Rotarians hosting food drive, collecting at DHS playoff game

Not everyone in Demopolis is assured of a bountiful Thanksgiving. Stepping in to fill the food shortage gap for those in need is the Demopolis Rotary Club.

Again this year the club is sponsoring a food drive to benefit the Demopolis Food Bank. First begun in 2013, Rotarians and their partners have raised at least $4,500 in cash donations. The first year the club also brought in some two tons of food. Since then the club has counted another 2,500 items donated to the Food Bank.

Rotarians will be collecting non-perishable foods at the ticket gate before the Demopolis High School game on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. They also will have a site set up at Vowell’s on Saturday, Nov. 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Westside Elementary School is having a competition among classes, with the class bringing in the most earning a wing party.

Buckets for donations are at all Parr’s Chevron locations as well as Langley Shell and Malone Texaco.

Several area churches are joining in the food drive. Each church is deciding its own way how to collect food.

Joining with the Rotarians in their annual effort are the cadets with the JROTC at DHS. They will be helping with the donations at Vowell’s and at the DHS game as well as assisting in delivering the food for distribution.

McCampbell talks redistricting with Demopolis Rotary

Armed with maps, Alabama Rep. A.J. McCampbell explained to Demopolis Rotarians Wednesday, July 26 how the latest redistricting in Alabama could further water down the city’s representation in Montgomery if it is accepted.

McCampbell, representative for District 71, is part of a lawsuit brought against a highly gerrymandered drawing of districts in the state that would go into effect for the 2018 election. The decision is in the hands of the three-judge panel of the 11th Judicial Circuit.

The judges can accept the Republican version, choose a plan submitted by the Black Caucus or even come up with their own.

Currently McCampbell represents portions of six counties in west Alabama, stretching from Choctaw to Tuscaloosa. Under the Republican leadership plan, he would have all of Sumter County, a small part of Marengo, a portion of Green County and a larger section of Tuscaloosa, including some 4-5,000 residents in the southwestern part of the city of Tuscaloosa.

McCampbell, a Democrat, now represents a district with 71 percent African-American voters, he said. The new plan would lower the number to 57 percent; however, 42 percent of all the voters in the district would be in Tuscaloosa, which is up to 90 percent Republican.

“That’s going to be a concern” for him in the election next year. The district could lose a representative to an urban area.

The city of Demopolis is split in two both in the current district set-up and in the Republican plan. “It’s all about keeping a safe district for Republicans,” he told Rotarians.

Voters also must be aware that they will not be able to cross party lines to vote in the primary and run-off elections, he continued. Even though the state doesn’t require a voter to declare a party affiliation, the legislature has passed a bill prohibiting a voter from choosing one party in the primary and another in the run-off.

In many Alabama counties, the majority of local races are among Democrats, while the state offices are Republican. Voters will have to choose whether to vote for local candidates or state ones in the primary.

McCampbell said he introduced a bill in the last session that would place all candidates on the same primary ballot, saving cash-strapped Alabama the expense of a run-off election.

“It didn’t get anywhere because the Republican Party buried it,” he said.

He plans to reintroduce it again this year but doesn’t hold out much hope.

McCampbell touched briefly on two other topics at the meeting. He said the proposed prison bill “died a real interesting death.”

A federal judge has made a ruling about the mental health issues in Alabama prisons, which the state will have to face. “It’s going to cost a lot of money.”

As for the proposed gas tax, “It died a slow death on the House floor” after passing the Senate, he said. It was “a rugged fight” with special interests lined up to lobby their positions.

The gas tax may come back in the regular session, but it is unlikely to be voted on in an election year when no politician wants to raise taxes.

New Demopolis football coach addresses Rotarians

Demopolis football fans will have to learn to keep up with Coach Brian Seymore’s rapid-fire speech.

In a talk before the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday, the new DHS football coach reintroduced himself to Demopolis – he served as an assistant under Coach Tom Causey for a year – but also told stories of his wife and three children, explained the core values he stresses for his players, told how he plans to ready the team for stiff competition and shared some of his strategies.

He also asked for help.

“Somebody find me a kicker,” he pleaded.

