Over $50k raised for Kidz Outdoors in Saturday’s Soggy Bottom Lodge event (includes photos)

A special Kidz Outdoors event was held this year at Soggy Bottom Lodge in Linden, Ala., on May 13, and it was only made possible through the combined efforts of countless supporters, volunteers, and contributors.

Although many people came together to make Saturday great, I would like to personally thank those who went above and beyond for such an outstanding cause.

Specifically, I would like to mention all of the great volunteers: Federal Judge Scott Coogler, who prepared dinner for over 700 people; volunteers who came from the Universities of Montevallo, West Alabama, and Alabama, including the soccer coaches and fishing team from the University of West Alabama; Ready Mix USA and Cemex, who were our cooking team; James Lewis, Olen Kerby, Johnny Lewis, and Tommy Criswell, who prepared lunch. The great people from La Montanita came out to help with the food as well.

Alabama Power volunteer LaDon Glover and his family served and assisted all of the kids and their families; Coach Josh Chapman and former Alabama football players Christian Jones, Marquis Maze, Undra Billingsley, and Kerry Murphy gave their valuable time to take and sign photos for the kids.

Sheriff Brian Harris, of Sumter County, and Tommy Reese, Chief of Police for Demopolis, both came out and delighted everyone by participating in the dunk booth.

The whole day was kept organized by Alec Braswell, who acted as our volunteer Master of Ceremonies for the day.

And finally, a special thanks goes to all of our sponsors, all the way from Gadsden to Mobile, from Mississippi to Demopolis. My friends know how grateful I am that they supported such an honorable cause. Everyone at Soggy Bottom and everyone at Personal Touch, Inc. put forth a great effort, and I couldn’t be more humbled. We hosted between 700 and 800 people, and it would not have been successful without you.

Last year was our first time to host a Kidz Outdoors event, and we were able to raise $25,000. This year’s event surpassed all of our highest expectations and everyone who participated help raise $54,000. Carol and Rick Clarke, the founders of Kidz Outdoors, do such incredible work with special needs children, and it’s a privilege to help in some small way. They contribute so much of their time and effort to helping the children succeed, even inventing tools and equipment to meet each child’s specific needs.

Next year’s event is tentatively slated for Saturday, May 7, and we need your help and support to make it even better. Together, I know we can succeed.

Thank you,

JR Rivas, Owner, Soggy Bottom Lodge

UWA’s Jones spends week as visiting professor in Rennes, France

Dr. Amy Jones, a digital communications professor from UWA, visited France recently to teach MBA and finance students courses in fundraising and event planning similar. IGR-IAE Rennes is one of UWA’s educational partner universities.

LIVINGSTON, Ala.—A University of West Alabama professor recently traveled to France to spend time in the classroom with graduate students at IGR-IAE Rennes, one of UWA’s educational partner universities. Dr. Amy Jones led classes with students from 18 countries during the week-long visit.

Jones is an associate professor of digital communications at UWA and serves as director of integrated marketing communications (IMC) within UWA’s College of Liberal Arts.

IGR-IAE Rennes is the graduate school of management branch of Université de Rennes, and the oldest French graduate school of management. The school offers 40 programs in the fields of management, including marketing, finance, human resources, accounting, MBA, and management.

Jones taught conferences to MBA and finance students. Specifically, she taught courses in event planning and fundraising. She taught the courses in English to students from France, Tunisia, Brazil, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, China, Colombia, Lebanon, Italy, Mongolia, Poland, Georgia, India, Japan, United States, Nigeria, Taiwan, and Peru.

Finance courses may seem like a stretch for a communications professor, but Jones said that the skills and concepts covered in the material lead to successful careers in many different areas.

“The courses were similar to the content that UWA students cover in their IMC Capstone class,” Jones explained. Senior IMC majors at UWA complete their program with a course that includes a capstone project that demonstrates their learned skills in journalism, marketing, social sciences, and more. The capstone project also involves graphic design, marketing, advertising, web design, social media marketing and broadcast combined to generate fundraising initiatives and overall event planning.

According to Jones, UWA’s IMC graduates find work relatively easy with the skills they build through the program.

“Our IMC alumni work in advertising and public relations agencies, colleges and universities, non-profit organizations, professional sports teams, television stations, magazines, newspapers, several levels of government, and quite a few more specialized areas,” Jones said.

“This is an engaging degree program that develops graduates with convergent journalism skills, a keen ability to know and reach desired audiences, and the knowledge to research the effectiveness of media messages,” Jones explained. “Our ultimate goal is to prepare IMC students for success in the digital media age with a well-rounded, integrated education.”

For more information on UWA’s Integrated Marketing Communications degree programs, contact Dr. Amy Jones atajones@uwa.edu or 205-652-3558.

