East Alabama Living Winter 2020

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Because We Care

Everywhere you look, you see AuburnBank employees

volunteering and serving to make our community better

and to help it grow. That’s because AuburnBank cares.

Since 1907, AuburnBank has cared about and invested

in this community which is why we have such a strong

presence in local charitable organizations like Habitat

for Humanity, United Way and the Food Bank of East

Alabama, to name a few.

We’re a local bank with deep roots. We care deeply about

our community, so just imagine how much we care

about our customers.

AuburnBank. Your Partner. Your Neighbor. Your Friend.

BANK OFFICES:

AUBURN • OPELIKA • PHENIX CITY • NOTASULGA • VALLEY

Equal Housing Lender

MEMBER FDIC


Magical

Holiday

Season

W I S H I N G Y O U &

Y O U R F A M I L Y A

A U B U R N - O P E L I K A ' S # 1 R E A L E S T A T E C O M P A N Y

( 3 3 4 ) 8 2 6 - 1 0 1 0 B H H S P r e f e r r e d A u b u r n . c o m



Help families

stay safe,

warm, and

together this

season.

YOUR GIFT TO THE EAMC FOUNDATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

To give, email Mandy Trawick at mandy.trawick@eamc.org

or Mimi Martin at mimi.martin@eamc.org.

Let’s help keep families and babies

closer, together. Donate today to

the EAMC Foundation to fund the

Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

at East Alabama Medical Center.

EAMC.ORG/GIVETODAY | 334.528.5874 | 2000 PEPPERELL PARKWAY, OPELIKA, AL 36801


From the Editor

The end of the year is upon us, and with everything our nation has

endured this year, I am hopeful in putting this year in the past and

looking forward to the year to come. My sincere prayer and desire for us

all is to find hope, peace and unity in our communities and our nation.

I pray each of you finds joy this holiday season in unexpected blessings.

This issue of East Alabama Living is dedicated to stories to lift your spirits

this season and support our small businesses that make our community

so special. Things looked a bit different everywhere in 2020; even fall

recruitment for Auburn sororities. Find out in this issue how participants

of the EAGLES Foundation accepted bids to college sororities, the first

time students with disabilities participated in the college tradition. This

one is special.

We are also highlighting The Hudson Family Foundation. They have

continued to support and lift our community in unique ways, especially

those that have been hit hardest due to the pandemic. Read in this issue

how with the Covid-19 outbreak, the Foundation has stepped up its giving

in the past few months to help local families, businesses and healthcare

workers directly affected by the pandemic.

We are also highlighting several local businesses and business owners

in this issue including Big Mike’s Steakhouse, Donna Young of Behind

the Glass, our local holiday guide with great ideas to shop and stay from

the Heritage House in Opelika, The Collegiate Hotel in Auburn, Elisabet

Boutique, and more.

Finally, we are also sharing ways to celebrate the season with a Christmas

Cookie Decorating party and sharing recipes for your Christmas day

brunch. Get away with your loved ones for a day trip to the Antiquity

Center in LaGrange, Ga., to experience the Biblical History Museum

where you can enjoy the holiday activities or journey where it’s still warm

in sunny Palm Beach, Fla.

I wish each and every one of you a blessed holiday season and look

forward to a healthy new year.

4 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


CONTENTS

Features

54

78

82

88

THE JOURNEY BACK

BAND OF BROTHERS

LEADING WITH LOVE

PREPARED TO FIGHT

72 Bridging the Gap

Between Hardship and Hope

EAST ALABAMA LIVING 5


“When taking my wife on a boat ride to convince her

of the opportunity of investing in Lake Martin, a bald

eagle landed in a slough nearby. Once back on land, we

saw another land as we hoisted the Auburn fl ag on our

property. We never looked back.”

Stan Graves

Developer, White Oak Landing

Graduate and Scholarship

Donor, Auburn University

6 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Departments

10 LOCAL LOVE – SOMETHING NEW

12 INTERIORSCAPES – TREASURES & TRADITIONS

16 DAY TRIP – WALK THROUGH HISTORY

20 GETAWAY – THE PALM BEACHES

26 TABLESCAPE – COOKIES FOR SANTA

3O WHAT’S GOING ON – CALENDAR OF EVENTS

32 FOOD – BIG MIKE’S STEAKHOUSE

36 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE – THE PERFECT GIFT

40 RECIPES – CHRISTMAS MORNING

42 ART – IMAGES OF HOME

46 HELPING HANDS – COMMITMENT TO THE COMMUNITY

32 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS SPECIAL AD SECTION

103 COMMUNITY – FACES OF EAST ALABAMA

Small Features

50 MIDTOWN AUBURN

58 VIGNETTES

62 LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME

68 SPREADING THEIR WINGS

Publisher

Lee Perryman

Managing Editor

Amy Croushorn

Art Direction

JAWS studio

Copy Editor

Christy Jane Kyser

Contributing Writers

Ann Cipperly

Bradley Jean

Kate Asbury Larkin

Christy Jane Kyser

Jess Margeson

Photography

Tristan Cairns

Graphic Design

Craftmaster Printers, Inc.

General Sales Manager

and Director of Marketing

Ashley James

Advertising

John Bodiford

Amy Croushorn

Jordyn Dawson

Natasha Gunn

Ashley James

Miranda McHale

Steve Witten

Production Coordinator

Sherrie Stanyard

Printing

Craftmaster Printers, Inc.

Auburn, Alabama

East Alabama Living

P.O. Box 950

Auburn, Alabama 36831

334-826-2929

www.eastalabamaliving.com

East Alabama Living is published quarterly by Auburn Network,

Inc. The cover and contents are copyrighted and may not be

reproduced without written consent of the publisher. Reader

correspondence and editorial submissions are welcome.

However, we reserve the right to edit, reject or comment

editorially on all contributed material. Advertising rates are

available by request. Subscriptions are $17 annually.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

7


exquisite christmas decor · hundreds of ornaments · life-like trees, wreaths & garlands

locally grown poinsettias · unique gifts for all occasions including

jewelry · handbags · bath & body · furniture · lighting · entertaining & more...

8820 VAUGHN ROAD (334)387-0440 www.SHandG.com

8 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


It’s full page Bernini

8.75”x11.25” (bleed).

Must imit live image

area or any critical

matter to 7.75x10.25.

Bernini and the Roman Baroque

Paintings from Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia

JANUARY 19, 2021—MAY 30, 2021

Bernini and the Roman Baroque: Paintings from Palazzo Chigi in Ariccia

is organized by Glocal Project Consulting and is toured by

International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.

Carlo Maratti, The Summer, 1658-59, oil on canvas.

Courtesy of Collection Lemme, Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

9


L O C A L L O V E

Something New

By Bradley Jean

The human spirit of work and creativity in

East Alabama is growing beyond measure

and expectation. We are a community driven

by small business and entrepreneurs of all

makes, models and sizes. The small space I remember from

childhood is now vast, and we see new people, planting

roots and popping up meaningful business almost daily,

even during Covid-19.

We are a brave force of community that

began with small works by locals, decades

ago, wanting to create something new.

At 31, Donna Young was pregnant, remodeling

a house in Waverly and was presented

with a building in downtown Auburn. “It’s a

really cool space, it’s big and two stories…,”

her friends told her. Donna had no real desire

to start up something new. She had never

been in retail and had no college business

degree to claim, yet she saw a space to offer

something new.

“The whole store was to be an art experience,

the music, the visuals. The space was

big and we didn’t want a name that was too

definite. We wanted something with possibility.

Art is displayed behind glass and along

with the big front window, we just picked it

(the name) up, Behind the Glass, and it has

evolved to whatever is seen behind there.”

Thirty-three years later, the iconic boutique,

Behind the Glass, is thriving. Its lovely

displays seen behind the large glass window

continue to carry style and a visual appeal

that speaks to all who pass by the endeavor of

humble hard work and commitment to learn

and grow in community.

Before graduating Auburn University as an

Art and English major, Donna imagined she

would move to a big city like New York. On the

contrary, Donna married just before finishing

school and together the couple decided to

stay local and create whatever kind of business

they could in Auburn.

“We both had that entrepreneurial spirit,”

says Donna. “When my husband said we

need to open a business, I was like, ‘Are you

kidding me? I’m six months pregnant, and

we’re finishing a house.’ We also didn’t have

much money. It was pretty scary because

there wasn’t much in downtown Auburn. I got

talked into it, and we came up with the idea of

a cafe’ to support the arts.”

Donna was in charge of the retail side of the

business, sourcing books, art, gifts and home

décor, and her husband at the time was in

charge of the Café.

“We really had no idea,” says Donna, “but

Auburn took us really well. People were hungry

for it. The merchandise we just adapted as we

10 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


went along, and people loved the Café and

loved the food. It was different than what

anyone else had and (people) loved the atmosphere.

Back then, we didn’t have all these

locally owned restaurants like we have now,

so people appreciated it. It was like a meeting

place, with different ages. That’s what I really

missed when we closed the Café, that community

spirit.”

Although the initial idea of art didn’t make

much money, it was the art that gave the store

its character and made the space into an experience.

“Art was always changing so that kept it

interesting. That’s always been the part that I

liked the most, the visual and the atmosphere.”

Eventually, the retail side took much higher

sales than the Café so it was closed sometime

in the late 90s to become the full retail space

that Behind the Glass is today. The home

décor and art became less and less, but the

fashions and styles that hold the roots of the

business today grew and grew.

“Honestly, when we started selling clothes,

I didn’t even know what was in style,” says

Donna. “I’d been living out in Waverly, gardening

and wearing the same old clothes. It was a

learning curve. I always wanted it to be eclectic

and different. I had traveled to New York,

so I knew I wanted it to be more like a big city

store. I wanted it to have more of that cosmopolitan

feel.”

Opening the store and taking big steps

allowed Donna to grow in business skills and

in people, but she says the greatest growth

was in herself.

“I remember in the beginning I didn’t even

like to call people, and I quickly got over that.

When you have a business there are like 20

million things that need to be done. You have

to learn to prioritize, especially if you have a

family and children. I learned early on to let

go. Having young children helped me a lot,

even though it was stressful to balance. I had

to leave. I had to go home. I had to trust people

to manage it when I wasn’t there. I didn’t

know what I was doing starting out, but it’s

all helped me to be more confident in myself.”

Donna’s growth in skill and work moved

seamlessly alongside her curiosity of fashion

and style. These took Donna from a young,

new entrepreneur into the woman of leadership

and success she is today.

“With fashion, we’re still always trying to

figure it out. Where is it going? What are people

wearing? Why are people picking this or

that? I learned to keep up. Fashion is something

that never sits still. It was true then, and

it’s true now. Clothes are really important for

women. Clothes are something that make you

feel like you can be yourself, be who you are

and do your job or your life with confidence.”

Donna says fashion is more about wearing

items that make someone feel good versus

having styles speak for themselves

“You wear the clothes not the clothes wear

you, then you can accessorize it and add on

different things to give it personality. I feel like

getting dressed and picking out your clothes

should be fun. We like to encourage women

to step out of their comfort zone and try new

things to find their own style. That’s what the

experience of shopping in person should be

about. You don’t have to go with your safe

choice. You can try something that you would

never try on and you may be surprised!”

Behind the Glass offers a variety of attire from

the trendy to the timeless wardrobe basics.

“It is a big store, and there are a lot of choices

so it can be overwhelming, and we don’t want

to dictate a certain style. We try to have different

kinds of things for different people. We

have fun little tops for a college girl but we’re

also going to have things that work for all

ages. A lot of women go shopping and feel bad

about themselves, I want (women) to feel that

there is something there for them. I hope for

them to feel confident. Our style should make

us look good, so we can speak for ourselves

and be prepared for life.”

In building a wardrobe, Donna encourages

younger women to make choices that are not

just on trend, but to buy pieces that will last

and are practical.

“Simple things like a good black dress that

fits really well, and you wear it for years. Or a

nice blazer and a good pair of jeans. You want

things that are a little bit better quality, and

things you can wear multiple ways. It’s worth

spending a little more money for things that

will last.”

Since opening Behind the Glass, Donna

has not only seen fashion evolve, but also

the Southern woman and the way she has

changed through time and style.

“(She) is less stereotypical Southern. We are

more sophisticated and more aware of fashion.

It used to be Southern women loved color,

and that’s still true, but we are not as floral

and as bright as we used to be. There’s more

choice. Women are stepping into more roles of

power. Political, governors, senators, congress

people, I think that is where we need to be

heading. More women are running their own

businesses. It’s definitely happening.”

Donna wears a kind and humble smile at

work and in our community. She has a quiet

and generous spirit that speaks volumes to

East Alabama in business and in giving back.

“I feel really grateful for the success the

business has had,” says Donna, “that it has

thrived for all these years. It’s a pleasure being

downtown, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

I have loved being part of this community,

and I’m really happy with what I’ve done. It’s

afforded me a lot of privileges. I have gotten

to travel for the business and I have made my

own little world here and the community has

supported me.”

Donna has been a strong advocate for The

Boys and Girls Club for many years, and shares

that giving back to kids is one of the greatest

contributions we can make to our area.

“The kids are so precious, and I just want

them to have every opportunity that other

kids have. Our community cares a lot, but

there is still a lot of competition between people’s

money and people’s interest and sometimes

it gets forgotten. The money and time

we invest in our kids just gives back multiple

times. They want to give back to the community

too. We just have to let them have the

tools to do that.”

Donna’s greatest accomplishment is having

two of her children to help run Behind the

Glass. Laughing, she says, “You can’t do better

than having your own kids work in your business.

That’s been such a blessing.”

Behind the Glass is iconic to Auburn-

Opelika, and the lady behind the small

endeavor has grown our community in time

and style.

“You have to know that you’re going to

have things that don’t go well, but you can

overcome them. You have to be ok with the

unknown. I believe it’s better to take a gamble

and fail than to always play it safe, and when

we get dressed and go out the door, know that

we can handle whatever life throws at us.”

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

11


I N T E R I O R S C A P E S

Treasures & Traditions

By Ann Cipperly

Treasured handmade ornaments on the tree,

a collection of nutcrackers, and imaginative

creations in classic red and white mingled for

an enchanting holiday setting at the home

of Amy Croushorn for the 2019 Auburn Preservation

League Christmas Tour of Homes. Gleaming ornaments

and seasonal décor with splashes of teal green created

visual interest throughout the home.

An Auburn University graduate in interior

design, Amy decorated her town home in

a style reminiscent of luxury houses along

the Gulf coast. She enjoyed decorating for

Christmas and changing out the art, with

enlarged photos of her son Cole with Santa as

the main focus. Every room showcased holiday

splendor, including the courtyard with a

handmade eight-foot farm table where family

gatherings are celebrated.

Amy has collected most of the decorations

over the years. “I added a few new garlands and

a large nutcracker at my front door, which I have

wanted for many years and finally found the

perfect one! When Cole was born, we started a

tradition of collecting nutcrackers. Each year he

would get a new, large nutcracker.

“It was always my intention that when he

grew up,” adds Amy, “he would take his collection

with him to start his own holiday deco-

12 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


rating. But I have fallen in love with so many

of them, that I might just need to keep them

and let him start his own collection with the

ones he chooses.”

For the tour of homes, a tall nutcracker in

classic red and green colors stood guard by

the front door as visitors arrived. Instead of

a traditional greenery garland over the door,

Amy fashioned a gleaming red ornaments

garland with red velvet bows, which provided

a warm welcome. White lights framed the

door, and the planter was filled with greenery,

glittery pinecones, red berries and flowers.

Windows were accented with wreaths and

red ribbons.

In the living room, the mantle was draped

with pine and fir garlands with white twinkling

lights and interspersed with candles

creating a warm glow. Jovial red and white

striped stockings hung from the mantel.

A hand-lettered gold foil-stamped print on

the mantel echoed the reason for the season,

while a portrait of Cole with Santa hung over

the mantel.

“When Cole was 3, his preschool brought in

a professional photographer to take pictures

with Santa,” says Amy. “Unfortunately, he was

absent from school that day, and we missed

it. I reached out to the photographer to see if

there was any way to get photos, and he had

us attend a mini session. I was thrilled with

the way the photos turned out, and we never

went to see Santa again.