Seymore spent the 2007 season as the defensive coordinator of the Tigers before leaving to become the head coach at Andalusia for seven seasons. He has spent the last two seasons leading the Class 7A Mary Montgomery program in Mobile where he began the process of building up a “rock bottom” program.

It was his mentor and friend Causey who encouraged him to apply for the DHS job when it opened, and he and his family welcomed the idea of returning to Demopolis.

“I understand what people expect,” he told Rotarians.

Growing up in Sumter County, Seymore said he always wanted to study beyond the high school level. He enjoyed playing sports under excellent coaches, but his father, who was also a coach, discouraged him from following in his footsteps because of the pressure on family life.

Seymore, who went on to get an undergraduate degree from Auburn and his master’s from UWA agrees, but his wife Nicholas provides a strong foundation for him and their children: daughter Mary Taylor, a ninth grader; son Drew, in the seventh, and fourth-grade daughter, Maggie.

“I’ll be happy when everybody gets here,” he said. “They’ll be a big part of what I do here.”

The Tigers face a tough schedule this fall, “which it should be,” Seymore said. The new coach has definite plans to bring in new assistants and evaluate those that already are here.

“Every good program has a solid weight program,” he continued, and he will be stressing strength work especially for hips and core. He also will be pushing the team mentally to play through fatigue. “The fourth quarter is where you lose football games,” he explained.

Seymore shared the five core values he has posted in the weight room.

First, “You’ve got to earn everything,” he said. “I want our kids to be proud of what we’ve got.”

“Project positive energy” is the second value, he continued. “I come in every day. I’m jacked up,” and he wants his players to be just as positive as he.

Third, “Be honest and use good judgment,” he said. He told members that the first day on the job a student lied to him. That student is no longer with the program.

He also encourages his team to “compete daily.” Seymore is not a coach who believes in giving a trophy simply for participating. “Someone’s trying to beat you every day,” he shares with the players.

The fifth core value is to “Live up to the expectations.” DHS always has been in the top 10. “That’s awesome. That’s the expectation I have for myself,” and he expects every student to act like they are members of a top 5A program.

As for his playing philosophy, “We’ll spread it out a little bit,” he hinted. “We want to be physical.”

He plans on drilling the team on different options to be ready for any opportunity.

As for defense, “We’ll change depending on who we play,” said the coach.

“We’re going to take a lot of chances,” including fake punts or on-side kicks that his team was known for in Mobile.

He also added that no player is assured of a position. “At spring training everything’s up for grabs.”

Spring practice begins May 3, and the team has a Spring Jamboree game against Northridge on May 19.

Three Demopolis Rotarians gain Paul Harris distinction

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The Demopolis Rotary Club is pleased to welcome the following individuals into the Paul Harris Fellowship. Paula Parr, Jason Windham, and Susanna Naisbett

UWA president extols achievements to Demopolis Rotary

Judge Claude Neilson and UWA president Dr. Ken Tucker

Judge Claude Neilson and UWA president Dr. Ken Tucker

With all the enthusiasm of a cheerleader, Dr. Ken Tucker proudly spoke of the accomplishments and strides made by the University of West Alabama since he became president of the university Jan. 1, 2015.

Speaking to the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday, Tucker said one of his first actions was to form a committee of UWA staff to develop a strategic plan. Among other goals, it “addresses the educational, social and cultural needs of the overall student body.”

He praised the faculty and staff. “They care about their students,” he said.

Classes have a 15-to-1 ratio of students to teacher, and 85 percent of the faculty hold the highest degree possible in their fields.

UWA, he continued, is the only four-year institution in the state that also offers two-year degrees. It has certificate programs to train students in several technology fields, which can be parlayed toward associate or bachelor degree programs to aid in career advancement.

UWA started life as a teacher’s college, said Tucker. It has graduated more teachers than the larger universities in the state combined. The school offers master’s degree programs in education and now is looking to add a doctoral program as well.

Students in nursing have a 97 percent pass rate in its two-year RN program. UWA offers a bachelor’s degree in conjunction with the University of Alabama but is looking to start its own four-year program.