To learn more about UWA’s educational partnerships and study abroad opportunities at partner universities, contact Dr. Mark Davis at mdavis@uwa.edu or 205-652-3570.

Naheola donates to Demopolis High FBLA

Makayla Durden, Michael Osmer, and Anna Kaye Williams.

Naheola Credit Union presented a check to the Demopolis High School FBLA Chapter to provide partial support for three students to attend the 75th Annual A Legacy of Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California scheduled for June 27 through July 3. The 2017 National Leadership Conference will draw thousands of future business leaders to Anaheim, California to celebrate FBLA-PBL’s 75th anniversary.

Members come to test their knowledge and skills through competitive events, share successes, and learn new ideas about shaping their careers through workshops and exhibits.

“I am overwhelmed by the support of Naheola Credit Union,” Demopolis High FBLA sponsor Kelly Gandy said. “We were not sure if we would be able to attend the competition but with Naheola’s support, it became possible. We are excited to have Anna Kaye Williams, Makayla Durden, and Michael Osmer represent DHS FBLA in Anaheim.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime. I am so excited to represent DHS in Anaheim and with Naheola’s support this would not be possible,” Michael Osmer, a DHS freshman competing in Introduction to Parliamentary Procedures and Financial Literacy, said.

For more information about Naheola Credit Union, visit www.naheola.com.

Ashley Coplin, Marketing Specialist-NCU, Leslie Davis, Vice President-NCU, Mark Johnson, CEO-NCU, Michael Osmer, Kelly Gandy-FBLA Advisor, and Blaine Hathcock-Principal at DHS.

Pepper Jelly Festival – April 29, 2017

The Alabama Rural Heritage Center and The Town of Thomaston invite you to its annual Pepper Jelly Festival on April 29, 2017. This event centers around the restoration of the Marengo County High School grounds. It is a family-friendly event with plenty of food, entertainment by local talent, arts and crafts, as well as a time to visit with friends and family. Come enjoy the famous Thomaston Bar-b-cue! Get your jar of the most delicious pepper jelly this side of the Tombigbee. Entertainment includes Mitzi Gates, Trey Webb, Kayla Gill, Dana Thompson, Rebecca Vick to name a few! Excitement is in the air! The Town of Thomaston extends an invitation for all to come and experience a real down-home, old fashioned small town event! We start at 10:00 a.m. and the fun lasts through 3p.m.

DPD accepting applications for Youth Leadership Academy

The Demopolis Police Department is currently accepting applications for this summer’s Youth Leadership Academy offered by the department.

The Youth Leadership Academy is open to all Demopolis City School students. The Youth Leadership Academy is a continuation of the Explorer Police Academy and is designed to continue the students’ training and preparation for becoming tomorrow’s leaders. The program turns an ordinary summer week into an extraordinary adventure and turns seemingly unattainable challenges into very achievable successes.

The primary objective of the Youth Leadership Academy is to continue the students’ growth process from child to adolescent to adult leader. The motto of “leadership, discipline, and honesty” is still the foundation of all daily activities. Teamwork, communication, and problem solving skills are the core curriculum.

Each child will learn about the incredible power of teamwork, the importance of respect for self and others, and build the confidence to achieve the impossible.

The program is open to students of the Demopolis City School System ages 11 to 15.

Two sessions are available for the summer. Session one runs June 5-9, with session two running June 12-16.

Applications must be submitted online by May 26 at 5 p.m. For more information or to submit your application, click here.


Student-Athlete award finalists named

In an effort to promote and celebrate the student-athletes of its county, the Marengo County Parks and Recreation Board in conjunction with The West Alabama Watchman will host the second annual Student-Athlete of the Year Banquet, Monday May 22 at 7 p.m. at Linden Baptist Church.

The event is a celebration of the academic, character and athletic prowess that epitomizes the role of the student-athlete. As part of the festivities, the hosting entities will recognize 12 student-athlete award finalists from throughout the county. Two student-athletes – one male and one female – will take home the award of Marengo County Student-Athlete of the Year. The Marengo County Parks and Recreation Board will make a donation of $500 to the athletic department of each winner.

The initiative’s selection committee has worked alongside athletic directors and principals from each of the six high schools in Marengo County to compile a list of finalists.

Finalists for the 2017 Marengo County Student-Athlete of the Year are:

Girls School Boys
Akayla McGhee – So.. A.L. Johnson High School Deandre Croom – Jr.
Abbey Latham – Sr. Demopolis High School R.J. Cox – Sr.
Tomysha Boykin – Sr. Linden High School C.J. Robinson – Sr.
Macey Petrey – Sr. Marengo Academy Weldon Aydelott – Sr.
DaVonyae Lashae Miller – So. Marengo High School Roosevelt Thompson – Jr.
Lara Little – Sr. Sweet Water High School Flynn Mabowitz – Sr.

