Right: Michelle Ruggerio helps Collin Kimbrell with his lunch through the PALS program at Oak Mountain High School. Photos by Erin Nelson.
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Health Science students with Chelsea High School
Chelsea Healthcare students hold pinning ceremony
The Chelsea High School Healthcare Academy and Surgical Tech program held its inaugural “white jacket” and CPCT pinning ceremony on Jan. 24, honoring senior health science internship students who passed the National Healthcareer Association Certified Patient Care Technician exam.
At the ceremony, each student received a medical white scrub jacket, a patient care technician pin and a custom keepsake wooden coat hanger engraved with their last name and “Class of 2023” to commemorate the occasion.
During the ceremony, each intern stepped up to the podium and dedicated their pins to those they felt made an indelible impact on their success.
Following the ceremony, attendees enjoyed a reception in Chelsea High School’s surgical tech classroom and simulation lab.
Cassidy Reynolds created and student-led this special event as an annual rite of passage that future CHHS Health Science Internship students can look forward to and work toward.
"I have always wanted to start an annual tradition here at Chelsea High School, and my
idea of a miniature, high school version of a medical white coat ceremony was the perfect fit for the tradition that I wanted to leave behind me, as I move into college in one more short school year," Reynolds said.
Andrea Maddox, who teaches the health science classes at Chelsea High School said the event was a fantastic day and a lot of hard work and planning went into the student-led event.
“Cassidy Reynolds cast a vision for this wonderful ceremony and she worked tirelessly to see it come together,” Maddox said.
“I can't thank her enough for wanting to honor her peers in such a meaningful way and for committing so much of her time and effort into creating an event our program will be able to celebrate for years to come.”
The clinical interns achieved a 100% pass rate on the National Healthcareer Association Certified Patient Care Technician exam, earning the privilege to attend hands-on patient care clinicals and observe surgical procedures this semester at Shelby Baptist Medical Center and Heart South Cardiovascular Center. – Submitted by Andrea Maddox.
When people with extraordinary talent and passion are given the technology, the facilities, and the support, they achieve great things. The discoveries taking place today will help shape the future of treatments and lead to cures – benefitting not only our patients and families, but people across the country and around the world for years to come.
A20 • March 2023 280 Living
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Principal Brandon Turner, Shelby County BOE member Amber Polk, Superintendent Lewis Brooks, CTEC coordinator Julie Godfrey and their instructor, Andrea Maddox. Photo courtesy of Cindy Warner.
Showcasing their talent
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
Students from Shelby County Schools gave visitors a glimpse into their classrooms during the Shelby County Showcase of Schools. The event was held on Feb. 9 at the Shelby County Instructional Services Institute.
During the interactive showcase, students from schools in the 280 Living coverage area were fea-
tured in three different areas: innovative classrooms, career and technical education and STEM.
In the innovative classroom, the Imagination Lab from Chelsea Park Elementary was featured along with Oak Mountain Middle School’s sixth grade math themed units.
For career and technical education, Chelsea High School’s surgical tech program was on display along with Project Lead The Way/Engineering from Oak
Mountain Middle School.
The STEM room featured 3-D printing and STEAM by English Language Arts classes at Chelsea Middle School and the STEM-infused classroom from Oak Mountain Elementary.
Will Ross of Chelsea High School served as the emcee for the showcase and Oak Mountain High School’s a capella choir, Pinnacle, performed a two-song set for the crowd.
280Living.com March 2023 • A21
Photos by Leah Ingram Eagle.
Local teachers honored with Teachers of the Year awards
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
Teachers of the Year were recently selected throughout the Shelby County school district. Here’s a look at the winning teachers in the 280 Living coverage area.
OAK MOUNTAIN ELEMENTARY JANICE LAZARRE, KINDERGARTEN
► How many years have you been teaching? I have taught 30 years here in kindergarten at Oak Mountain Elementary. It is sometimes hard to wrap my head around the fact that I have walked into this building, walked these halls for 30 years. I
am so thankful!
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? My favorite part of being a teacher is the privilege of being a part of these little lives and their families. I have been so blessed to have been placed here and to serve these students. It is when you realize that you “get to do this” every day, and from there you find joy. It is such a sweet gift when you hear from former students and their families. You just pray that what you are doing is making a difference in some of their lives.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? This is my first time to receive this honor and I do appreciate and cherish it, especially since I will be retiring this year.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? I would like my students to remember that they were a part of a special family — Ms. Lazarre's SuperStars — that they are loved and valued. I want them to know that I believe in them, that they can be leaders and be successful.
MT LAUREL ELEMENTARY HALEY KING, THIRD GRADE
► How many years have you been teaching? I have been teaching for 18 years.
► How long have you been at your current school?
I have been at Mt Laurel Elementary for 13 years.
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? My favorite thing about being a teacher is getting to know each student and seeing their relationship with me and the other students develop over the school year. We are definitely a family!
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? This is my first time being nominated for Teacher of the Year.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? I hope that my students will look back and remember third grade being FUN. It was my favorite year in school. If nothing else, I hope they leave me with a passion for reading!
INVERNESS ELEMENTARY LIZZIE VANSANT, READING COACH
► How many years have you been teaching? 12 years.
► How long have you been at your current school? 2 years.
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? The ability to make an impact not only with children, but also with colleagues. I love being able to support my colleagues in a professional environment to build capacity within our district.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? Yes, in my previous district in 2020.
► What do you want your students to
remember most about having you as their teacher? I want students to remember feeling respected and cared for. All the flashy stuff can entertain, but it’s the steady check-ins and conversations that keeps them connected to us. I want them to remember the little conversations where I’ve stopped and showed concern.
OAK MOUNTAIN INTERMEDIATE TERESA BRUNETTI, SPECIAL EDUCATION
► How many years have you been teaching? 26 years
► How long have you been at your current school?
About 9.5 years so far. I taught at Oak Mountain Intermediate School in the early 2000s and returned to OMIS in 2017.
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? As a special education teacher, I believe that it is my task to determine the best way for a student to demonstrate their learning. I have seen a student that rarely speaks start smiling when he is able to read a story aloud. I have seen a non-verbal student learn phonics and start spelling words on his communication device. Teaching is all about those moments in the classroom when students realize that they are capable learners. My goal is to help my students realize they can achieve regardless of the challenges they face.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? Yes. I was nominated for Teacher of the Year in Sylacauga when I taught at Pinecrest Elementary School. I was also nominated for Teacher of the Year in Tallapoosa County Schools.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? Sometimes, when a student has a disability, learning new tasks tends to come with a lot of “I can’t” statements. “I can’t read the sentence. I can’t do the math problem.” Students may give up easily and become frustrated. As a self-contained special education teacher working with students that are functioning significantly below grade level, I feel that it is important that I encourage students to believe in themselves as learners and doers. I want my students to leave me feeling confident, supported and successful through their learning experiences. I want to see my students become inspired to say, “I can do this!”
OAK MOUNTAIN MIDDLE JEFF NORRIS, SIXTH GRADE MATH
► How many years have you been teaching? I have been in education for 18 years. I have taught in the elementary classroom and gifted education classroom, been an assistant principal and principal and now I am teaching at the middle school level.
► How long have you been at your current school? This is my third year at Oak Mountain Middle School. This is my first year teaching sixth grade math. Prior to that, I taught sixth grade Advanced English Language Arts.
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? Todd Whitaker says “The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The
hardest thing is that it matters every day.” I would agree with him. I strongly believe that teachers have the opportunity to make a difference each day in the lives of their students. I count it a privilege and joy and also take it very seriously.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? Yes, in 2011 I was Chelsea Intermediate School’s Teacher of the Year and selected as the Shelby County Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year. I was also a Top 5 finalist for the Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? I always tell my students I want to be their hardest class and their favorite class; if that happens, I will feel successful. I hope they'll remember the community we built in our classroom and that learning can be fun.
OAK MOUNTAIN HIGH SCHOOL EMILY ROBERTS , HONORS ALGEBRA 2 W/ STATISTICS
► How many years have you been teaching? 20 years, all at Oak Mountain High School
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? I love seeing students succeed. From improvement in math class to getting a role in the school play, playing well on the court to being promoted to manager at a job, success looks as different as the students we teach. I’m thankful to have a front row seat and celebrate with them on their journey.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? No, this is the first time I have been selected as Oak Mountain’s Teacher of the Year
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? I certainly hope my students learn a little math that will help them in their future, but more than anything, I want them to know they are valued and are capable of making an impact on their community.
FOREST OAKS ELEMENTARY JANA BAKER, FIFTH GRADE
► How many years have you been teaching? This is my seventh year.
► How long have you been at your current school? This is my third year in Shelby County and at Forest Oaks Elementary. I taught at Pinecrest Elementary in Sylacauga for four years before coming to Shelby County.
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? I enjoy interacting with the students and seeing them enjoy learning — especially when they enter my class on the first day of school not-so-excited about learning. I like feeling like I’ve made them enjoy the process even though it is sometimes difficult.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? No.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? I hope they remember that I cared about them as humans first, and learners second. I push my students to grow beyond what they are sometimes comfortable with, but when they see they can do things they did not think were possible, I want them to remember that feeling and develop a love for learning. I have found that moment does not happen until they realize that I actually care about them as a person first.
CHELSEA PARK ELEMENTARY SARAH COOLEY, FIRST GRADE
► How many years have you been teaching? 17 years
► How long have you been at your current school? 15 years
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher?
