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Stories | Recipes | Events | People | Places | Things | Local News December 2018


Electric Cooperative

Christmas Art Contest Congratulations to our winner, Payton Goodin

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Getting the job done




Read about the sacrifices WEC linemen made to restore power following Hurricane Michael.


Helping the community WEC’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation makes $9,000 donation to Cottonwood Ambulance and Rescue.



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9 Spotlight 26 Worth the drive 29 Around Alabama 36 Gardens 40 Outdoors 41 Fish & Game Forecast 46 Cook of the month 54 Snapshots ONLINE: ON THE COVER Payton Goodin, a fourth-grader at Rehobeth Elementary School, was selected as this year’s winner of the annual Christmas Card Art Contest. See story, Page 5.

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Board of Trustees John Clark, Jr. District 3 President Donna Parrish District 2 Vice-President Debra E. Baxley District 1 Secretary

Danny McNeil District 4

Tracy Reeder District 5

Kip Justice District 6

Donald Ray Wilks District 7


WE Powered Through, thanks to you [Note: In lieu of a column from CEO Les Moreland, this space is being used as a message from all of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative.] Alabama native Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” In October, when Hurricane Michael H U the RR I C AandN landed in the Wiregrass, members employees of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative learned firsthand how important teamwork is to accomplishing the impossible. On the night of Oct. 10, when Michael had passed over our homes and businesses, 18,000 WEC members were without power. Hundreds of electric poles lay broken on the ground, and even more trees lay twisted on top of them. Working alone, WEC would have spent months repairing all the damage. But we were never alone in this storm. As the storm came in, so did linemen and other workers from our sister cooperatives throughout all of Alabama. Nine days later, when we ended our recovery effort, we had 225 men working beside us who had left their homes and their families to sleep on a cot and restore power to the Wiregrass. We cannot say “thank you” enough to these individuals, our sister cooperatives who sent them, and the families that went without. In many cases, these linemen picked up their gear after completing the job here and drove on to Florida or Georgia to assist cooperatives there. Our cooperative had linemen who did

Greg McCullough District 8

David Winstead District 9

Signs, phone calls, Facebook posts, well wishes and more kept spirits high during Hurricane Michael recovery.

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Watch WEC’s video commemorating the hurricane and recovery at the same thing. It’s this “cooperation among cooperatives” that makes the whole stronger than the individual. While the line crews were essential to restoring our decimated infrastructure, it’s our members who drove us and inspired us through those nine days. It’s the notes of gratitude we received in the office, the signs posted along the side of the road where our line crews were working, or the inspirational notes tucked into pockets from the church members who helped wash clothes. To everyone who helped, who fed us, who cheered us on or who had a nice word to say: Thank you. We could not have done this without you, and everything we did was for you. The Wiregrass is a community, and we’re blessed to be a part of it. When Hurricane Michael destroyed so much, it was you who helped us rebuild. From all WEC employees and board members, thank you for all the help we received. n

WEC Service Area

Contact Information Mailing address 509 N. State Hwy 167 P.O. Box 158, Hartford, AL 36344 Second-place winner, Ana Tinker.

Phone 1-800-239-4602 Toll Free Outage “Hotline” 1-888-4-MY-OUTAGE 1-888-469-6882 (24 hrs/day) Website Find us here:

Find Wiregrass Electric Co-op on Twitter (twitter. com/wec2), Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. First-place winner, Payton Goodin.

Third-place winner, Cason Boothe.

REHOBETH ELEMENTARY’S GOODIN WINS ANNUAL CHRISTMAS CONTEST Wiregrass Electric Cooperative congratulates Payton Goodin, a fourth-grade student at Rehobeth Elementary School, for winning WEC’s 12th annual Christmas Card Art Contest. Goodin’s drawing depicted Santa Claus climbing a power pole decorated with Christmas lights. The artwork also includes the words “Wishing You a Bright and Merry Christmas.” Payton’s drawing is featured on the cover of this month’s Alabama Living, and it will appear on this year’s WEC Christmas card. “The judges loved Payton’s drawing, and they loved the creativity she used,” says Jennifer Ward, WEC’s manager of communications and public relations. “We are proud to feature this drawing on our Christmas card.” Alabama Living