Tickets for the event are $15 each and include a barbecue dinner catered by A Slab and More of Demopolis. Those seeking to purchase tickets are encouraged to contact The West Alabama Watchman at WestAlabamaWatchman@gmail.com or Meredith Hammond, Marengo County Commission Administrator, at 334-295-2203. Ticket quantities are limited.

In addition to the presentation of the honorees and announcement of the winners, the event will feature guest speaker Eli Gold, play-by-play broadcaster for Alabama Crimson Tide football.


Free diabetes education class offered at Demopolis Public Library

The Demopolis Public Library is partnering with The University of West Alabama’s Division of Nursing to present a free diabetes class on Thursday, April 20 at 10 a.m. at the Demopolis Public Library.
Rhonda Gonzalez and Jennifer Harwell will lead the class. The class is free and open to the public. During the class participants will be educated on diabetes, given helpful handouts and have the opportunity to have their sugar checked.
Rhonda Gonzalez, MSN, RN is an Associate Professor of Nursing at The University of West Alabama. She graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from UWA (2007), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (2010) and Master of Science in Nursing (2012) from The University of Alabama. She has worked on a Medical-Surgical floor, Medical Intensive Care Unit, and in Case Management prior to her position at UWA.
Jennifer Harwell, MSN, RN is an Associate Professor of Nursing at The University of West Alabama. She graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing from UWA (1998), Bachelor of Science in Nursing from The University of Southern Mississippi (2007) and Master of Science in Nursing from The University of South Alabama (2010). She has worked on a Pediatric Medical-Surgical floor and in multiple areas of Community Health.
For more information contact Morgan at 334.289.1595 or visit demopolislibrary.info.

UWA CARES announces Summer Leadership camp

The University of West Alabama’s Center for Achievement, Retention, and Enrichment Services (UWA CARES), which is fully funded by a grant awarded from the U.S. Department of Education, will host two 2017 Summer Leadership Camps for rising, Senior high school students May 30-June 3, 2017 and July 26-30, 2017. There is no cost for camp participants.

Students selected to participate in these residential camps must meet the following criteria: be African American males attending high school in Choctaw, Clarke, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, Pickens, Sumter, or Wilcox counties and be selected by their high school counselor. The purpose of the leadership camps is to facilitate the development of leadership skills, critical thinking skills, and team-building skills and increase motivation and self-esteem in African American, male students. For additional information or an application packet, please contact Hayley Johnson at 205-652-5542 or Lasandra Patrick at 205-652-3472.


Friday on the Square: Jazz Concert with Cashmere Williams and Band

Join friends, family and co-workers to experience Friday on the Square featuring a jazz concert by Cashmere Williams and his band on Friday, April 28 at 6 p.m.   
Cashmere Williams has become one of the most prominent musicians in the Southeast. He has recorded three albums on Lenoah Records Label established in 1998. He started playing the guitar in church at the young age of seven years old where he honed his skills and learned how to interact with different musicians. In 1995, he was accepted into Berkley College of Music on a partial scholarship where he majored in composition and arranging while studying with world-class musicians. In 2003, he was asked to back Ruben Studdard and began touring nationally appearing on shows like: The David Letterman Show, The Ellen DeGeneres show, the Jay Leno Show, The View, and many more. After three years on the road, Cashmere slowed down so he could focus on spending time with his newly born daughter Harmonie Williams which spawned his latest release “New Birth” Presently, cashmere’s working on publishing his first book due for release in 2016.
“Police Chief Tommie Reese encouraged the arts council to contact Cashmere Williams for a jazz concert on Public Square,” says Two Rivers Arts Council President Carolyn Cowling. “Last year’s concert was a huge success and the weather was perfect. I think our community is in for an entertaining night of music!”
The event is sponsored by the Two Rivers Arts Council.  The event is free and the public is encouraged to bring coolers, chairs, and blankets for this night of jazz in Public Square in historic, downtown Demopolis. In the event of rain, the concert will be moved to the Marengo County History and Archives Museum located behind The Mustard Seed in the Rosenbush Building.
We encourage everyone in Marengo County to support the arts by becoming a member of the Two Rivers Arts Council.  An Individual membership is $25 and a patron membership that includes two membership cards is $60. For more information contact Judy Etheridge at 334-295-4254  or visit us on Facebook.

Jefferson readies the pit for annual barbecue on Easter weekend

Jefferson Community Club will host its annual barbecue on Saturday, April 15, Easter weekend.