Teaching first grade, I love being the foundation for learning. It brings me joy to see my students excited about learning and to help them to develop their own gifts and talents.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? No, this is my first nomination.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? I hope they remember me as someone who showed them that learning is an adventure that doesn’t end when we leave school. I hope they have fun memories and felt loved while they were in my care.
CHELSEA MIDDLE RACHEAL TRICE, FAMILY AND CONSUMER SCIENCES
► How many years have you been teaching? 10 Years
► How long have you been at your current school?
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher?
Getting to see my students’ excitement when they accomplish a goal and then getting to celebrate that accomplishment with them. School can bring extra pressures and I love being their go-to teacher when they need a shoulder to lean on or someone to encourage them.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? No.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? That I created a relaxed learning environment that let them escape from the pressures of school and life. Hopefully they will also remember the fun food labs they got to participate in.
CHELSEA HIGH SCHOOL NOEMI BLAIR, ELL
► How many years have you been teaching? I have been teaching for 17 years.
► How long have you been at your current school? This is my sixth year at Chelsea High School.
► What’s your favorite part of being a teacher? My favorite part of being a teacher is the opportunity to have a positive impact in students’ lives and education.
► Have you been nominated for Teacher of the Year before? Yes, I was Teacher of the Year for Chelsea in 2019. I was Teacher of the Year at Benjamin Russell High School in 20162017 and Teacher of the Year at Childersburg High School in 2008-2009.
► What do you want your students to remember most about having you as their teacher? I hope my students remember how important their education is to me and that each student felt successful in my class.
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OMHS Color Run celebrates 10th year
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
The Oak Mountain Student Government Association will host the 10th annual Color Run this month benefitting the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Merrin Tommie will serve as this year’s Color Run committee chair. She was elected to the position by her classmates. She’s participated in the event the past three years and is looking forward to spearheading it this year.
“I love the Color Run and think it's a great cause,” Tommie said. “It's been really fun to be involved with it and I've been on the committee all four years of high school.”
In addition to raising money for a good cause, Tommie’s favorite part of the event is the group picture taken after the race, where the students throw paint all at once and reveal how much money is raised.
Lauren Ingram is in her fourth year as SGA sponsor. She came in knowing the event was a big undertaking and was so proud of the way the 56 students in the group worked hard to pull it off.
“They are so responsible,” Ingram said. “They take ownership of this and know the importance of it. These kids show up at 6 a.m. and stay there until noon and they are going and going. They really do such a fantastic job and I’m always blown away.”
Ingram said this year will be extra special to her after losing her grandmother to cancer in December 2022.
“We know that so many people are affected by cancer and they work extra hard to make sure we raise funds for research and to find a cure,” she said.
The Color Run draws anywhere from 250
to 500 runners, plus walk-ups. Last year’s race raised around $20,000, and Ingram said the goal is always to raise more money than the previous year.
After the run is complete, Tommie and another SGA student will visit UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center to present the check.
Every race participant will receive a bag filled with items from the sponsors. T-shirts are not included but can be purchased online and there
The 2023 Oak Mountain High School color run is scheduled for March 11 at Oak Mountain State Park.
will be some available on the day of the race. The race will take place at the Dogwood Pavilion at Oak Mountain State Park on Saturday, March 11, with registration at 8:30 a.m. The 5K race starts at 9 a.m. and the 1-mile fun run at 10 a.m. Fees for both races are: age 12 and under, $15; age 13 and older, $25; Team 5K, $20; sleep in or virtual run, $25.
Registration is open at oakmountainsga. mypixieset.com/omcolorrun2023/.
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Fundraiser is ‘for the birds’
By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE
The Alabama Wildlife Center is hosting an inaugural charity event this month.
For the Birds will replace the AWC’s long-running fundraising event, Wild About Chocolate, and will also feature elements from the previous Chirps and Chips fundraiser.
It will be held at the Harbert Center downtown at 2019 4th Ave. N. on Saturday, March 4, from 6 to 9:30 p.m.
The event is more than a fundraiser; it’s a celebration of the AWC’s 45th year. For the Birds will feature dinner, drinks, live music, dancing, casino games, a silent auction and more.
This will be the first big fundraiser for Chris Sykes, who was named the executive director of the Alabama Wildlife Center in March 2022.
“I have attended Wild About Chocolate and Chirps and Chips and liked aspects of both,” he said. “I thought — let’s just mix them. It will feel more like a celebration and party to reflect
on all the AWC has done in the past.”
Guests will also get to meet the AWC’s two newest education birds, a Mississippi kite and a white (leucistic) red-tailed hawk.
Since the AWC just celebrated its 45th year, Sykes said the goal is to raise $45,000. Around 200 tickets will be available, priced at $50 per person. If the event isn’t sold out, tickets may be purchased at the door the night of the event. All of the proceeds will go to support the mission of the AWC, supporting the clinic and the education department.
The Alabama Wildlife Center cares for almost 2,000 wild bird patients from more than 100 species each year at their clinic located inside Oak Mountain State Park. The AWC also offers a wildlife help line and presents education programs.
Sykes said for those who can’t attend the fundraiser or just want to give to the AWC, donations can be made on the website. For information and tickets, visit alabama wildlifecenter.org/for-the-birds.
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Betty White, a leucistic red-tailed hawk, is one of the newest education birds at the Alabama Wildlife Center. Photo courtesy of Chris Sykes.
CONTINUED from page A1
“If we were a corporation, we would be handing out large bonuses to everybody.”
Hoover police also were able to make arrests in 60% of their robbery cases in 2022, compared to a national violent crime clearance rate of 32.5% (for 2021), Lowe said.
Weapons law violations in Hoover were down 24% from 95 in 2021 to 72 in 2022, while burglaries dropped 9% from 129 to 117, thefts of vehicles fell 7% from 130 to 121 and assaults were down 2% from 848 to 827.
Of those assaults, 678 were simple assaults, 86 were cases of intimidation, 28 were felony domestic violence cases, 25 were other felony assaults, 5 were discharges of firearms into an occupied dwelling, 3 were child abuse cases and 2 were throwing or shooting a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle.
Overall, the number of crimes reported in Hoover in categories reported to the FBI increased 4%, from 4,016 crimes in 2021 to 4,184 in 2022. Arrests were up 7% from 2,753 to 2,935.
COUNTERFEITING, FORGERY AND FRAUD
One of the biggest increases was in counterfeiting and forgery cases, which rose 61% from 75 to 121.
Some of that increase comes from in-person counterfeiting and forgery, but a lot more criminals are victimizing and scamming people using technology, Lowe said. Many times, it’s over the phone or through email, and unfortunately, a lot of times the victims are elderly people, he said.
Fraud offenses — which include impersonation, swindling, stealing through false pretenses and credit card fraud — remained relatively stable in 2022, but there were still 430 fraud offenses reported in Hoover for the year.
Derzis said a lot of phone scams originate outside the United States, sometimes with 150 to 200 people in the same room making phone calls to rip people off. “All it takes is a very, very small percentage of those phone calls to make somebody’s life miserable here,” sometimes stealing $10,000 to $50,000 from people by gaining their personal and/or financial information, he said.
There is little the police can do against those international scam operations, he said.
Common scams include outdated warranties and people claiming that there is an arrest warrant out for the victim and demanding some sort of payment to avoid prosecution, he said.
People need to remember that reputable companies, organizations and the Internal Revenue Service generally won’t make calls to you and ask for your personal information over the phone, Lowe said.
Derzis said it’s hard to believe some people agree to buy gift cards to resolve an alleged problem or stay out of trouble, but unfortunately they do. People should contact the police if they have any doubt instead of paying money or sending gift cards, he said.
The number of drug offenses rose 20% from 543 in 2021 to 650 in 2022, with the largest increase coming in marijuana cases. The number of marijuana possession cases rose 33% from 208 to 276.
Lowe said a lot of the increase in drug cases could be attributed to officers being more proactive and observant in traffic stops and encounters with the public.
Police Capt. Keith Czeskleba said there’s probably the same amount
of marijuana out there now as there always has been, but police found it more often in 2022 because they were making more traffic stops. In early 2021, police still were limiting the number of officer-initiated encounters with the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Czeskleba said.
In 2022, there also were 187 drug equipment violations, 173 cases of controlled substance possession, 7 controlled substance distribution cases, 3 cases of drug trafficking and 2 cases of promoting prison contraband.
Derzis noted that there were 10 drug overdose deaths in 2022: seven from fentanyl, two from an unknown substance and one from a sedative or opioid. That was fewer deaths than
in the past several years, and most of the people were generally 30 to 40 years old, Derzis said.
Meanwhile, the number of drug overdose victims saved increased (by about 10) to 49, the chief said. Of those, 26 were heroin overdoses, 12 were fentanyl overdoses, and the rest were an overdose of some sort of opioid combination, he said.
The majority of those rescues were the result of someone administering Narcan to the victim, whether it was someone with the victim, police or paramedics, Derzis said.
A lot of politicians and health care professionals have been advocating to make drug-testing strips more available to people so they can determine if their drugs are laced with fentanyl, Derzis said. That’s
Hoover every day,” he said.
HOMICIDES AND SEX OFFENSES
Hoover had four homicides in 2022, up from two the previous year. Police made arrests in each of the cases, with the defendants still awaiting trial.