“When it came time to get the house ready

for the tour,” adds Amy, “I wished I had purchased

large prints of those Santa photos. I

reached out to the photographer, and he still

had the images! He allowed me to purchase

the digital files, and I was able to print several

large canvases of my favorite ones. I treasure

seeing these sweet images of little Cole and

Santa hanging throughout the house during

the holidays.

“These images truly warm my heart every

year when I hang them up. Thankfully, my

15 year old doesn’t mind seeing himself as a

little boy with Santa!”

The Christmas tree was located in the living

room next to the fireplace. “I love to unbox

the ornaments and lay them out before they

go on the tree,” says Amy. “As each ornament

comes out, the memories flood in. Each one

holds a special place in my heart. My most

treasured ornaments were hand-painted by

my Me-Maw when I was a little girl. Other

ornaments were collected from our travels or

were gifts from dear friends and loved ones.

“My favorites are framed photo ornaments

of Cole from his preschool days along with the

hand-painted ornament with his little hand-

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

13


prints wrapped around a ceramic ball.”

The tree was full of these collected ornaments

along with teal and red ornaments to

tie into the main theme throughout the house.

The dining room table was set with a festive

look, using traditional red chargers, blue

and white china, and red crystal goblets. A

crisp linen napkin with red trim was etched

with the holiday phrase “falalala” and placed

on plates. Shiny red ornaments added crowning

flare to each place setting.

Along with nutcrackers, Amy has a collection

of Santa Clauses. “My Me-Maw used to

hand paint ceramic ornaments every year

for our family,” says Amy. “Another treasured

ornament is a vintage Santa Claus. He is so

jolly, and anytime I see a Santa decoration

that reminds me of him, I have to get it.

“One of my favorite Santa decor pieces is the

Santa head that I have hanging in my hallway

over my mirror. With a couple of candy cane

stripe pillows on my vintage hand-carved

bench, I smile and think of my Me-Maw every

time I walk by, with sweet memories of being

with her over the years.

“The master bedroom is my sanctuary,”

says Amy. “I love the monochromatic color

palate and to bring in a little Christmas to this

space. I created a garland to hang over my

mirror. I used an old artificial garland that I

had from my parent’s house from when I grew

up. I added several Christmas floral picks to

the garland and a strand of lights. It is truly

my restful space.

“Christmas is a time of tradition,” she adds.

“Christmas is a time to reflect on the blessings

from the year and create memories to last a

lifetime. It is a time to celebrate the birth of

our Savior and be grateful to gather together

and worship and praise Him.

“It is truly a treasured a time in our household

to spend together as a family with my

mom and dad and my brother and his family.

This year, we really have a lot to be thankful

for with my brother surviving Covid and still

being here with us.

“I love Auburn,” says Amy, “and I love the

idea of preserving the things that attribute to

our charming village. I fully support organizations

that aim to keep the history of Auburn

intact and on display for years to come. This

allows others to experience one of the things

that makes our community such a special

place to live.”

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

15


D A Y T R I P

Walk Through History

By Ann Cipperly

Strolling through garden paths among olive and

almond trees and streets of an ancient village, the

scenes at the Biblical History Museum in LaGrange,

Ga., bring to life Bible stories where Christ was born

and shared the gospel. During the Christmas season, the Follow

the Shepherds walk will offer tours focusing on the events

surrounding Jesus’s birth.

Full-scale archaeological replicas of life in a

village, along with exhibits of shepherds’ and

farmers’ lives in Biblical times provide a glimpse

of daily activity 2,000 to 3,000 years ago.

“The Biblical History Center exists to help

visitors experience the ancient biblical world,

its history and culture,” says Dr. Derrick Lewis,

director of operations. “The center offers

painstakingly accurate replicas of daily life in

ancient times.”

Two Biblical meal rooms in the museum

are replicas from Pompeii and Herculaneum,

which offer an example of First Century culture.

Visitors can dine in the manner of the

ancients and share a Passover meal much

like the Last Supper. The four-course meal

includes 15 different food items.

Several hands-on activities are offered.

Children will especially enjoy making breads

like shepherds in the desert did for thousands

of years. Under a shepherd’s goat hair tent,

visitors learn about life in the desert. They

make bread and bake it over a wood fire in a

special oven like the ones used by shepherds.

As the bread bakes, participants churn butter.

Children can also experience an “archaeological

dig.” While they will not be able to keep

their discovery, they will hold a mock press

16 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


conference to discuss the impact of their find.

In the shepherds’ exhibit, a desert waterfall

cascades from a limestone cliff into pools.

Limestone used in the exhibits comes from

Opelika.

The village and city gate area reveal life

2,000 years ago. In the village, see a typical

home and stable, judge’s chambers, stone

quarry, Israelite and Canaanite altars, water

cisterns, outdoor cafe and bureau of standards

used to check the accuracy of liquids sold in

the market. The exhibits give the feeling of

being in the courtyard of a Biblical village.

In the Life of the Farmer exhibit, archaeological

replicas provide a setting with oil presses,

an aqueduct water wheel and milling, olive

orchard, threshing floor and equipment, a vineyard,

grape presses and stomping instillation.

On the trip back in time, tombs can be

viewed like those where Abraham and Jesus

were buried. Museum guides explain customs

and Biblical text.

Travel through a time tunnel with replicas

of excavated houses of worship from Israel,

revealing worship practices of pagans, Jews

and Christians from 2400 BCE to 500 CE.

“In 2013 the Biblical History Center was

privileged to receive a long-term collection of

artifacts from the Israel Government,” states

Dr. Lewis. “The center is one of only eight such

museums in the world and one of five in the U.S.

“With over 250 artifacts from daily life in

the ancient world, the Biblical Life Artifacts

Gallery opens up new vistas of understanding

what it was like to live in Biblical times.”

The Biblical Life Artifacts Gallery is housed

below BHC’s Roman Theater. Learn what city

life was like in ancient Israel, visit a marketplace

with a bureau of weights and measures.

Photos provided by the Biblical History Center

See a colonnaded stage such as ancients used

for plays and community meetings.

Several times a year the museum offers free

movie nights hosted in the theater. Roman

Army Day allows visitors to interact with

Roman soldiers.

The center offers many different events

throughout the year, including Homeschool

days, Follow the Cross walks during Easter

season and Follow the Shepherds walks during

Christmas season until Dec. 23. The tour

focuses on the events surrounding Jesus’

birth. The event will require reservations.

In October, the center opened a new tour,

“The Seven I Am’s,” which will explore the

setting of each of these sayings of Jesus from

the Gospel of John. This tour will require

reservations.

Visitors to the Biblical History Center experience

the ancient Biblical world, its history

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

17


and culture, as stories are portrayed in practical

ways in the 21st Century. The center is a

501c nonprofit organization.

Be sure to stop by the gift shop in the museum

to browse a selection of gifts and crafts from

Israel and other places. Collect an item from the

Holy Land without making the trip.

The Biblical History Center was voted

TripAdvisor’s 2020 Visitor’s Choice Award,

which is only given to the top ten percent of

attractions worldwide. It was also named one

of the Top 10 Religious Museums in the United

States by USA Today.

For further information call the center at 706.885.0363

or visit the website at www.biblicalhistorycenter.com.

The Biblical History Center is located at 130 Gordon

Commercial Drive, LaGrange, Ga. The center is open

Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Admission is

charged, and reservations are required to experience

a Biblical meal. Reservations can be made online.

C

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18 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

19


GETAWAY

The Palm Beaches

By Ann Cipperly

Photo by Ann Cipperly

Photo by Ann Cipperly

Streets lined with towering palm trees, magnificent

homes with manicured landscapes and 47 miles of

beaches form the setting for an extraordinary winter

getaway at the Palm Beaches, Fla. West Palm Beach

and Palm Beach are world renowned for their beauty, offering

superb dining, golf, distinctive museums, interesting sites, first

class shopping and luxury accommodations.

The winter home of the rich and famous

received its name from a shipwreck named

the Providencia, which washed ashore in

January 1878. The ship was carrying 20,000

coconuts from Havana to Spain. Pioneers, who

settled in the area in 1872, salvaged the coconuts

and planted them. The grove of palm

trees led to the name Palm Beach.

Henry M. Flagler, an oil tycoon who settled

the eastern coast of Florida, described the

area as a “veritable paradise.” He opened the

Royal Poinciana Hotel in 1894. Wealthy New

Yorkers arrived with the completion of his

railroad in 1896.

Flagler built a second hotel that was renamed

The Breakers in 1901. After it burned twice, the

structure was rebuilt as a luxurious stone hotel,

which has remained a Palm Beach landmark.

20 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Photo by Ann Cipperly

President John F. Kennedy selected La Querida

in Palm Beach as the Winter White House, while

President Donald Trump’s Winter White House

is Mar-A-Lago.

DOWNTOWNS

Rosemary Square in downtown West Palm

Beach offers entertainment, dining and shopping.

The Wishing Tree resembles an ancient

26-foot tall banyan. At night 100,000 color

LEDs create swirling palettes of light in the

10,000 leaves.

Children as well as some adults enjoy the

Water Pavilion in front of the Wishing Tree. Two

interlocking circles of jets shoot up at staggered

intervals, creating interior spaces. Visitors move

in the “rooms” created by water walls.

While there are a variety of locally owned

restaurants in downtown West Palm, there are

also chains, including the Cheesecake Factory.

A number of the shops are chains, which is

completely different in Palm Beach.

A path once known as the Jungle Trail is

now the glamorous Worth Avenue in Palm

Beach, housing shops from world famous

designers (think Rodeo Drive).

Window shopping can be enjoyable. As we

were strolling the elegant avenue and came

across a china shop, we thought a look inside

would be interesting. I was quickly holding onto

my purse to be sure it did not knock anything

over, which would have required a second mortgage

to pay. At least the staff was friendly.

Along with upscale shopping, Palm Beach has

upscale restaurants. Check menus online and

be careful of restaurants without prices listed.

RESTAURANTS

The Meat Market

This restaurant is one of those in Palm

Beach without prices, but we were with family

who had dined there before and knew the

prices. We decided to try the three course

prix fixe menu, which has the price listed. It

is offered Monday through Thursday from 4

p.m. until 7 p.m. and is the best value. We had

to ask for that menu.

Elegant light fixtures appear as bubbles

of glass in the attractive setting. As we were

looking over the menu, a complimentary bowl

of fried hominy was served.

Different choices are available in the prix

fixe menu. For the first course, our table

ordered oysters, salad and flavorful wagyu

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

21


Photo by Ann Cipperly

Photo by Ann Cipperly

Photo by Ann Cipperly

beef dumplings laced with two sauces, which

was the best choice.

For the main course, one ordered the prime

ribeye with bone marrow, and three settled on

the filet mignon, which was better. Truffled

creamed corn was shared, and a baked potato

came with four toppings.

A guava cheesecake with ice cream was a

sublime finale to our lovely evening.

191 Bradley Place

Palm Beach

561.354.9800

RH Rooftop

This is one of my favorite settings of any

restaurant with its outdoor ambiance, potted

trees and comfortable sofas. A large fountain

in the center of the room provides a soothing

sound. When the weather is nice, the doors

are open to the balcony.

We enjoyed brunch here twice. Our table

tried the ribeye sandwich, lobster roll, a breakfast

plate and burger. Thumbs up was given

to all.

560 Okeechobee Blvd.

West Palm Beach

561.804.6826

The Regional Kitchen and Public

House Restaurant

The Regional has been open since 2016,

serving traditional American dishes with an

innovative approach.

We enjoyed crab cakes and fish dishes

along with salads.

The restaurant was named Best Restaurant

in Palm Beach County in 2016 by the Palm

Beach Post.

Rosemary Square

651 Okeechobee Blvd.

West Palm Beach

561.557.6460

Aioli Cafe

The casual café has excellent salads, sandwiches

and soups. Salads of interest include

long stemmed artichokes, salad with roasted

golden beets, and my favorite, roasted pear

and walnut.

Among the sandwiches, try the turkey and

brie with cranberry aioli and arugula on cranberry

walnut bread.

Two locations in West Palm Beach

206 South Olive Ave

561.444.3842

7434 S. Dixie Hwy.

561.366.7741

Carmine’s La Trattoria and

Gourmet Market

If you relish authentic Italian cuisine,

Carmine’s is a must stop. At Trattoria, the eggplant

and pasta with vodka sauce were outstanding.

Prices are a good value.

Other onsite restaurants are Coal Fired

Pizza Ristorante and CG Burgers.

Don’t miss the amazing market for freshly

made pasta dishes, meats, breads, desserts

and packaged food items.

2401 PGA Blvd, #172

Palm Beach Gardens

561.775. 0186

Avocado Grill

Awarding winning artisanal dishes are

offered in a casual setting. We savored fish

tacos in an outdoor setting.

125 Datura St.

West Palm Beach

561. 623.0822

Lynora’s

Pizzas, pastas, sandwiches and main dishes

are available on a large menu. We tried the

tasty pizzas in the lively setting.

207 Clematis Street

West Palm Beach,​

561.899.3117

22 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Grandview Public Market

The market showcases 12 chef vendors.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served.

1401 Clare Ave.

West Palm Beach

Two other good restaurant choices are Buccan

and Hullabaloo.

ACTIVITIES AND SITES

Along with turquoise waters rolling onto

beaches, the area offers water sports, swimming,

golf, the Lake Trail, museums, Palm

Beach Zoo, an aquarium, a green market and

festivals, among other sites. Drive along the

coast to view dream homes and mansions.

Museums and Gardens

Henry Flagler’s house Whitehall is now a

museum. His private railcar is also on display.

The Society of Four Arts was founded in

1936. Stroll through the adjoining gardens.

The Norton Museum of Art contains

over 7,000 works, with a concentration on

European, American and Chinese art.

Ann Norton Sculpture Garden features over

100 sculptures in the gardens with over 300

species of tropical Palms.

Mounts Botanical Garden has over 2,000

species of tropical and subtropical plants

from six continents.

OTHER

Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society

houses more than 550 animals within 23 acres

of tropical habitat.

Parks are featured throughout both towns.

ACCOMODATIONS

The Ben Hotel in downtown West Palm

is new. Other options are The Colony, Four

Seasons and upscale Eau Palm Beach Resort

and Spa, among others.

During winter, if you feel you can’t take

another cold day, the Palm Beaches will give

you an experience to remember, with warm

days and toes in the sand at the beaches.

J&M Bookstore

Hearing Life USA

Statik Salon

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

25


FOR

By Amy Croushorn

One of our most treasured Christmas

traditions is making cookies for Santa. My

mom started this tradition with me, and I

have continued it with my son. A few years

ago, my mom got out all of her vintage cookie

cutters to pass the tradition to my niece who

is really the baker in the family. She sent

me pictures of all of the cookie cutters and

asked me if I wanted any. The memories

came flooding back from my childhood

remembering the cookies so lovingly made

with care each year. I definitely kept a few

to share with my son and one day with my

grandchildren.

One of the special things about making

Christmas cookies is how my mom used this

tradition to share the Christmas story with

us each year. She had different cutters that

represented the entire Christmas story, and

as we used each one, she shared another

26 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


EAST ALABAMA LIVING

27


part of the story. An angel cutter for when

the angel appeared, a star for the Star of

Bethlehem, and so on.

We usually waited until Christmas Eve to

bake the cookies and decorate them just in

time to leave a few out for Santa that night,

but when Mom came for an earlier visit, we

decided to enjoy our tradition a little earlier.

And we made a party of it!

I made a batch of sugar cookies ahead of time

and set the table with decorating stations

at each place setting. Cute Santa plates and

party straws in candy-rimmed milk jars were

perfect to sip on as we snacked on cookies

and other treats.

I filled the table with bags of royal icing in

different colors, sprinkles, bowls of candy

and even some edible glitter to dust the more

detailed cookies that were too advanced for

any of us to attempt to decorate with icing!

It was so fun to sit around the table and enjoy

each other as the creativity flowed. I love the

way they all turned out. We definitely enjoyed

a few of our cookies, but we froze the rest to

enjoy Christmas Eve. Santa is definitely in

store for a treat this year!