Barbecue by the pound will be available beginning at 9 a.m. Then, beginning at 10:30 a.m., guests can dine in and enjoy pit-cooked barbecue with sides of homemade potato salad, bread, pickles, homemade cakes, and tea for only $9. Take-out plates will also be available beginning at 10:30. The club will also sell event t-shirts and pints of sauce.

For nearly 50 years the event has been the community club’s primary fundraiser for community service projects. Friends and neighbors have come to enjoy the springtime tradition and the delicious meal.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time, as far back as I can remember,” said Wayne Langley, president of the club this year, and a lifelong member.

In Jefferson, they’ve been making barbecue, good barbecue, for as long as most folks can remember, so the technique and recipes are fine-tuned. It goes without saying that the ladies have perfected their potato salad and cake recipes, too.

“We all have jobs that we do each year, and we’ve done it for so long it’s like second nature, but we still do a lot of preparing and work in the weeks leading up to the barbecue,” Langley explained. “This is an important day for us, so we like to make sure we do everything we can to make sure people have enjoy their meal and have a good time catching up with old friends.”

Established in 1953, Jefferson Community Club is the last remaining club of its type. In its early days, the club competed against other community clubs in the areas of farming, land management, community service, crafts, cooking, and more. Now, the club centers its focus on fellowship and community service projects.

Past barbecues have funded maintenance at the historic clubhouse, like the addition of a handicap accessible deck, a second dining room, renovations, and maintenance, and all that’s necessary for this annual event. In fact, it works so well, it’s used twice a year, with the second barbecue being held in October by the Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department. Members of the VFD lead the cooking effort.

“We cook the meat all day and night over hickory coals on a concrete pit that we built more than 30 years ago,” Langley explained. “Thanks to funds raised by the barbecue each year, we’re able to maintain the pit and keep a roof over it to protect it from the elements.”

Although the elements, rain in particular, have put a damper on the event in years past, it doesn’t stop the show.

“The Jefferson Barbecue happens rain or shine,” Langley said. “Some years we have to wear jackets and other years we turn the A/C on high, but we’re ready, no matter what. We serve inside, but people can eat inside the club or outside on picnic tables.”

Jefferson’s annual barbecue is the event of the season for more than just the club members.

Many out-of-towners mark their calendar each year for the Jefferson Barbecue in order to carry on what’s been a family tradition for them for years. Something tends to draw them back each year.

Whether it’s Mrs. Patsy Rogers’ homemade caramel cake or Mr. Douglas Peteet’s unique sauce, or the laid-back fellowship, it’s a good time and good food.

Peteet, still regarded as the chief sauce cook, has passed his recipe and technique on to the next generation, so it’s a time-tested delicacy by now. Peteet supervises while O’Neal Parker and Dave Compton mix and measure. Several like to stir the pot.

“We really look forward to this weekend,” Compton said. “It’s a lot of work leading up to it as we clean the pit, make repairs, gather supplies and ingredients, then spend a day and night cooking. We’re all exhausted by the end of the day of the barbecue, but we love it and we know what a difference it makes for our club.”

There are relatively concrete plans for each barbecue, and they go into motion about three months before the event. The bulk of the work is done in the two weeks prior, when the club grounds get a facelift, the pit is cleared and refilled with sand, the grates pressure washed and repaired from the previous cooking, and a couple truckloads of hickory slabs are carted in and stacked.

By this time, some of the best potato salad and cake recipes are being perfected in kitchens throughout the community, and those will arrive Saturday morning.

With all other supplies gathered already, the pork shoulders arrive on Friday morning around daylight, after a bright-eyed crew has started a hickory fire and finished greasing the pit. They unload a truck filled with cases of the precious cargo. Approximately 2,000 pounds of shoulders are placed like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle onto the pit.

The club’s barbecue pit is a unique one, built for this event. It’s a concrete pit with reinforced grates atop that allow for cooking over a glowing bed of hickory coals. The pit runs more than 20 feet long and about 6 feet wide.

The pit is “fired” and the meat covered, and so begins the cooking. The crew carefully watches the fire and the meat. Into the night, they turn the meat, throw a little magic on it, and babysit it until the sun rises. Then, shoulder by shoulder, they chop the meat, and Peteet’s signature sauce is added and stirred into tubs weighing approximately 200 pounds each.

One-by-one throughout the day, those tubs are carted inside where another busy crew makes plates and packs pounds, and yet another serves the buffet line.

It’s estimated that around 100 people volunteer to help host the event, and they agree that the work required to host the event is well worth the tradition and fellowship.

“We get to see people that we haven’t seen since this time last year, and we really enjoy working together as a community. And we like our barbecue, too!”

For more information on the Jefferson Barbecue, visit the Club online at www.facebook.com/jeffersoncommunityclub.