The first occurred Jan. 29, when 25-year-old Madison Shea Pilkington was found dead in her apartment at The Halston apartment complex off Old Rocky Ridge Road. Evidence indicated she died as the result of an assault, and police charged her boyfriend, 32-year-old Cortez Lenard Warren of Hoover, with murder.
The second homicide happened Aug. 3 at the Marathon gasoline station at 5423 U.S. 280, when 19-yearold Sophia Nicole Zeigler was shot to death during an argument. Police charged an acquaintance of hers, 24-year-old Skylar Jacquel Dorsey of Trussville, with capital murder.
The final two homicides of 2022 happened Oct. 1 at The Park at Hoover apartment complex when two women, 39-year-old Lauren Anne White and 24-year-old Blakeley Meachelle Nelson, were shot to death. Police charged an acquaintance, 21-year-old Daxton Elliot Keith of Alabaster, and 20-year-old An’Ton Je’Ho Ram Lewis of Birmingham with capital murder.
There were 20 sex offenses reported in 2022, including 14 rapes and 2 cases each of sodomy, fondling and sexual assault with an object.
Domestic violence offenses declined 11% from 522 to 463, but the number of other types of domestic incidents increased 12% from 409 to 460.
Derzis said he was pleased to see the number of auto burglaries decline slightly from 371 to 361, but particularly happy to see the number of guns being stolen from vehicles decline. Hoover police in March of last year launched a “Lock it or lose it” campaign after having 113 guns stolen from vehicles in Hoover in 2021 and 480 guns stolen from vehicles over the previous five years. As of December 2022, the number of guns stolen from vehicles was down by more than 50%, the chief said.
“That to me is very significant,” Derzis said. “I think the citizenry has been listening. … That’s not to say we still don’t have UBEVs [unlawful breaking and entering of vehicles] or don’t have unlocked cars, but maybe people are at least taking their guns inside.”
Derzis said a lot of the credit for decreased crime belongs to the public because people are calling police when they see suspicious things and responding to requests for help in solving crimes.
a great idea to save people, but “I have yet to hear one say ‘Maybe it’s not a good idea to do illegal drugs,’ or ‘What are we doing to try to get people off of them?’” Derzis said.
Police have to deal with the effects of the drug epidemic, he said. “People who are addicted to drugs commit crimes, but nobody wants to talk about that.”
Also, almost all the drugs coming into the United States today are coming from Mexico, Derzis said. “There is no border security right now,” he said.
Hoover police are doing the best they can to combat illegal drug activity, but border security is primarily a federal issue, he said. That said, “what takes place at that level is affecting people in the city of
The department’s social media team does a fantastic job sharing what’s happening and soliciting feedback, he said. Since 2014, the department’s number of followers has increased from 5,000 to 42,000 on Facebook, 3,000 to 15,000 on Twitter, zero to 3,900 on Instagram and zero to more than 32,000 on Nextdoor, Derzis said.
Recruiting officers to work in the department is more challenging than it once was — as it is for police departments across the country, Derzis said. However, the city recently increased starting pay rates to $57,304 for people not yet certified as officers who have to go to an academy and a range of $60,174 to $66,352 for those already certified. Officers can be paid up to $88,920.
The higher pay has helped increase interest, Derzis said. “We’re certainly doing everything in our power to attract the kind of caliber of people we want to hire,” he said. “We’re looking for the best possible candidates.”
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The biggest reason for the overall decline is the rise in interest rates, Realtors and builders say.
The average interest rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage had fallen below 3% after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, dropping as low as 2.65% in January 2021. That was the lowest rate in history and encouraged many people to move or build because they could borrow money at a cheaper price and afford a bigger house.
The market was incredibly busy in 2021 and early 2022. Some people were buying houses without inspections and paying way over asking price in order to win bidding wars, said Gwen Vinzant, a Realtor with RealtySouth’s Inverness office who has been in the business about 35 years.
The housing inventory was so low and demand was so strong that housing prices escalated quickly, Vinzant said. Some home prices went up $100,000 in one year, she said.
Higher costs for building materials also increased the price for new homes, said Jonathan Belcher, president of Signature Homes. The cost of lumber in 2020 and 2021 was 37% above historical averages, according to the National Association of Home Builders, but it since has dropped back down some. Other building materials such as concrete, gypsum and steel also saw rapid price increases during that time.
Since 2018, the price per square foot for new home construction in the 35043 zip code has risen 53%, from $119 per square foot to $182 per square foot, MLS data shows. Average new home prices in the 35043 zip code climbed from $275,460 to $460,149 over that four-year period.
In the 35242 zip code, the cost-persquare-foot increase was less dramatic — a 21% percent increase from $173 per square foot to $210 per square foot. Average home prices in 35242 rose from $535,099 in 2018 to $642,830 in 2022.
Existing home prices also continued escalating in 2022. In the 35043 zip code, existing home prices climbed 13%, from $347,754 in 2021 to $393,189 in 2022, MLS data shows. In the 35242 zip code, existing home prices rose 12%, from $496,491 to $555,857.
But 2022 really could be divided into two parts, said Donald Morgan, who has been the broker for RE/MAX Southern Homes’ 280 office in Inverness for about 20 years. The first part of the year remained very strong as interest rates remained relatively low,
but things started to change in the fall when interest rates started climbing more briskly, Morgan said.
The Federal Reserve throughout 2022 steadily raised short-term interest rates in an effort to control inflation. The result was that the average 30-year mortgage rate edged up from 2.75% in December 2021 to 4% in March, 5.25% in May and 7% in October, according to Freddie Mac.
The higher rates pushed some potential homebuyers out of the market, slowing down sales for both new and existing homes.
“The market just tanked,” Morgan said.
That end-of-the-year slowdown caused some sellers to reduce their asking prices and cut down on the crazy bidding wars, Vinzant said.
More recently, mortgage rates have stabilized and even dropped some. As of mid-February, the average 30-year mortgage rate was about 6.75%.
“We’re kind of getting back to a normal rate of buying,”Vinzant said.
She said she expects rates could fall further to 5.25% this spring and maybe below 5% again by the end of the year.
In the meantime, inventory remains low, which is keeping prices healthy for sellers, Morgan said. “We’ve got buyers, but we don’t have the sellers,” he said.
In the 35043 zip code, there was only about 1½ months’ supply of existing homes for sale as of mid-February and less than a month’s supply in the 35242 zip code, according to MLS data. There was a greater supply of new homes — about six months in the 35242 zip code and seven months in the 35043 zip code.
Morgan said he is still seeing more cash sales than usual. Normally, about 20% of the market is cash sales, but now it’s closer to 35%, he said. “Cash is king.”
Even though it’s a healthy market, it’s still a tough time for real estate agents because some companies recruit and hire anybody and everybody they can, Morgan said. There probably are 5,000 to 6,000 agents in the area right now, and “Birmingham just isn’t big enough to sustain that many agents,” he said.
Josh Osborne, manager of planning and community development for Shelby County, said he expects home building to continue at a strong pace in 2023 due to the low inventory. He is not seeing any downturn in permits to build new homes, he said.
MLS data in mid-February showed pending contracts for 80 new homes in the 35043 and 35242 zip codes and 118 other new homes up for sale.
Harris Doyle Homes is working on the first 28 lots of a 174-home subdivision
A28 • March 2023 280 Living
Open land for new homes in the South Point community of Chelsea Park. Photo by Erin Nelson.
called Hillsong near Mt Laurel, and Dominion South Oak is working on about 78 lots in the 3-acre range along Shelby County 41 near Shoal Creek, Osborne said. Meanwhile, D.R. Horton is beginning to build houses on 55 lots in a community called Oak Tree
near The Narrows and continues working with other builders in Chelsea Park, which was the most active spot for home building in 2022.
Also, Signature Homes in early summer plans to start construction on 120 townho-
mes in a community called Windsor Court along U.S. 280 across from the Walmart Supercenter in Hoover. Belcher said his company expects to complete 30 to 40 of those in 2023.
Christie Hester, director of development
services for Shelby County, said she believes the housing industry has kind of reached a “new normal” level of activity. However, any increases in interest rates or changes in the supply chain could alter those dynamics at any point, she said.
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Mortgage rates have risen. Now what?
Local experts offer advice to potential homebuyers
By LOYD MCINTOSH
When the Federal Reserve raised interest rates in early February to combat inflation, one area of concern for many potential homebuyers was how the Fed’s actions would affect mortgage rates and their ability to afford a new home.
However, Clint Thompson, a mortgage officer with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. in Inverness, says the perception that mortgage rates automatically increase following a rise in interest rates is incorrect. “There is always misinformation out there when people hear what the Federal Reserve is doing. They think, ‘Oh gosh, mortgage rates jumped a quarter of a percent,’” Thompson said.
While it is true that interest rates and other signals from the Federal Reserve influence the economy, Thompson said mortgage rates are more closely related to inflation rates than direct action from the Federal Reserve. Thompson explained that the interest rate hike should eventually have the opposite effect on mortgage rates if inflation slows.
“Mortgage rates can come down when the Fed makes a hike, because overall it’s more about inflation than interest rates,” Thompson said. “You may see that 30-year mortgage rates actually improve because the markets interpret that as a positive move.”
Largely due to government spending during the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. inflation rate grew at a rate of 6.5% in 2022, according to data published by the U.S. Department of Labor in mid-December, after growing to 7.1% in 2021.