The College of Education offers a nationally recognized Athletic Training degree as well, and the successful MBA program now is going to be offered over the Internet.

The Integrated Marketing Communications degree is the only one of its kind in the state, Tucker continued. Now with 80 students in its degree program, it has the distinction of having a 100 percent job placement.

Close on its heels is the Industrial Maintenance and Engineering Technology track. It provides intensive hands-on experience, and students quickly find jobs when they graduate.

Tucker gave credit to the university’s recruiting team for helping the school see a jump in admissions, turning the corner of decline. He said the freshman class last fall was the largest in 20 years. The rise in enrollment is reflected in the numbers of students both on campus and on-line.

He also gave a tip of his hat to the UWA faculty. Many have attended college fairs throughout the state. Prospective students – and their parents – are impressed that they can talk to the person who might be teaching them.

Tucker bragged on UWA’s athletic accomplishments this past year. The school had four Gulf South Conference championships, three GSC Coaches of the Year and brought home its first Men’s All-Sports Trophy. It offers nine men’s sports and 10 for women.

One of the best recruitment tools for the school has been its alumnus Malcolm Butler, who played an integral role in the New England Patriot’s Super Bowl win in 2015.

“We got more exposure in five minutes than in the past 180 years,” joked Tucker.

Several years ago as Dean of the College of Business Tucker was instrumental in forming a partnership with a university in China to bring students to Livingston, a move which has been highly successful for both UWA and the students.

The university attracts students not only from China but from South America and from Europe. Tucker is exploring potential partners in South Korea and Japan.

Having students from many countries expands diversity on campus and offers American students the opportunity to learn of other cultures when many cannot afford to travel abroad.

The Livingston community has been “very accepting” to the international students. They have been welcomed into homes and churches and even have been “semi-adopted” by some families.

All international students who have applied for graduate programs in colleges around the country have been accepted.

UWA recently received a $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, one of only 12 in the nation out of 140 applicants.

The grant will provide a center to offer tutoring, advice and counseling to all students in an effort to make certain they are successful not only while at UWA but throughout their lives.

Evans discusses BWWMH future with Demopolis Rotary

Art Evans speaks to the Demopolis Rotary Club on Wednesday, March 30. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Art Evans speaks to the Demopolis Rotary Club on Wednesday, March 30. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Demopolis’ hospital will “take a ‘selfie’” over the next three months as it conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

Art Evans, CEO/administrator of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, told members of the Rotary Club Wednesday the assessment, being conducted by an independent agency, will cover demand for future services, where patients go if not to the local hospital, service time performance, core services, physicians’ needs and a SWOT analysis.

The last such CHNA occurred five years ago, Evans said. They are conducted on a regular basis to gauge how well the hospital is doing and how it can improve.

Part of the CHNA will be a survey of stakeholders in the five-county area the hospital covers, he continued. People such as health care professionals, elected officials and community leaders will be asked to give their opinion on improving hospital services.

Once the CHNA is complete, the hospital must set out an implementation strategy to address improvement issues as mandated by the IRS. The assessment helps the hospital recognize trends so that it can be proactive in preparing for the future.

Evans also talked about the issue of Medicaid funding in Alabama. Medicaid, he said, is limited to children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled. Alabama has the most restrictive eligibility standards in the country since those requesting aid cannot make more than $2,867 a year.

For every 32 cents the state puts into Medicaid, the federal government adds 68 cents. Alabama has the third lowest cost per enrollee in the country.

The proposed legislation to add only $15 million to the Medicaid budget will fall far short of what is needed, Evans continued. “Level funding is going to force Medicaid to cut services,” he said.

The hospitals and medical professionals in the state have been working for the past two years on a Regional Care Organization plan which would start Oct. 1. Because it is done within the state and each RCO would manage its allocated funds, the usual 15 percent administrative fee would not have to be paid to an outside insurance company to oversee, saving costs for the state.

However, unless more money is added to the Medicaid budget, the RCOs are in jeopardy of not being able to begin and help keep down health care costs for those in need.

