Volunteers show their colors

Two recent events in Helena proved to me that members of our community truly believe in creatively volunteering their efforts to add a bit of cheer to the lives of those in need.

On a Sunday afternoon, I entered a room filled with yellow and white petals, green leaves and a beehive of activity. Yellow smiley face mugs, 204 in number, lined the tables, beaming their utter approval of the day’s work. The human faces offered looks of total concentration or ear-to-ear grins as yellow mums sprouted behind ears and were tucked into hats and ponytails.

The event, making fresh flower arrangements to be delivered to Birmingham Aids Outreach patients, was in full swing — coordinated and overseen by Earl Goodwin and Karen Jenkins, president and vice president of the AL Unit of Teleflora Florists.

BAO supports the quest to lead healthier lives by providing education, food, transportation, medical supplies and counseling services for their 400 patients, many of whom are homebound.

For the past four years, Goodwin and Jenkins, with other area florists, have gathered in July for Make Someone Smile Week. Teleflora sponsors the annual event, which donates 50,000 vases nationwide. Local floral wholesalers donate the flowers. This year, members and youth groups from 316 Fellowship in Helena, and First Presbyterian and First United Methodist Church in Alabaster joined forces, making light work with many hands.

On another afternoon, I learned about a touching tribute Pamela Henderson and her daughters, Courtney and Megan, have established to honor the memory of husband and father, John Lankford, who lost his battle with cancer in 2003 at age 44. One summer morning the following year, while eating watermelon at breakfast, they began reminiscing about visiting relatives who grew watermelons and always sent them home with a carload. John would then share the extra watermelons with neighbors, delivering them in the girls’ little red wagon.

In memory of John, they decided to collect and distribute melons — about 250 that first year.

“John was an active volunteer, visiting shelters and prison ministries as he felt like reaching out and touching people where they were to be more important than ‘talking at’ them,” a smiling Pam recalled. “Each year this has grown. When we call places we’ve been the year before, they mention they were hoping to hear from us again.” 

On July 19, the family distributed 450 melons with help from other family members, friends and volunteers. This year recipients included Firehouse Shelter, Jimmie Hale, Jesse’s Place, Pathways, First Light, Urban Ministry, St. Paul’s UMC, Highland UMC, Community Kitchen on Southside, Community Kitchen in Woodlawn, Interfaith House, and Brother Bryan and the Foundry. Magic City Harvest additionally delivered more than 170 additional watermelons to people July 21.  

Pam says the watermelons are made possible by donations — some people give watermelons, others cash. With the cash, Pam goes to the farmer’s market and makes her best deal, transporting them initially in a truck loaned by Magic City Harvest.

“A man left 50 in our driveway,” she says. “Some people that knew John write on the melons with a Sharpie, telling people that this watermelon is donated in memory of a special man.”