Among the areas the government spent additional funds, according to Thompson, were mortgage-backed securities and treasuries, which kept mortgage rates from organically adjusting to
market forces, a concept known as “quantitative easing.”
“The Fed basically ignored the whole inflation factor and continued to buy treasuries and mortgage-backed securities,” Thompson said. “That artificially kept interest rates down close to 3%.”
As the government slowed quantitative easing measures over the past 12 months and raised interest rates in February, mortgage rates rose from an average of 3% for a typical 30-year mortgage to just over 6% in under a year, While the rapid rise may create sticker shock among homebuyers, Thompson said the market is responding organically to the Federal Reserve’s policies and, although mortgage rates spiked to more than 7% recently, potential homebuyers should start seeing rates lower in the second and third quarter of 2023.
“We’ll just have to see how it all plays out, but the consensus is we should see 30-year mortgage rates close to 5%, maybe even just a fraction below 5%, sometime this summer,” Thompson said.
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Fred Smith, owner and operator of The Fred Smith Group RealtySouth agency in Crestline, said the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike may finally return the local real estate market to a much-needed state of normalcy. Smith said the economic conditions of 2020 through 2022 created unnatural conditions in the market that should stabilize now that mortgage rates have risen.
“People are getting used to the rates. It’s not like they’ve gone up to something that’s unreasonable. They’ve normalized,” Smith said.
“2019 was the last normal market. Then we had 2020, and we worked our way through that market, then we entered a seller’s market in 2021 and 2022 with bidding wars and all that kind of stuff,” Smith said. “Now, I feel it’s going to be a normal 2023.”
With 30-year fixed mortgage rates hovering at 6.9% and housing prices on the rise, what do the current conditions mean for the average homebuyer? Smith and Thompson both recognize that affordability is a factor in many cases but said
there are solid reasons to purchase a home now, especially if you’re renting.
“All of the great reasons for buying a house still exist,” Smith said. “We haven’t seen as good of a time to buy for renters, with rent rates going up 20 to 30% in the last two years.”
For homebuyers for whom a one-point or twopoint rise in rates could cause monthly-payment sticker shock, Smith suggested a couple of strategies. First, he said an interest rate buydown is a viable option or an adjustable rate mortgage, especially for new homebuyers likely to move within five years of their purchase.
“In Crestline, the average homebuyer lives there less than seven years,” Smith said. “If they get a seven-year ARM and they’re moving about every five years, why have a 30-year fixed rate when you can take advantage of a lower interest rate?”
Thompson, who said he believes mortgage rates should settle back down to 3 or 4% over the next few years, suggests a two-for-one buydown mortgage. This option allows the homebuyer to pay 2% lower than the actual rate for the first year of the mortgage, then 1% lower for the second year, then the rate increases to the regular rate in the third year.
At current rates, a homebuyer would pay 4.9% in year one, 5.9% in year two, then 6.9% for the remainder of the loan or, Thompson said, refinance prior to year three.
“If the experts are right,” he said, “that person’s never going to make a payment in the sixes because interest rates will have come down close to 5% and we would have refinanced down before then. So, a two-for-one buydown option can help with affordability.”
Smith also offered one more piece of advice, reminding potential homebuyers they are allowed to write their home’s interest off their taxes. “I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter, but the benefit of being able to write off that additional interest is a wash,” Smith said. “It almost doesn’t matter, because that interest deduction can overcome the difference in that increased interest rate.”
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Local teams become area foes
By KYLE PARMLEY
The 2023 high school baseball season is here, and as always, the teams in the greater Birmingham area are expected to be strong. Briarwood competes in Class 6A, while Chelsea, Oak Mountain and Spain Park are all part of 7A, Area 6 this spring.
Here is a look at each team’s prospects entering the spring.
LIONS POSSESS NECESSARY EXPERIENCE
The Briarwood Christian School baseball team entered last season with plenty of questions that did not yet have answers. But this spring, the Lions have a solid feel for the roster and have several key players back from last year.
“Last year, we had eight new kids playing, but now they’ve got experience,” said head coach Steve Renfroe, entering his 13th year with the program.
Renfroe went so far to say there is legitimate competition at several positions, something Briarwood has not been fortunate enough to have much of in recent years.
Across the infield, Jackson Adams at shortstop, Jake Souders at third base and Sam Hoff at second base provide the Lions with solid known commodities. Renfroe called Adams one of the best defensive shortstops he’s had in his time at Briarwood. Souders has really come on in the preseason, particularly with his bat. Hoff has gotten stronger and quicker as well.
Briarwood will be deep on the mound as well.
Jonathan Stevens, Brayden Heaps, Casen Heaps, Souders and Cooper Higgins will all be among a pitching staff with variety and depth.
“There’s a number of other guys that are there and can help us,” Renfroe said.
Briarwood is in Class 6A, Area 7 with Pelham and McAdory this season. The Lions will also play Hewitt-Trussville, Oak Mountain, Spain Park, Vestavia Hills, Chelsea and Auburn.
HORNETS READY FOR JUMP TO 7A
The Chelsea High School baseball program has been on quite a run in recent years. The Hornets have gotten to at least the quarterfinals in three of the last four years while competing in Class 6A. As they move to 7A, they have no plans to
Park’s Cole Edwards (4) gets set to catch a throw at first as Mountain Brook’s Charlie Berryman (8) tags the base during the Buc Classic spring break tournament in March 2022.
alter course now. Chelsea will compete in Area 6 against Oak Mountain, Hewitt-Trussville and Spain Park, three programs that enter each season with championship aspirations.
“We’re going about business as normal,”
| page B5
B SECTION MarCh 2023 Sports B4 Summer Camp Guide B11 Opinion B14 Calendar B15 bedzzzexpress.com
Photo by Erin Nelson.
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Shane McComb takes over as Eagles football coach
By KYLE PARMLEY
It’s safe to say no one had Shane McComb on any short lists predicting the next Oak Mountain High School football coach.
McComb was approved as the Eagles head coach Jan. 26, following seven years as the head coach at Palm Desert High School in California.
How does one get to Alabama from southern California?
“Football, man,” McComb said on Jan. 30, the day he met with the community and his team for the first time at the school.
Football has taken McComb to several different states. He played collegiately at Upper Iowa University and has had coaching stops along the way in Illinois, New Mexico and back in southern California, near where he grew up.
“Football has taken me a lot of places,” he said. “Probably nowhere better than Birmingham, so we’re excited to be here. It’s a place I want to raise my family.”
McComb comes from Palm Desert High, where he coached for seven years, winning district championships each of the last six seasons. Once he got the right people and processes in place, the team took off, posting a 33-2 conference record over the last six years.
“Clear expectations from the whole entire program,” McComb said, when asked what makes a successful football program. “That means parents, administration, myself, coaches and the boys. Everybody needs to know what their role is, what they’ve got to do, what’s expected of them, how it’s expected to be done.”
McComb has already integrated the motto “One Unit All In” into the framework of the Oak Mountain program. Put simply, it means doing everything together and being committed to the process.
“Every team has a phrase, and when you’re living that phrase, that’s when you’re successful,” he said.
McComb said he was sold on the job by Oak Mountain High Principal Andrew Gunn, saying he has turned down a couple jobs in the Southeast in recent years because they didn’t seem like the right fit for him.
“Mr. Gunn sold me, it’s as simple as I could say,” McComb said. “He has a vision, he knows what he wants and I truly believe he’s going to do everything he can with the resources that he will make available to make sure we have what we need to get there.”
McComb described his ideal team as being balanced offensively and able to do different things defensively.
“I just want kids to play hard and know what they’re doing,” he said.
Even being nearly 2,000 miles away, McComb knows about the football programs at Thompson and Hoover, now his Class 7A, Region 3 opponents. But he was quick to note that he has learned already about the likes of Vestavia Hills, Hewitt-Trussville, Spain Park, Chelsea and Tuscaloosa County.
“I’m excited for the challenge,” he said. “The league we’re coming from, every game in the league was tough and that’s the way I’m looking at it.”
Oak Mountain finished with a 3-7 record last year under Tyler Crane, who led the Eagles for two seasons. McComb will arrive at the school full time in April, set to establish his program with a heavy emphasis on the weight room.
“On June 12, summer ball starts and the full staff will be here,” he said. “That will lead right into next year’s schedule, which is going to keep us in football together year-round, the way a program’s got to do.”
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Shane McComb, Oak Mountain High School’s new head football coach. Photo by Erin Nelson.
BASEBALL CONTINUED from page B1
head coach Michael Stallings said. “Everybody is excited about the upcoming season.”
Chelsea has several players back from last season, including a couple key pitchers. Kaden Heatherly will anchor the pitching staff this spring. He was a starter much of last season, then provided key innings out of the bullpen late in the year. Steven Shelton started several games last spring as well and is back to take on a big role.
Among the position players, senior Chris McNeill is back in center field. He will hit at the top of the order and wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Walker Thomas played a role primarily as a designated hitter last year, but now he will step into a role as the primary catcher. Jackson Morgan is back on the infield as well.
Mississippi State commit Kaleb Hester is back from injury and will be a big factor in the team’s success. Infielder Bryson Mormon could see time at a few infield positions and will likely contribute on the mound as well. Logan Moller and Jason Neal join the varsity team this year expecting to make an impact.
