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.

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.

Laney discusses first 10 days in office during Rotary meeting


Demopolis Mayor John Laney speaks at a meeting of the Rotary Club on Thursday. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Demopolis Mayor John Laney speaks at a meeting of the Rotary Club on Thursday. (WAW | Jan McDonald)

Demopolis Mayor John Laney reviewed the first 10 days of his administration for the Rotary Club Wednesday and told members how he is getting to know the people and the routine of his new position.

First, he said, he has found out “you can’t do anything by yourself.” As he campaigned, “I learned a lot about the city, the condition of the city and the people of the city.”

His first days in office have been spent meeting “an awful lot of people” and finding out what their duties are with the city. Laney also is learning the routine of the job, all the meetings he must attend and how to prepare for them.

Already, he continued, he and the City Council have passed a proposal to make permanent the tax-free weekend for back-to-school shopping as long as the state sponsors the event. The action removes the requirement to vote for the proposal each year.

He has set up two new committees. The first is the Economic Incentive and Contract committee to focus on underutilized and underserved areas of the city. The second is the Grant Review and Capital Budget committee to make sure any grants the city pursues will be in the best interest of Demopolis.

Laney is concerned that the city’s depreciation is $700,000 annually, but it spends about $300,000 less each year on maintenance.

“We are letting the city run down.” First impressions are important. “We have to be proud of our city and the city has to look like we’re proud of it.”

One of his main goals is to make City Hall a place where people feel they have been helped even if their problem hasn’t been resolved.

He also wants to make sure that the city government buys locally if an item is available locally.

Economic development will be a high priority in his administration. The city is helping with a $400,000 grant for the new Two Rivers Lumber Co. to build a rail spur to its new facility.

High speed internet now is available at the Demopolis Higher Education Center so Shelton State Community College can begin to offer more courses.

SSCC’s truck driver training facility has a budget of $1.3 million, but the college so far has $720,000 in funding. Some features may have to be cut, but Laney is working with the college to see what can be done and how area industries can pitch in to help.

Laney has been spending a lot of his time meeting with local businesses and industries to see what their needs are.

”Businesses in this town have to feel this is a good place to do business,” he said. “If they are happy, it will be easier to recruit new businesses to Demopolis.”

He plans to work with the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce to find out the needs of retail establishments in the city.

Marketing Demopolis is important, too, Laney continued. “We must get out and make people aware of Demopolis,” he said.

Laney hopes to start “Lunch with the Mayor” in January. At a different restaurant each month people will have a chance to ask questions and voice their concerns to him.

The mayor also said the city’s web site now is posting the approved minutes, financial statements and department reports in an effort to provide more transparency.

The last master plan for the city was completed in 2008. Laney wants to establish a new one to go into effect for the 2018 fiscal year.

He said the University of Alabama Law School students will review city ordinances. The procedure is not required, but such review by a third party may result in recommendations to consider.

Laney also encouraged anyone who is interested in serving on one of the city’s boards to send him an email. He is always looking for people who want the best for Demopolis.

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.

Rotary’s Global Grant benefits local students

Students work with computers in Linda Vick's second grade class at Marengo High School in Dixons Mills. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

Students work with computers in Linda Vick’s second grade class at Marengo High School in Dixons Mills. (Photo by Jan McDonald)

By Jan McDonald

Organized chaos is about the only way to describe Linda Vick’s second grade classroom on the Marengo High School campus in Dixons Mills.

In one corner of the room children cluster in front of computer screens. In another a group debates how to display their work on a poster board. In still another place they huddle on a bench discussing what they have found searching the Internet on their tables.

They talk about photosynthesis, fertilizer and carbon dioxide and oxygen exchange, subjects not usually covered by seven-year-olds, as they conduct their own research, type out their findings and collaborate with each other to prepare a report for their class.

This is not a class of gifted students. Quite the contrary. These students live in a rural area with high poverty and few educational resources.

The activity is all part of a Global Grant sponsored by Rotary District 6880 covering south Alabama with financial support from 13 clubs in the district and from fellow districts in Korea and India.

In addition, the Rotary clubs of Demopolis and Linden will be providing volunteer “cloud grannies” to read to students by computer linkup.