Payton will receive a $50 gift card to Michael’s craft store and a stack of the WEC Christmas cards to pass out to her family and friends. Ana Tinker, a fifth-grade student at Webb Elementary, was selected as the second-place recipient. Cason Boothe, a fifth-grader at Houston Academy, was selected in third place. Both Ana and Cason will receive a $25 gift card to Michael’s craft store. “The Christmas Card Art Contest is one of the highlights of our year at Wiregrass Electric,” Ward says. “When the students’ artwork comes flooding in, we have a great time looking at each drawing and seeing all the wonderful creativity we have in the Wiregrass.” Winners from each school were awarded a $10 gift certificate, and all students who entered received a gift from WEC. n

Payment Options BY MAIL Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, Inc. Department 1340, P.O. Box 2153 Birmingham, AL 35287-1340 WEBSITE Payments may be made 24 hrs/day by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and E-Check on our website at PHONE PAYMENTS Payments may be made any time by dialing 1-800-239-4602. NIGHT DEPOSITORY Available at each office location. IN PERSON Mon. – Fri. 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Payment kiosks also available 24/7 in all offices. Hartford 509 N. State Hwy. 167 • Hartford, AL 36344 Samson 13148 W. State Hwy. 52 • Samson, AL 36477 Ashford 1066 Ashford Highway • Ashford, AL 36312 Dothan 6167 Fortner St. • Dothan, AL 36305 For questions regarding sanitation service, call Houston County Sanitation Department at 334-677-4781 or Dothan City Sanitation at 334-615-3820. DECEMBER 2018  5

Sarah Emily and Cody Fortson were married on the Saturday after Hurricane Michael made landfall. Cody returned to work the next day. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY KIRSTEN STEVENSON PHOTOGRAPHY.

Band of brothers

PUTTING IT ALL ON THE LINE A lot of planning goes into a wedding, but you can’t prepare for everything, especially a Category 4 hurricane. Cody Fortson, an apprentice lineman with Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, was getting ready for his upcoming nuptials 6  DECEMBER 2018

as Hurricane Michael made landfall a few days before the ceremony. When a storm of such magnitude hits, everyday life is placed on hold, even preparations for a wedding. And Fortson was not the only one who embraced a

commitment to the cooperative. Charlie Daugherty, who holds a storekeeping and warehouse position at WEC, was preparing to bury his mother in Florida. Billy Tingle, a working foreman, was vacationing in the Smoky Mountains.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-5) This is a verse that illustrates the spirit of WEC’s employees.

A vow to serve

Knowing what he had to do, Fortson worked up until the day of his wedding in Andalusia, about an hour from Hartford. He returned to work the day after saying, “I do.” “I woke up early in the morning and headed back to Hartford,” Fortson says. “There wasn’t another option in my mind. My wife is very supportive and understanding. She knows what goes with this job. It was a crazy first week of marriage. When something hits your home like this, there is only one thing to do, and that is to go to work and do all you can.”

A solemn sacrifice

Even while going through his own personal loss, Daugherty put others first. He talked with his family, and they decided to postpone his mother’s funeral until things were a little better. “I knew that our system was going to take a hit,” Daugherty says. “During something like this, we do anything and everything we can to get the lights back on. We try to do our best. We work long hours. These guys go above and beyond.” Daugherty’s role in the warehouse ensures that linemen in the field have the resources needed to perform their jobs. When ordering poles, transformers and anything else linemen need, it all goes through the warehouse. “We do all the receiving, so when it comes in, we’ve got to check it off, put it in stock in the computers and put it up on the shelves,” Daugherty says. “We pull all the jobs for our crews to get them ready in the morning. I work out of the Hartford office, but we also have an Ashford office that has a crew, so we take care of that warehouse, too.

“I love the camaraderie between all the guys. They’re like brothers,” Daugherty says. “The whole company is just good people.”

A quick trip

Tingle was hundreds of miles away, vacationing with his family on an annual trip. He knew what he had to do. “That’s my job. I have a responsibility,” Tingle says. “My wife understood 100 percent. She’s been with me for a long time, and I’ve been doing this for 20 years.” Trading in the fall foliage and mountain air for the aftermath of a hurricane might cause some to hesitate. But not Tingle. “As linemen, we have a sense of helping others in general,” he says. “When it’s in your blood, it’s just there. You want to do it. You want to help others. I enjoy it, and I wouldn’t have any other job.” n Charlie Daugherty’s job in the warehouse is crucial to making sure crews have all the supplies and tools they need.