EAGLES LEANING ON RETURNING PITCHERS
The Oak Mountain High School baseball team has plenty to figure out as the 2023 season gets underway. The Eagles lost several contributors from a team that came up a little shy of the playoffs last season.
Oak Mountain entered the final series of the regular season with a chance to win the area. But the Eagles lost the series and missed the postseason altogether.
“It’s just a reminder to all of us that in our area, how thin the margin for error is,” head coach Derek Irons said. “You could point to 30 different plays over the course of our area games and if one of them changes, we may go from missing the playoffs to area champs.”
Oak Mountain swapped from Class 7A, Area 5, to Area 6 this season. Now, the Eagles will be competing against Spain Park, Hewitt-Trussville and Chelsea. As Irons joked, the area “went from very hard to very hard.”
Matt Heiberger, a University of Alabama commit, is back to anchor the team’s pitching staff. Juniors Nick McCord and Kevin Jasinski pitched some last yea, but will be expected to shoulder a heavy load this year.
When not on the mound, Heiberger plays in the outfield, McCord plays shortstop and Jasinski holds down third base.
Seniors Garrison Kahn and John Romei will be relied upon to bolster the pitching staff, while outfielder Trey Kocks and Carter Kimbrell have a chance to be key players as well. Look for catcher Peyton Parkinson and infielder Matthew Senter to contribute as well.
JAGS LOOKING FOR PLAYOFF RETURN
The fine line of missing the state playoffs or making a run to the state championship series is one the Spain Park High School baseball team is all too familiar with.
Such is life in Class 7A baseball in the greater Birmingham area. Last year, the Jags posted a strong season, putting together a record of 25-11. However, the Jags missed the playoffs by losing an area tiebreaker game to Vestavia Hills, which went on to make a run to the semifinals.
“It gives the kids a very good perspective of how close they were and how good those teams were,” Spain Park head coach Will Smith said. “Attention to detail and those small, minute things can be the difference between being in the playoffs or starting your summer.”
Spain Park has reason to believe that another successful season, albeit with a slightly better finish, could be on the horizon. The Jags have a roster with about seven starters back and 12 seniors, three of which will be in their third seasons starting on the varsity team. Cole Edwards, Evan Smallwood and Ryan Cole are experienced and Smith hopes to count on them for big things once again.
Chelsea’s Kaden Heatherly (18) pitches during the area championship game against Mountain Brook at Chelsea High School in April 2022.
Clay Spencer is back as the team’s catcher, while James Battersby, JR Thompson and Jacob Tobias are back as everyday players. Smith is also excited to see the emergence of Lucas Thornton as the pitching staff’s potential ace. As the team’s No. 2 starter last year, Thornton produced a 6-0 record in nearly 50 innings of work. Thompson threw plenty last year as a reliever and is on the way back from a knee injury. The Jags will also be searching for a few more pitchers to provide quality innings as well. Some other players that Smith mentioned as possible key contributors are infielders Aiden Berke, Richard Moon, Chapman Blevins and Jackson Bradley. Matthew Widra and Wes Blackmon have potential to bolster the lineup as well.
Spain Park will be in 7A, Area 6 this season with Chelsea, Hewitt-Trussville and Oak Mountain, all three of which have strong track records in recent years.
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High school softball preview
By KYLE PARMLEY
The high school softball season is back, with Briarwood, Chelsea, Oak Mountain and Spain Park aiming for big things in 2023.
HORNETS EMBRACING 7A CHALLENGE
The Chelsea softball team narrowly missed out on the Class 6A state tournament last year.
That undoubtedly stung, but the Hornets are hopeful the lessons learned from last year’s 20-20 campaign will pay off this spring.
“Having girls who have been through the program and understand the expectations and what we’re trying to achieve, it’s nice to have that leadership locked in,” Chelsea head coach Sara Gallman said.
Gallman was speaking mainly of Chelsea’s eight seniors, who have a chance to step into
Local teams ready to embrace challenges, continue progress
starring roles as the program takes on a tough challenge: Class 7A.
The Hornets are not going to hide from that fact, as they are now playing in Area 6 with Hewitt-Trussville, Oak Mountain and Spain Park.
“You’re the new team that people have to keep their eye on,” Gallman said. “I just want us to work hard, and I want other schools and other programs to think of Chelsea High School
as a winning program.”
The senior class is a strong one, as six of them have committed to continue playing beyond this spring. Center fielder Kathryn Bryars is headed to Samford University to play, pitcher Hardy Erwin and outfielder Morgan Erwin are going to Central Alabama Community College, pitcher and third baseman Julie Amacher is headed to Coastal Alabama Community College, Maia Harris will play at Marion Military
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Left: Oak Mountain’s Elizabeth Zaleski (22) makes the throw to first base in a game against Hoover at Jim Brown Field on April 13. Right: Briarwood’s Meredith Kellum (55) makes contact during an at-bat in game one of the Class 6A, Area 9 tournament against Chelsea at the Chelsea Sports Complex in May 2022. Photos by Erin Nelson.
Institute and catcher Abby Hibbs has signed with Anderson University.
Ava Morris and Maddison Cheatham are also seniors this year.
“We’ll have high expectations and expect them to be leaders of the team,” Gallman said of the group.
EAGLES CONTINUING TO BUILD
As Jordan Burson enters his third season as coach at Oak Mountain, he is excited about what his team will put on the field this year, as well as what is coming through the program in future years. There are three quality seniors on this year’s team. Infielder Elizabeth Zaleski, outfielder Emily Mackin and pitcher Kristian Carr will play out the final season of their high school careers and are looking to do so in successful fashion.
“We’re meshing really well and I’m excited to see what that group can do and lead us,” Burson said.
Other returning players for the Eagles include infielders Carolyn Graham and Alea Rye, catcher Anna DuBose and utility player Sheridan Andrews. Emma Hawkins has transferred into the program from Spain Park as well, an addition Burson said will be fun.
In addition to Carr in the circle, seventh grader Marian Cummings is expected to log plenty of innings for the Eagles. She’s one of many middle schoolers and young high schoolers that lead Burson to believe the future is bright as well.
“I’m fired up about our middle school and JV,” he said. “We’re going to have some pitching depth in the next year or two or three.”
Oak Mountain is in Class 7A, Area 6 with Hewitt-Trussville, Spain Park and newcomer Chelsea. It will be no easy feat to advance out of that area.
“We’re going to battle and hopefully find some success,” Burson said. “I know we can compete with all of those teams.”
LIONS READY TO GET STARTED
The Briarwood Christian School softball team is ready to hit the field this spring.
Head coach Ashley Segreto said she is excited to see what this season holds for a
“great group of girls.”
“The chemistry with this group is the best I have seen in a long time,” she said.
Junior Meredith Kellum returns as one of the top players on the team and could establish herself as one of the best in the area with the offensive prowess she has shown recently.
“She is truly a jack-of-all-trades,” Segreto said. “She is willing to play wherever she is needed and excel wherever she plays.”
The Lions’ roster features one senior this season in Callie Mann, who enters her sixth year in the program. Segreto said she has
absorbed lessons from seniors of years past and is putting those into practice for her final year with the program.
“She is the epitome of hard work and dedication to the game,” Segreto said. “The amount of improvement she has made from when she started playing for BCS in seventh grade is astounding.”
The Lions will compete in Class 6A, Area 8 this season alongside Helena and Pelham.
Helena was the state runner-up last season and Pelham has shown continued progress as a program in recent years.
“We want to continue to grow as a program, but more importantly, help give young women a platform to use their God-given gifts to glorify Christ through the amazing game of softball,” she said.
JAGS LOOK FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS
The Spain Park High School softball team is looking for another highly successful season in 2023.
The Jaguars have long been one of the top teams in Alabama in Class 7A, and it appears likely to remain that way this spring.
This year’s squad has three seniors in infielder Katie Flannery, pitcher Ella Reed and outfielder Blakley Watts. Ritenour is excited to see that trio lead the team on and off the field this season.
The program’s balance and strength across several grade levels will be a strength. The crop of freshmen and sophomores flashes great potential alongside the juniors and seniors leading the way.
Flannery has signed with the University of Oregon and is considered one of the top players in her class throughout the country. She hit 10 home runs and knocked in 50 runs a season ago. Reed won 20 games, struck out over 200 hitters and posted a sub-2.00 earned run average last year. Flannery and Reed were each named AllSouth Metro first team last spring.
Catcher Maggie Daniel, a UCLA commit, was also first team All-South Metro and returns for her junior season. In 2022, Daniel hit 14 homers and knocked in 53 runs in a stellar season.
Aside from the three seniors and Daniel, also returning from last year’s lineup is Charlee Bennett, a sophomore who played much of the year at second base.
The Jags will have stiff competition in its quest to return to and excel at the state tournament. Class 7A, Area 6 consists of Oak Mountain, Chelsea and Hewitt-Trussville this year. The top two teams from the area will face the top two from Area 5 (Hoover, Thompson, Vestavia Hills and Tuscaloosa County) at the regional tournament, with only two of those advancing to state.
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Chelsea’s Hardy Erwin (23) pitches in game one of the Class 6A, Area 9 tournament against Briarwood.
The Chelsea girls indoor track and field team walks up to claim the Class 7A state runner-up trophy at the Birmingham CrossPlex on Feb. 4.