Evans stressed to the Rotarians that hospitals in the state get no money from the General Fund Budget. Hospitals themselves pay into a state fund that is matched at the federal level three-to-one. That money is returned to the hospitals after the state takes out 15 percent for the Medicaid agency.

The General Fund Budget, he explained, helps pay for physicians, pharmacies and nursing homes.

To help generate more funds for the hospital, Evans said BWWMH is taking advantage of the federal influx of $750 million to help jump-start the RCO program by submitting plans on how to save money in the long run. If approved, the hospital will be rewarded monetarily.

The hospital, said Evans, expected to submit three plans on Thursday. They include a more efficient admittance of patients to the Emergency Department, whether there for clinical ailments or more critical needs; group physicians to handle more Medicaid patients, and better use of the Health Care on Wheels van.

The hospital has received a $900,000 grant to extend the Health Care on Wheels for one year. It will equip the van and physicians’ offices, including technology to connect the van to doctors’ offices, and will pay for the doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to man the van.

The van started last week and will have a rotating two-week schedule through the rural areas of the five counties the hospital serves.

The hospital on Tuesday received its audit report. While the auditors gave it a clean report, Evans said it showed that operating costs are 107 percent of the net patient service revenue.

The good news, he said, is that it is the lowest cost-to-revenue among the peer hospitals that the auditors used as comparisons.

Hospitals now have to rely on other sources of revenue besides patients paying their fee. The difference between BWWMH and the other hospitals it was compared to is that the others received millions of dollars in local government support.

The local hospital lost $650,000 in 2015. Thanks to cost-cutting measures and more efficient operations, the loss is considerably less that previous years. It is trending in the right direction, said Evans.

Political columnist Flowers speaks to Demopolis Rotary Club

Political columnist Steve Flowers regaled the members of the Demopolis Rotary Club Wednesday with stories of some of Alabama’s most colorful politicians.

Fascinated with politics since he was a little boy in Troy, Flowers became a Page in the Alabama Legislature at age 12 and worked at the State Capitol throughout his high school years. He earned a degree in Political Science and History from the University of Alabama where he was a student leader and served in the Student Senate.

Political columnist Steve Flowers speaks to the Demopolis Rotary Club on Wednesday. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Political columnist Steve Flowers speaks to the Demopolis Rotary Club on Wednesday. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

In 1982, at age 30, he was elected State Representative from Pike County and was overwhelmingly reelected four times. He chose not to seek reelection in 1998. During his tenure he maintained a perfect attendance record for 16 consecutive years and was honored by his colleagues with a resolution naming him the Most Ethical Member of the House.

In 2002 Flowers began writing a weekly column on Alabama politics, which quickly took off. He is read in 66 newspapers across the state, and he can be seen regularly on numerous television stations as their political analyst.  His weekly radio show on state politics is heard on Alabama Public Radio.

Flowers recently completed a book on Alabama politics, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories.” He was in Demopolis for a book-signing at the library Wednesday afternoon.

“We in the South probably have the most colorful politics” of anywhere in the nation, Flowers told the club. Politics and the men who were involved in its were the entertainment in the South, he said.

He named well-known men in the 1940s and 1950s such as Louisiana’s Huey Long and the Talmages from Georgia, but, he continued, “I would compare our ‘Big Jim’ Folsom and George Wallace with any of them.”

Most of the stories Flowers shared with Rotarians concerned Folsom. “You can’t make up these stories,” he said. “If you put the word ‘uninhibited’ in the dictionary, you could put Big Jim’s picture” next to it.

People today are concerned that Gov. Robert Bentley’s divorce will distract him from his duties.

“Good Gosh, we haven’t had a governor for 30 or 40 years,” he joked. “We don’t need a governor in Alabama. Big Jim was drunk his whole second term, Wallace was incoherent with all the pain pills, Fob James went duck hunting all the time and he wasn’t there. Bentley’s at least hanging around.”

Demopolis Rotary Club golf tourney set for May 2

The Demopolis Rotary Club will host its 42nd annual golf tournament Friday, May 1 at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start at the Demopolis Country Club.

The event will also feature a Thursday night social with a steak dinner and a putting contest on April 30 at 6:30 p.m.

