Civitans put ‘heart’ into award to Higginbotham

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

You know those Bible verses? The ones that priests and preachers use in sermons when they are urging parishioners to step forward and help out with everything from mowing the grass to joining a mission trip to Central America . . .

Well, among us in Montevallo are some who have a “servant’s heart”—even without any prodding from the pulpit. Among them are Montevallo Civitans, who have as their stated purpose “to serve people who are intellectually or developmentally disabled.”

That’s why you’ll find a Civitan at your door twice a year. Be sure to answer (with checkbook in hand). The fall fundraiser is pecans for your holiday dishes. The spring fundraiser features 10-pound bags of Vidalia onions—the biggest, sweetest onions ever dug from the earth.

These sales enable two annual events with clients of Chilton-Shelby Mental Health Center, Calera. These are a Christmas party with gifts for the center’s adult clients and an August ice cream social with sweet treats and socializing for all.

Each year the Montevallo Civitans gather at Kate Vogel’s farm in Bibb County for a “Weenie Roast,” where they give out awards.

This year the club honored Bethany Higginbotham with its “Servant’s Heart” award. Bethany, director of the Chilton-Shelby Mental Health Center’s Intellectual Disabilities Division, is responsible for 70 clients, both in the center’s adult day program and in five Calera-area group homes.

The Pelham resident and University of Montevallo psychology graduate helps her clients learn everything from how to brush their teeth properly to how to succeed in a job interview.

She was laughing and crying simultaneously when Peggy Czerw presented her the Servant’s Heart Award on behalf of the Civitans.

Sometimes Bethany’s job can be frustrating, she admitted, but the Civitans help to lift her spirits.

Earlier this year Gov. Kay Ivey made a big splash by pushing some money toward special needs children. “We were all genuinely happy for the children, but we also wondered: ‘What about us?’ Until 4 1/2 years ago we had a job training program, but the state Department of Mental Health decided to discontinue it.”

Some of Bethany’s clients can work at a regular job, she said, but very few. That workshop program had accepted contact assignments from private employers, she said, giving her clients a chance to perform actual work and earn pocket money. Then, the state shut it down.

“The Civitans are the only club that has reached out to us,” she said. “They are so good to us.

“At Christmas there are presents and a party, and everyone enjoys it and looks forward to it,” she said. “And the summer ice cream social is fun for all of us.”

Peggy Czerw said the Civitans welcome new members. Meetings are 5:30 p.m. first and third Mondays at University Baptist Church. Interested? Call President Billy Tyler (205-602-8124) or Judy Rogers (205-665-5251).

Your heart will feel good.