WEC linemen Billy Tingle and Tim Sanders prepare to restore power to members on the day Hurricane Michael made landfall.

Alabama Living

DECEMBER 2018  7

From left are WTVY anchor Reginald Jones, August Silent Hero winner Mark Freeman, WEC COO Brad Kimbro and WTVY General Sales Manager Wes Tomlin during the taping of the Silent Hero segment of the nightly news.

Freeman selected as

Silent Hero Mark Freeman knows the importance of a quality education and the benefits it can have on a child’s life. That’s why he spends so much time trying to assist where he can in local schools in Dothan. Freeman is a board member for the Dothan Education Foundation. He also serves as a mentor each week at Grandview Elementary School where he helps with Keith Forrester’s fifth-grade class. In addition to his work with local schools, he also serves on the board at Wiregrass Hope, a local organization that helps young couples through unplanned pregnancies. He serves as a mentor in the fatherhood program. For his work, Freeman was selected as the August Silent Hero of the Wiregrass. “I am very humbled by this because it means that someone recognizes what I am doing,” he says. Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass is an innovative program that is done in partnership with WTVY in Dothan and Wiregrass Electric Cooperative’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation. Freeman received $1,000 from Operation Round Up, which he says will all go to the Dothan Education Foundation.

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“We are so appreciative of everything he has done,” says WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro. “Our members are happy to help him continue his efforts of helping children and improving the quality of life in this area.” Freeman says his inspiration to help local schools comes from his faith. “I am inspired by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to go and serve others,” he says. “God has just instilled in me the need to go and help others. These children are our future, and I think it’s important to invest time in them and our schools.” Freeman is also a four-time cancer survivor. Since 2015, he has had prostate, brain and lung cancer. In 2017, doctors found a tumor in his diaphragm, and he is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Through it all, he has remained positive and continued to help others as much as he can. “I have learned to rest in the presence of God,” Freeman says. “I knew this cancer wasn’t for me but for others to see the glory of God in me. You can have cancer four times and still have the joy of God in you. That’s what keeps me going.” n

Apply for 2019 Youth Tour today! Helping local students thrive is one way WEC demonstrates a dedication to its members and communities, and the Youth Tour program is a leading example of that commitment to the leaders of tomorrow. Each year, WEC selects 10 high school juniors, each a dependent of a WEC member, for the Montgomery Youth Tour , this year on March 12-14. Those students visit the state Capitol for a firsthand look at our state’s history and the role electric cooperatives have played. Students also visit Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and the First White House of the Confederacy, and they meet their local politicians. From those 10 students, two to three will be selected to attend the Youth Tour in Washington, D.C., in June. Those two students will get to visit our nation’s capital, museums and monuments, and they will meet students from across the country. Applications for this year’s Youth Tour are available now, and the deadline for applications is Jan. 11, 2019.


Operation Round Up Helps Cottonwood Ambulance and Rescue Cottonwood Ambulance and Rescue closed in October of 2017, but by the start of 2018, the efforts of volunteers had restored the much-needed service. Ambulance services are crucial to rural areas, and Cottonwood, just outside of Dothan, needed its own. The time it would take for an ambulance to arrive from Dothan could be too long for some Cottonwood patients in life-threatening situations. That’s why people like EMTs Nick Alford and Trey Hillis decided to step up and help get Cottonwood Rescue back up and running. “There are 100 square miles in Cottonwood, and those people need an ambulance service,” Hillis says. Hillis, Alford and other volunteers did a deep cleaning and restocking of the ambulances. They took their time before reopening to make sure everything was in working order. “Cottonwood Rescue is back up and running because they rolled up their sleeves and made it happen,” Cottonwood Rescue captain Rickey Stokes says. “Their work and dedication is why they have been able to make more than 350 calls since January.” While Cottonwood Rescue is back in service, the operation is still short on volunteers and supplies. To help meet supply needs, Wiregrass Electric’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation donated $9,000 to Cottonwood Ambulance and Rescue. The funds went toward the purchase of a stair chair, two cardiac monitors and two stretchers. While the previous stretchers would only hold 250 pounds, the new ones have an 800-pound capacity. Each also has an electric-powered assist, which means the EMTs do not have to physically lift the stretcher into the ambulance. “They are doing so much to help people and help the community,” says Operation Round Up board president David Hall. “When we get to make donations like this it just makes our Operation Round Up board feel so good about what we are 50  DECEMBER 2018

EMTs Trey Hillis and Nick Alford were instrumental in the reopening of Cottonwood Ambulance and Rescue.

