Alan Cook & First Serve Saturday. Many people spend their Saturdays working in the yard, cutting grass, or spending time with their family. Alabaster’s Alan Cook does too, except it’s not his yard! He dedicates his time to First Serve Saturday doing exactly what the ministry says: serving the first Saturday of every month. He joins his wife and at least one of his six children along with other team members from Church of the Highlands to do outreach projects that care for the felt needs of the community. The ministry is focused on demonstrating God’s love through practical ways. One single mother of two is grateful for the ministry’s service. She desperately needed home repair and yard maintenance especially after her finances could no longer support paying someone to cut the grass that her allergies prevented her from doing. Cook’s volunteer tasks are a far cry from cleaning up computers and cutting back down time in his job as IT Desktop Manager at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. It’s not every day you see a former marine working in a flower bed at an elderly rehabilitation facility but Cook has graciously and joyfully volunteered to help meet the needs of over five hundred families served by First Saturday. Other facets of the ministry include feeding the homeless, managing the Alabaster “manna” farm, and distributing food and water in a downtown public park.
Phil Harrison Shares Musical Gift. North Shelby’s Phil Harrison has been playing tunes on his trombone since sixth grade, some fifty years ago. His marching days are a thing of the past but not his playing. Now he performs for churches, independent and assisted living establishments, nursing homes, retirement centers, and memory care facilities. His repertoire includes love songs, old show tunes, and gospel music but his favorite is Christmas music. That’s because it was around Christmas eleven years ago that he was diagnosed with lung cancer. “I thought I wouldn’t live, much less play my horn again.” Ironically, Phil not only survived but he still plays even after losing part of his lung! Three years later he was diagnosed with prostate cancer which solidified his conviction to play Christmas music every year. He says it gives him an opportunity “to try to give some of my joy to other people.” Phil and his wife, Beth, who sometimes joins him on the flute, select music depending upon the season and the location. They particularly enjoy playing for memory care residents as the songs of yesteryear can have a visual and significant impact. Heads typically lowered are slowly raised, hands start clapping, and singing is spurred because they can remember the songs of old. Phil and Beth have been spreading God’s love year round through their music for over nine years and have no intention of stopping.
Sweetheart Service. The Heart Guild of Birmingham was founded to create an annual gala with proceeds benefiting the American Heart Association (AHA). Over the last 28 years the Guild has been nationally recognized for its Heart Ball and raised millions of dollars. The Guild also leads a teen auxiliary called Sweethearts. Last year the 150 Sweetheart members had more than 5,000 cumulative hours of community service
Eric Fort’s Lone Warriors. After months of researching the missions of many different Veteran focused organizations, U.S. Marine Eric Fort and his wife Carolyn discovered that no one was addressing the small quality of life needs of Veterans and decided it was time to help. In May of 2015, they founded Lone Warriors, an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of “helping provide quality of life needs around the home or office to our physically disabled U.S. Armed Forces Veterans who have been injured in combat related exercises regardless of the era they served in.” Lone Warriors completes a variety of different tasks including constructing ADA compliant ramps, performing yard maintenance, and reorganizing closets and cabinets to make items more accessible. While completing these projects, Eric began to notice a common theme with some of the Veterans: for a variety of reasons many were keeping to themselves or only interacting with others from behind a computer screen. Immediately the Lone Warriors team went into action researching ways to help address this growing issue. In April 2016 they began Operation TheraPic: a program providing U.S. Armed Forces Veterans with another form of therapy outside of but complimenting that of the traditional clinical therapy or support group setting they are currently participating in. Their motto: “Therapy Through Photography.” To help promote this form of healing, Lone Warriors has daily photo challenges ad monthly meet ups. The benefit is twofold: while the Veterans find a new way to heal we as a community are able to see the world through their eyes. 100% of donations made to Lone Warriors goes directly to veterans. To learn more visit www.lonewarriors.org.