Hampton Inn manager Marian Keith said that a steady influx of Hurricane Michael evacuees came through the hotel’s doors last Monday and Tuesday. Most of these were from the Panama City area. By Tuesday night, the Hampton Inn was at capacity. There were no more available rooms. When the Robinson family from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., entered the lobby, they were told that there were no rooms to accommodate the three adults and six children who were standing at the guest desk. April Robinson, who had been driving for hours in congested traffic begged for anywhere to sleep,”We will sleep on the floor,” she told attendant Ashley Smith and manager Marion Keith.
Keith and Smith discussed the situation and brought in Carolyn Mitchell, a member of the housekeeping staff, for her input. “We got creative,” Smith said. Keith offered the conference room for the family to sleep for the night. There were three cots available and the staff offered to make pallets for the kids to sleep on. Robinson and her family were grateful and accepted the offer.
Mitchell and Smith set the cots up in the conference room and used the Hampton Inn duvets for pallets. Although there was no place for shower that night, the conference room does have restrooms. The children enjoyed swimming in the hotel’s pool and just being out of the cramped cars.
April Robinson said that the makeshift hotel room was a “welcomed sight” and an experience that the family will never forget.
Keith stated, “In this business you have to make up your mind to be conventional or to put yourself in a guest’s position and offer what you have. We do everything we can in regards to emergencies. Guests’ needs are first with us.”
April Robinson wrote the following letter regarding her family’s experience:
“We are very grateful for the wonderful service and consideration that the people who work at the Hampton Inn, Jackson, Alabama. We stopped at several hotels that were booked. Ashley (Smith) made sure we had a place to stay. They had no rooms, but they were able to allow us to stay in the conference room. It was nice. It was an adventure for us. There are nine of us total. The kids really had a blast with all the extra space. Carolyn (Mitchell) went out of her way to provide top notch customer service. Both Carolyn and Ashley would check in and make sure everything we needed was at our fingertips. The manager (Keith) could have turned us away like the other hotels, but she didn’t. We appreciate that we didn’t have to drive many miles away to find somewhere to stay, especially since we left Florida to get away from Hurricane Michael. Thankfully, our home area did not get hit badly.” April Robinson, Ft. Walton Beach, Florida
Last Sunday, I had the scare of my life as I was driving to meet friends in Birmingham for church. I was in an accident and the car, my lovely alien green Kia Soul, rolled over. Thankfully, I am fine. Sadly, the bright green car is not. I tend to worry about every little detail in life, but Sunday, I was unable to. Shock has a way of doing that, I suppose.
Thankfully, I have a core group of friends who live in the Birmingham area. Thankfully I had no passengers. Thankfully my phone fell out of the car and was at my feet when I was able to stand up. I’m just thankful. I have realized something looking back on the events of Sunday as I remember them. The main thing is that my friends and I are all so very different that I am not sure how we get along… at all. Michelle is loud, inquisitive, demanding and kept questioning everything that the doctors or nurses were doing. They all loved her, I’m sure. She’s actually a lovely person; she just likes to know ALL the details. Kristi, quiet and observant, had a joke about everything and everyone. Her one-liners kept us all laughing. Meanwhile, Tiffany did her best to make sure everyone had their needs met. Caffeine? Chocolate? Nail polish? A bottle of water? She is always so together.
They kept me company until my parents and husband could get from Washington County to Birmingham. Since then, I have thought about how much each of them mean to me and how many years of friendship we share.
Kristi and I have known each other long before the invention of the Internet. We met in 1991 at WorldSong, the Alabama Baptist Camp in Cook Springs. I think she’s a genius and I love the way she loves all of the 500 kids she sees daily in her PE classes. She and I have always been kindred spirits in our love for nature, good books, deep conversation, Whitney’s music and 1990’s Saturday Night Live skits. We value laughter and small circles.
I’ve only known Tiffany for 3 years, but I honestly don’t remember what life was like without her. She is a bookworm, a writer, a deep thinker and a worrier as I am. Each of us has a collection of journals and a stack of books to be read. We share a love for antiques, greeting cards and farmhouse chic décor. We are keenly aware of awkwardness and have just decided to embrace it. Life’s better this way. We value intentionality and trustworthiness.
