HALEYVILLE - A ray of light can shine through even the darkest of times.
A group of local residents united this past Saturday, May 2, to give hope and encouragement to not only those on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic but also older residents who have been seemingly shut off from the world during related restrictions.
The Hope 4 Haleyville parade could be both seen and heard as it traveled through the city Saturday afternoon.
A line of vehicles, adorned in signs, banners and balloons, began the line up at New Prospect Baptist Church and traveled with horns honking and people cheering to major points of interest related to those most affected either directly or indirectly by COVID-19.
Ron Horton, minister of New Prospect, located off Highway 195, noted the church was joined by members of First Baptist Church, other denominations as well as the general public in the parade.
It was held on bright clear day in grand fashion complete with escort led by Police Chief Kyle Reogas, fire truck driven by Acting Chief Terrell Baccus and law enforcement vehicle driven by Sheriff Horace Moore.
Horace explained the idea started with New Prospect but soon expanded to the entire community.
“Our daughter works in a nursing home and does therapy in Florence, and they had one of these (parades) about a couple of weeks ago,” Horton began. “She talked of how encouraging it was to them, the workers and to some of the residents.”
The idea was expanded to have a parade in Haleyville, providing encouragement to employees at Lakeland Community Hospital, Rose Manor and Azalea Manor assisted living facilities, as well as all health care workers and residents where the public is not allowed in to visit during the pandemic.
“I felt like something positive like this would be what we need right now,” Horton said.
Horton approached city officials about the idea of the public congregating with their decorated car or float at New Prospect around 1:30 p.m., with the parade leaving out at 2 p.m. and traveling through the city slowing down at it went by Rose Manor.
The parade could only make one stop--just down Highway 195 at Lakeland hospital, where the convoy passed with honking horns behind the hospital near the emergency room entrance. Lakeland staff, wearing their personal protective equipment such as facemasks, waved at the passing parade.
While at the stop, Nathan Carroll, minister at FBC, offered prayer on behalf of those on the front lines.
“We prayed for our nurses and first responders,” Carroll said. “Their lives have been turned upside down at how they do their jobs, and we’ve asked the Lord to heal our land...That God would really bless us on the other side of this.”
The parade continued, passing by Azalea Manor, where residents wearing their masks were seated on the front porch waving.
As the parade would travel through major intersections, a police unit would hold up traffic until the parade passed by.
The route took the parade through town, slowing down to pay respect and encouragement at Pinkard Funeral Home and Nichols Funeral Home, since funeral homes during the COVID-19 pandemic have held services in a different fashion, with no more than 10 persons attending private services.
The parade also passed by Piggly Wiggly and Goar’s market since they have remained open during the pandemic provided much needed food services, Horton explained.
The parade continued through downtown by City Hall then onto Highway 13, where it passed by Haleyville Health and Rehab.
Residents who felt like going outside were wearing masks as they waved at the passing parade.
The parade disbanded on down Highway 13 at the fire department.
“We have been quarantined now for 44 days and unable to do a lot,” said Horton. “So we just thought this would be a safe way to do something positive for our community and just let everybody know we’re going to get through this.”
Frances Harbin and Marvie Walker placed postures on a vehicle they rode in the parade. One poster displayed a scripture from Psalm 46:10, with the poster on the vehicle’s opposite side displaying a scripture from II Chronicles 7:14.
“If my people which are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” read the latter passage.
The words Heal Their Land were highlighted on the poster.
“It means that if we get back to God’s word, he promises in second Chronicles 7:14, he will heal our land, if we humble ourselves and pray,” Harbin stated. “Our land needs a healing.”
Whitley Fowler, lab director of Lakeland, who was in the parade along with some other families, noted the parade meant a lot to her, as she has been working on the front lines during the pandemic.
“It means that the community has come together and is giving the first responders support,” Fowler pointed out. “The front lines just need that. They need the peace of mind that the community is behind us.”
Mike Alexander, who drove his 1934 Ford coupe in the parade, noted Saturday marked the most unique parade in which he had ever ridden his antique car.
“It’s time we show back what these folks mean to us for what they have done, the first responders,” Alexander said.
“These folks that are in the nursing homes, at least they get to see some folks out and know that we do care for them,” he added.
Sue Sutherland, who with husband Gurvis and daughter Susan, rode in a vehicle adorned with a poster that read God Bless America, with the sign below that reading, Thank You All: Healthcare workers, first responders, essential workers.”
“This is my first time out in three months,” Sue said.
“With everything we have going on, we have social distancing and people have not been able to meet in church,” noted Derek Burleson, member of New Prospect.
“For the community to come together like this to show support, that we still can support each other through something like this,” Burleson added.
Baccus described the parade as community support building up health care workers, first responders and law enforcement.
“The people that have had to work on the front lines during all of this epidemic,” said Baccus. “And it’s not just us. It’s the grocery store workers, the truck drivers, everybody that has had to work to keep this country moving forward.”
Sheriff Moore noted this was the most unique parade in which he has ever participated.
“It’s wonderful for the county and for the first responders and people on the front lines, to try to pay them respect and honor,” Moore said.
“It’s just a wonderful day for the city of Haleyville and for Winston County,” he added.
Chief Reogas added, “It just shows the appreciation to those who are having to work through this COVID-19 virus situation.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.