The $34,505 grant provided the computers, large screen television and teacher training for Self Organized Learning Environments, also called SOLE.

Two sites benefit from the grant. In addition to the one at Marengo High, another is located at a site provided by the Hale (County) Empowerment and Revitalization Organization (HERO) in Greensboro.

The project, in the works for more than two years, draws on the studies by Indian educator Sugata Mitra. His research was the inspiration for the popular movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” Mitra placed a computer in a wall in one of the poorest sections of India and watched what would happen when children discovered it.

Within weeks the youngsters had taught themselves how to use the computer and look up all manner of topics.

Using the same philosophy, the SOLE grant is creating a vibrant learning environment where children teach themselves and empower others with the support and guidance of adult teachers and volunteers.

Greensboro and Dixons Mills were chosen because of the low levels of basic education and poverty rates at almost twice the national average.

Past District Governor Bob Callahan of Fairhope worked on the project for more than two years, coordinating the grant writing, getting Rotary global partners, lining up sites and organizing the training for teachers and volunteers.

All the hard work is evident in the excited voices of the children and the glowing reports of success from teachers.

Vick, who has taught for 38 years, is enthusiastic about the project. In just three weeks under her direction the children learned how to research topics on specific web sites. The children use the Alabama Virtual Library, Google Junior and Discovery Education.

Each group of four collaborated to write a group report. Then they designed and created a poster to display what they had learned.

“They listen more to each other than they do sometimes to me,” she laughed. “I don’t care where they get it.”

Admittedly a teacher of “the Old School,” Vick is used to having students sit quietly and listen as she instructed them. Using the new method has been a challenge, but she is sold on the results.

“We limit children by what we give them,” said Tricia Hudson, the Fairhope High School teacher who conducted the training for teachers and volunteers. “It’s hard for teachers to guide and facilitate when they have been so used to imparting knowledge,” she said. “It’s hard to undo the ways we’ve always taught.”

The teachers had to learn how to ask questions so that they led to more questions, said Hudson. They also learned how to use “value-free response” to children’s answers, encouraging them to determine for themselves whether they are right or wrong.

Vick chose to start using the new materials with a project already underway. The students tackled the topic of the interdependence of plants and people. What they are studying is all part of the Alabama curriculum for second graders.

In Greensboro the computer carrels and television are being used daily by 14 young people outside of a regular school setting, with more expected as the program grows, said Pam Dorr, HERO director. The project is intended to serve more than 200 students at each location, both in and out of school, in rotations.

“The students really enjoy working on it,” she said.

“’Big questions’ are provided by a teacher, and the students work in teams as they teach themselves,” Dorr explained. They have tackled such questions as: “How do our eyes know to cry when we are sad?” “Can anything be less than zero? “Why is it important to use a level in carpentry?” “What would happen to the world if no one had a high school diploma?”

The teachers who work with students at each location traveled to Fairhope for training under Hudson, a teacher of gifted and talented students.

While in college Hudson became interested in the Firefox project started by educator John Dewey. He advocated teaching based on learning through experience. Since then she has tried to incorporate Dewey’s ideas into her classrooms.

She met Mitra at a conference just after his “hole-in-the-wall” experiment. After Callahan spoke to her class about his trip to India, the two began sharing notes. “It was very serendipitous” that both of them were interested in using Mitra’s ideas in Alabama, she said.

“You can see from how excited the kids are and the quality of work” how effective the program is.”

So excited about learning are the children they when they didn’t know an answer they eagerly went to a computer or notebook to find out.

Marengo fourth-grade teacher Karen Jones had her class using Chrome Books at the start of school. After she went through the training with Hudson, however, she has expanded the use of the Internet to all subjects.

“It has been a tremendous addition to the classroom,” she said.

Jones calls self-directed learning “handing over the reins” to the students with effective results. Even the shy students get engaged in what they are learning.

“It makes a difference. Technology opens up the world,” she said.

Dorr and Marengo County Schools IT director William Martin determined locations for the equipment, coordinated site requirements, such as wiring and power, and supervised the preparation for the sites.

