Sunday, November 29, 2015

How you can support kids in foster care

submitted by: Bro. Chris Hunnicutt

Before one dismisses this article about foster care, adoption, and orphans, I suggest you consider reading its content. When the idea of foster care or adoption is mentioned, a typical response is, "I have my own children," or "that is something I can't do", but in reality it is much more. In fact, there is a place for everyone to support orphans, foster parents and adoption, that goes beyond taking a child to live with your family. We all can participate as a pivotal part of a child being nurtured and cared for so they too can be active and vibrant members of society.

The foster care system is FULL of children of all ages brought out of various situations (none of which are good). These children desire a place where they are loved, where they can be a kid, a place that is safe. A place to call home, however temporary. According to AdoptUsKids over 250,000 children will enter foster care this year. About half will be reconciled with their families, but the remaining half will remain in the system. Each year 10% of those children will “age out” of the system at 18 and will be on their own.

November is National Adoption Month, so why the focus on foster care? What’s the need for the statistics? Because each one of those numbers is a child. The more you are exposed to the hurt and the issues that resulted in a foster care placement or resulted in them being an orphan (both here in the US and abroad), the more you become passionate about being an advocate. When those numbers become a person, that’s when action occurs.

There are Waiting Children listings in all states with foster children who are waiting for forever families. A quick Google search of children waiting in Alabama brought up 85 children/sibling groups. And that's just here in the United States. There are children being raised in orphanages in other countries that are in need of forever families as well. There are adoption agencies with lists of waiting children; children who, for various reasons (disability, sibling groups, age, and sometimes even gender) are in need of adoption more quickly.

But what if you aren’t called to adopt?

We all have the power to say: “This is their story. It’s a part of them forever. I can’t change the beginning of their story, but I can bring some happiness to it.”

There are still ways you can be involved in adoption:
  • Become educated on foster care, orphan care and the orphan crisis. Educate yourself on what is acceptable (and not acceptable) to ask adoptive families/adoptees. 
  • Support friends/family members who are going through the adoption process. There are times it seems that adoption is viewed as the “back up” option for having a family. Pregnancy is applauded and there is contagious excitement that surrounds it. But adoptive parents going through the “paper pregnancy” or foster parents adopting from the system get the pat on the back and the "I couldn't do what you are doing, good luck to ya" speech. The process is not a quick one, it’s an emotional roller coaster, and the best thing you can do for someone adopting is be there and be supportive! Celebrate their child!
  • Mentor a child in foster care.
  • Become a respite care provider.
  • Find out what the needs are for your local DHR or children’s home and donate.
  • Pray!
And remember—that each number is a child….and no one person can do everything…but that everyone can do something.

Bro. Chris Hunnicutt and his wife Brittany are the proud parents of Kelly,
who they fostered before adopting in 2014.

Sources: www.adoptuskids.orgwww.childrensrights.org

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Not all signs point to a new election cycle

by: Will Gilmer

All signs point to the 2016 Election Cycle now being officially upon us.

Well, all signs except the ones from past elections that still cling to utility poles scattered across Lamar County. 

Candidates generally collect and remove their campaign signs in the weeks following elections, but there are always a forgotten few that manage to stick around for an election or two too long. For example, the 2014 battle for one county office was still being waged on a power pole near my farm a full 13 months after it was decided. And I know there are campaign signs elsewhere in the county that go back at least as far as the 2012 General Election (Mitt Romney for President, anyone?). 

Campaign signs from the 2014 General Election occupy a lofty position
above one for the 2016 Primaries at a busy intersection between Vernon and Sulligent (Nov. 2015)
So why do some candidates...and we know some are more guilty than others...neglect to remove their campaign signs after an election? Let's explore some possible reasons:
  • The county will do it for them. This is particularly true of signs stuck in the ground along the right-of-way following the primary election. Why wade through the overgrown grass fighting snakes and chiggers and who knows what else when the county will eventually remove the sign with a bush-hog?
  • Lack of record-keeping. Lamar County's not a big place, but there are many miles of rural roads running throughout her in every conceivable direction. I am sure it would be easy to lose track of where some signs are placed if meticulous records aren't kept. And if signs displayed along some of our less-traveled roads aren't mapped, they may simply be out of sight and out of mind.
  • Fewer volunteers post-election. It stands to reason that candidates have more people willing to place signs than remove them. Not only does that mean volunteers are doing more work after the election, they may be responsible for finding and removing signs they didn't personally put up.
  • College football. Would you rather spend your November Saturdays running around the countryside removing signs or watching the stretch run of the college football season? Yeah, that's what I thought.
  • Deer Season. (see above)
  • Build name recognition. Some candidates may be leaving their signs up in a calculated political effort to build stronger name recognition for the future. Of course, they run the risk that their name recognition will come in the form of, "I wish that lazy --- would come take his --- sign down. I'm tired of seeing his --- name every time I drive by here!"
  • Save money for next time. Let's face it, it's a lot cheaper for an incumbent to drive around with a red Sharpie and write "Re-" in front of the word "Elect" on their original campaign signs than it is to get a whole new batch printed up. And with the good weather- and UV-resistant material signs are made of these days, there's no reason to think they won't last until it's time to hit the campaign trail again.
It's 110 more days until our primary election, and new campaign signs will be popping up all over the county between now and then. Just remember, not every campaign sign you'll see will point to a name that will actually be on the next ballot.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Op-Ed: Is Vernon's tax-hike justified?

by Chris Robertson

Did you read The Lamar Democrat last week? I sure did. The write-up on the latest Vernon City Council meeting got my full attention. I found it interesting that the same administration that has recently been boasting of a surplus of funds is suddenly calling for a sales tax increase. It was said that the tax increase was needed for special projects like road paving. You know, for roads like the one behind the courthouse which is now essentially nothing more than dirt. Was the delay in paving Backstreet justified, or are we being “shown” we need a tax increase? Where did the budget surplus go? I’m not making accusations, I’m asking questions. How did we go from having a surplus to needing a tax increase in one year?