I hope you and your family have a Merry

Christmas and a very blessed New Year! And

Happy Holidays to all of you who celebrate

other traditions this season!

28 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


This is your Christmas spirit.

VICTORIAN FRONT PORCH CHRISTMAS | OPELIKA

Meet the coolest college town in the South. And his hip older sister.

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING 29


W H A T ’ S G O I N G O N

CALENDAR of EVENTS

HOLIDAYS&WINTER

All events are tentative and subject to be rescheduled.

13th-19th at 2 pm as to where he is hiding.

Auburn

Find the elf, and win downtown gift cards!

December 1-18 - The Great Passport Event

December 19 - Jingle Jog 5k & Santa Stroll

– Downtown Auburn - Get rewarded for supporting

our local merchants this holiday

Fun Run - Toomer’s Corner – 7:00 a.m. - The

Jingle Jog 5k and Santa Stroll Fun Run are

season! It is not too late to get a Holiday

back in 2020 – so pull out those ugly sweaters

Passport. Make any purchase at the 25 participating

businesses, get it stamped and sub-

again Auburn! Join Active Auburn on Saturday,

December 19th at 7 a.m. as we ring in the

mit your passport for a chance to win $100 in

holiday season in style! The Santa Stroll Fun

downtown gift cards. Five passports with the

Run will begin at 7 a.m. and go in waves till

most stamps will be chosen. Passports can

9 a.m. at Toomer’s Corner. The Jingle Jog 5k

be printed online or picked up at any of the

will begin at 7:30 a.m. at Toomer’s Corner.

participating locations. All passports must be

Registration is now open.

turned in by Dec. 18th. For more information,

visit downtownauburnonline.com/events. January 9-10 - Miss Alabama USA and Miss

Teen Alabama Pageant - Gouge Performing

December 6 - Downtown Auburn Christmas

Arts Center - The Jay and Susie Gogue

Parade - Downtown Auburn - 2:00 p.m. -

Performing Arts Center at Auburn University

3:00 p.m. - Downtown Auburn is hosting

is the 2020 home of the Miss Alabama USA

their annual Christmas parade on Sunday,

and Miss Alabama Teen USA Pageants!

December 6, 2020, at 2 p.m. You can come

Contestants from all over the state of

out and celebrate the holidays with a parade

Alabama will compete in interview, evening

including all your local favorites. The parade

gown and swimsuit/activewear competitions.

will feature festive floats, local celebrities

These contestants will be vying for thousands

of dollars in scholarships and prizes

and Santa himself! Santa asks that you

social distance safely and wear a mask.

and the ability to travel the state promoting

For more information, visit

the pageant and its charitable alliances.

downtownauburnonline.com/events.

February 14 - Valentine’s Day Hike - Louise

December 13-19 - Elf on a Downtown Shelf

Kreher Forest Ecology Preserve - All Day -

– Downtown Auburn - That pesky elf is at it

This self-led hike takes you through our

again. This time, he is hiding in downtown

trails with several ‘lovely’ stops along the

businesses. Bring the kids to hunt for the

way. Celebrate Valentine’s with your one true

elf. A clue will be dropped on the Downtown

love this year: nature!

Auburn Instagram page every day from Dec.

Opelika

December 5 - Snow Much Fun Christmas

Extravaganza - Downtown Opelika - 4:00

p.m. - 6:30 p.m. - Celebrate Christmas in

downtown Opelika with the Snow Much Fun

Christmas Extravaganza. Opelika’s Official

Kick-Off Event to the Christmas Season

will be at Courthouse Square with a reverse

parade. A reverse walking parade means that

the parade entries will be stationary while

attendees walk through the parade route.

December 9-13 - Victorian Front Porch Tour

- Downtown Opelika – 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

- This Christmas season, December 9-13,

Opelika’s Northside Historic District is celebrating

like it’s 1899! For five days in early

December 60 Victorian and historic homes

near downtown Opelika are transformed into

colorful, nostalgic reminders of Christmas

from a simpler, slower-paced era.

December 9-10 - Victorian Front Porch

Biking Tour - Downtown Opelika - 6:00 p.m. -

Ride at your own pace through the beautiful

historic homes in downtown Opelika. This

is a self-led tour. The Victorian Front Porch

Tour features homes that have been transformed

into a colorful, nostalgic reminder of

Christmas from a simpler era.

December 9-10 - Victorian Front Porch Horse

Drawn Carriage Rides - Downtown Opelika

- 5:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. - A team of horses will

pull a beautiful wagon through the historic

Victorian Front Porch Tour. The carriage

accommodates up to 6 people. We recommend

that you include all people over 18

30 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


months of age in your count, so this is a perfect

event to do with your family, friends, or

colleagues. Each ride will last approximately

10 minutes and is a delightful way to see the

beautiful Victorian Front Porch Tour.

December 12 - Victorian Front Porch

Walking Tour - Downtown Opelika – 6:00

p.m. - 9:30 p.m. - This Christmas season,

December 9-13, Opelika’s Northside Historic

District is celebrating like it’s 1899! For five

days in early December 60 Victorian and

historic homes near downtown Opelika are

transformed into colorful, nostalgic reminders

of Christmas from a simpler, slowerpaced

era. Streets will be closed so everyone

can leisurely enjoy homes up close, listen to

carolers, and talk with residents dressed in

Victorian costumes.

March 26-28 - 2nd Annual Opelika

Songwriters Festival - Downtown Opelika

- The Opelika Songwriters Festival will

entertain music fans at its 2nd annual celebration

at multiple venues in the town’s

historic downtown. Rob and Jen Slocumb,

a.k.a. Martha’s Trouble (a husband-and-wife

folk/rock duo and owners of Opelika recording

studio/event center The Sound Wall) are

bringing the new festival to life. More than

30 singer-songwriters attended last year’s

inaugural event, from local acts to international

touring artists, including Grammy

Award Nominees.

Sylacauga

December 5 - Open Fire Cast Iron Cooking

Experience - Pursell Farms – 2:00 p.m. to

6:00 p.m. - Our new Executive Chef Joe Truex

teaches tips and tricks for open fire cast iron

cooking. Taste a sampling of the food he prepares

on Sea Island Forge Kettles during the

demonstration for a unique and delicious

afternoon. $45 per person, exclusive of taxes

and gratuities

December 11 - Old World versus New

World Wine Dinner - Pursell Farms – 6:30

p.m. - Join us for a festive evening featuring

a multi-course dinner created by our

new Executive Chef Joe Truex paired with

sparkling wines. Special guests are Master

Sommelier Gia Bivens and wine expert Scott

Atkinson. $95 per person, exclusive of taxes

and gratuities

December 12 - Holiday Mixology + Infusion

Class – Pursell Farms - 1:00pm to 3:00pm -

Create craft cocktails for the holidays with

Redmont Vodka and Vulcan Gin. Includes a

mixology demonstration, three craft cocktails

for sipping and your choice of a bottle of

infused Vodka or Gin to take home. $45 per

person, exclusive of taxes and gratuities

If you would like to submit an upcoming event, please

send information to amy@eastalabamaliving.com.

From shopping, gift wrapping, cooking and even

decorating, SYNERGY HomeCare's caregivers can

help seniors stay engaged this holiday season.

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synergyhomecare.com/opelika

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Specializing in

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(334) 826-6651

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING 31


F O O D

Big Mike’s Steakhouse

By Ann Cipperly

After enjoying grilling steaks for years, Michael “Big

Mike” Cole and two of his friends, Caine Conway

and Scott Powell, opened Big Mike’s Steakhouse in

Thomasville, Ala. It was so popular, they expanded

to Andalusia, Moundville, Orange Beach and then Auburn

this past January. The Cattlemen’s Association awarded the

restaurant with “Best Steak in Alabama.”

Auburn Chef Barrett Rowland

Photos by Tristan Cairns

32 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Mike, a former teacher and football coach,

had a love for grilling and worked for a while

at a steakhouse restaurant. Big Mike, Scott

and Caine opened their first steakhouse in

2013, featuring Mike’s marinade and recipes.

Head Chef Barrett Rowland and Sous Chef

Marcus Grey Norton at the Auburn restaurant

both began working at a Big Mike’s Steakhouse

several years ago when they were 16 years old.

Chef Norton started working with Mike at

the original steakhouse in Thomasville, which

is two hours north of Mobile.

Chef Rowland first worked with Mike at

another steakhouse and then at Big Mike’s in

Orange Beach. When the Auburn restaurant

opened, he was offered the position of Head

Chef. “We have all worked under Big Mike for

a while and learned his technique for grilling,”

says the chef.

“Things are constantly changing,” adds

Chef Rowland, “and specials and the fresh

catch changes from week to week. The fish

and seafood come from the Gulf.

“Steaks are certified Angus beef in the top

eight percent of the best beef in the country,”

he says. “All the steaks are aged for 28 days

and hand cut. Then they are marinated and

seasoned with our secret seven spices for 24

hours ahead of time for a juicy flavor. Steaks

are cooked to perfection on a charcoal grill,

which makes a big difference in the flavor.”

Salads are made fresh every day. The ranch and

EAST ALABAMA LIVING 33


thousand island dressings are made in house.

Big Mike’s sister-in-law has a bakery in

Birmingham and makes desserts for all of

the steakhouses. Cakes include chocolate,

caramel, red velvet and Oreo cookie cake. The

bread pudding is made in house daily. When

the bread pudding is ordered, a square is deep

fried and served with ice cream and homemade

caramel sauce.

When we decided to dine at the steakhouse,

we knew we wanted to dine on the

covered porch. We arrived shortly after 4 p.m.

for an early dinner.

After we were seated, we settled on the

crab cakes for an appetizer. We shared an

order, which was plenty. Two crispy fried crab

cakes were served on lettuce with a drizzle of

remoulade sauce.

We were interested in trying the fresh catch

as well as a steak. The fish for the evening was

grouper, which is one of our favorites.

The grouper piccata was offered fried or

grilled. Our server recommended ordering it

fried. It came on a twice baked potato casserole

topped with fried capers and lemon

beurre blanc sauce. The grouper was excellent,

and we would order it again.

For a steak, we tried the filet mignon

wrapped in applewood bacon and topped

with garlic herb butter. The tall steak looked

picture perfect and was cooked as ordered.

The entrees came with a salad, bread and

choice of potato.

Although the desserts sounded tempting,

we were too full on this occasion.

The large menu offers a variety of appetizers,

salads and soups, sandwiches, seafood, a

selection of steaks and other entrees.

In addition to filet mignon, other steaks

featured include 24 oz. and 16 oz. ribeye

steaks and a strip steak. Steaks are topped

with garlic herb butter, but upscale toppings

can be added, including lump crabmeat with

Béarnaise and asparagus.

For a lighter meal, a po boy sandwich,

burger and chicken sandwich are available.

Main dish salads include tiger shrimp,

chicken cobb and a build your own salad with

choice lettuces and toppings, such as crab

cake, tuna steak, etc.

If you are interested in small plates, check

out the appetizers. These feature crab claws,

smoked tuna dip, fried mushrooms, tiger

shrimp and an oyster menu.

A children’s menu is available with a

cheeseburger, chicken tenders, fried shrimp

and kabobs served with fries.

Suzanne Sherling is the front of the house

manager and has been working at the Auburn

restaurant since March. Soon afterwards, they

34 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


closed, like other restaurants in the area, for a

few months.

Located in the former Stinky’s Fish Camp

building, the color of the walls was changed,

and the bar was set up differently. Some walls

were removed to allow for better flow.

“We like to treat the staff like family from

one restaurant to another,” says Chef Rowland.

“Everybody wants to do better for each other,

so we push every day to be the best we can.”

Big Mike’s Steakhouse is located at 610 Shug Jordan

Parkway and is open at 4pm Wednesday through

Saturday. The restaurant has a covered patio, which is

open Friday and Saturday nights.

220 North College Street | Auburn, AL 36830 | thetalonsgroup.com

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

35


H O L I D A Y G I F T G U I D E

The Perfect Gift

BY JESS MARGESON

As the holiday season approaches,

so does the perennial conundrum:

the quest for the perfect gift.

Read on to discover an array of items,

from nationally recognized best-selling

author James Farmer, to fine art

offerings, to boutiques in our own

backyard. There is something sure

to appeal to everyone on your list!

Photo provided by Elisabet Boutique

36 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Heritage House photos by Cody Allen Love and Legacy Photography

Stay!

The Heritage House

Opelika, Alabama

Recently under new management, The Heritage

House and its staff are eagerly anticipating the

holiday season. And as such, they are offering an

array of holiday themed specials.

The inn’s owner, Dani Nelson, says, “Yes! This

year, we are excited to offer several specials and

signature services fit for the holiday season! For

starters, any guest booking two or more nights in

the months of November or December and using

promo code HOLIDAYS will receive a complimentary

Holiday Delights Tray in their room. These

trays feature seasonal treats, such as: hot cocoa,

spiced cider, and more!”

Visit: www.heritagehouse1913.com

Follow: Heritage House (Facebook)

The Collegiate Hotel

Auburn, Alabama

Snuggly situated in the very heart of Auburn, The Collegiate Hotel boasts

one-of-a-kind décor and an upscale ambiance, offering everything from

rooftop drinks, to live music!

The coming holiday season will prove no exception, as Owner Kim Wirth

describes, “Yes! We definitely go all out to decorate the hotel for the

holidays—from our oversized nutcracker greeters, affectionately dubbed

Shug-A-Plum and Mistle-Bo—to our signature upside-down tree in the hotel

lobby, we put our own spin on all of décor!”

Wirth invites guests to “cozy up on the couch” and enjoy live piano music,

all while sipping signature selections from their holiday cocktail menu. Her

personal favorite—the Nutcracker Martini—which she promises will “make

spirits bright!”

Shop!

Jane Boutwell Studio

Atlanta, Georgia

A Fine Arts graduate of Auburn University,

Boutwell jokes that her first true medium

manifested in the “Creation of elaborate mud pies

growing up as a child in Macon, Ga.” Since that

time, Boutwell’s connection to the earth and urge

to create have not waned.

Recently, she launched a studio bearing her name

with the intent of making art accessible. Toward

that end, her site boasts numerous pieces in

variety of mediums available for purchase, all at

reasonable rates.

Visit: www.JaneBoutwellStudio.com

Follow: @janeboutwellstudio (Instagram)

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

37


Elisabet Boutique

Auburn, Alabama

When this former Auburn University cheerleader

initially traded in her pom poms for the busy life of

a clothing boutique owner here on The Plains, little

could she have known the level of success she would

achieve in such a short amount of time.

In a competitive industry, Register’s trademark enthusiasm

combined with her well-known work ethic helped make her little

boutique standout in a crowded field. Specifically, her innovative

approach to online sales in conjunction with her keen attention to

customer service have been recognized statewide and continue

to make her a standout in her field.

The result—Elisabet remains a budget-friendly boutique, offering

an array of items, perfect for any occasion or price point.

Visit: www.shopelisabetboutique.com

Follow: @shopelisabetboutique (Instagram)

Photos provided by Elisabet Boutique

Stick Candles

Highlands, North Carolina

Upon entering the shop, guests immediately connect

to the earthy ambiance offered — touches of fresh

sheet moss and decorative woodcuts handsomely

display an array of hand-dipped candles.

These custom beeswax candles are hand-cast from

molds made from various sticks, twigs and branches

collected by their creator. Each candle is then handpoured

one at a time.

Originally created as a gift for the shop’s owner, these

beautiful works are now sold in over one hundred

stores nature-wide and make the perfect gift!

Visit: www.stickscandles.com

Follow: Stick Candles (Facebook)

James Farmer Designs

Perry, Ga.

Since his graduation from Auburn University, Farmer has firmly solidified

his place in the world of design.

Recently, he released his second interior design book, Arriving Home, to national

acclaim. The publication follows the work of his firm, James Farmer Designs,

featured in 10 different homes, one of them located outside Opelika, Ala.

According to the author, “For my second interiors book, I wanted to inspire

and illustrate how the graciousness of Southern style translates into warm

interiors for our clients in homes across the country.”