Hornets girls claim 2nd at state indoor
By KYLE PARMLEY
The Chelsea High School girls indoor track and field team built upon its momentum from winning the Class 7A cross-country championship, following it up with a runner-up finish at the state indoor meet Feb. 4 at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
No one was catching Hoover, but the
Hornets scored 81 points to finish second, well clear of third-place Hewitt-Trussville’s 63 points.
“I’m super proud of the team, going up against all these well-established teams like Hewitt-Trussville, Vestavia Hills and Hoover,” Chelsea coach Trey Lee said. “All around, our girls had a really strong day, and they did their job. They were able to follow the race plan
and everything went off like we hoped and planned.”
Senior Cady McPhail had a phenomenal showing, taking home the top prize in all four of her events. McPhail set state records in the 800- and 1,600-meter runs, posting times of 2 minutes, 11 seconds, and 4 minutes, 57 seconds, respectively, to win those races. She also won the 3,200 in 10:56 and capped off the
sensational day by anchoring the 4x800-meter relay team, which won in 9:31. McPhail ran in that race with Mia Dunavant, Ty Cason and Tyndal Ann Griffith.
The 3,200 win was the most thrilling finish of the day, as the Auburn University signee overtook Huntsville’s Ava McIntosh in the final stretch to reclaim the lead and win the race.
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“In the last lap, I made my move to pass and my competition matched the move,” McPhail recalled. “I panicked for a split second, but then told myself, ‘How bad you want it?’ I dug a little deeper and found another gear and gave it my all.”
“You can’t ask for much more,” Lee added of McPhail, who posted the nation’s fastest 1,600 time earlier in the season. “With all her athletic ability, the fact that she said, ‘I’m going to do this for my team.’”
Also reaching the podium for the Hornets were Dunavant (third in the 800), Cason (third in the 1,600), Jadyn Debardlabon (third in long jump) and Alana McCulla (second in pole
vault). The 4x400 relay team of Dunavant, Lily Rigor, Griffith and Cason also finished second. Rigor (seventh in 60-meter hurdles), Dunavant (fifth in 400) and the 4x200 team of Callie Wright, Rigor, Debardlabon and Morgan Brewer (eighth) garnered a few more points for the team.
Juliette Edwards, Eryk Brown, Parker Campbell, Raymond Bridgeman, Javiion Mitchell, Ryker Mattes, Brandon Sims, Anden Peek, Jonathan Ludwig, Hudson Williams and Maddox Michael also took part for Chelsea.
Briarwood and Oak Mountain were also represented at the state meet.
Briarwood’s girls finished eighth in 6A.
Sallie Montgomery made it to the podium, placing third in the triple jump. Livi Reebals (fourth in 60 hurdles), Bela Doss (eighth in 800 and seventh in 1,600), Mary Grace Parker (eighth in 3,200), Ansley Murphy (seventh in pole vault) and the 4x800 relay team of Parker, Luci Williams, Lena Anne Parker and Doss (fourth) earned points for the Lions as well.
Charlie Thompson, Lynley Newdome, Kristin Wolfe, Anna Reid Frost, Burton Collis, Gabe Margene, Ford Thornton, Gavin Gurtis, Reese Rasmussen, Hadley Hartsfield, Gracie Murphy, Patrick Hnizdil and Whit Thornton also competed for the Lions.
For Oak Mountain, the boys 4x800 relay
team of Bennett Phillips, Cooper Jeffcoat, John Shoemaker and Matthew Womack finished fifth, the top performance for the Eagles. Womack (seventh in 800); Walker Shook (sixth in high jump); the girls 4x400 team of Lauren Cole, Taylor McMillan, Sara Cothran and Catarina Williams (seventh); and the 4x800 team of Selah Whitley, Williams, Cothran and Cole (seventh) earned points for the team.
Devan Moss, Davion Foster, Julia Bueche, Whitt Kilgore, Sean Ray, Sophie Hammett, Evy Gardner, Thomas Peyton Swann, Brandon Lewis, Samantha Bennett, Gerrick Brown, Samuel Laney, Ryan Cox and Drew Field also competed for the Eagles.
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Left: Chelsea’s Alana McCulla competes in the girls pole vault event. Right: Chelsea’s Cady McPhail pushes past Huntsville’s Ava McIntosh to finish first in the girls 3,200-meter run.
Jags, Eagles make waves at state bowling tournament
By KYLE PARMLEY
The Spain Park High School boys bowling team came within four pins of defending its state championship.
The Jaguars had to settle for second at the Class 6A-7A state tournament Jan. 27 at The Alley in Gadsden, as Sparkman edged them in a tight final that went the distance.
Down 3-2 in a best-of-seven series of Baker games in the state final, Spain Park’s boys rose up and bowled a 245 to force the seventh game. The seventh game was tight, but Sparkman pulled it out 181-177.
“It’s a shame we came up four pins short, but Sparkman bowled really well when they needed to,” Spain Park coach Stephen Hobbs said. “I’m just really proud of the way the guys competed every time, they never folded.”
Spain Park won the South Regional tournament the week prior to advance to the state tournament, knocking off Vestavia Hills in the final to cap off a tremendous tournament.
The Jags nearly duplicated that performance in the state tournament. The first day of play was a set of three traditional games to establish seeding for the bracket. Spain Park earned the top seed and featured three of the
top five individual performers.
Ethan Lee was the top bowler, bowling a three-game total of 615. Michael Kimble was right behind him, totaling 606 pins over three games. Liam Hilson was fifth with 586 and Luke Eaton was eighth with 578, as both were also named all-tournament.
Luke Mitchell, Evan Kelty, Zion Mims and Ray Olatubi also contributed to the Jags’ run.
Spain Park had little trouble dispatching its first two opponents in bracket play. The Baker games featured five bowlers each taking two frames to compile a single game.
In the opening round, Spain Park took down American Christian 4-1, dropping only the third game. Spain Park then took on Hartselle in the semifinals, winning 4-1 as well.
Hobbs credited his team for its competitive spirit, given that the Jags were undoubtedly in the toughest region in the state. Spain Park and Vestavia Hills advanced out of an area that also featured perennial state contenders Hoover and Thompson.
“We came up just a tad short of our goal,” Hobbs said. “To be state champions last year with these guys and [second] this year, I could not be more proud.”
Hobbs also gave plenty of credit to
volunteer coach Lillian Singleton, who has worked with the program for many years.
Singleton is an experienced bowler and works with the bowlers in regards to technique. She had one thing to add after the trophies were handed out at the state tournament: “We will be back next year.”
EAGLES GIRLS REACH NEW HEIGHTS
The Oak Mountain girls made history this season, posting a third-place finish in the Class 6A-7A state tournament. The semifinals appearance was a first for the Eagles, as they advanced in the state tournament for the first time in program history.
Oak Mountain’s girls put forth a clutch performance over the two-day state tournament. The Eagles grabbed the No. 3 seed after a day of play.
Emma Hawkins and Grace Smith were honored on the all-tournament team as being in the top eight individually on the first day. Hawkins was fourth, as she bowled games of 159, 160 and 175 to total 494. Smith was eighth, bowling 128, 198 and 145 for a total of 471.
JoJo Smith also had a strong performance, bowling 461. Jenna Burson, Lauren Schuessler,
Katie Huffman, Madison Thompson and Abby O’Dell all contributed to the Eagles’ run as well.
The Eagles certainly made things interesting the second day. Oak Mountain faced No. 6 seed Baker in the opening round, rallying from a deficit to win the match in seven games. The teams alternated the first four games, before Baker edged the Eagles 123-120 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead in the match. But a 130115 win for Oak Mountain in the sixth forced a seventh game, and the Eagles ran away with a 151-111 victory.
The Eagles drew No. 2 Sparkman in the semifinals and gave the two-time defending state champions a test. Sparkman won the first game 176-125, before the Eagles rose up and earned a 174-166 win. Sparkman got back on track with a 169-148 win in the third, but Oak Mountain came right back with a 160-158 win in the fourth. Sparkman was able to win the last two games to take the match.
Oak Mountain reached the semifinals of the South Regional tournament the week prior to advance to state. The Eagles earned the No. 4 seed after a day of play and beat Daphne in the opening round of bracket play to qualify for state. At the regional tournament, Hawkins was third overall and JoJo Smith was eighth.
B10 • March 2023 280 Living
Left: Spain Park’s Ethan Lee competes in the boys AHSAA Class 6-7A state bowling tournament at The Alley in Gadsden on Jan. 26. Right: Oak Mountain’s Emma Hawkins competes in the girls AHSAA Class 6-7A state bowling tournament.
Photos by Erin Nelson.
The Spain Park boys bowling team finished runner-up in the AHSAA Class 6-7A state tournament at The Alley in Gadsden on Jan. 27.
Photo by Kyle Parmley.
Have fun learning gymnastics
Sara Beth’s Gymnasts
Sara Beth’s Gymnasts is a community gymnastics program for boys, girls and adults of all ages. Sara Beth Gilbert, the owner of Sara Beth’s Gymnasts, shares about their summer camps below:
Q: What can campers expect from summer camp at Sara Beth's Gymnasts?
A: Sara Beth’s Gymnasts has four engaging and exciting summer camps for kids! Each week’s activities will feature a different theme. In addition to partaking in games, crafts and gymnastics, kids will be catering to their dolls, creating a variety of things, mastering baking skills, and living the adventurous lives of pirates and mermaids.
Q: How long have you operated this program?