Michelle. I don’t know where to begin with this one. We’ve always been polar opposites, but we love each other deeply. We also met at WorldSong, but in 1997. She was wearing overalls and had just spilled a gallon of pink paint. I was probably wearing overalls, too and I decided to help her clean it up. In every major life event since we met, we’ve had each other’s back. She does not understand why I love living a rural life, but she respects it and keeps close to her conveniences. She is the first to tell me how ridiculous I’m being and one of the last people I’d ever want to disappoint. I feel as comfortable sitting around her family’s table as I do my own. We value brutal honesty and artsy things.
I value each of these ladies on any given day, but last Sunday they demonstrated that they care for me as well. I knew this already, but anyone willing to go get your things out of your car that’s been rolled multiple times truly loves you. There is no organization in this situation and these three are organized individuals (for the most part). Because I like to think I’m in control of situations, the fact that they were willing to do this bothered me at first. Then I remembered, I’d do the same for any of them, even if they, as I did, said not to. Kristi and Michelle designated themselves as the cleaners of the car. Tiffany stayed with me at the hospital while they did this. I wasn’t much for conversation, but it was good to have a gentle, quiet friend close. Meanwhile, my camp friends returned and made fun of my collection of tote bags that they gathered from my car. Work bag, church bag, overnight bag, makeup bag, camera bag, backpack, new bag that I bought that weekend… They had plenty of material to work with! It’s true. I have plenty of baggage, but I’m so thankful for the tribe that loves me enough to help me unload it…literally and figuratively.
Find your tribe.
As the territorial capital of Alabama, St. Stephens played a key developmental role in the history of our state. The town of St. Stephens was incorporated in 1811. The Alabama Bicentennial Commission has named 2018 as the year of “Honoring Our People.” The St. Stephens Historical Commission has announced interior renovations to the St. Stephens Museum in order to make the rich history of the area come alive for visitors.
To honor and celebrate the people of Old St. Stephens, the museum commissioned Gail Brown of Salem, Alabama, to historically costume dolls representing figures from the history of St. Stephens. Brown was one of several seamstresses considered for the job of appropriately clothing 18-inch dolls that represent Chief Pushmataha, Temperance Crawford and Mahala Martin, key figures in the historical narrative of Old St. Stephens.
Two outfits were fashioned for each doll. Brown researched each character and the time period, giving close attention to the details of each outfit. Chief Pushmataha is represented both in his Choctaw chief regalia and his United States Army uniform. A large portrait of “the greatest of all Choctaw Chiefs” hangs in the Edith Jordan Wilcox conference room of the museum. Another portrait, that of Temperance Crawford, wife of Judge William Crawford hangs adjacent to Pushmataha. The doll representing
Temperance Crawford Dolls
Crawford is clothed in a replica of the gown she is wearing in the portrait. The second of Crawford’s dolls is wearing a less formal day gown. One of the dolls representing Mahala Martin, a free woman of color who owned property in St. Stephens, is dressed as tradition dictated for her social rank. The second doll for Martin, who was called “Aunt Hagar,” is dressed in a dinner gown and more closely aligns with the time period that Martin lived as a free person.
St. Stephens Historical Park Director Jennifer Faith says that the dolls provide a tactile means for visitors to experience the lives of individuals who shaped Alabama’s beginnings. Not only can visitors see the detail in the costumes, they can compare and contrast the clothing of the dolls to modern clothing.
Mahalia Martin dolls
The dolls were first displayed at a Lunch and Learn session at the St. Stephens Museum earlier in the month. Gail Brown led the session and discussed her research of each of the historical figures and the clothing they would have worn. Micki Savage, an employee of St. Stephens Historical Park also contributed to the Lunch and Learn session by presenting her continuing research on Mahala Martin.
Faith says she loves seeing the history of early Alabama come to life and is excited to have historically accurate costuming for the dolls of Old St. Stephens. Faith hopes to host more Lunch and Learn sessions for the public so that historical knowledge can be continually developed in the local area.
The dolls are on display in the St. Stephens Museum, which is open each Thursday from 10 a.m – 2 p.m.
