Walker Area Foundation spreads Christmas cheer through grants

The Arley Women’s Club will purchase a sensory dome for Hamner Park with funds granted from the Walker Area Community Foundation. Shown in the discovery cave at the park is Laura Ulz, chairwoman of the park committee. Standing from left are Terre Sutherland and Barbara Wills, president of the AWC.

WINSTON COUNTY - For the greater good is the mission for many non-profit agencies, and local ones are benefiting from the generosity of a Walker County organization, which are in turn helping the public.
The Walker Area Community Foundation recently published a list of those approved for grants, and several on the list are for the Winston County area.

Arley Women’s Club
With this grant money, the Arley Women’s Club is expanding on the playground at Hamner Park, which began in 2014 in a partnership with the Town of Arley and Dr. Terry James. The AWC organized the park committee within their organization in 2019.
One item being purchased with the new grant money is a 16-foot in diameter sensory dome.
“They’ve been very generous with us,” Laura Ulz said of the WACF. “We received a grant for recycling from them last year. This year, we applied for playground enhancements. The committee came up with the vision to fill the playground up.”
Private donations, a donation from Arley United Methodist Church and fundraising gave the AWC the funds to begin and, to date, they have added five new pieces of equipment to the playground - a sky runner, sky walker, discovery cave, a teeter totter and a rocker/adventure mate.
The commercial-grade playground equipment is manufactured and purchased from GameTime of Fort Payne and Pelham.
With the funds from the WACF, more items have been ordered, including a sensory dome.
“It’s called a sensory dome because it has inserts for tactile and auditory interaction, so we purchased a piano insert, and we have some bells they can try out with room for expansion,” Ulz continued. “We’re also going to be able to afford a sun shade in the park.”
The Town of Arley, husbands of the AWC members and Smith Lake Landscaping collaborated to install the equipment previously.
“Dream big, and it happens in Arley,” Terre Sutherland of the AWC said. “It was a dream we didn’t think we could do. We wanted this and were able to get it. It’s amazing what the Town of Arley, the WACF and the AWC can do.”
“We couldn’t have done it without the WACF,” Ulz added.
The application for the grant came due at the end of August, and word of the grant’s approval was received within 45 days.
“The foundation is a real godsend to folks,” Ulz said. “They don’t just like to write a check. They’re very involved and helpful. They have educational opportunities for non-profits like ourselves to learn about how we can better manage our non-profit and help provide tools we need to be a better organization. They have a council of non-profit organizations they listen to and see what the needs are. They are real hands-on in a real positive way.”
“We’re honored to be able to do everything we can in this COVID year to be able to meet the needs of the community,” AWC President Barbara Wills said. “Just because COVID happened, the needs didn’t stop. We had to be more creative in our ways to accomplish the needs.”

Wild Alabama

The WACF has also awarded a grant to Wild Alabama for their efforts in educating the public, and the staffing to do so, about the natural wonder of the area.
“Some of the money is to help us provide information to the hands of the public,” Maggie Johnston, director of Wild Alabama, said. “We want to give presentations to civic groups throughout the year about the Sipsey and the Bankhead and to do educational classes for scout groups, school groups or anyone who is interested in what is offered right here in our backyard. It will allow us to do clean ups, which is a good way to get volunteers active.”
Wild Alabama maintains nine trails in the Sipsey Wilderness. With the protection of the wilderness, motorized vehicles nor chain saws are allowed in the area. Therefore, volunteers must hike in and carry crosscut saws to remove fallen trees.
“Another thing we’re going to be funded to do is to eradicate the Chinese privet,” Johnston added. “We are constantly fighting that, especially in the wilderness and the national forest. We’re going to be working on trying to get rid of at least 10 acres of privet over the next year.”
While Wild Alabama also works at the Talladega forest, the grant received is strictly for the Bankhead. In addition, the grant will help re-engage volunteers and recruit new ones.
“We have people who are in a volunteer group called Helping Hands,” Johnston explained. “They are the ones who clean litter on the sides of the road in the forest, at the trailheads or hiking where people have left litter on the trails.”
Helping Hands also works on ecosystem restoration projects, and grant money will be used to help staff and manage the project.
For more information on volunteering with Wild Alabama, contact Johnston at maggie@wildal.org or call (205) 522-1500. Also visit wildal.org.

Other organizations receiving grant money include Camp McDowell, the Winston County School System and the Haleyville Public Library through the Carl Elliott Regional Library system.
The school system has ordered 93 touchscreen computers for elementary schools, which will benefit kindergarten through second grade.
The grant for the library will help systemwide for all the libraries, including Double Springs, Haleyville and Arley.
“It’s for the purpose of purchasing eBooks for use with the Libby app, because we have seen systemwide increases in the usage of that,” Sandra Underwood, director of the CERL system, stated. “Several libraries throughout the state are building this online library with 40,000 eBooks. Over 16,000 downloadable audio books and subscriptions to 82 periodical titles are included. Library patrons can access this with a valid library card. We’ve seen an increase in patrons using it since March.”

The WACF obtains its money for granting purposes through donors, which is then invested.
“We have a good number of donors who contribute year in and year out,” Paul Kennedy, president of the WACF, said. “The community foundation also invests those donations, and the grant making we do is off the investment income. We have an endowment, and we operate out of the profit from the investments.”
Over the past several years, the foundation has been helping Winston County entities such as the AWC, the Arley Public Library, the Winston County Arts Council, Main Street Ministries and even helped with the rebuilding of the Houston Jail. Kennedy mentioned the foundation wishes to expand in the Winston area.
“We think there are generous people there, and needs are there,” Kennedy added. “We would like to strengthen those relationships and help as much as we can. We are looking for things that are going to be short-term investments in improving the community or starting something.”
The WACF was established in 1995 and is involved, through their partners, in feeding children, environmental impact, health advocacy and have worked with relief activities in helping with the COVID-19 and ensuing pandemic. They award grants yearly with deadlines on March 1, and September 1, and it is available to any non-profit or 501(c)3 organization.
“We’re just really pleased to be able to have good partners and agencies to work with in Winston County, and we’re looking forward to a very bright and mutually beneficial future.”
Visit them online at wacf.org.


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
Subscribe now!