From cover to cover, readers will be treated to Farmer’s signature Southern

style—spirited, bold, but still classic in nature. His collection of hardbound

books make wonderful gifts for even the most discerning recipient. For an

extra touch, ask the author to write a personal note (at the time of purchase).

Visit: www.jamesfarmer.com

Follow: @jamestfarmer (Instagram)

38 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


EAST ALABAMA LIVING

39


CHRISTMAS MORNING

R E C I P E S

By Ann Cipperly

On Christmas morning, little children wake up early excited to

open gifts under the tree. Don’t miss a minute of the fun by being in the

kitchen making breakfast or brunch. Have most of the dishes prepared

ahead and simply place in the oven to cook.

While gifts are being opened, serve cups of warm Spiced Cranberry

Cider to sip. After the gifts are opened, the Conecuh Sausage Wreath

can be baked and served as an appetizer while other dishes are cooking.

Garnish the wreath with parsley and cherry tomatoes for a festive

presentation.

Scrumptious main dishes to prepare ahead include Shrimp and Grits

Casserole, Breakfast Casserole for Christmas Morning and Chef Jason’s

Christmas Morning Italian Strata or Sausage Stroganoff over Biscuits,

which can be homemade biscuits or frozen ones simply placed in the

oven to bake.

For a delectable finale, select the make ahead French Toast with

Cream Cheese Filling and Praline Topping or one of the other of other

assorted sweets.

Set the table the day before, and bring out the good dishes for creating

special Christmas morning memories. After dealing with a pandemic

this year and uncertain times, make an extra effort to create a

warm setting.

Linger at the table being thankful for the day and honor the reason

for the gifts and celebration. Let the music and scriptures of the

Christmas story bring peace and hope for the future.

SPICED CRANBERRY APPLE CIDER

Beth Brewer

2 quarts apple cider

11/2 quarts 100% cranberry juice

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. whole cloves

1 tsp. whole allspice

3 sticks cinnamon broken into pieces

Pour the apple cider and cranberry juice into a

crockpot.

Add sugar and spices to the juices.

Heat the liquid.

Strain the spices then discard them before serving

warm cider.

CONECUH SAUSAGE WREATH

Holly Muncie

Brown the sausage ahead of time and wrap in pastry.

On Christmas morning, place the sausage on a cookie

sheet in a wreath design to bake.

2 packs Conecuh sausage

2 cans crescent rolls

1 egg

Grill sausage on low heat. Cut sausage in to bite

size 1-inch pieces; drain on paper towels and cool

completely.

On a large cutting board, cut crescent rolls down

the middle making two long, skinny triangles

out of each. Put sausage on larger end and roll

up. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment

paper. Don’t worry about wreath shape yet.

Continue until all crescent rolls are used.

Refrigerate rolls for 15-30 minutes (or overnight).

Whisk egg in a small bowl. Arrange sausage on

baking sheet in wreath shape so they are basically

touching and pointing the same direction.

Brush egg over top and sides so they will get

glossy and golden. Bake according to directions

on crescent roll until golden.

Shimmy off the parchment paper onto your serving

dish.

40 EAST ALABAMA LIVING

BREAKFAST CASSEROLE

FOR CHRISTMAS MORNING

Jim Ryan

Make the casserole the day before and bake

Christmas morning.

1 lb. crumbled cooked sausage (cook until no

longer pink)

5 slices of bread, cut off edges

2 cups milk

6 eggs (blend with fork in a small bowl)

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 cup medium grated cheddar cheese

Cook sausage in a skillet until browned and drain

well. Place bread that has been cut into pieces

and cooked sausage in a 9x13-inch greased baking

dish.

Blend milk, eggs, salt and pepper together then

add cheese. Pour mixed ingredients over bread

and sausage. Refrigerate overnight.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes until set

and lightly browned. Can also bake after making.

SHRIMP AND GRITS CASSEROLE

Janine Simmons

Make the casserole the night before and bake

Christmas morning.

I double this recipe for a large casserole dish, and I

cook the shrimp until just pink. I use frozen grocery

store shrimp. When I cook them, I just put in seasonings

like I am boiling shrimp for flavor. I use Old Bay

Seasoning or Zatarain’s. This is a family favorite

recipe from Pepe Cope.

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup grits

1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1 cup grated Monterey Jack with peppers, divided

2 Tbsp. butter

6 green onions, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 lb. shrimp, cooked

10 oz. can diced tomatoes and chilies (Rotel)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

Bring broth and salt to a boil; stir in grits and

cover. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Stir together 3/4 cup cheddar and Monterey Jack

cheese in grits.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

Add green onions, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté

5 minutes.

Stir grits, vegetables and next 3 ingredients

together. Pour in a greased 2-quart casserole.

Sprinkle remaining cheddar and Monterey Jack

cheeses over top. Refrigerate until ready to bake.

Bake at 350 for 30 to 45 minutes.

CHEF JASON’S CHRISTMAS MORNING

ITALIAN STRATA

Emily Ann Tatum

Make the night before and bake Christmas morning.

11/2 lbs. sausage

12 oz. loaf French bread

8 oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained

6 large eggs

4 cups milk

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Night before serving:

Grease 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish. Crumble and

cook sausage; drain. Cut bread into 2-inch cubes.

Combine sausage, bread and mushrooms and fill

baking dish.

Whisk together eggs, milk and spices; pour over

bread mixture, being sure to evenly distribute liquid.

Refrigerate, covered, for at least 8 hours.

Following morning:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake strata for 1 hour, uncovered. Remove strata

and sprinkle with cheeses. Bake an additional 15

minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serves 12.


SAUSAGE STROGANOFF OVER BISCUITS

FOR CHRISTMAS MORNING

Laura McKay

Can prepare a day ahead and reheat Christmas

morning. If making ahead, wait to add the sour cream

just before serving.

1 clove garlic, minced

2 lbs. sausage

3 Tbsp. flour

2 cups milk

2 large onions, chopped

1 pack fresh mushrooms

4 Tbsp. butter

2 tsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire

Salt and pepper to taste

1 pint sour cream

Brown sausage well with garlic. Drain sausage

well and dredge with flour. Pour off grease in pan.

Return sausage and milk to pan and simmer until

slightly thickened. Set aside.

Sauté onions and mushrooms in butter. Add soy

sauce and Worcestershire, onions, mushrooms

and seasonings to the sausage cream mixture.

When mixture bubbles, add sour cream.

I make the mixture the day before and reheat.

Once the mixture bubbles I then add the sour

cream. Serve over biscuits. Can use frozen biscuits.

FRENCH TOAST WITH CREAM CHEESE

FILLING AND PRALINE TOPPING

Mindy McCain Smith

Make day before and bake Christmas morning.

1-2 loaves bread, not sliced

1 tsp. vanilla extract

8 large eggs

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 cups half & half

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1 cup milk

Dash of salt

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

8 oz. cream cheese, softened, use nearly the entire

package

Praline topping, recipe below

Slice bread into 1-inch thick slices; remove crust.

Place one layer of slices in a well-greased 9x13

pan. Place slices close together in two rows.

Spread layer of bread liberally with cream cheese.

Top with second layer of bread slices.

In a large bowl combine eggs, half & half, milk,

sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Beat

with electric mixer or whisk until blended, but

not too bubbly. Pour mixture over bread distributing

evenly. Cover with foil and refrigerate

overnight.

Next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove casserole from refrigerator and top

evenly with praline mixture. Bake for about 40

minutes or until lightly golden and set. Remove

from oven. May serve hot or cold. Serve with

maple syrup, if desired.

PRALINE TOPPING

2 sticks butter

2 Tbsp. light corn syrup (may substitute maple)

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine brown sugar and spices in a medium

bowl. Cut in cold butter with pastry blender until

crumbly. Add nuts and syrup; combine until

evenly distributed.

EASY STICKY BUNS

Jessica Nicholson

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. honey

2 Tbsp. water

1/4 cup chopped nuts

8 oz. can crescent rolls

2 Tbsp. butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small saucepan, heat first 5 ingredients, stirring

until smooth. Stir in nuts.

Spoon 1 Tbsp. honey mixture into each of 12

ungreased muffin cups.

Separate crescent dough into 4 rectangles. Spread

each rectangle with 1/2 Tbsp. butter. Combine cinnamon

and sugar and sprinkle over butter. Dot

with raisins.

Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly. Cut each

roll into 3 slices.

Flatten slightly, press lightly into the muffin cups.

Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Cool in pan 1 minute, pour onto wax paper.

OVERNIGHT COFFEE CAKE WITH

CINNAMON PECAN TOPPING

Patricia Fox

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 eggs

CINNAMON PECAN TOPPING:

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large mixing

bowl; add buttermilk, butter and eggs. Beat at low

speed of an electric mixer until dry ingredients

are moistened; beat at medium speed an additional

3 minutes. Spoon batter into a greased and

floured 9 x 13-inch pan. For topping, combine

cup brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon; sprinkle

over batter. Cover and chill overnight.

Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes

out clean. This cake may be baked immediately, if

desired. Makes 12 servings.

CITRUS SALAD WITH SPICED HONEY

Jessica Nicholson

1/2 cup honey

1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. black peppercorns

1/4 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

4 whole cloves

3 medium sized oranges

3 mandarin oranges

2 Ruby Red grapefruit

2 limes

6 kumquats (optional)

1 (4.4 oz.) pkg. fresh pomegranate seeds

Toppings: extra virgin olive oil, fresh mint leaves,

sea salt

Bring first 6 ingredients and 1/2 cup water to a boil

over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring often, 1

minute. Remove from heat, and let stand 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaf.

Meanwhile, peel oranges, next 3 ingredients, and,

if desired, kumquats. Cut away bitter white pith.

Cut each fruit into thin rounds. Arrange on a serving

platter, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Pour honey mixture through a fine wire-mesh

strainer, discarding solids. Drizzle fruit with

desired amount of spiced honey, reserving

remaining for another use. Top with a drizzle of

olive oil, a handful of mint leaves, and sea salt.

SAUSAGE AND CHEESE

ON ENGLISH MUFFINS

Rose Ann Denson

These are great to have in the freezer.

1 lb. sausage

2 jars Old English Cheese

1 can chopped green chilies

1/4 cup oleo

English muffins

Brown sausage; drain. Place back in pan with

cheese, chilies and oleo. Spread on English muffins.

Can freeze. Place on cookie sheet. When frozen,

place in zip-lock bags. Remove from freezer

as needed.

MAPLE BACON

Haley Wilder

Good, thick-cut bacon

Grade A maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400. Line a rimmed baking sheet

with parchment. Place bacon side by side on a

baking rack on top of the parchment, making

sure the pieces do not touch.

Cook bacon until golden, remove from oven and

brush with maple syrup. Return bacon to the

oven to finish cooking. Watch it carefully so the

syrup crystallizes but does not burn.

Once bacon is cooked, transfer to another baking

rack.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

41


A R T

Photos provided by Doug Horn

Images of Home

By Ann Cipperly

Nestled against a backdrop of the Blue Bridge

Mountains in Highlands, NC, the home of Opelikan

Doug Horn is decorated throughout with art from

Lee County artists, serving as reminders of his

beloved hometown. With art displays from over 15 artists, the

second home has become a haven for relaxing.

When Doug was growing up in Opelika, he

developed lasting friendships and a fondness for

the town. His father was a contractor and roofer,

while his mother was a private duty nurse.

After graduating from Opelika High School

in 1968, Doug attended Troy University for a

year on a music scholarship and decided to

study business. He soon learned he had no

interest in business, but was interested in

becoming a nurse.

Doug became the first male pre-nursing

student at Auburn University in 1970. He

transferred to UAB School of Nursing and

graduated in 1973. Doug then went to work at

the UAB emergency room and ICU. While he

had a desire to return to school to become a

nurse anesthetist, he was struggling to save

for school on a low income.

Doug returned to Opelika in 1974 and went

to work with his father. “I told my father that I

would work for him for a year,” he remembers,

“but if I didn’t like the work I was returning to

school. I ended up staying and continuing my

father’s business.”

42 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


He had an interest in helping others from an

early age, especially older people. He became

a friend and “an adopted son” to Marjorie

and Robert Goodson, who had no children of

their own. They owned the Goodson Jewelry

Store in downtown Opelika for over 50 years.

Since they were second parents to Doug, he

was co-executor of their estate. He promised

the Goodsons he would give monetary gifts to

help others.

After much consideration on how to touch

as many lives as possible, Doug gave a $320,000

endowment in the Goodsons’ name to the

East Alabama Medical Center Foundation in

2010, which was the largest single gift the

organization had ever received at that time.

He also gifted two garden areas and a baby

grand piano for the lobby.

He also donated to nursing schools at

Southern Union, Auburn University, Samford

and UAB. In recognition of Doug’s generosity,

the UAB School of Nursing created the Douglas

M. Horn Emerging Nurse Leader Award, a monetary

award presented to a student exhibiting

outstanding leadership qualities.

In 2016, Doug’s wife Betty Jean (B.J.) passed

away from cancer. Their two daughters,

Heather and Kristen, who is married to Jim

Walker, both reside in Auburn.

Although Doug never went into a career in

nursing, his knowledge helped him become a

caretaker to his parents, the Goodsons and B.J.

Doug decided when he turned 70 this year

that he would slow down and relax. “In my

lifetime I have built a lot of places to sit,” he

says, “but I have never taken the time to sit

until now. Not wanting to do business, I ended

up running my father’s business for 45 years.”

When he visited Highlands last year, he

felt it was restful and that he had found his

retreat. After searching for a second home, he

discovered an English manor style house with

a master gardener’s landscaping on the edge

of town. Built by two decorators with a flair

for details, the house is rich in old world character

with antique doors from Europe, wood

beams, etched glass and a cathedral ceiling.

The soothing sound of a waterfall with

water flowing over large stones into a pool

sets a peaceful tone.

Doug hired Opelika decorator Joan Asbury

to furnish the living room. Joan and her husband

made the trip to advise on decorating

the house. Brenda Mathias from Peachtree

City also assisted him in decorating. His long

time office manager, Martha Shaddix, assisted

with the move and unpacked 220 boxes.

While Doug searched art galleries for art

to decorate his house, he missed Opelika and

decided he needed a touch of home in his

mountain house.

He began collecting art from Lee County

artists. He especially wanted a painting from

Rosalyn Stern, who had taught art in Opelika

City Schools and was a founder of the Opelika

Arts Association, now the Arts Association of

East Alabama. Along with Rosalyn’s painting, he

selected art from her two children, J. and Ginger.

“We have so many artists in Opelika and

Auburn,” Doug says. “Once I got started, I

couldn’t stop. I have always wanted to promote

Opelika and Auburn, and by living in

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

43


920 Opelika Road Auburn AL 36830

Tel # 334-826-1890

Fax # 334-821-3511

www.swansondiamond.com

Highlands now, I wanted to promote our own

local artists.”

Other artists featured in the collection

include Jo Ann Walker, Kathy Miller Lowe, Nan

Cunningham, Ann Waid, Lisa Lett Bentley, Fran

McCurry Plott, Hayley Gaberlavage, Trudy Jackson,

Sally Melson Phillips, Heather Horn, Barbara

Keel, Monteigne Mathison, Lauren Duncan, Jane

Randall Jackson and Tom Woodward.

“I feel so close to these artists,” he says, “and

I want to promote them and encourage them.”

Doug and B.J. collected art on trips to

Europe, which are also hanging in the house.

A painting from Venice hangs over a fireplace

in the living room.

“Turning 70 this year,” he says. “I have a

different perspective about life. Living in

Highlands, I have discovered that it is a very

laid back community. It has a slower pace. I

really like the feel and connection of God and

the mountains and waterfalls.

“I am such a homebody from Opelika,”

Doug adds. “Knowing all of this art came from

Opelika and Auburn makes me feel more at

home. I feel like these artists are surrounding

me, making me feel more at home now in

Highlands with a new chapter of my life.”