Before I get sidetracked, let’s get back to last week’s write-up in the Democrat. In the article, the mayor stated that he had heard very little opposition to the increase. But how many local businesses were polled? Did the opinion of the business owners matter, or was the tax hike a foregone conclusion? 

Vernon's city sales tax rate will be
increasing to 9% as of Jan.1, 2016.
The mayor also said one merchant was concerned over business going to Mississippi. I have a startling revelation for the mayor; business HAS been going to Mississippi for a long time. I have a daughter who lives in Columbus, so I make numerous trips over there each week and usually fill up my gas tank before heading back to Vernon. Why? Because a gallon of gas costs on average $0.20 to $0.25 per gallon more in Vernon than the same gallon of gas in Columbus. If Vernon had competitive gas prices, would you buy all of your gas here? I know I would. If we all did, what would that mean for our tax revenue?

Next in the Democrat’s article, the mayor is quoted as saying, “I think if we audited every business, we could stay at 8%, might even go to 7%. I know there are alot of business owners who probably don’t pay their fair share.” Stop right now and read that last quote again. If you are a business owner in Vernon, what do you think of that statement? Am I to believe that crooked business owners are to blame for the tax increase? If the mayor knows there are corrupt businesses cheating on their taxes in Vernon, then why does he continue to allow them to do so? Who has the responsibility of city tax collection and enforcement of these tax laws?

I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts. First and foremost, these questions are mine and mine alone. Don’t hate my family or my dog because I ask annoying questions. Before my illness, I had a career in which I was successful at going into a bad situation, isolating the problems, and streamlining common sense solutions. Today, I’m a concerned, tax-paying citizen like most of you. I neither hold nor seek an office, but I do expect transparency and accountability from those who do.

Come January 1st, 2016, Vernon will have a sales tax increase. It was voted in unanimously by our mayor and city council members. Was it absolutely necessary? Was it the only solution to the problem? I don’t know. To answer that question I would first have to be convinced there actually was a problem.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Coveting my Neighbor's Fair

by Will Gilmer

As a young child, one of the first full passages of Scripture I was expected to learn and recite was the listing of the Ten Commandments. Today I would like to draw your attention to the tenth and final commandment, "Thou shalt not covet...anything that belongs to thy neighbor" (Exodus 20:17, KJV).

I confess that I am guilty of that one, guilty of coveting something that belongs to my neighbor. No, it's not his house, his wife, his paycheck, or his free weekends and holidays off from work.

It's his county fair.

The Fayette County Multipurpose Complex, home to the Fayette County Fair.
I covet these things. Ohhhh, how I covet. (photo courtesy of alafarmnews.com)
The Fayette County Fair recently concluded and I didn't even have to attend to be jealous of it. Just knowing they can pull off an annual multi-day event featuring carnival rides and livestock expos and we can't makes me hang my head in shame. The fact that they very neighborly welcome us to visit and even participate in some of the events feels almost condescending,  adding a layer of resentment on top of my covetousness. After all, what makes our next-door neighbor...larger by only by 24 square miles and roughly 2500 residents...more capable of having a county fair than we? It's one more thing they can boast about that we can't, along with a hospital, community college, and a Wal-Mart (ok, they can keep that last one).

While we have several really good single-day festivals scattered around Lamar County (Old Fashion Day, Scarecrow Festival, etc.), to my knowledge we don't have that one really big event that everyone from Detroit to Kennedy can take ownership of. As hot as our county's school football rivalries run, it would be kind of nice to bring everyone together for a few evenings in mid-October to eat funnel cake and ride the Ferris wheel. It might even lead to some kids putting down their electronic gadgets for a while to pick up a livestock halter.

I have very distinct memories of showing dairy heifers at fairs and 4H competitions in Fayette, Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham. But the fondest memories are from the shows held in the Lamar County Showbarn on Hwy 17 just south of Vernon. Why? Because it gave me an opportunity to interact with kids from other parts of the county, and because it was our home show. As it stands, my kids won't get that same chance to show cows on their home turf because the showbarn is now home to county equipment and piles of gravel.

So I guess what I'm arguing for is both a county fair and a nice facility to host it. Fayette County has those things thanks to a lot of forethought and smart decision-making, and I covet what they have. We can have those things too if enough of us are willing to work toward bringing them to Lamar County, and you can count me among those ready to roll up their sleeves and make it happen.

Our county spent years and plenty of money chasing the Great White Whale known as "the reservoir". Let's now put our energy and resources toward something we know we can achieve, and before long we can enjoy strolling past pens and stables of livestock while munching on a fried Twinkie without having to go to our neighbor's house to do it.

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