1. Only In America
August 16, 2018
By Bonita Wilborn
Karen Gerber, a 68-year-old South Africa native, now resident of Ider, began her teaching career with the start of the school term at Cornerstone Christian Academy.
Karen and her family came from South Africa in the 1990s due to a decline in the political climate of South Africa, with a goal of providing a safe and happy life for her children. “We came here on a missionary program,” Karen explained. “God just opened the doors for us. It’s been amazing.”
After arriving in the United States, Karen and her husband both began working toward specific degrees of their choice. Karen spent many years as a certified medical coder. “The stress of that job put me in the hospital for four days.” Karen began. “I prayed about it because I never had the courage to resign from the job. I worked from home, it was a well paying job, and I asked the Lord to please help me and direct my footsteps. It came about where I had to resign because of my health.”
Her youngest daughter, Melissa Ledbetter, said, “You know Momma, you’ve always wanted to teach.”
Karen said, “Every morning I would drive by Cornerstone Christian Academy and say to the Lord, ‘I would just love to work there.’ Then one day a teacher from Cornerstone called me as asked if I could sub for her there.”
A little while later, Mrs. Smith, Cornerstone’s then elementary administrator, called Karen at home with a job offer. She began working in the summer program. Then during the 2017-2018 school year Karen was hired as a teacher’s aid for the Pre-K 3 class (three year old students).
Karen emphatically commented, “Coming from South Africa, I don’t care what anybody says, America is the greatest country in the world!”
2. A Big Reveal About A Big Deal
August 16, 2018
By Bonita Wilborn
In 2001 Anthony and Michelle Norwood started on a journey that in the beginning was a very scary trail that led to a wonderful adventure, when their son Hunter was born with Down Syndrome. “We have always wanted to give our other children every opportunity. If they wanted it, we wanted to be able to do whatever we could to help them succeed in life,” Michelle Norwood said. “Of course, that’s exactly what we want for Hunter also. I don’t ever want to be the parent that says, ‘You can’t.’ We want to give him something he can work at every week. I’ve laid awake many nights trying to figure out exactly what we want for Hunter. One night, I just thought, ‘We could start an ice cream truck for Hunter.’ But Hunter has so many friends, and I didn’t want it to be just about him. I want the world to see that people with disabilities still have the ability to give back to the world. They’re very worthy of holding jobs, contributing, making donations to charities, just as a non-disabled person is. That’s what I hope the end result can be. These kids have purpose, it gives them something to look forward to, and I want to assure that they see they can give back to the world in many ways, just as you and I can..”
Currently a junior in Geraldine High School, Hunter Norwood and his family have begun what they expect might be a life long business for Hunter; a business called “A Little Something Extra” Ice Cream. The ice cream truck business has a plethora of benefits. Not only will it bring awareness and acceptance for people with intellectual and other disabilities, but it will also help children with disabilities develop business and social skills.
“The name ‘A Little Something Extra’ is for the extra chromosome that causes Down Syndrome,” Michelle said. “These people have a little something extra that makes them a whole lot more special. I can’t believe the blessings the truck has brought. So many kids and their families have come out and supported it and wanted to help with it. From time to time we start losing faith in humanity, but if you ever feel yourself losing faith, you should come work the ice cream truck sometime. It brings out the good in everybody!”
3. Cancer, Thank You
October 18, 2018
By Jadrianne Godwin
You always see people writing about what cancer can take from you. Well I wanna do something different. I want to share what cancer has GIVEN me!!!
Being a nurse in a hospital you work weekends and holidays. I have been doing this for 17 years, missing lunches, dinners, and time with my family. This year CANCER GAVE ME a holiday season without the hustle of work, spent with the most important people. We were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families and I was home for Christmas Eve cookie baking AND Christmas Day Santa surprises.
CANCER SHOWED ME the love and full support of my bosses and coworkers who were willing to work my schedule around my appointments and sick days and just making it easy to continue to work through chemo. These same coworkers organized fundraisers, babysat our kids and even took me to appointments and were among the first to know my diagnosis and the first to give encouraging words to put me into “beast mode” and prepare me for the fight ahead.
Even though the numerous trips to Birmingham and every 3 week chemo treatments were very exhausting over the last 6 months, CANCER GAVE ME more lunch dates and kid free time with my wonderful husband than we have had since Asher was born.
CANCER SHOWED ME how our wonderful parents, family, and our friends can pull together, even though everyone’s life is busy, often putting their lives on hold to support each other when the times get tough.
CANCER SHOWED US the love of a wonderful church (Antioch) who volunteered their time and love to help us ANY way they could; babysitting, helping with house work, yard work, and including fattening us up for the winter. They fed us 1 meal a day for like a whole month after my surgery!!!!!!!
CANCER LET ME enjoy a Christmas dinner with some precious friends that I haven’t seen in years, giving me a night of tears and laughter that I sooooo needed.