44 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


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H E L P I N G H A N D S

Committment to the Community

By Ann Cipperly

Since forming the Hudson Family Foundation 11 years ago,

Kim and Tim Hudson of Auburn have been a driving force

in the community, donating almost $2 million dollars to

help children and families in need. With the Covid-19

outbreak, the Foundation has stepped up its giving in the past few

months to help local families, businesses, and healthcare workers

directly affected by the pandemic.

46 EAST ALABAMA LIVING

Photos provided by the Hudson Family Foundation


The Foundation also continued to help its

grant families. “Many of our grant families are

already in a tough situation,” explains Kim.

“Then with something unexpected like the

pandemic, many needs increase.

“We live in a great community. Sometimes

you have to stop and say this was not in our

budget, but if we are going to be a nonprofit

with the goal of giving back, now is not the

time to pump the brakes.

“I know God will provide what we need.

He always makes a way,” Kim adds. “We had

supporters who learned we were packing food

boxes and doing the ‘Buy a Meal, Give a Meal’

Kim and Tim created the Hudson Family

Foundation in 2009. “We are still here in year

11 because people still need us,” Kim says.

“I feel like the more we plug in and discover

things about our community, the more we

uncover those needs.

“We are still as passionate about the

Foundation as when we started. We have

tweaked a few things. Some programs are

the same, and some programs have been

added. Some programs have been taken away

because we always want to remain practical

and relevant.”

The Foundation has continued with its

regular programs while also helping with

current needs due to the pandemic. Two of

those needs were food insecurity and small

businesses.

The Hudson’s partnered with Church of the

Highlands and friends and supporters in the

community to pack thousands of food boxes

to distribute to children and families who

were affected by the school closures.

It was a team effort to serve children from

Auburn City Schools, Opelika City Schools,

and Lee County Schools that was sustainable

over several months. It was made possible by

financial support and volunteers from Church

of the Highlands, Coach Bruce Pearl, Coach

Gus Malzahn, Coach Butch Thompson and Pro

Golfer Jason Dufner.

The Hudson Family Foundation also created

the “Buy a Meal, Give a Meal” program.

They partnered with several local restaurants

to buy one $50 dollar gift card for every family

meal the restaurant sold.

“We were able to donate the gift cards back

to the restaurants so they could bless their

employees,” says Kim. “The restaurant owners

know personally whose hours had been

reduced, who had children at home, and

where the impact was needed most.”

The Foundation donated over $20,000 dollars

by giving 412 gift cards valued at $50 dollars

each back to its restaurant partners. It also

benefitted restaurants in the meals they sold.

“It was a great partnership with these restaurants,”

adds Kim. “We all know that the restaurant

industry was one that suffered the most.

“We got together and brainstormed on how

to truly help and be the most impactful. Local

restaurants help us when we host our events,

and this was a chance to help them. We have

always had great partnerships with local restaurants,

and we wanted to show them that

we care.

“We were also made aware of issues at

Arbor Springs,” she adds. “It broke our hearts

to hear what was going on there for both the

residents and the staff. Not only was the fear

of Covid-19 real because of the elderly population,

but the staff was burdened by the sadness

of many residents who couldn’t have any

visitors due to the Covid-19 restrictions.”

The Foundation was able to provide meals

for the staff at Arbor Springs. The Church of

the Highlands’ worship team played music

for the nurses as they changed shifts in the

evening. “We wanted to encourage everyone

there and let them know that we see and

appreciate the sacrifices they are making,”

says Kim.

On Easter Sunday, the Foundation partnered

with Gigi’s Cupcakes and delivered about a

thousand cupcakes to all medical staff and

employees at East Alabama Medical Center.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

47


initiative, and a check would surprisingly

appear in our mailbox.

“We believe that we have proven ourselves

over the past 10 years, and I feel that people

trust that we are going to do the right things

for the right reasons. I am extremely thankful

for and proud of our community. Now is the

time to give more than ever. So many needs

are exposed when something like this happens

that you may not have seen otherwise.

When we have the burden of knowing that

there is a need, then we have the responsibility

to act.

“We are in it to make a difference,” Kim

stresses. “Some years are smooth sailing, and

other years you really have to get to work and

write a lot more checks. That is okay because

that is why we are here.”

They presented 16 $3,000 scholarships

this spring to local graduating seniors even

though the kids were not in school. Overall, the

Foundation has presented scholarships to 146

students, totaling over half a million dollars.

The Foundation has donated over $1.2

million dollars through its grant programs.

Approximately half are individual grants used

to support families in need by handling necessary

expenses like rent or mortgage payments,

utilities, and medical bills. The other

half are grants to other organizations that

share the Foundation’s mission of serving

children and families in need.

They partner with the local Publix stores

for their Legends Program to present almost

4,000 certificates each fall to local elementary

school children who are specifically chosen by

their teachers and principals. Each child then

receives a food basket that feeds 10 to 12 people

for a Thanksgiving meal.

In the past they have hosted the children

at the Auburn Arena with Aubie, cheerleaders

and the band. They emphasize to the children

how important they are and how proud everyone

is of them for being a “legendary” kid.

While the certificates and food baskets are

going to be given this year, they may not be

able to have the celebration because of Covid-

19. “Our goal is to not only provide food, but to

empower the kids to know that they are great

kids and deserve to be celebrated,” says Kim.

“They are so proud to do this for their family.”

At Christmas time, they invite around 150

children and their families to Target to “Shop

with Santa”. Each child receives a $100 dollar

gift card and shops at Target for whatever

they want. They have shopped with over 750

children.

“We are committed to doing our Thanksgiving

and Christmas programs this year even if they

may look differently,” she says. “There are likely

more needs than ever before. Now is not the

time to push pause.

“We want people to understand what we

do,” Kim states. “I would love for more people

to get involved and for people to know

that they can recommend families to us for

assistance.

“We are close to $2 million dollars in gifts

through our programs. We are working harder

than we ever have. If you are going to be a nonprofit

and give back, now is the time to do it.”

The Foundation does not have any overhead.

Jenny Hall is the Executive Director and

only employee, and the Hudson’s donate her

salary. One hundred percent of donations

goes to helping families.

“I remember Tim and I talking years ago

about where we were going to live the rest of

our lives,” says Kim. “It took about two minutes

to figure out that we wanted it to be

Auburn. It has been very fulfilling to bring the

Foundation here and serve the community

that has given so much to us.

“We always want our Foundation to be truly

impactful, meeting real needs,” Kim states.

“We are fully committed to getting out there

and actively serving our community. That is

why we started, and that is what we will continue

to do.”

To become involved or to donate, go to the website at

www.hudsonfamilyfoundation.org.

48 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


- Join us December 19, 2020 -

pancakes & pjs

with santa

Join us for a delicious pancake breakfast, pictures with Santa,

story time with Mrs. Claus, crafts and other holiday activities.

Located in the Lakeview Room of our Wadley Campus.

Activities will last from 8:30 - 11:30 am.

Adults (13 & up) $25 | Children (3-12) $20 | Under 2 Free

Admission to the Christmas Market is free with Breakfast.

Reservations required and will open November 15th.

Join us as Southern Union transforms its Wadley Campus Gym

into a delightful Christmas Market from 9:00 am - 2:00 pm. It

is a chance for shoppers to find last minute gifts while giving to

area students by supporting the SU Foundation Scholarship

Fund. Admission is $5 (2 & under are free).

For tickets, event info or vendor sign up, contact Shondae Brown at

sbrown@suscc.edu or 256-395-2211, ext. 5145 or visit www.suscc.edu.

Holiday.

Workday.

Everyday.

TLRCLOTHIERS.COM

175 E. MAGNOLIA AVE | 334.321.4962

MON–SAT 10AM–6PM

EAST ALABAMA LIVING 49


Midtown

Auburn

BY ANN CIPPERLY

Photos by Tristan Cairns

Designed as a combination of farmhouse chic and coastal living, Midtown

Auburn combines cottage and loft living with restaurants and retail shops.

Homes with porches set the tone for a relaxing style of another era. Friends meet

at the nearby coffee shop or lounge for a glass of wine in the afternoon. Supper

can be picked up at one of the restaurants and a bunch of flowers for the table at

The Bodegas. A fitness center and swimming pool enhance daily life.

The Plaza Bar and Lounge

After the sign from the former Plaza located

at the site was salvaged, owners Andy

Anderson, Chef Christian Watson and Brian

Malone knew it was perfect name for their

new bar and lounge. Chef Watson and Andy

are also co-owners of The Waverly Local.

“The original sign pays homage to the businesses

that were first here,” says the chef.

“With the old Plaza as an inspiration, we

decided to do a really cool dive bar with good

food, service and drinks.”

Among the food offered is the War Burger,

which features a smash burger with sweet

onion, Wickles Dirty Dill Pickles that are

50

EAST ALABAMA LIVING


shredded, mustard and a vinegar base barbecue

sauce. The bun is smashed and then

toasted on the outside. “It is a hit,” says Chef

Watson. “We are making a thousand a week.”

Other items include a fried chicken sandwich,

chicken wrap and Conecuh sausage

dog with pimento fondue, cheesy potato tots,

among other items.

Weekend brunch offers many of the regular

menu items as well as Mama T’s (named

after Chef Watson’s Mom Trish) buttermilk

pancakes, the War Burger with bacon with

a sunny side egg on top, as well as cheesy

potato tots and braised beef topped with two

eggs for a hearty dish.

The bar features a cocktail menu, two wines

on tap and 10 craft beers on tap. A custom

wood horseshoe shaped bar and vintage signs

provide a touch of old Auburn mixed with the

new. Outdoor seating is also available.

The Plaza is open Monday through Friday at

11 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekends. There is

plenty of parking.

Sword and Skillet

Entering its third year in Auburn, the food

truck is now permanently located on

Midtown’s main street area with an adjoining

patio seating area.

Owners are Hawaiian-born, California-trained

Executive Chef Torrey Hall and his wife,

sportscaster Jordan Whitley, who is currently

working on her sommelier certification.

Popular items include blackened Mahi sandwich,

filet mignon sliders, skillet fries and hot

honey fried chicken tacos. The menu changes

weekly and is posted to their Instagram and

Facebook accounts.

They also sell house-made desserts by April

Terry, the food truck manager and baker.

The family-run business is currently working

on opening their newest concept, cerulean

wine bar and tasting room, which will be

located next door to the food truck. They plan

to open early 2021.

Sword and skillet also has a new mobile food

truck available for private events and neighborhood

pop-ups.

SHOPS AT THE BODEGAS

O Town Ice Cream Shop

The popular Opelika shop has a second location

at The Bodegas, serving the same yummy

ice cream. Owners Angela and Chris George

are making their waffle cones at this location.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING 51


Ross House Coffee

This is the second location for the coffee

shop, with the original located on Ross Street

in Auburn.

A variety of coffees, teas and pastries are

available.

Mylks Cookies

The shop offers freshly baked classic cookies

and other baked goods. Cookie sandwiches are

filled with buttercream frosting or ice cream.

Dermal.AB

The owner is a registered nurse and licensed

esthetician specializing in dermaplaning,

chemical peels, five levels of Biologique

Recherche booster treatments, and daily

skincare routine consultations.

The Cup and Saucer

Lisa French opened a second location for her

delectable grab and go items from appetizers

to desserts.

Lunch can be purchased and eaten at the

outdoor seating in the common area.

The shop is filled with homemade bread and

weekly freshly made casseroles and entrée

dinners. Many of these feature low carb,

gluten free or keto friendly dishes, as well as

classic comfort foods.

Fresh salads and other seasonal offerings

are available.

Frou, Frou Inc.

Frou Frou is owned and operated by Jess

Margeson. A 2004 graduate of Auburn

University, Jess founded the creative enterprise

shortly after she completed her studies

on The Plains.

Since its launch, Frou Frou has participated

in some of the area’s fabulous affairs, ranging

from weddings, corporate events, bridal showers,

birthdays, holiday parties and much more.

Jess finds inspiration for her beautiful floral

arrangements at every turn in nature.

To place an order, call 334.748.8113.

Lily Jane Boutique

Shop offers clothing, jewelry and other

accessories.

Auburn Popcorn Company

Among the yummy popcorn flavors offered

are caramel, caramel pecan, chocolate fudge,

salted caramel, cheddar and many others.

Other Shops at The Bodegas

Kakozy

Tanology Spray Tan and Beauty Bar

52 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


EAST ALABAMA LIVING 53


The

Journey

Back

COLE BURTON’S

REMARKABLE STORY

OF TRAGEDY, FAITH,

AND THE WILL

TO OVERCOME

BY KATE ASBURY LARKIN

54 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


The last thing Cole Burton remembers

about May 24, 2018, was standing on the cliffs

at Vulcan in Birmingham, Ala. looking down

over the city. He remembers seeing the UAB

Medical Center, but he never would have

imagined that just hours later, he would be in

that very emergency room, fighting for his life.

Cole was with his Auburn University geology

class on a research field trip. The group

made the stop at Vulcan on their way to

Glencoe, Ala. to study rock formations along

Highway 431. As Cole and his classmates

began their work in Glencoe, an impaired

driver ran off the road and hit Cole and

another student, Nick Hood.

Tragically, Nick did not survive his injuries,

passing away a few weeks after the accident.

Cole suffered internal injuries, including

severe head and brain trauma, resulting in a

very bleak prognosis.

“Five days in, the doctors came to us and

told us Cole would most likely not have a

meaningful recovery,” says Tina Burton, Cole’s

mother. “He was unresponsive. They offered

the option to discontinue medical services.”

Tina, Charlie, her husband and Cole’s

father, and Libba, Cole’s sister, gathered in the

back of Cole’s hospital room and prayed. They

talked and quickly agreed if Cole was going

to die, it would be God’s decision, not theirs.

So they told the doctors to do whatever they

could to save Cole. They felt an overwhelming

sense of peace with their decision, regardless

of the road ahead of them. They prayed. A lot.

And they waited.

Three weeks later, on June 15, 2018, Cole

started to wake up from his coma and just

six days after that, he was transferred to the

intensive care unit at the Shepherd Center

in Atlanta, Ga. The first thing he remembers

there is being told he was in a rehab center.

“I demanded a drug test,” says Cole. “I was

adamant that I had not used drugs, and I

wanted to be tested. I was afraid I was going

lose my (AU Navy) ROTC scholarship. I could

not comprehend that I wasn’t in a rehab center

for drug addiction.”

That was the last time the Burtons referred

to Shepherd as a rehab center; from then on, it

was a therapy center. Cole settled in and began

his long, improbable—no, make that seemingly

impossible—journey. One minute, one hour, one

day at a time.

Photos provided by the Burton family

From the beginning, every task was a test of

endurance, perseverance and determination.

Cole was compliant and willing to do whatever

was asked of him, no matter how simple

or how hard the task might have been.

Because of his ROTC training, he was in great

physical condition before the accident, but

now, only a few weeks later, he was almost 40

pounds lighter and basically starting over, a

shell of the person he was, but still ready to

face each new day with a can-do attitude.

“I always had a peace that tomorrow was

going to be better than today and the next day

would be better than tomorrow,” says Cole.

Cole spent the next two months as an

inpatient at Shepherd, making remarkable

and quite improbable progress. When he was

released, the family moved into a nearby

apartment to continue his treatment as an

outpatient. For the next year, Cole worked

hard to regain everything he had lost.

The ability to swallow. The dexterity to write.

The competency to speak. His infectious, playful

personality.

“We were told that often patients with

severe head trauma will emerge with a totally

different personality,” says Tina. “But, the more

Cole healed, the more we realized he was getting

back to his ‘old self;’ Cole was still Cole.”

Cole set three initial goals for himself: To

rebuild his abs, to run in the Peachtree Road

Race and to pass the physical training (PT)

test to qualify to get back in the Navy ROTC

program at AU. He worked hard to get back

into shape and rebuild his abdominal muscles.

Both of those things were accomplished

by the end of 2018.

Cole went back to UAB to thank the doctors

and nurses who would not give up on him. They

were all stunned at the young man they saw.

“They couldn’t believe it,” says Tina. “One

of them seriously looked like he had seen a

ghost. They called the head of neurology to

come see, and he told Cole, ‘I can’t explain

your recovery; you have definitely received a

miracle. God has great plans for you.’”

Cole continued to progress, reaching and

achieving his goals, one by one.