To help stretch the grant funding as far as possible Dorr had the youth involved with HERO construct the computer carrels and benches used at both sites. HERO and Marengo County Schools will be responsible for maintaining and operating the SOLE kiosks in their respective communities.

Martin said Vick’s fellow teachers are “clawing” to get the equipment in her room when she retires after this school year.

The enthusiasm about the project is reflected in one second-grader’s comment. “Nobody has to tell you the answer. You have to figure it out yourself.”

East Mississippi Rotarians holding clay shoot in Meridian

claysOn Oct. 3, The Rotary Club of East Mississippi will hold this year’s annual “Shots Felt Around the World” Clay Target Shoot. Often called “golf with a shotgun”, sporting clays is a shotgun course through the trails of Camp Binachi Scout Reservation where clays will be thrown to emulate hunting situations; such as rabbits, teal, doves, pheasants, and more.

Teams of 4 people will compete in this fun and social event. Awards will be given to the high overall shooter, top teams in novice and expert classes, and youth division which is new to the event this year. Breakfast and lunch will be served for all shooters. The event is open to the public and teams are forming now.

Cost for individual shooters is $75. A team of 4 members is $300.  Shooters may register singularly or as teams of four.  Station sponsorships are available to individuals and businesses.

clays2For registration information call Paul Bucurel at 601-480-6402 or you can pick up registration forms at United States Rare Coin & Currency, 2115 5th Street, Meridian, MS.  E-mail:  Other registration locations include Sinclair Auto Sales and Super Lube, 3700 8th Street, Meridian, AOTEC Computers, 600 22nd Avenue, Meridian, MS Will Sweatt – Alfa Insurance, 2340 N Hills St, Meridian, MS, The Daily Grind, 4820 Poplar Springs Dr, Meridian, David’s Uniform Shop, Bonita Lakes Mall.

The Rotary Club of East Mississippi has partnered with the Rotary Club of Clarke County this year contact Mayor Eddie Fulton for applications and registration. The mission of The Rotary Foundation is to enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty both locally and internationally. The Rotary Club of East Mississippi’s local projects include sponsoring the Interact Club at Meridian High School, “Between The Lions” preschool reading programs at Lower T.J. Harris Elementary and Crestwood Elementary, Rotary Has Heart Food Drive benefiting Care Lodge and Books and Blankets benefiting Meridian Housing Authority 2nd and 3rd graders. The Rotary Club of East Mississippi meets on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Rush Hospital Private Dining Room.

For more information on Rotary or joining the Rotary Club of East Mississippi contact Jennifer Bucurel, President call 601-480-6402 or

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.”

Rotary Golf Tournament set for May 2

Rotary Golf Poster

Rotary Golf Entry Form

Rotary golf tourney set for May 2

The Demopolis Rotary Club will host its annual golf tournament Friday, May 2 at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start.

The event will also feature a Thursday night social with a steak dinner and a putting contest on May 1 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.

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 refresthments on the course, a free practice round May 1 and assorted gifts and prizes.

Those with questions are encouraged to call Jay Reynolds at 334-289-0828. You can download the Entry Form HERE.

Each division is limited to 24 paid teams. Forms and fees should be mailed to Jay Reynolds at P.O. Box 1045 Demopolis, AL 36732.

Club names Jason Windham Rotarian of the Year

photo-67The Demopolis Rotary Club named Jason Windham its Rotarian of the Year Thursday night during its annual social.

Windham, pictured here with Demopolis Rotary Club President Rob Pearson, is owner of Demopolis businesses Batter Up Sports Grill, Holiday Cleaners and Suds Laundromat.

A member of Rotary since 2004, Windham has been continually active on the club’s golf tournament committee. In the past year, Windham’s efforts have been instrumental in a successful drive for the Demopolis Food Pantry in which he spear-headed an effort that saw the Rotary Club partner with the Demopolis High School JROTC and the DHS Interact Club.

Additionally he has been involved with numerous other community endeavors ranging from the Demopolis Area Business Council to an initiative in which he donated portions of Batter Up proceeds to local high school athletic teams and support groups.

Windham is married to the former Carey Sittason. The couple has a daughter, Miller, and a son, Reid.