A: Our summer camp program began in 2019. There have been 10 summer camps and five gymnastics training camps over the previous four summers.
Q: What is your favorite part about camp?
A: Playing games and doing many things outside of the ordinary is the best part of camp. Children love the opportunity to play in ways they normally don’t during gymnastics classes. It’s truly a special time in the gym for them!
Q: What sets your summer camp apart from other camps?
WHERE: 10699 Old Highway 280, Building 2, Suite 2, Chelsea
AGES: All ages CALL: 205-910-3668
A: We keep it small and personal. Nobody gets lost in the crowd. Everyone receives personal attention and has a chance to shine through the wide variety of games, activities, crafts and gymnastics.
Q: What special features can kids look forward to when attending camp?
A: All of our fun summer camps include gymnastics and no experience is needed to participate or enjoy it. Camp is a great time to sample gymnastics and participate in special activities and games.
280Living.com March 2023 • B11 2023 SUMMER CAMP GUIDE SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
Summer Camp! Crafty Creations June 12-15 Pirates & Mermaids June 20-23 My Dolly & Me July 17-20 No Bake Baking July 24-27 Ages 4-12 boys and girls welcome Games Fun Crafts Souvenirs Gymnastics SaraBethsGymnasts.com/Camp Early Bird Registration March 1-15 Learn More & Register at
Offering kids a ‘fun introduction’ to the art of dance
Mt Laurel Ballet
After veteran dance teacher Stephanie Rangel moved to Mt Laurel, she realized there wasn’t a ballet program anywhere in the area, so she opened her own 1,000-square-foot dance studio, Mt Laurel Ballet, in 2022.
The studio, at 102-A Croft St., offers classes in a dozen styles, including ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop and contemporary.
The instructors are current or former professional dancers and are “very well-qualified, very well-trained,” Rangel says.
This summer, Mt Laurel Ballet will offer children a great chance to have fun, meet the teachers and check out the studio with a series of three dance camps Monday-Friday, June 5-9:
► The Ballet Princess Camp will be for children ages 3-7.
► There will be a Mermaid and Pirate Dance Camp for ages 8-11 featuring a sampling of the dance styles the studio offers.
► There will be a contemporary workshop for ages 12 and older. Some prior dance training is encouraged for participants in this workshop, Rangel said.
Each class will be $100.
“I think the camps are fantastic for dancers who have danced before or have never danced before,” says Rangel, who is a co-founder and artistic director of the “Magic City Nutcracker” and president of Magic City Performing Arts.
WHERE: 102-A Croft St., Mt Laurel
“It’s a lighthearted environment,” Rangel said. “The goal is just to give the kids a fun introduction to dance.”
The classes have limited capacity, so people should reserve their spots by registering on the website to hold their spot by April 1.
Magic City Performing Arts will also present a ballet intensive for advanced dancers at Mt Laurel Ballet from Monday-Friday, July 10-21.
For details, call 205-946-7331 or email email@example.com.
Make your summer rock
Kidcam Camps @ Oak Mountain
With more than 45 years running summer camps, Kidcam knows how to make summers rock!
Parents can build their summer in a way that works for them. Choose only the weeks you need summer camp, save 10% on tuition when you buy 3 or more weeks and pay in advance or pay weekly throughout the summer.
Oak Mountain campers enjoy:
► Petting Farm
► Interactive Wildlife
► Sports Courts
► Plus 3 elective “choice” periods each day to build more of what they love into their activity schedule!
WHERE: 200 Terrace Parkway, Pelham
WHEN: May 30-Aug. 4
AGES: 5-13 (must be 5 by the start of camp)
Summer Camp June
Ballerina Princess Camp
9:30-10:30 ages 3-4
•Creative movement and ballet dance classes with a craft
•Parents are invited for a presentation during the last 10 minutes on Friday
2:30-4:00 ages 12 and up
•explore Contemporary Dance movement and learn the history of ballet and modern dance styles
•parents are invited to warch a short presentation on Friday
Mermaid and Pirate Dance Camp
1-2:30 ages 8-11
•Wear your favorite mermaid or pirate costume on Friday for a parent presentation
Register at www.MtLaurelBallet.com
Space is Limited! $100 for the week per student
For questions email firstname.lastname@example.org or Call 205- 946-7331
B12 • March 2023 280 Living 2023 SUMMER CAMP GUIDE SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
Advanced MCPA students in a master class with Jolie Rose Lombardo, company dancer with The Stuttgart Ballet.
Mason Music Camps
For over a decade, Mason Music has provided music education to thousands of children across Birmingham. Mason Music’s summer camps are designed to give incredible music experiences tailored to each child’s stage of musicianship to make sure they have something exciting and educational to do during break. Mason Music has camps for every age, from preschool children (ages 3-5) to advanced musicians (up to age 18).
Mason Music is intentional about staffing their camps with seasoned music teachers who are dedicated to the value of music education for their students.
“Music education has been proven again and again to increase social skills, spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination and even numeracy and language,” says Mason Music’s Director of Marketing, Laine White.
Mason Music places an emphasis on teaching music that kids are excited about, instead of forcing genres or styles of music that children don’t relate to.
WEB: masonmusic.com/ music-camps
“Our unique approach to music education ensures that our students get the full benefit of their musical exploration while having a blast,” says White.
As parents, it can be a lot of pressure to teach your children important life skills, but Mason Music Camps provide a unique avenue to a brighter and more socially developed child. Their vast community of Birmingham music educators and resources like popular performance venues, recording studios and guest speakers provide your child with the most comprehensive and accessible music opportunities possible. There truly is nothing like Mason Music in Birmingham.
280Living.com March 2023 • B13 2023 SUMMER CAMP GUIDE SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
masonmusic.com AGES 10-15 AGES 10-18 AGES 10-15 AGES 6-9 AGES 10-18 AGES 6-10 AGES 3-5 Fill your roster. Day Care Programs | Private Schools Art/Music Lessons | Distance Learning Guides Tutoring Services | Fall/Summer Camps Email email@example.com for your Education Guide Strategy Session Share the story of your program with the readers looking for you! Find the secret to
Summer Music Camps
Sean and his wife, Jamie, moved to the Birmingham area in March 2022. This is a column he wrote on his fourth day in his new town.
Day Four. We have been living in Birmingham for four days and I am lost. Hopelessly lost. Right now I am in interstate traffic and I have no idea where in the Lord’s name I am.
Also, it’s colder than a witch’s jogbra in this city. The temperature last night was 37 degrees and I couldn’t feel my digits.
Before you accuse me of being a weather wimp, I must remind you that I come from the Panhandle, where the median temperature is 103, and our hurricane season lasts from June to the following June.
So I was not ready for the freezing temps a few nights ago. My entire little family slept in one bed to keep warm, and whenever it got cold, my wife threw on another dog.
But that’s what you get here in the foothills of the Appalachians. Because when I asked the guy at the hardware store if it would ever warm up, he explained the weather like this:
“This is Birmingham, dude. You git what you git, and you don’t pitch a fit.”
Which reminds me: I know all the hardware store employees on a first-name basis now. I’ve been spending a lot of time at Home Depot lately.
Since we are still busy moving into our house, my wife has been sending me on random hardware errands for items such as felt chair pads, shims, sink stoppers, and (don’t
Sean of the South By Sean Dietrich New in town
I go to the hardware store four or five times per day, sometimes more. Sometimes I don’t even buy anything, I just wander the aisles wearing a helpless look, glancing at my wife’s list in a way that causes concerned employees to sidle up to me and ask if I need a chaplain.
Then an employee leads me to an aisle where my item is located and I am forced to choose between an infinity of options, colors, and denominations.
Do you want the one with the five-eighths angled grommet, or the eleven-sixteenths one with the reinforced brackets? Do you want galvanized or powder coated? Or would you like the three-quarter nodule with the all-weather defibrillator and the reverse coupling ribbed flange?
Nothing is easy in the hardware store anymore.
Take lightbulbs. Used to, buying light bulbs was a snap. Your mom bought them at the supermarket. She simply tossed a box of bulbs into her buggy with her non-smoking hand and kept on trucking.
Back then, you had three kinds of bulbs to choose from — which were all the same bulb, but different wattages. The whole process took maybe 4 seconds.
Today, however, the hardware store has a lightbulb aisle that’s roughly the size of Newark. There are bulbs with different “lumens,” “finishes,” “contours,” “hues” and “shapes.”
You have incandescents, compact fluorescents, halogens, light emitting diodes, tubes, candles, globes, floodlights, spirals, Edisons, capsules, track lights, cool lights, white lights, warm lights, menthol lights, Miller Lites, etc.
And God help you if you buy the wrong bulb, because your wife will send you back to the hardware store. This is very embarrassing. When you re-enter through the pneumatic doors again, you immediately make eye contact with the same employees you saw a few minutes earlier, and you feel much like a neutered dog.
Then, one of the employees usually attempts to make you feel better by saying, “Listen, it’s not easy, shopping in this store, it’s overwhelming.”
Which makes you feel about as manly as a guy dressed in a Hello Kitty costume.
But hey, this is all part of the moving process. Moving means learning how to adjust to new situations, new experiences, and new highways.
Speaking of highways. I’m still driving, and
Holy Moly Motherhood By
Spring! Well, almost.
I can feel it coming. Slowly, but surely. The grass starts to grow and I get excited for new beginnings. And with that comes the urge to clean, organize, and get my house out of hibernation. Let it feel the sunshine. Give it some much needed fresh air. Spring clean.