On July 4, 2019, just over 13 months after

his parents were given such a grim prognosis

for their son, Cole ran—or as he says, “jalked”

—his way through the Peachtree Road Race in

Atlanta. He qualified to get his driver’s license

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

55


again and although it seemed unthinkable,

this amazing young man, who scientifically

had no chance of a meaningful recovery, took

a “tester” class in the summer of 2019 to see if

he could handle schoolwork. He took chemistry—and

made a B. So, in the fall 2019 semester,

he enrolled at Auburn again, picking up

right where he left off as a Geology student.

He is set to graduate in December 2020.

Tina began running with Cole to help him

reach his ultimate goal of getting his running

time within range to establish his place back

in the Navy ROTC program. He fell short on

his first try, but easily qualified on his second

timed run. Against all the odds, this determined

Midshipman met — and exceeded —

every requirement to be reinstated to the AU

Navy ROTC program. But, in a crushing blow,

the Navy denied his request, classifying him

as medically incapable for military service.

“That was a huge disappointment,” says

Cole. “I worked so hard to meet the demands

to get back in the program, but in the end,

even though I met the physical requirements,

it just wasn’t enough.”

But Cole still credits the AU Navy ROTC program

for his recovery.

“I was driven by my desire to get back into

ROTC,” says Cole. “Those guys were with me

every step of the way, visiting me at Shepherd

and pushing me every day to work harder to

get back. Even though in the end, I was not

approved to return, the discipline instilled in

me and their companionship and belief in

me were immeasurable factors in me getting

where I am today. I don’t know if I would have

had the same outcome without that support

and my determination to get back in the Navy.”

Once the heartbreak of not being able to

56 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


continue to pursue his military career, Cole

set his sights on a new path and has applied

to Auburn’s Graduate School to earn a degree

in kinesiology and exercise physiology. His

goal now? To help with the recovery of others

who find themselves in situations similar to

the one he was in.

“I so admire and appreciate those at

Shepherd who worked with me every single

day to get me where I am today,” says Cole. “I

couldn’t even hold my head up when I started,

much less walk, talk, eat or anything else, but

because of them, I am where I am now. I want to

be one of the people who does that for others.”

The ups and downs, highlights and setbacks

have also given the Burtons so much appreciation

for the blessings they have received.

Cole’s prognosis was grim, and there was no

scientific possibility for the family to expect

him to have any chance at a normal life, but

God had other plans. Cole was recently baptized

again, in part to symbolize his renewed

life, his new direction and his new goals.

“I was baptized years ago, but after the accident,

in so many ways, I had to totally start

over,” says Cole. “Being baptized again was a

chance for me to once again commit my life to

Christ, who got me where I am today. Before,

I was a Christian, but I wasn’t ‘in Christ;’ now,

I have a much different perspective, a true

gratefulness and in every way, a new life.”

Cole continues to heal and get stronger. He

gives praise for the joy he experiences every day

and is thankful for every step — and every supporter

— who has helped him come this far.

“You don’t choose your journey, your journey

chooses you,” he says. “I’m just trying

to make it the very best journey it can be.”

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

57


58 EAST ALABAMA LIVING

Photo provided by Edna Phelan


Photo by Denise Thomas

Vignettes

BY

CHRISTY JANE KYSER

Vignettes opened its doors in 2008 as

an interiors shop with home furnishings,

antiques, linens, home accessories and

décor. Linda Ayers, one of the founding owners,

housed her interior design space there

as well. Over the years, vendors would come

and go, but the store remained the go-to for

unique home accoutrements.

Denise Thomas added to the ensemble

with a boutique for jewelry, accessories and

clothing. The store continues to offer upscale

furniture lines like Hickory Chair, Lexington,

Isenhour, Gabby, and Summer Classics, as well

as Visual Comfort lighting, Legacy Linens, Pine

Cone Hill, and extensive accessory lines. You

can also find exclusive fabric and wallcovering

lines, such as Schumacher, Cowtan & Tout,

Brunswig & Fils, Kravet, Thibaut and others.

“With the retirement of Jolie Linens in

January (2020), Denise and I made plans to

expand our lines and reopen with a new

look in April. Through a chance meeting with

Katherine (Porter) in February, Katherine

decided to join us with her lamp shade business,

Shady Lady,” says Linda.

Katherine and Linda had worked together

years ago when the Porters built their home. “I

love old and antique furniture. Linda encouraged

Photo provided by Edna Phelan

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

59


Photo provided by Edna Phelan

Photo by Denise Thomas

Photo provided by Edna Phelan

me to keep with that style. As a result, I used

a lot of heirlooms from my extended family

which included lamps. But they needed new

lamp shades. I couldn’t find anywhere in Lee

County for good quality lamp shades,” says

Katherine. “I told my husband (Howard), ‘You

won’t believe how much these shades just

Photo provided by Edna Phelan

cost you today!’ He suggested I start my own

business.” The Shady Lady was born and soon

found its way to Vignettes.

“The lamp shade business is a niche in

Lee County that no other retail business was

doing. I love a good challenge, and I don’t

meet strangers. Linda and Denise are great to

work with in Vignettes because they understand

I have a full-time job with our family

business and our farm. I get to pop in and out

of the shop!” says Katherine.

The shop closed for renovation in March

when the pandemic hit. They were unable to

open until May and even then with restrictions.

“We were unable to have our grand

reopening as we had envisioned, so we hosted

small groups of less than 10 for wine and

cheese events during the week. These have

been very successful,” says Linda, adding they

have shortened the retail hours. Linda continues

to meet with her interior design customers,

which has kept her busy during times of

quarantine now that people are staying home

more. With more than 35 years’ experience in

the industry, Linda has had many residential

projects in Alabama as well as Texas, Georgia,

Florida, South Carolina, and New York.

“With the holidays approaching, we’re

making plans to host several of these small

group parties per week, with a focus on holiday

shopping,” says Linda.

“I’m most excited about having seasonal

items for Christmas gifts that are created by

participants at The Exceptional Foundation

(a nonprofit organization established to serve

individuals with intellectual and developmental

disabilities and provide opportunities

for those participants to thrive and be

engaged in social and recreational activities.).

We will have hand-crafted note cards, soap,

pottery and Christmas ornaments in late

November,” says Katherine. “We also showcase

art from local artists.”

Vignettes is located at 409 E Magnolia Ave. in

Auburn. Shop hours are 12-4, T-F and 10-2 on

Saturdays. To schedule a wine and cheese holiday

gathering, or for any other questions, please call

334.444.4405 or 404.723.2185.

60 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


EAST ALABAMA LIVING

61


LIVING

ONE

DAY

AT A

TIME

BY ANN CIPPERLY

62 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


In the early morning hours,

Vondalyn Hall often wakes up with sunlight

streaming through the bedroom windows in

her quiet, still house. After losing three family

members in eight months, Vondalyn finds

mornings a good time to reflect. As she journeyed

through that season of loss, the storms

kept coming: a daughter and two grandchildren

were in a car wreck, two grandbabies

entered hospitals at once, wood under her

house had rotted, and the lake in her backyard

went dry. Through it all, Vondalyn found peace

and hope by living one day at a time in faith.

“God prepared me for those eight months

in 2018,” says Vondalyn, as she looks back

on her life. “I came into that season and the

pandemic this year prepared because of what

happened to me the last 74 years.”

Vondalyn grew up in North Alabama on

a farm and can remember not having a car,

phone, electricity or indoor plumbing. They

grew their food and made soap, sheets and

everything necessary for life on the farm.

While those things might seem bleak to

some people, it was normal to Vondalyn and

her family since all of their neighbors were

living the same way.

“We always knew we had hope,” she says.

“It was based on the fact that my parents and

grandparents had such strong faith in God.

That faith was based on the understanding

that God loves us unconditionally regardless

of how rich or small our circumstances. We

are never unimportant. On a farm, you see

daily that God provides.

“I grew up in a country church. When I was

3 years old, I went to the front of the church

and said, ‘I praise God that I am tall enough to

reach the dishpan to wash my hands.’”

Along with being thankful for all things,

Vondalyn’s parents taught her if God gives

you an ability you are supposed to use it.

Vondalyn graduated from the University of

North Alabama, majoring in home economics

education with a minor in chemistry. While

she had a desire to become a missionary,

those doors closed.

She taught at Cullman High School for three

years then took a year off to attend Auburn

University for her master’s degree. Afterwards,

the university offered her a teaching position

in the Department of Consumer Affairs. She

held other positions before becoming coordinator

of recruitment and public relations for

that department.

While at Auburn she met Dr. Robert “Bob”

Hall, an Opelika dentist. They both had strong

faith in God. After they married, Vondalyn continued

to work at Auburn University intermittently

while their daughters were growing up.

They had three daughters, Betsy, Amelia

and Katie. “We prayed that they would become

Photots provided by Vondalyn Hall

godly women. By placing their faith in God,

hope would come, giving them confidence

for living,” says Vondalyn. All three daughters

have had academic and professional success.

They are all devoted to the Lord and love their

roles as mothers to Bob and Vondalyn’s six

grandchildren.

In January 2018, Vondalyn’s mother, who

had Alzheimer’s for over 15 years, was getting

worse. Her father was 97 years old and deaf.

“As I drove frequently back to north Alabama, I

saw in my mother’s Alzheimer’s that God was

directing us to understand hope in a different

way. We could not base our hope on the circumstances

or on what we see, but the sovereignty

of God.”

When her mother died in February, Katie’s

second baby was born the same month in Texas.

A couple of months later, in April, Betsy

came home from Mozambique to have her

second child. The next day, Bob suddenly

began having health issues. “Less than a week

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

63


later, he was diagnosed with metastatic brain

cancer,” says Vondalyn. “That was an unbelievable

shock, but once again God had not

moved. I walked down the hall hardly able to

breathe. I found the chapel at the hospital. In

a still small voice I heard, ‘You are going to be

okay. I’ve got this.’ I knew from then on that

God had it.”

Once they received the diagnosis, Bob

wanted to complete his goal of visiting all 50

states. He had one left, which was Oregon.

Vondalyn and Bob, along with their sonin-law

Nick, flew overnight to Oregon. On the

flight, she wrote in a journal about the providence

of God. “I wrote about living one day at

a time. That is what scripture tells us to do.

64 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


When we live one day at a time, we have hope

because we can take life in bite-size pieces.

Life is hard to take when we look ahead, but

we know God is not going to leave us.

“I knew, regardless of what happened to

Bob, he was going to be okay, and I was going

to be okay because we were not going to be

absent from the presence of God. I told Bob he

was going to be with God, and God was going

to be with me.”

Bob lived five and a half weeks after the

cancer was discovered, passing away June 3.

On June 1, Betsy’s second baby, Andrew, was

born. Bob got to meet his grandson the day

before he went to Heaven.

In July, Vondalyn’s daddy got sick. He celebrated

his 98th birthday on Oct. 6 and died

Oct. 28.

The day Vondalyn’s father died, Betsy, with

her two sons, had a wreck that totaled her car.

A few hours after Vondalyn’s father’s

funeral, Betsy’s son, Andrew, was admitted

to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham. Katie

could not attend the funeral as her son Davis

was in the hospital in Houston.

In 2016, Vondalyn taught a Bible study

entitled “Becoming a Woman Whose God is

Enough” and felt a year later that she needed

to teach it again. She taught the study at the

end of 2017 just before everything happened

in 2018.

“It was not just for the students that God

was leading me to teach ‘Becoming A Woman

Whose God is Enough’ again,” she says. “It was

for me, so I would have the scriptures and

promises of God internalized. God promises

that He is going to be there today and tomorrow,

and His grace has no limits.

“When we don’t have answers, we can turn

to the One who does. We just have to know

that we are supposed to live a day at a time.

We are not supposed to run ahead, and we are

not supposed to turn back.

“We are supposed to live life knowing that

God has given us a future and a hope,” she

adds. “From the first day sitting by Bob’s bedside

I knew God had everything under control.

I started sharing our journey because I

knew that not only was it therapeutic for me,

but it might help someone else on their grief

journey.

“I wake up thanking God for each new day

even at this uncertain time,” says Vondalyn. “If

you give thanks in the little things, you begin

to look for evidence of God in the big things.

The result of faith is having hope and a confidence

that everything is going to be alright

regardless of what happens.”

@shopmjboutique_

(334) 521-0063

www.magnoliajamesboutique.com

1957 E Samford Ave.

Suite B

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

65


to become

a physician?

The Auburn campus of the Edward Via College

of Osteopathic Medicine was created with a

clear purpose to alleviate the physician shortage

in Alabama. VCOM-Auburn constantly works

to recruit students from rural and underserved

areas. It is our hope that they will return home

to serve their community and improve health

outcomes across the state.

Visit us online to find out how we are

inspired to make a difference

in our communities and beyond.

www.vcom.edu

Please visit our website at www.vcom.edu/outcomes for a copy of our Outcomes Report.

©2020 Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine. All rights reserved.

66 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


P R O F E S S I O N A L S O F E A S T A L A B A M A

How to Make

Charitable Distributions

from Your IRA

Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) are a tax-favored way to make

charitable gifts from your IRA while gaining tax benefits that might not

otherwise be available. If you are making charitable gifts without using your

IRA, your gift will probably receive no tax benefit. This is because most people

no longer itemize their deductions, so any tax deduction is lost. Instead they

take the larger standard deduction (plus the extra standard deduction for

those age 65 or over or blind). Even if you do itemize deductions, the QCD

still provides a better tax benefit.

IRA owners and IRA beneficiaries who

are 701/2 or older may transfer money

directly from their IRA to a qualified

charity and avoid any taxation on

the distribution from their IRA. By

doing this they avoid taxation on

the distribution but don’t receive a

deduction for the gift. The CARES

Act eliminated the requirement to

take Required Minimum Distribution

(RMD) in 2020, but you can still make

a QCD from your IRA to a qualified

charity like a church or university.

The SECURE Act raised the age to take

RMDs to 72 years, but the QCD eligible

age stayed at 701/2.

The maximum gift that can be made is

$100,000 per person per year. In years

in which RMDs are mandatory, many

individuals find it attractive to gift part

or all of the RMD requirement to their

favorite charity, thereby avoiding tax

on the RMD. QCDs have the effect of

lowering your Adjusted Gross Income

(AGI), so they have the added benefit of

perhaps lowering additional taxes on

Social Security, Medicare surcharges

and increased tax deductions, credits

or other benefits that can result from

a lower AGI.

There are some detailed specific rules

for a gift to qualify as a QCD, so make

sure that you consult your financial or

tax advisor prior to making the gift to

make sure that it qualifies.

There is also another little-known

provision in the CARES Act that

affects charitable giving. The CARES

Act allows a special charitable

deduction for cash gifts of up to $300

for 2020. This is available even for

non-itemizers. With the Pandemic,

charities are hurting in 2020. As we

approach the holiday season, please

be as generous as you can.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

from all of us

at Moore Wealth Management

By Susan Clayton Moore, J.D.

Principal of

Moore Wealth Management, Inc.

Susan Clayton Moore, J.D., is a financial

advisor and wealth manager with Moore

Wealth Management, Inc., which has

offices in Montgomery, Alexander City and

Auburn. Susan serves over $170 million (as of

7.31.2020) in brokerage and advisory assets

through Kestra Financial and has been a

financial advisor and wealth manager for over

37 years. She is an Ed Slott Elite IRA advisor.1

1

Ed Slott and Company is the nation’s leading source of

accurate, timely IRA expertise and analysis to financial

advisors, institutions, consumers and media across

the country. Ed Slott and Company neither sells nor

endorses any financial product. Members of Ed Slott’s

Elite IRA Advisor Group SM train with Ed Slott and his

team of IRA Experts on a continual basis. These advisors

passed a background check, complete requisite

training, attend semi-annual workshops, webinars,

and complete mandatory exams. They are immediately

notified of changes to the tax codes and updates on

retirement planning, so they can help you be sure your

retirement dollars are safe from unnecessary taxes and

fees. Additionally, members have access to Ed Slott and

Company, America’s IRA Experts, to answer any tough

questions or planning needs.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those

of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held

by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory

Services, LLC. This is for general information only and

is not intended to provide specific investment advice

or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested

that you consult your financial professional, attorney

or tax advisor regarding your individual situation.