CANCER REMINDED ME that knowing and having faith in God doesn’t prevent you from trials, but it sure does make those trials a lot easier to get through!
(To the moms) CANCER ENLIGHTENED ME to the fact that your kids love you for you. They don’t see us as we often see ourselves. Don’t let the way you see yourself take making memories away from your kids. Get in those pictures even if your having a bad hair day (or a no hair day, lol) or you don’t have any make up on. They might need to see your face one day. And rock that one-piece bathing suit even if you think you look like a beached whale, and swim with those babies because you never know what diagnosis tomorrow will bring.
I mean I know I have a good husband but CANCER SHOWED ME just how good and what “in sickness and in health” really means. He was there through it all, 1000 trips to the doctor, waiting in waiting rooms, sleeping on a couch in the hospital, stripping drains, changing bandages, helping me to the bathroom in middle of the night when I couldn’t get myself out of bed, helping me change clothes and shower, feeding me, the list goes on and on, and he never complained or acted like it was a burden.
You may have taken my hair, my taste buds, my eyelashes, some of my physical strength and I’m pretty sure part of my hearing lol, left my body bruised and scarred, given me days of terrible pain, fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea, but you have given me so so much
more!!! So for all these things and I’m sure I’m forgetting even more reasons, CANCER, THANK YOU.
4. New School Proposed
September 13, 2018
By Bonita Wilborn
On Friday, September 7, in a special called meeting, the Fort Payne Board of Education was presented with plans for the design of their future new home for students in third through fifth grades. The proposed building will replace the current Williams Avenue Elementary School. At the meeting, the Board voted to begin bid processes, reserving the right for final approval once the process is completed.
Funding for this new building came after the city was issued over $40 million in bonds for city projects. City leaders set aside half of the money ($20 million) to be used for the building of a new elementary school.
According to Superintendent Jim Cunningham, the bids will go out soon. “We’re very excited about it,” he said.
5. What?! Parole A Convicted Murderer
April 26, 2018
By Bonita Wilborn
The notorious Judith Ann Neelley, convicted in 1983 of torturing and murdering both Lisa Ann Millican and Janice Kay Chatman, was up for parole on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 and feasibly could have been released from prison. The outraged family members of her victims were able to thwart any possibility of that actually happening.
Through a Facebook message that was first thought to be a hoax, the Alabama Department of Pardons and Paroles contacted Cassie Millican [wife of Lisa’s brother Calvin] with a message to call them as soon as possible. She was told that Judith Ann Neelley was coming up for parole and their family could protest if they wanted to. So they met with District Attorney Mike O’Dell and he fought it too.
Lisa Ann Millican was a teenager that only wanted to go to the mall (in Rome, Georgia). On that fateful day in September 1982, she somehow got separated from the group she was with and was standing outside the mall, no doubt feeling lost and confused, looking for her ride home. Judith Ann Neelley was trolling the mall, looking for a young girl to take home to her husband, Alvin Howard Neelley, Jr. Lisa Millican, thirteen years old, naïve to the ways of the world, confused and alone, wondering where her ride was, became Neelley’s next target. When told that she’d be given a ride home, Lisa accepted what she thought was an act of kindness, but trusting in the kindness of a stranger turned out to be fatal for Lisa Millican.
Judith Neelley was sentenced to death by the State of Alabama (1983), but her sentence was commuted to life in prison (1999). She is serving her sentence at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. Alvin Neelley was serving a life sentence at the Bostick State Prison in Hardwick, Georgia at the time of his death in 2005.
The Millican family was in Montgomery on May 23 to oppose Neelley’s parole, which fortunately was successful. Neeley is still in prison at this time.
6. Faith N Hymn Opens With New Owners
September 27, 2018
By Bonita Wilborn
During the early part of 2018, Faith ‘N’ Hymn, a Christian based store located at 475 Main Street West in Rainsville, was closed after 21 years in business, which left northeast Alabama basically without a physical location where people could go to purchase faith based items.
New owners, Justin and Marilyn Bryant were excited to re-open Faith ‘N’ Hymn on Thursday, September 27, just in time for you to purchase your Pastor Appreciation items.
Justin Bryant had taken business management courses in college and always had a desire to have his own business someday, no particular business though. He said, “One day we were sitting at the red light at Walmart and I looked at the empty Rue 21 building and said to Marilyn, ‘That would be a good location for a Christian Book Store.’ The next week I heard that Faith ‘N’ Hymn had been closed. After I heard that I texted Marilyn and told her about it.”
In July Justin received a call from Jimmy Garrett, former owner of Faith ‘N’ Hymn that they’d reached a decision to sell the business and that if he was still interested he was the first one for which it was being offered.
“That’s when the praying really began!” Justin admitted. “What seemed like only a passing thought, at the time, was about to become reality.”