Contrary to popular belief, crisis pregnancies are not exclusive to teenage girls who find themselves “in trouble” and are frightened by thoughts of the future. Crisis pregnancies can happen to the young married couple who isn’t financially prepared, to the graduate student who is barely able to make ends meet, and to the well-established married couple who doesn’t want their comfortable family to grow anymore. The word crisis is from a Greek word, krisis, which means decision. A crisis pregnancy is one that demands a decision on the part of the mother determining if she will raise her baby, give it up for adoption or have an abortion performed.
Twenty-six years ago, Kay Crosby was burdened by a question. The question that filled her thoughts was, “Where do women with unplanned pregnancies go for help?” There was no solution to be found in Clarke County or the surrounding areas, but Crosby knew this was a question that had to be answered. She posed her question to anyone who would listen including pastors and friends.
Crosby began receiving invitations to speak at churches and civic clubs. She was soon given contact information for Bob Foust of Alabama Sav-A-Life in Birmingham. Sav-A-Life is a network of comprehensive pregnancy care facilities that began in 1980. That contact led to a face-to-face meeting with Foust at her husband, Dr. Sid Crosby’s office at Family Medical Clinic.
Crosby says that during the meeting it was evident that “God was definitely orchestrating something beyond our imagination.” After a time of prayer, $500 was placed on Dr. Crosby’s desk as “faith money.” With this money, Kay Crosby opened up the checking account of what would become the Alpha Women’s Resource Center.
Alpha: The beginning
The first letter of the Greek alphabet is the alpha, which means “the beginning.” Pregnancy is viewed by many as the beginning of life. However, this is not the reason the name was chosen. The board that had been assembled believed that the abortion minded client would see the A in Alpha as they looked the word Abortion up in the phone book.
There was a board that met around the Crosbys’ kitchen table. There was a volunteer director, Mrs. Pat Jones. There was a checking account with meager funds, but there was no building.
Crosby began prayerfully driving through Jackson seeking a building, knowing that she lacked the budget for such. As she was driving past Jackson Middle School, she felt that God was telling her to stop and look at a small house owned by the Klepac family that was situated behind Visitation Catholic Church.
The Klepacs generously allowed the use of the building rent free. With volunteers coming together to use their time and talents to remodel and refurbish the home, the center opened its doors in February 1993.
To answer the question, “How did the Alpha Center start?” Crosby says emphatically, “A lot of people said yes to Jesus and He let us see Him move!”
The mission of the Alpha Women’s Resource Center has remained the same although the directors and locations have throughout the years.
The Alpha Center staff realizes the anxiety, fear and stress that accompany unplanned pregnancies. Their goal is to provide a safe, trustworthy environment for women to discuss their situations and become educated about their options. Providing accurate information about both pregnancy and abortion is an essential element for the Alpha Center staff. The ultimate goal is for the women who visit the center to be able to make informed decisions regarding crisis pregnancies.
All services of the Alpha Center are free and confidential. The center offers free pregnancy testing and free basic, limited diagnostic ultrasounds. The pregnancy tests are the same as those that would be administered at a medical clinic and are more accurate than a store bought test.
After a positive pregnancy test, women can choose to have an ultrasound. The ultrasound can determine how many weeks into a pregnancy a woman is and allow them to see images of the pregnancy. This can assist the woman in her decision-making process.
If a woman chooses to continue the pregnancy, the services of the Alpha Center continue to be available to her. Services include counseling, labor and delivery classes, breastfeeding classes, parenting classes and the earn while you learn program. Each of these services are confidential.
Earn While You Learn
One of the unique ways that the Alpha Center supports its clients is through the Earn While You Learn program. This program provides education to expectant parents and with each lesson they complete “Mommy Money” is earned. This accountability system provides a way for necessary baby items to be earned, simply by attending a class, watching a video lesson and completing a worksheet. Participants can earn diapers, formula, baby clothes, strollers and car seats.
The staff at the center develops individual lesson plans that are unique to each client’s needs. Examples of topics covered include prenatal care, self-esteem, discipline, post-partum, time management, and nutrition.
In early 2017, the Alpha Women’s Resource Center secured a mobile unit fully equipped with ultrasound and any other service that the brick and mortar center offers. Realizing that transportation is a problem in rural areas, the mobile unit can go into communities and provide services.