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services,

LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory

Services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC

(Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. Kestra IS or Kestra AS

are not affiliated with Moore Wealth Management, Inc.

https://bit.ly/KF-Disclosures

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

67


Spreading Their

Wings

By Christy Jane Kyser

68 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Like most things in 2020, sorority recruitment

at Auburn University looked a bit different.

Rooms normally shoulder to shoulder with eager

incoming freshmen moved to virtual windows on the

computer. The deafening roar of small talk among

young women reduced to introduction videos. In the

face-to-face, masks and social distancing prevented

the typical hugs and hid the nervous smiles.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

69


At Auburn University, fall recruitment saw

another change — this one for the better. Six

young women, participants of the EAGLES

program through the College of Education,

accepted bids to college sororities, the first ever

at Auburn for students with unique abilities.

The EAGLES (Education to Accomplish Growth

in Life Experiences for Success) is a comprehensive

transition program (CTP) for students with

intellectual disabilities “The program provides

a postsecondary education opportunity for students

with intellectual disabilities to engage

Training up the

next generation

of Christian leaders

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in a two or four-year campus experience,” says

Betty Patten, Ph.D., EAGLES program director.

In 2020, that included sorority recruitment.

The idea for EAGLES students to participate

was a student-led initiative. In 2019, a sorority

approached Dr. Patten, about a Homecoming

platform that involved female EAGLES participating

in Greek life at Auburn. Over the course

of a year, the EAGLES program and Auburn’s

Panhellenic Office worked closely together to

make this dream a reality. The biggest hurdle

was obtaining permission from the chapters’

national offices because the EAGLES program

is a non-degreed program, which did not

meet current requirements for Panhellenic

participation. Auburn recognizes the students

through the program so the interested parties

were able to break through the roadblock and

head on down the road to “Squeal Day.”

Six female EAGLES participated in the

process with a similar experience to other

rushees. They participated in Ice Water Teas,

Philanthropy Rounds, Sisterhood Rounds,

Preference Rounds and Bid Day. Although

their week was shortened by one day, the

ladies (now sisters) were able to open their

bids in person in Jordan Hare Stadium.

Auburn resident and local business owner,

Katie Basden, shared the joy of this unprecedented

occasion. “As an Auburn alum and

sorority member, I was totally overwhelmed

when I heard the EAGLES would be invited

to participate in sorority recruitment. It

70 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


meant even more to me when the members

of my own sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, were

beside themselves with excitement to have

the opportunity to possibly have an EAGLE

pledge,” says Katie, whose son Bradley is a

graduate of the program.

“The Panhellenic Council worked very hard to

make this happen, and the EAGLES females were

thrilled for this special event,” says Dr. Patten.

“I’ve always believed Auburn University is

unique when compared to other universities.

But the way I have witnessed Auburn students,

administration, faculty and alumni include

and embrace the EAGLES students, has shown

me a depth and richness of the Auburn Family

that makes me even more proud to call this my

school and home,” says Katie.

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

71


Photo by Tristan Cairns

Photo by Tristan Cairns

Photo provided by Storybook Farm

Photo provided by Storybook Farm

Bridging the Gap

Between Hardship

and Hope

BY ANN CIPPERLY

Every year over 1,500 children and youth battling challenges

visit Storybook Farm where horses are named after characters

in literature at a magical place, bordered by Sherwood

Forest, Narnia and Scotland Yard. With the completion of the

Papa Bear Horse Center in August, Storybook has expanded

the experience to those who find “hope on horseback,” feeling

free to flourish. Programs are provided without charge,

allowing many children to attend, as they are not bound by

financial restraints.

72

EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Photo by Tristan Cairns

Located off Highway 431 in Opelika, Storybook

Farm is a 51-acre sanctuary for children and

youth struggling with a variety of physical,

emotional, social and cognitive challenges. It

is a place where they can experience equine

assisted activities and feel equal with others.

“The new facility will allow us to serve

more children and to expand programs,” says

Dena Little, founder and director of Storybook.

“We have been able to maintain visits during

Covid. Our programing never stopped, we just

had to tweak it.”

The creation of the new center began in

November 2019 with a grant from the Peyton

Anderson Foundation of Macon, Ga. The construction

was generously provided by Stone

Martin Builders, along with materials and

services from over 50 of their suppliers and

subcontractors. Dena worked with the Stone

Martin architect to design the barn, as well as

Photo by Tristan Cairns

Photo by Tristan Cairns

the program and lab spaces in the center.

The new center has stalls for more horses,

veterinary treatment areas and spaces for

washing. Indoor learning labs for programs

allow children to visit on rainy, cold days. In

the past, if the weather was too hot or cold,

the visit had to be cancelled. All indoor areas

are now climate controlled.

Eighteen stalls were designed to maximize

ventilation and allow cross ventilation. Fans

in the stalls create breezes, and the vaulted

ceiling helps with ventilation.

Mesh in front and sides of the stalls allows

children to see the horses better and for the

animals to see each other. “They are relational

animals,” says Dena, “and like to have friends

and be able to see them.”

On the back side of the center, porches

provide a covered space. Children are able to

engage with the horses on the porch side of

the stall, while other children can be involved

on the other side. There is space to spread out

in the 17,000 square feet center.

The back porches, expanded patio and balcony

overlook Paddington Station Arena, the Secret

Garden and Pacing Pony Pavilion. Surrounded

by forests, the setting is peaceful and restful.

At the front door of the center, rooms are

available for staging events. One room houses

a library for children to read, including reading

to pets. Space upstairs provides offices

and a room with a television for giving programs.

A covered balcony overlooks the back

of the property.

The farm now has 16 horses as well as miniature

horses and donkeys. Dogs and cats are

also at the farm for children to enjoy at the

Fox and Hound Playground.

“Hope on Horseback” is the motto of

Storybook where everyone is on level ground

on the back of a horse. Dena feels the unique

facility is a ministry.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

73


Photo by Tristan Cairns

Photo by Tristan Cairns

Photo provided by Storybook Farm

Photo provided by Storybook Farm

Dena grew up in Atlanta with horses and

has been riding since she was a child. She feels

riding horses contributed to her childhood.

In the late 1990s, her mother purchased a

house at Lake Martin, which led Dena to move

to Auburn in 2001 with her two young daughters,

Maggie and Emma. She wanted to raise

her daughters outside the city of Atlanta.

“When I moved here I wanted to share my

love of horses with my daughters,” she says,

“who were quite young at the time. When

I first moved to Auburn, I built a little barn

and got some ponies and a horse. The Lord

impressed on me that I could really help families

with my horses.

“I read an article about a farm where children

with emotional needs could go to ride

horses and be with animals,” she says. “I was

really struck to think about being able to reach

out to kids that have lost a family member,

had something catastrophic happen or who

are terminally ill. I thought that I could do this

part-time.”

In the fall of 2002, she opened her farm

for three children to ride. As others became

aware of her farm, a waiting list grew to 60

families within a couple of months. She never

dreamed there was such a need.

Dena realized she needed to make a fulltime

commitment and find a larger space. When

the current location opened in 2004, she was

trying to decide on a name that would appeal

74 EAST ALABAMA LIVING

Photo by Tristan Cairns


Photo provided by Storybook Farm

to children. “One day when I was folding laundry,”

remembers Dena, “the Lord brought the

name Storybook Farm to mind.”

It was perfect, as she had studied English

literature in college and loved reading. The

ponies and companion animals are named

after characters in literature.

The farm has grown from three ponies to 16

horses and from nine acres to a 51-acre farm.

The facility now serves 11 counties in Alabama

and Georgia. Last year over 1,500 children and

youth from two years old until early adulthood

attended Storybook regularly and benefited

from its equine assisted activities.

Children flourish at the farm as they

improve their physical condition and boost

their self-esteem. Programs are provided

without charge. “The families are under a

burden of medical bills and shattering situations,”

she says. “We want to be a service and

walk alongside these families and provide

this experience for them as a gift.”

In the 18 years Storybook has been open, no

family has ever paid a penny no matter how

many times they visit and participate.

Around 1,000 Auburn University students

volunteer every year. “College kids provide

enthusiasm,” states Dena. “They also bring

encouragement that you can do anything

and be anybody, taking into account that

the children are facing hardships and mental

health issues. We are seeing more children

facing mental health issues and tough

circumstances.

“At Storybook you have someone who understands”

adds Dena. “It is empowering to be on

the horses and do things that everyone does.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

75


Photo provided by Storybook Farm

This place (is here) to celebrate these families,

to offer a respite for the parents and for them

to meet other parents going through something

similar and to know they are not alone.

“It has been a blessing,” states Dena. “One

of the biggest blessings for me has been the

ability to raise my kids in an environment that

is service bound, and it hits home every day

to really give of yourself regardless of the circumstances.

I think the bond you make with

horses and dogs is relational. That is what

makes storybook magical.

“I really feel like we bridge that gap between

hardship and hope,” expresses Dena. “Our

mission is to give childhoods back to children,

and to enrich their lives through a horse.

“It is a gift to walk alongside them on their

journey with them,” she adds. “It is an amazing

thing to be a part of it. Every child has a

story that is being written, and Storybook has

a chapter in that. It is a real honor, and we are

excited about the next 18 years.”

The nonprofit ministry could not exist

without sponsors and donations. A monthly

giving program was recently launched to be

connected to Storybook. The annual Derby

Party raises about half the operating budget.

For further information and ways to become involved

visit www.hopeonhorseback.org.

Dr. Keri Miller

Most major insurance accepted

including BCBS and Southland.

742 N. Dean Road

Auburn, AL 36830

(334) 321-0780

www.gatorgrins.com

76

EAST ALABAMA LIVING


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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

77


Band of

Brothers

BY ANN CIPPERLY

Whether they are singing in a church or pub, the

Blackmon Boys weave a dusty bluegrass and gospel

sound that echoes through aged brick alleys and white

steepled churches in downtown Opelika. The oldest four

in a family with 10 children, the boys taught themselves

to play numerous instruments and sing. When they are

performing, younger siblings often join them in singing,

sharing their faith and dreams in spite of uncertain

times and a pandemic.

Photos provided by Todd Van Emst, Auburn Athletics

78 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Photos by Tristan Cairns

Inspired by a band of gypsies one Saturday

night in November 2017, Web, Palmer, Hank

and Barrett began talking about music with

their father, Will Blackmon, after watching a

YouTube with bluegrass music. While their

father wanted to get instruments for the boys

at Christmas, Mom Melanie overruled, envisioning

the noise that would ensue throughout

the house.

Since the boys and the other children

enjoyed the music so much, Mom gave in. At

Christmas, there was a family gift for everyone

to enjoy, including a banjo, guitar, small

acoustic bass guitar, harmonicas and tambourines.

It was an immediate hit and the beginning

of a journey finding joy in music.

Web used his Christmas money that year

to purchase a mandolin. While Hank claimed

the guitar, Palmer was drawn to the bass.

Soon afterward an upright base, fiddle, more

guitars and a dulcimer were added to the

instruments. In the beginning, they explored

the various instruments and trading around

instruments.

A year later when their father was giving

golf lessons to a musician and music teacher,

Matt Holdren, he arranged for him to meet

with the boys. Matt guided them on how to

play songs as a group and sing. They learned

how to perform, practice and work together as

a group. The boys did not have formal lessons

and learned instrument skills by themselves.

They also watched classes online to expand

their talents.

Web, 15, soothes their songs with his frailing

banjo, often sitting on a stool with his

head bowed. Palmer, 14, is the bassist and

mandolinist, and Hank, 13, drives the rhythm

guitar and lonesome fiddle, while little brother

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

79


Barrett “Bear,” 9, plays backup on guitar, bass

and mandolin. Everyone wears a cowboy hat

and has their own voice that blends in harmony.

The boys are homeschooled and generally

practice every afternoon. They practice one

hour each on their own and then one hour

together. If any of the younger ones are sleeping,

they will practice on the patio. When they

practice, some of the younger siblings will join

them in singing.

“We like to incorporate some of the younger

children so they can have the experience of

being on stage,” says Web. “That will help

them later.”

Their siblings are Evie, 8, Haddon, 6, Georgi,

4, Camp, 3, Lettie, 2, and Poppy, 1.

The Blackmon Boys sing bluegrass, folk and

Christian. Bluegrass is closely tied to gospel,

and the boys often perform classic songs. They

also enjoy contemporary Christian music, folk

music, singer-songwriter and a little country

(when filtered by their parents).

“We have a unique band,” says Palmer.

“There are not a lot of young people who listen

to bluegrass music. I think being brothers

gives us opportunity to do all kinds of music.

We like bluegrass and clean country songs. It

is fun to be able to play the kind of music that

we like to listen to at home.”

“This music goes along with our faith,”

adds Web. “One thing we like is that music is

a wonderful opportunity to share God’s word

with other people.”

“Our faith is important to us,” says Palmer.

“That is why we play in public to glorify God,

not ourselves.”

Their first performance was at First Baptist

Church of Opelika where they attend church.

They sang for an event for the children’s

building and at other times.

Over this past year, they had the opportunity

to play at several local church events

and restaurants, including Butcher Paper

Barbecue twice.

They performed concerts twice at George’s

Farmers Market. They were excited being

invited to be the opening band for Jupiter Coyote

at George’s Farmers Market this summer.

They have also performed at Matt’s Place,

The Warehouse and Resting Pulse Brewery.

They are as comfortable and capable of playing

from the pulpit as they are the pub. They

have even caught the attention of local bluegrass

favorite The Southern Gentlemen!

80 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


The Blackmon Boys honor tradition and

explore the limit. It has been said they “create

a bluegrass gravity that draws in listeners and

converts them into participants!”

“It is fun performing,” says Palmer. “We try

to be ourselves and have fun playing music.

It is a good way to connect with people and

share about our faith and our love for the Lord

in the songs that we sing.”

“We were hoping to perform at the International

Bluegrass Competition kids division

in Raleigh, N.C.,” says Web, “but we couldn’t

because of Covid.” They are hoping to be able to

perform in this competition next year.

All the boys encourage other kids to get

involved in music. “There are a lot of kids

that want to play music,” says Hank, “but they

don’t know how to get started.”

“It takes a lot of work and time,” adds

Palmer. “It is not an overnight thing, but if you

have your mind and heart on what you want

to do, then you can learn it pretty well.”

Barrett adds that they started out with nothing,

but now have a variety of instruments.

Web also encourages kids to get involved

in music. Along with bluegrass and Christian

music, he is interested in the old rock and

country music from 50 or 60 years ago. “A lot

of new stuff is not good,” he says, encouraging

kids to look at older traditional style music.

The boys’ parents are pleased with how

they have taught themselves to play instruments

and sing.

“We are so proud of how hard they have

worked and how they have poured their hearts

into their music,” says Melanie. “We love that

it is something they can do by themselves or

with each other, and that it’s something they

can do for the rest of their lives.

“When the boys were little,” she adds, “we

used to always remind them of Ecclesiastes

4:12, ‘A cord of three strands is not quickly

torn apart.’ We would tell them that they were

a band of brothers and that they were stronger

together. It has been special to see them

now as teenagers truly a band of brothers,

both literally and figuratively.

“The Lord has used music in their lives to

help them develop perseverance and diligence,

to overcome fears and insecurities,”

states Melanie. “It has made them closer

friends and stronger, braver young men! We

are excited to see how the Lord is going to

continue using music in their lives!”

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

81


LEADING

WITH LOVE

BY ANN CIPPERLY

When Marion Sankey and her husband

Larry moved to Opelika, she felt the

area needed a celebration to honor Dr. Martin

Luther King Jr. that involved children. Marion

founded the Dream Day Foundation, which

has honored Dr. King with programs for school

children for the past 21 years. The foundation

also presents a Dream Achiever Award and

awards scholarships to high school seniors

at the celebration, as well as helping those in

need throughout the year with Dream Acts.