WEC’s Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation made a $9,000 donation in August to Cottonwood Ambulance and Rescue.

doing. We feel like we are really making a difference.” The donation is funded by WEC members who have agreed to have their monthly energy bills rounded up to the nearest whole dollar. That amount is then put back into the community through grants. “This is just such a great program, and the most it can cost a member is about a dollar a month. They get so much out of this program because all the money goes back into the community,” says WEC District 4 board of trustee representative Danny McNeil. “This donation to Cottonwood Rescue is a perfect example of that.” Since Cottonwood Ambulance and Rescue has been back in service, response

times have been exceptional, Stokes says. The new equipment paid for by WEC members will improve their service even more. “We had a call where Trey and Nick went from being asleep to on the scene in eight minutes,” he says. “That is fantastic.” Alford and Hillis both had family members who were first responders, a legacy that inspired them. And the desire to help people keeps them going, even when the job is difficult. “Every now and then, you really make a difference,” Alford says. “There’s no amount of money in the world that will give you a feeling like you get when you actually see somebody appreciate what you do. It’s more of a payment than any paycheck.” n

WEC CEO Les Moreland addresses the crowd at the 2018 Annual Meeting just days after Hurricane Michael hit the Wiregrass.

WEC hosts 2018 annual meeting As a result of Hurricane Michael, the 2018 Wiregrass Electric Cooperative annual meeting did not go as originally planned, but it did still occur. After the hurricane left 75 percent of WEC members without power, the cooperative decided to abbreviate the meeting. It was moved from the warehouse at the Hartford office to the community room. Food and entertainment were canceled, and the meeting only included voting and a business report. Door prizes were drawn for the week following the meeting, and winners were contacted by WEC to claim their prize. “We had a massive restoration effort going on at our cooperative with about 300 men and women working to get all of our member’s power back on, so we were not able to have the normal annual meeting activities,” says WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro. “We look forward to this meeting every year, and our employees spend a lot of time planning it. It’s an opportunity for our cooperative family to get together, and we will look forward to getting back on track next year. It will be a special year for us as we will be celebrating our 80th anniversary and 80th annual meeting.” The cooperative’s bylaws require WEC to host a meeting, which guided the decision to carry on with the shorter meeting.

Erica Bailey from the Dothan accounting firm Jackson Thornton gave the audit report, which confirmed the cooperative is in sound financial standing. WEC CEO Les Moreland gave an update on the cooperative’s post-hurricane restoration efforts, as well as work done to receive federal assistance. He estimated the cooperative spent $7.5 million in the nine days of restoration efforts. “We have been careful to do things in a way that we have a very good chance to get some federal assistance,” Moreland says. “We hope to get a 75 percent reimbursement, and then the remainder will be spread out over 30 years. The cost should not be noticeable to the membership. I assure you we have done everything we can to get your power back on and to manage those costs. Our team has done a fantastic job.”


Board of trustee members from districts two, five and eight were all up for re-election. In District 2, Donna Parrish was re-elected to her seat. Tracy Reeder in District 5 ran unopposed and was

re-elected. Greg McCullough in District 8 was also re-elected. New officers were also selected by the board, with Parrish named as the new president. Reeder will be the vice president, and Debra Baxley was selected to remain as secretary.

Power restored

Shortly after the meeting, WEC received word that power was fully restored. The effort took nine days from the time the storm left just over 18,000 members without power. Nearly 300 linemen, including WEC linemen, from 19 cooperatives across Alabama assisted. Member Elaine McRane took a few minutes before the meeting concluded to thank WEC for its efforts. “I just wanted to say that I think Wiregrass Electric Cooperative needs to be commended for getting power restored as fast as they did,” she says. “I live in Houston County, and I was only out of power for two days. That was nothing compared to what it could have been, and I think the cooperative deserves a big pat on the back.” n

A positive report

Board President John Clark Jr. called the meeting to order. With mail-in ballots, WEC met the requirement to have a quorum with 1,794 members registered for the meeting. That total was more than the 500 members needed to conduct business. Alabama Living

WEC accountant Mark Olive registers a WEC member at the 2018 annual meeting.

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WEC — Alabama Living Dec. 2018