Locals named to Top 50 Over 50 list

By EMILY SPARACINO / Staff Writer

Six Shelby County residents have been named to Positive Maturity’s Top 50 Over 50 list for 2019.

Bonnie Atchison, Brian Copes, Katherine Houston, Brett Oates, Jacqui Sweet and Tim Tingle are among this year’s award recipients.

In addition to her place on the list, Atchison also received the William Miller Award, the organization’s highest award.

“It’s such an honor, a prize and a delight,” said Atchison, who was inducted into the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame in 2018. “I’m humbled by an award for doing what God called me to do. I appreciate it.”

Positive Maturity formed the Top 50 Over 50 awards in 2014 to spotlight seniors “who know how to dream, laugh, contribute and achieve on many levels,” according to the organization’s website.

A reception for this year’s honorees will be held Thursday, July 25, at The Club in Birmingham.

The following are biographical details Positive Maturity shared about the Shelby County award recipients:

  • Bonnie Atchison: Taught English and drama for more than 20 years; started the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce; has supported the Shelby County Arts Council and Karl C. Harrison Museum of George Washington; served as president of the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs; past chairwoman of the annual Arts & Craft Show for 21 years; has organized events such as the Columbiana Quilt Walk, Cancer Survivor Dinner, Veterans Day program, baskets for Safe House, Heifer International and Backpack Buddies; has served 2,447 volunteer hours for RSVP; and enjoys ceramics and painting.
  • Brian Copes: Was named Top Teacher in the Nation out of 825 educators by the National Life Group; won the 2017-2018 Life Changer of the Year award; was recognized as one of the Top 50 Teachers in the World by the Varkey Foundation; was named Teacher of the Year by People magazine; was awarded the highest presidential volunteer service award and is the founder of the nonprofit SKY (Skilled Knowledgeable Youth Advisory Group); has sponsored trips for his students and developed Sister Schools in Honduras, where they built container classrooms and constructed computers, a hydroelectric plant, prosthetic limbs and a 3-D printer, plus assisted in the medical clinic, installed water purifiers and constructed ATVs for school bus, ambulance and water well drilling; founded “Electrathon,” a battery-powered car race at Barber Motorsports Park for high school students; and works with more than 500 businesses to furnish technology, expertise, equipment and supplies to his programs.
  • Brett Oates: Helped create Silver Glovez in 2008 to support full development of inner-city baseball players in Birmingham in ninth-12th grades and junior college. Over the years, several players have gone on to play at Division I and Division II colleges, such as Jackson State University, Alabama State University, Grambling State University, University of Alabama Birmingham and Clafton University. New colleges and universities—including Morehouse College, Southern University, Norfolk State University, Prairie View and A&M University—regularly join SG.
  • Jacqui Sweet: Owns and manages an international business based in Birmingham, Doug Sweet & Associates, a process consulting firm to the paper industry; has held roles in Shelby County Schools, Leadership Shelby County, Initiator and as past race director of Paws for the Cause; learned first-hand about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease while caring for her parents, and now leads a support group to aid caregivers dealing with these issues; and, when not involved in business, church, neighborhood landscaping and community activities, she helps her grandchildren and bakes cookies for the homeless.

Tim Tingle: Was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1958, and moved to Montevallo when he was a year old; educated at the University of Montevallo; started working as a coal miner in 1979 and retired in 2016; raised five children with his wife, Nanette; has been inspired to create since an early age and is a self-taught artist; is best-known for his tree carvings in Orr Park, which is also the venue for the Tinglewood Festival; is a farmer, wood carver, fiction writer and world traveler.