Marion has served as coordinator for all of

the 21 celebrations, which are held annually in

January. “Our dream took root at Greater Peace

Missionary Baptist Church,” says Marion,

“and in 2009 moved to the Opelika Center for

Performing Arts to accommodate our growth.

Hundreds of young people have been the driving

force behind this vision. Their desire to

understand and appreciate the legacy of Dr.

King propelled our event to higher heights

each year.”

Every year the celebration has a theme that

lined up with Dr. King’s ideas and dreams. The

theme for the January 2020 celebration was

“Nonviolence Is Love.”

“This year’s theme is as relevant today as

it was in the 1960s,” says Marion. “Dr. King

not only promoted nonviolence, but he lived

a life of nonviolence and love. Unfortunately,

we are experiencing violence that is not just

a result of racial discord, but is also occurring

with same race communities. We must

elevate Dr. King’s teachings to ensure future

generations know love conquers all.

Photos provided by the Sankey family

82 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


“His basic points include nonviolence is a

way of life for courageous people. It is active

nonviolent resistance to evil. Nonviolence

seeks to win friendship and understanding.

The end result of nonviolence is redemption

and reconciliation.

“With the theme ‘Nonviolence Is Love’,”

adds Marion, “we wanted the children to

understand that violence is not the solution.

Dr. King was all about loving people.”

The founder looks back over the past 21

years of the celebration. “When Larry and I first

moved to Opelika in 1991,” she says, “there was

a Dr. King celebration, but there was nothing

in Opelika for young people. We would gather

our children and go to the events at various

churches in Auburn. The programs were great,

but long and not tailored for young people. The

children did not understand what was going on.

“It just came to mind that we needed to do

something that was local,” she adds. “The first

celebration was held at Greater Peace Church

in 2000. There were so many who wanted to

come that we outgrew the space at Greater

Peace and moved to the Opelika Performing

Arts Center in 2009.”

Marion grew up in Greer, S.C., outside

Greenville. When she was in the fourth grade,

her father passed away, leaving seven children

for her mother to raise.

Education was important to the family. Five

of the seven children attended college.

Marion’s grandmother taught in a one-room

schoolhouse. Several members of her family

were schoolteachers. While she thought about

DARKNESS

CANNOT

DRIVE OUT DARKNESS;

ONLY LIGHT

CAN DO THAT.

HATE CANNOT

DRIVE OUT HATE;

ONLY LOVE

CAN DO THAT.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

83


being a nurse, Marion decided to be a teacher

since she was inspired by her elementary

teachers and teachers in her family.

After graduating from Winthrop College, she

taught fourth grade for a year in Rockingham,

N.C. When Marion and Larry married in 1979,

he was transferred to Dothan to open the

Michelin plant there. Marion taught school in

Dothan for 12 years.

The Sankeys moved to Opelika in 1991

when Michelin purchased Uniroyal. Marion

started teaching at Carver and then worked at

West Forest as a teacher for the gifted and talented.

After 15 years, she retired from Opelika

City Schools in 2006.

Marion went to work in LaGrange, Ga.,

where she held several positions in the

Troup County System as teacher, Title I specialist,

instructional specialist and reading

teacher. She became a reading specialist for

third, fourth and fifth grades in the Read

180 program. Marion became the National

Teacher of the Year in the program in 2018.

She was honored in Orlando, Fla.

D R E A M A C T S D O N A T I O N S

2020

Monetary and gift cards to victims

of Tornado in Beauregard

Partnership with Kroger Zero Hunger/

Zero Waste Program

Dream Bag Food Initiative for Opelika

and Auburn families

Gift cards and lunches for various

essential workers during Pandemic

Donated to Book Scholarships to

college students

2019

Six scholarships presented

Donation to Bahamas Hurricane Relief

2018

Scholarships

Donation to college student Danielle

Davis to assist with college expenses

after sudden death of her mother.

2017

Assisted mother of Core children who

perished in tragic fire

Scholarships

2016

Donation to DeDe Jackson to assist her

with medical expenses for her ill mother

2015

Donation to Community Market

Scholarships

2014

Assisted a burn victim’s mother with

medical expenses

Assisted family with a critically ill man

Scholarships

2013

Assisted Demetrious (CheChe) Jordan on

musical tour

Donated to Sandy Hook Elementary

Foundation

2012

Assisted two critically ill individuals with

medical expenses

2011

Assisted two families whose homes burned

2010

Donated to Haiti relief through American

Red Cross

2009

Assisted displaced family from Hurricane

Katrina to return to New Orleans to visit

their home

2008

Sponsored a Teen Book Talk with young

author Brittany Holmes of Atlanta

Annual Projects:

Dream Day Foundation MLK Celebration

Annual Black Male Summit

Annual Planted Together

Community Project

84 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Marion retired in May last year after working

13 years in LaGrange and a total of 40

years as an educator.

“I tell people it is God’s plan,” says Marion.

“You retire from one career, but then you have

to serve other people. I love serving people

in my church and community, especially the

children, in any way I can.”

They also enjoy helping with their grandchildren.

The Sankeys have four children.

Their oldest son, Jamaal, and his wife,

LaShunda, live in Opelika and have two children,

Jordan (Piper), 13, and C.J., 11.

Their youngest son, Darren, and his wife,

Andrea, have a daughter, Sydney Ann, 2, and

they reside in Houston, Texas. Youngest daughter,

Mariah, also resides in Houston, while the

oldest daughter, Ashley, lives in New Orleans, LA.

Plans are underway for the 22nd MLK Dream

Day Celebration scheduled for Jan. 18, 2021.

The location and program will be announced

later, depending on Covid-19. They will name

the 2021 Dream Achiever recipient and award

scholarships.

“I appreciate the support I have gotten from

the community over the years,” expresses

Marion. “We want to continue to promote the

peace and love that Dr. King stood for in songs,

poems and drama presented by school children.

“My favorite Dr. King’s quote is ‘Darkness

cannot drive out darkness; only light can do

that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can

do that.’”

START LIVING A FULLER

LIFE WITH BETTER HEARING.

Beth Hoven Au.D., Co-Owner/Audiologist

Allison Kelly Au.D., Co-Owner/Audiologist

Voted Best

Hearing Center

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Opelika-Auburn News

Readers’ Choice Awards

Call us today at

334-521-7501

to set up your

hearing consultation.

2415 Moore’s Mill Road, Suite 225, Hamilton Place (next to Publix), Auburn, AL 36830

334.521.7501 l www.hpoal.com

Dream Achievers

2004 Rev. Clifford E. Jones

2005 Jane Walker

2006 Wanda Lewis

2007 Selena Daniels

2008 Barbara Patton

2009 Rev. George C. Bandy Sr.

2010 Clarence Harris Jr.

2011 Paul and Dolly Marshall

2012 William and Patsy Parker

Schedule your complimentary evaluation today!

2013 Tom Tippett

2014 Greater Peace Missionary

Baptist Church Family

2015 Patricia A. Jones

2016 Jimmy Wright

2017 Jeffery Allen Harris

2018 Barbara Pitts

2019 Representative Jeremy Gray

2020 George Echols

719 North Dean Road • Auburn

334-501-7000

thamesorthodontics.com

EAST ALABAMA LIVING 85


Helping You Stay

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86 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


A Champion of Character

Some men become much more than men.

Their character transforms them into

something symbolic. The spirit of Coach

Pat Dye will forever remain in our hearts

and minds like the legend of Auburn’s beloved

War Eagle. He was our fearless friend. As the

embodiment of the Auburn Creed,

we cherish his determination

and commitment to leaving

everything on the field.

To being a leader.

To becoming a champion.

To building a legacy.

“I don’t believe in miracles.

I believe in character.”

— Pat Dye

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

87


Photo by Tristan Cairns

88 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Dr. Kam has served as the director of the

Auburn University Medical Clinic since 1997.

Under his leadership, the clinic has grown significantly

from seeing 18,000 patients a year

to over 45,000 last year.

PREPARED

TO FIGHT

On Jan. 9 when Dr. Kam learned of the

unknown pneumonia situation in China, he

prepared for a pandemic by ordering additional

necessary medical supplies, leading the clinic

to become instrumental locally in the Covid

fight. The clinic became one of the first, if not

the first, in the state to provide rapid testing.

B Y A N N C I P P E R L Y

When Dr. Frederick Kam was 9 years old living in Trinidad, West

Indies, his mother became seriously ill after a hysterectomy, developing

complications with concerns she was going to die. Although he

was not allowed in the hospital, Kam’s father sneaked him in to see

his mother. As he stood at the end of his mother’s bed seeing her with

an IV on both arms and a tube down her nose, he felt totally helpless.

After leaving the hospital, Kam decided he never wanted to feel that

helpless again and that he had to become a doctor.

Kam took his first steps to become a physician

at 15 years of age when he was sent

to attend high school in England. After high

school, he enrolled at the University of Miami

where he received his undergraduate and

medical degree. Kam served as president of

his medical school class and was chosen by his

peers as one of the Best Doctors in America.

He completed his internship at the University

of Miami and was asked to join the faculty at

the medical school where he received the Eric

Reiss Award for Outstanding Teaching.

Six years later, Dr. Kam went to work

for a private corporation, which led him to

Auburn. His first visit to Auburn was in 1992,

as a speaker at the Southern College Health

Association meeting.

When the Drake Center was outsourced,

he returned to Auburn with the Collegiate

Healthcare Company to lead the transition

team for the takeover of the center in Oct. 1996.

The center became the Auburn University

Medical Clinic.

Dr. Kam was coming to Auburn every other

week for three months. “I fell in love with the

town and the people,” he says. “At the time,

my wife and I were living in Miami with small

children and thought Auburn was a great

place to live and raise children.”

They moved to Auburn in July 1997 for Dr. Kam

to become the director of the AU Medical Clinic.

“I have never regretted that decision,” he says. “In

the early years there were multiple attempts to

recruit me to other medical centers. Auburn was

where I felt we needed to be as a family.

“From the day I arrived, I worked to put

together a great team,” he adds. “I hired an

incredible head nurse, Mina Jeffers, to help

lead the team. She was key to success of the

clinic and its growth in the early years.”

When he took over as director, the clinic

was only available to students. He changed it

to be open to students, faculty, staff and the

community since there was a shortage of primary

care doctors in the area at that time.

Photos provided by the Kam family

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

89


Photo provided by the Kam family

During her recent visit to Auburn, Dr. Deborah Birx, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator, discusses COVID-19 strategy with Dr. Fred Kam.

“We have grown significantly,” adds Dr.

Kam. “I have been blessed to recruit and

maintain good healthcare doctors, nurse

practitioners, physician assistants and a great

support team. My goal was to have a comprehensive

delivery process to keep people out

of the hospital and the emergency room. We

were successful at that.”

Currently with Dr. Kam there are four physicians,

seven advance practice providers,

four physician assistants and three nurse

practitioners. Prior to Covid, the clinic was

seeing 250 people a day.

While the clinic began Covid testing after

spring break, the numbers for testing jumped as

high as 300 a day once rapid testing began June 5.

It was a game changer having the rapid

tests where results are available in two hours

or less. Other Covid testing was taking days. In

June they were the only entity that had rapid

tests in the area and maybe the state.

With the support of Auburn University, the

clinic provided a drive-through testing center

at the first floor of the south quad parking

deck. People didn’t have to get out of their car.

The rapid testing then became available

through EAMC and the pediatric clinic in

Opelika. “We encourage rapid tests,” states Dr.

Kam, “because the earlier someone can get

the results, the sooner they can make decisions

about quarantine.

“We were able to help businesses because

there was a time when businesses couldn’t

find anywhere to get their employees tested,”

he adds. “We tried to fill that void. We were

able to help a number of businesses in town

to open and remain open.”

The clinic had plenty of masks, face shields

and gowns in stock. Dr. Kam had planned

to be ready if there was a flu pandemic. He

increased their supply in early January when

he became concerned about the virus in

China. He had his current head nurse, Lisa

Harmon, order as many n95 masks, gowns,

gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes

as possible. Since there was not a demand

at that time, the suppliers had everything in

stock. The clinic never ran short of supplies.

Dr. Kam and his team also began conducting

telehealth visits over the phone or computer.

“When Covid came on the scene everything

else didn’t leave,” he says. “We still have

people with health issues and injuries. We

were still managing to handle those problems.

“My team has never shut down. Most of

what we do cannot be done remotely.”

When students returned in August, the

clinic saw a significant spike in Covid cases,

which they were expecting. “We saw two

weeks of spikes,” Dr. Kam says, “but with none

requiring being hospitalized since they were

young and healthy. We had over 500 cases a

week for a while. We had plans in place and

were prepared.

“The key factor we have no control over is

individual behavior. We are dealing with an

unprecedented situation with Covid, so there

is no playbook to go by. We have to make the

playbook.”

The clinic is preparing for winter and

spring. “This virus is going to continue to

impact us for the next few years with or without

a vaccine,” believes Dr. Kim. “We are going

to be challenged because like other vaccines

everyone won’t take it. Bottom line is the virus

will still be here.

“My opinion is that we need to learn to live

with the virus because it is going to continue

to impact us no matter what we do. Vulnerable

people will continue to be vulnerable. We cannot

make any place safe. We can only make

it safer.”

To get the virus behind us, he feels people

should be individually accountable for their

behavior and to implement what science has

proven. Science has shown the most effective

preventable method is wearing masks. This is

a respiratory virus that is spread by respiratory

means. If people consistently wear masks

outdoors and indoors, it will significantly

reduce the spread of this virus.

Along with wearing masks, other prevention

measures are keeping at least six feet

90 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


Photo by Tristan Cairns

distance, sanitizing hands and avoiding

crowds. “We are seeing a lower death rate now

because we implemented more of the science

to help us,” he says.

“Another unique thing about this virus

is that 40 to 80 percent of people who get it

are totally asymptomatic. They never have a

symptom. The virus has one mission, which

is to find someone who is not infected and

infect them.”

The way Covid patients are treated today is

different from February and March. “Science

has told us we need to be less aggressive in

putting people on ventilators,” he states.

“Medications are being utilized to prevent

patients from getting worse. We limit people

from going into nursing homes where people

are vulnerable.

“We should not approach Thanksgiving and

Christmas as we have every year,” he stresses.

“The thinking should be what can we do to

make our family gathering safer. Set up more

things outdoors. We need to do more to protect

grandparents and those with underlying

health issues. People visiting family should

get tested as near departure time as possible.

“I approach everyone as if they are infected.

I am not shaking hands or hugging anybody

other than family who live in my house. If

they do anything that increases risk, I require

masks indoors.”

While Dr. Kam and his team continue the

Covid-19 fight, they appreciate the community.

“I want people to know that my team and

I are extremely appreciative and thankful of

those who have shown their appreciation providing

lunch, cookies, smoothies, doughnuts

and pizza,” expresses Dr. Kam. “We do not

take that lightly.”

Family Medicine Associates of

East Alabama, P.C.

WE’RE HERE TO HELP MEET YOUR HEALTHCARE NEEDS.

Our hours:

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122 N. 20th St. #24 • Opelika, Alabama 36801

334-745-4646

www.familymedicineopelika.com

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

91


AT SUMMER VILLAGE, WE’RE

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92 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

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present

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Text the word “Twelve” to 59925

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

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the

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Text the word “Twelve” to 59925

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EAST ALABAMA LIVING

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FACES of EAST ALABAMA

C O M M U N I T Y

12th annual Kentucky Derby Day

Storybook Farm's 12th annual Kentucky Derby Day may have looked

a little different this year, but the Run for the Roses was as fun as

ever! Guests marveled at the newly built Papa Bear Horse Center

while enjoying Mint Juleps, donning their best hats and dapper looks,

bidding on silent auction items and participating in the live auction,

all to raise money to change childhoods at Storybook Farm. Photos

provided by Storybook Farm

EAST ALABAMA LIVING

99


100 EAST ALABAMA LIVING


The Fighter

Will O. (Trip) Walton, III

2011- 2015 Super Lawyers

334.321.3000

www.waltonlaw.net

waltonlaw@waltonlaw.net

As an Alabama Golden

Gloves Heavy Weight

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thejurisdiction, the venue, the witnesses, the parties, and the testimony, among other factors. Furthermore, no representation is

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