As it turned out, that passing thought was God’s way of bringing Justin and Marilyn to the next chapter in their lives. As an ordained minister of the gospel, Justin realized the importance of having a faith-based business where people can go to purchase faith-based items. The fact that there is not currently a Christian Book Store anywhere else in DeKalb County as well as Jackson, Cherokee, and Etowah Counties, gives proof of the need for such a business.
“Throughout the process we’d pray, ‘God if this is really your will, let this work out a certain way or let that work out a certain way, let these numbers I’m looking at be consistent, and etc.’ and he would answer that prayer. Then we go to the next step and pray, ‘God, if this is what we need to be doing, bless this step.’ The Lord just blessed every single stage of the process,” Marilyn added. “In the beginning it was a leap of faith, but now we’ve gotten to the point where we know God is leading us to do this. And the outpouring of support has been amazing.”
“We view this as an opportunity to be able to witness to people and advance the Lord’s word,” Marilyn said. “It will be like going to church every day.”
7. New Pumper Truck For Blake Fire Department
October 4, 2018
Blake Volunteer Fire Department (BVFD) recently received and put into service a 2019 International Pumper Truck, delivered September 14th, and custom built by Deep South Fire Trucks of Seminary, MS.
Blake Community Fire Protection Authority and its members would like to thank everyone in the Blake Community for all their support over the years, that helped make this possible. They would also like to thank Guadalupe Kirby with the USDA who provided the funding.
In addition, BVFD greatly appreciate Senator Steve Livingston, Representative Nathaniel Ledbetter, DeKalb County Commission President Ricky Harcrow, and District 4 Commissioner Dewitt Jackson. Without their monetary support over the years, this could never have been accomplished.
8. Jo Deerman Hall-A Music Legend
August 9, 2018
By Sherri Blevins
Make a joyful noise! This is a Biblical command that local resident, Jo Deerman Hall, has followed all her life. She was recognized for it in 2018. Hall was inducted into the Tri State Gospel Music Hall of Fame 2018 class on Saturday, August 4 at Parkway Baptist Temple Church in Georgia. Tri State Gospel Music Hall of Fame recognizes, honors, and celebrates gospel music musicians who have made outstanding contributions to gospel music in the Tri-State-Area for Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Hall has been involved with music since she was a small child. She stated, “My dad said I was born singing. He was also a singer and one of his acts of service was to sing at funerals. At the age of thirteen, he used to check me out of school to play the piano and sing for a community member’s funeral.” Hall became a member of the gospel group, Golden Harvest Quartet, in 1955 and sang with them fifteen years. She started as their piano player and later became the lead singer. Hall also sang with the Commodores Quartet for three years.
Hall’s music career continued after she stopped traveling with the quartets, but she assumed a different role. She served as choir director at New Sardis Church for ten years and then she filled the same role at Minvale Church for six years. Her eyesight began to fail at the end of that period, and she had to give up that part of her music career. However, that disability did not stop her from sharing her gift with others. She then moved to Broadway Baptist Church in Rainsville and joined the choir where she still serves today.
Jo said, “I am so grateful to the Lord Jesus Christ for allowing me the opportunity to sing and follow him because He is a gracious God, and I appreciate it so much.”
9. Republicans Sweep DeKalb
November 7, 2018
Election Day finally came and went for the 2018 general election. Winners were as follows:
DeKalb County Sheriff – Nick Weldon
Commission President – Ricky Harcrow
District 4 Commissioner – Lester Black
District 3 Commissioner – Chris Kuykendall
Judge of Probate – Ronnie Osborn
Circuit Clerk – Todd Greeson
Judicial Circuit Judge Place 1 – Andrew Hairston
Judicial Circuit Judge Place 2 – Shaunathan Bell
Board of Education Place 3 – Carol Hiett
Board of Education Place 4 – Monty Darwin
Governor – Kay Ivey
Lieutenant Governor – Will Ainsworth
United States Representative, 4th Congressional District – Robert Aderholt
Attorney General – Steve Marshall
10. Luke Meets Pete
August 9, 2018
By Bonita Wilborn
Mountain Valley News’ inaugural Story Trail Program, a scavenger hunt type activity, where we featured four different books in the Pete the Cat series written by Fort Payne native, James Dean, went well and we are excited to announce that Luke Patterson was our overall winner.
Luke and his grandmother Joycelyn Munyon participated in Story Trail each week from July 9 through August 3 where they visited twelve different businesses throughout the city of Rainsville, read the pages that were posted there, answered a few questions about those pages, and then turned in his answer sheet here at the Mountain Valley News office.
As the overall winner, Luke had the opportunity to participate in the parade at Fort Payne’s “Pete the Cat Festival” on Saturday, August 4, and also received a free book signed by James Dean the author.
Highlights of the festival included the dedication of “Pete’s Alley” and star in honor of James Dean for his Pete the Cat series of books in downtown Fort Payne, as well as Mayor Larry Chesser giving James a Key to the City. There was also face painting and many activities for the children. James’ book signing was a huge success with folks waiting in line for hours to get their favorite book signed by the author/illustrator.