The event will be 18 holes and will feature two-man scramble and four-ball divisions. The registration fee is $90 per player and $25 for cart rental.

Scramble and four-ball divisions are each limited to the first 24 paid teams. Additional entries will be placed in separate divisions until the field is full.

Entry fees include a free steak dinner Thursday night, lunch on Friday, 18 holes of golf, hole-in-one prizes on all par threes, free refreshments on the course, a free practice round April 30 and assorted gifts and prizes. All proceeds will go to charities and entry fees and donations are tax deductible.

Those with questions are encouraged to call Jay Reynolds at 334-289-0828, Bill Meador at 334-216-2054 and 334-341-0296. Entry forms are due by Tuesday, April 28. Entry forms are available at Marengo Insurance, Batter Up Sports Grill and Demopolis Country Club.

Forms and fees should be mailed to Jay Reynolds at P.O. Box 1045 Demopolis, AL 36732.

 

Demopolis Rotary Club holds annual Spouses’ Night

Food, laughter and awards marked the annual Demopolis Rotary Club Spouses’ Night Thursday, April 16, at the Kingfisher Yacht Basin.

Highlighting the evening was the presentation of the Service Above Self Award to Demopolis club member Wade Drinkard. In his remarks Past District Governor Bob Callahan said the award is bestowed annually by Rotary International to no more than 150 Rotarians for their contributions of time and talent. Since Rotary International has 1.2 million members, the award makes Drinkard “one in a million,” said Callahan.

But that wasn’t the only accolade Drinkard received. Each year the local club votes on a Rotarian of the Year, and club president Jay Reynolds announced Drinkard had been selected by his fellow Rotarians for the honor.

Visibly surprised, Drinkard joked, “For the first time I’m speechless.”

Current District Governor Linda Mong, on hand for the festivities, received her own honor when the club stood and serenaded her with “Happy Birthday.”

Callahan also honored club member Jan McDonald, who served as his aide during his term as district governor. He named her a Paul Harris Fellow, which includes a contribution to the Rotary Foundation of $1,000 to continue its work of service around the world.

On a lighter note, the club named the winners of the worst and best jokes of its annual Mackey Mayhem. They were, respectively, Mike Grayson and John Wallace.

The club enjoyed a meal prepared and served by students enrolled in the Culinary Institute of Demopolis High School and their teacher, Andi Turberville.

Demopolis Rotary recognizes four Paul Harris Fellows

photo(3)Four residents of Demopolis Wednesday were presented as Paul Harris Fellows by the Demopolis Rotary Club.

Named for Rotary’s founder, the honor recognizes leaders – both Rotarian and non-Rotarian – who have made a difference in their community. Each Fellow is recognized with a $1,000 donation to the Rotary Foundation to ensure continued support for the international group’s humanitarian efforts.

Recognized Wednesday were John F. and Ellen (Bird) Rish, presented by Mem Webb; Rob Fleming, presented by Jay Reynolds, and Katie Echols Windham, presented by Jason Windham.

The Rishes have been active with the Demopolis Food Pantry for more than 18 years, said Webb. “Your life exemplies the objectives of the Rotary Foundation,” he continued.

The couple, who have two children, also are active with Trinity Episcopal Church.

Past Rotary Club president Fleming, who joined the club in 2007, is the sole proprietor of Fleming Photography. He is a graduate of Leadership Marengo, serves on the board of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, past chairman of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce and of Christmas on the River and a founder and board member of the Demopolis Area Business Council.

Windham, a native of Selma and raised in Linden, earned her business administration degree from Auburn. She returned to the area 10 years ago as vice president of human resources at Robertson Banking Company.

Her community involvement includes YouthLEAD, Leadership Marengo, past chairman of the DACC and an active member of the Marengo County Auburn Club, said Jason Windham.

She will be president of the club beginning in July after serving as treasurer and secretary and has spearheaded the Service Committee and Kids at Christmas projects for many years.

The local club has recognized more than 80 Paul Harris Fellows, and it has contributed some $150,000 to the Foundation. Currently there are 20 active Paul Harris Fellows in the club.