Leadership Shelby grads unveil community projects

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Three groups of Shelby County’s leaders presented the results of their nine-month community projects May 11 during Leadership Shelby County’s 2011 graduation ceremony at the Pelham Civic Complex.

During the ceremony, the groups told the audience about their plans to bring more tourists to Shelby County, to strengthen the county’s Family Resource Center and to connect volunteers and those in need with the county’s community food banks.

“Leadership programs change our perspective. They force us to think differently and they force us to look at things we haven’t thought about before,” said Sid McAnnally, vice president of external affairs for the Energen Corporation and the event’s guest speaker.

“It’s important for people in the community to see leaders working across party lines for the betterment of the community,” McAnnally added. “Through this program, you find yourself working on projects that may not necessarily be beneficial to you, but they are beneficial to the whole community.”

Through Leadership Shelby County, each class is split up into a few groups. Each group then spends nine months completing community service projects.

Group one, which was composed of Marsh Acker, Lewis Brooks, Jeris Burns, Chris George, Julie Kimbrough, Casey Morris, Chris Price, Lori Senn, Freda Shivers and Scott Smith.

The group worked on a program called Food Connect, which is a database containing information about every community food bank in the county. Food Connect will serve to connect those in need and those who would like to volunteer to help the food banks.

“We approached it as if we were looking for food ourselves,” Price said, noting the group found large food banks were struggling to keep up with demand, but many smaller community food banks were looking for people to help.

The group’s database contains important information, such as the organization’s time, its contact information and distribution days, for every food bank in the county.

Group two focused on promoting tourism in Shelby County, and utilized social media websites such as Facebook to direct traffic to the county’s existing tourism website. The group consisted of Brian Bertella, Donna Dickson, Lisa Dunn, Jon Graham, Phillip Heard, Todd Higey, Lauren Mott, Darren Popwell and Paula Sutton Holly.

“We realized that Shelby County has an excellent tourism website. We thought ‘How can we let people be more aware of the site so they can take advantage of it?’ Dickson said referencing Shelbycountytourism.org. “We are not trying to take the place of that site, we are trying to promote it.”

Through Facebook, friends of the Shelby County Tourism page can have event information sent directly to their personal profiles, Higey said.

Group three, which was composed of Keith Brown, Kim Roberts, Mary Kinard, Kim Melton, Debra Parrott, Ferris Ritchey, Tom Sanders, Kevin Turner, Clint Umphrey and Michelle Watkins, focused on strengthening the Shelby County Family Resource Center.

“Our family resource center is on life support right now. It’s struggling to stay in existence,” Sanders said.

The group’s plan calls for funding a full-time executive director, recruiting new board members, creating a central office in Columbiana and satellite offices in other communities.