But the list of cleaning tasks is quite daunting, and I’m the type of person who wants to do it all, right this second. Dusting places that never get dusted, washing windows, and filling flower pots. It’s a lot. But since I have two little humans to care for and a job that makes me leave the house, I’ll just have to tackle this list a little at a time.
These days, checking chores off my list is often hard to do, especially with kiddos running
around. I love a clean house, but I tend to have some sort of cleaning attention deficit. I’ll start one thing, and then start another, and another. Because I want everything to be clean at once. Then I’ll find myself knee deep in a basket of toys, trying to find Mr. Potato Head’s ear. It goes something like this:
Start vacuuming … vacuum one room … forget to start the washer … go get laundry … wash clothes … wonder how so much lint can accumulate in one place … worry lint will start a house fire … clean lint behind dryer … kill a few ants …
I still have no earthly clue where I am.
So far, I’ve been learning how to navigate this foreign city with a sociopathic GPS that often tells me to “turn right here” while I am speeding over a bridge.
I’ve had to pull over and ask random pedestrians for directions three times this morning. Although, I have to admit, the residents in this city are extremely accommodating.
A few minutes ago, for example, I asked a guy for directions who I met in a parking lot near a Mexican restaurant. He was Latino, and more than happy to help.
This kind hearted man took nearly 15 minutes of his valuable time to tell me, in painstaking detail, exactly where I should go, where I should turn, and how long it would take me to get where I was going. At least I assume that’s what he was saying because he didn’t speak one lick of English.
In fact, the only English words he apparently knew were, “It is what it is, man.” He must have said this phrase 2,193 times.
“Thank you for your help,” I said as we shook hands and parted ways.
“It is what it is, man,” he answered.
Which, I suppose, roughly translates into, “You git what you git and you don’t pitch a fit.”
Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast.
go write a note to call the bug man … notice the state of the junk drawer when getting notepad … start organizing the tape and screw drivers … agonize over keeping or tossing some old super glue … decide to keep it in case of a super glue emergency … notice spaghetti sauce on the cabinet below … wonder how we haven’t seen a week-old spaghetti spillage … start Magic Eraser-ing cabinet … then the walls … forget all about vacuuming until someone asks for a snack, and then spills it in the floor.
I know I’m not alone in this, and I imagine if I would just tackle one task fully, I would be less stressed on cleaning day (which is never a full day uninterrupted and there’s never enough time). Motherhood, right?
On that note, happy spring cleaning to you all! Godspeed. We got this.
Alana is a nurse anesthetist, writer and boy mom (ages 7 and 2), who lives in north Shelby County with her husband, kids and Boxer, Sam. When she’s not writing or chasing little humans, she can usually be found in the aisles of Target. She shares her writings at Holy Moly Motherhood (on Facebook and Instagram), where she takes on all things motherhood and marriage.
B14 • March 2023 280 Living Opinion
If you are in a brick-and-mortar business along the U.S. 280 corridor and you are... Business news to share? Let us know! Share your news with us at 280living.com/about-us Now open Coming soon Relocating or renovating Announcing a new owner Celebrating an anniversary Hiring or promoting an employee Announcing other news or accomplishments
North Shelby Library
Tax returns done free for eligible persons through a program sponsored by The AARP Foundation. AARP membership is not required and there are no age restrictions. An appointment is required. Call the library at 205-439-5540 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursdays: Family Fun Nights. 6-7:30 p.m. Each week will feature a different fun activity program. Supplies provided.
Mar. 9: Generation Celebration at Heardmont Park. 2-6 p.m. Games, activities, music, moonwalks, vendors, and more. Food trucks will be on site.
Mar. 27-31: Giant Board Game Week. No registration required.
Monthly: STEM Kit-to-Go. Make an anemometer to measure the speed of the March winds. While supplies last.
Tuesdays: Tech Tuesdays. 3-4 p.m. Weekly drop in techbased activity.
Mar. 15: Homeschool Hangout – St Patrick's Day Minute to Win It. 1 p.m. Registration required. Grades K-12 with adult assistance if needed.
Wednesdays: Storytime Friends. 10:30 a.m. For ages 3-5, but all ages welcome. Registration required.
Mar. 28: Baby Tales. 10:30 a.m. Registration required. Birth-18 months.
TWEENS (AGES 8-12)
Mar. 16: Tween Writing Workshop. 4:30 p.m. Registration required.
Mar. 17: Tween Book Club. 4:30 p.m. A new book club for ages 8-12. Snacks provided.
Mar. 23: Tween Leadership Council Meeting. 5 p.m. Registration required.
Mar. 3: Teen Manga Book Club. 4:30 p.m. Registration required.
Mar. 10: Teen Girls’ Book Club. 4:30 p.m. Join the YA all-girl book club meeting to discuss “A Night Divided.”
Mar. 16: Teen & Tween Mario Kart Tournament. 6 p.m.
Mar. 25: Teen Volunteer Day. Help the library and earn community service hours. Limit five volunteers per day.
Mar. 3, 17 and 31: Language Club. 5 p.m. Registration required.
Mar. 6: Nature Journaling. 10 a.m. Bring in a journal and preferred drawing tools.This program will be led by Amy Sides.
Mar. 14: True Crime Digital Book Club. 6 p.m. Zoom. Covers true crime books and documentaries.
Mt Laurel Library
Mar. 3 and 17: Ukulele Storytime. 10 a.m. A story program ideal for 19-36 months and a caregiver, siblings welcome.
Mar. 10: Fairy Houses. 2-4 p.m. Parent assistance and regis-
tration required. ADULT
Mar. 2: Mt Laurel Book Club. 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The Mt Laurel Book Club will meet at the library to discuss “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” by Thornton Wilder.
Mar. 15: Lunch and Learn – The Gardens of Emily Dickinson. 12 p.m. Lunch provided. Registration required.
Mar. 16: Dunnavant Valley Remembers – Open House. 4 - 6 p.m.
Mar. 4 and 18: Chess Club. 2-3 p.m. Outdoor Patio.
Mar. 11: Lego Day. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Children's Floor. Create with Legos.
Mar. 14: Virtual Music & Books Club. 5:30-6:30 p.m. Join online for music and books club with Ms. Samantha.
Mar. 25: KZT Hands On S.T.E.A.M. Day. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Children's Floor.
Mar. 11: Lego Day. 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Mar. 13: Teen Book Club. 5-6 p.m. Conference Room. Join Mrs. Amy each month for book discussion and a free dinner.
Mar. 9: Book Club. 10-11 a.m. Outdoor Patio. A monthly discussion of a new book and topic.
Mar. 13: Medicare Info. 10-11 a.m. Outdoor Patio. Ask Ms. Debra Quinn questions about Medicare.
Overture Tributary | 55+ Active Adult Living Offering Countless Activity Programs at Overture Tributary
Overture Tributary’s celebrated reputation in Birmingham is owed to more than just its first-rate, premium apartment and cottage style homes.
The active adult community’s lifestyle innovation and wellbeing emphasis are perhaps its most significant differentiators. They encompass detailed measures to keep every resident feeling energetic, engaged, fulfilled, and connected with their neighbors. It’s a community whose idea of creating a satisfactory experience does not end with the home finishes and technological conveniences (though those are essential, as well), but continues to include individual wellness in a wide sense of the concept.
Through detailed planning and professional oversight, led by a full-time Lifestyle Coordinator, residents can depend on routine exercise classes and activities to maintain or
further develop their fitness/ health. The community’s extraordinary fitness center is comprehensively outfitted for both individual training and enjoyable group sessions in the adjoining yoga studio. Organized gatherings might also include chess and billiards contests to keep the strategic wheels spinning.
Overture Tributary exists to help residents develop strong community ties with one another. The idea is that your family lives nearby for regular visits, while your neighbors are right next door and ready to join you on the next fitness outing, game night, language course, spa day, or evening trip to a local restaurant. Choose how to spend each day, organize new activities of your own, have the family over for a meal, and treat every day as a chance to reach every wellness goal on your terms.
280Living.com March 2023 • B15 Calendar Now Offering Hard Hat Tours! Take a sneak peek at our beautiful new 55+ active adult community. Schedule yours today! 855-233-1277 OvertureTributary.com
*Offers cannot be combined, some promotions may be limited to select sets. Not responsible for errors in ad copy. Quantities and selections may vary by location. Mattress images are for illustration purposes only Gifts with purchase (including gift cards and rebates) are not valid with any other promotions except special financing for 6 or 12 months.** Monthly payment is based on purchase price alone excluding tax and delivery charges. Credit purchases subject to credit approval. Other transactions may affect the monthly payment. *** 0% APR for 60 months financing available with purchases of $1999 or over and does not include sales tax. ** The special terms APR of 8.99% will apply to the qualifying purchase, and 48 monthly payments equal to 2.5090% of the original special terms balance are required.*** The Nationwide Marketing Group credit card is issued by Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Special terms apply to qualifying purchases charged with approved credit. The special terms APR will continue to apply until all qualifying purchases are paid in full. The monthly payment for this purchase will be the amount that will pay for the purchase in full in equal payments during the promotional (special terms) period. The APR for Purchases will apply to certain fees such as a late payment fee or if you use the card for other transactions. For new accounts, the APR for Purchases is 28.99%.
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