The mobile unit currently serves Clarke, Washington and Wilcox counties and will begin providing services in Choctaw County in the future.
The Jackson center and Mobile unit are the only crisis pregnancy options that are local. The closest other options are in Demopolis and Saraland.
The mobile unit has not been able to be utilized in recent months, but current center director, Diane Pruitt is hopeful that it will be back in operation within a week.
Progress over 25 years
What began with a burdening question has become a permanent ministry in the local area. It started with one employee. Currently there are five individuals on staff including a counselor and two registered nurses.
Fund-raising for the center continues year-round with various events including the annual Walk for Life that started 25 years ago.
The Alpha Center is a United Way partner agency.
Another way that the Alpha Center benefits is through the purchase of Choose Life car tags in Clarke County. The cost of each tag is $50 with $41.25 returning to the center.
Since January, the center has seen 190 clients through both the mobile unit and the office. These clients have attended 613 visits.
On Oct. 16, the Alpha Women’s Resource Center will host their annual banquet. Seats are still available and may be obtained by calling the center at 246- 7750. The guest speaker for the event will be Bob Foust, the same individual who met with the Crosbys at Family Medical Center in 1992.
Foust has worked with pregnancy resource ministries for more than 40 years. He has served as a consultant for the Alpha Center and was interim director during the early years of the ministry. He is nationally recognized by Focus on the Family, CareNet and is the founder of the Choose Life car tag grant program in Alabama.
The Alpha Center is always looking for volunteers who are willing to help in the baby store or become client advocates.
The state of the baby store is dependent on the donations of the community. Donations of diapers, wipes, bottles, formula, clothing and other baby items are accepted. Individuals or groups can host baby showers to collect these items. Diane Pruitt, who has been the director of the center since 2006, encourages individuals, families and churches to get involved by volunteering or donating items.
She also asks for the continued prayers from the community so that the Alpha Center can continue to provide quality care and valuable educational resources. “No client will leave without knowing all of their options. We educate them and give them time to process. So many decisions are emotionally driven. We want each client to know the facts about the sanctity of human life,” says Pruitt.
According to Jacqueline Matte’s The History of Washington County, “St. Stephens has a history unparalleled in Alabama.” On Saturday, Oct. 6, the old town of St. Stephens was filled with individuals who gathered to celebrate its incredible history. Lynn Titus of Grand Prairie, Texas was present, along with other family members, to see the town that his third great-grandfather, James Titus, called home. James Titus became known as “the one-man Senate.” He would serve as the president and perform all the duties of the Senate, with the aid of a secretary and a doorkeeper. Originally, two other men were to serve with Titus, but Robert Beatty resigned his office and Joseph Carson died before the Senate could convene. Nevertheless, Titus carried the business forward, electing himself as President of the Council and appointing Curtis Hooks as secretary and John Pearson as doorkeeper.
Lynn Titus, dressed in period appropriate clothing, told the story of his ancestor with pride. Old St. Stephens Day marked the 70-year-old Titus’ first trip to Alabama’s territorial capital. Titus referred to the occasion as an “honor.”
“The Dolls of Old St. Stephens” were on display in the courthouse museum during Old St. Stephens Day.
In addition to having members of the Titus family present for the festivities, park director Jennifer Faith pointed out that members of seventh and eighth generation of her family, who originally settled in St. Stephens, were also present.
Attendees listened to historical vignettes of Old St. Stephens delivered by members of the St. Stephens community. They also had the opportunity to tour the sites of the Globe and Douglas Hotels with archaeologist George Shorter. The Rev. Tommie Moore presented information related to African- American genealogical research and Micki Savage gave a presentation based on her research of Mahala Martin, a free woman of color who owned property in Old St. Stephens. Laura and Jerrold Syphrit displayed campfire cooking as they made chicken and dumplings and homemade pies and cooked them in cast iron pots and pans over a fire. The courthouse museum was also open with a new exhibit, “The Dolls of Old St. Stephens.”
Laura Syphrit demonstrates how cooking was done in days gone by. She made chicken and dumplings and even baked pies and cooked them in cast iron pots over a campfire.
Although it may be difficult to picture St. Stephens as a city with a bigger population than Mobile, 200 years ago, when the Alabama Legislature met for the first time, this was the case.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.