Shelby Emergency Assistance celebrates 50 years of service

Published 4:18 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

Volunteers, donors and past and present staff and board members were among the crowd at a formal banquet that celebrated Shelby Emergency Assistance’s 50th anniversary on Saturday, Aug. 26.

The banquet, held at American Village in Montevallo with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama serving as the principal presenter, featured “Dollar” Bill Lawson as the master of ceremonies and Dr. Darrel Weaver of BCBS as the keynote speaker.

Lawson, a famous local radio personality, also holds the distinction of being a former member of the board of directors for SEA and served as the president of the organization.

“You forget sometimes that there are people in many cases, through no fault of their own, (that are) suffering from really terrible times in their lives,” Lawson said. “(There are) people whose houses burn down and people who have accidents, medical problems and so on. Shelby Emergency Assistance is there to help folks in their darkest times, the times when they just need a little bit (of help).”

The night also served as a time to recognize two individuals who have given a great deal of their time and effort to SEA.

Jim Hicks, a former board member and president of SEA and current volunteer, was recognized as Volunteer of the Year for his unwavering support and long list of services that included, but was not limited to, his recruiting new members to SEA, delivering flowers to the staff and people in the community, delivering food to those in need and annual sponsoring of families in need every Christmas.

SEA also recognized Cindy Pope, a longtime staff member who is retiring this coming month after 13 years with the organization. Pope has served as the education coordinator during her entire length of service with SEA and has helped clients with budgeting and how to find employment, as well as maintaining SEA’s food pantry operation and leading the organization of Project Christmas and the annual back to school parade.

“I think it’s really neat that she has been with us for 13 years—that’s exactly the length of a child’s time in school,” said Brooke McKinley, director of SEA. “I like to think that she’s followed many of our local school children through their entire school career. I haven’t had the honor of working with Cindy very long, but I learned on day one that she truly and deeply cares about SEA and the clients we serve.”

The keynote address delivered by Weaver was one entirely focused on the idea and notions of selfless service and making sure help was received by those who needed it most. It was a message that began with a retelling of the biblical story of the Good Samaritan and detailed his missionary work.

Weaver, who told stories of his work in Honduras and Ukraine, also told a story during his keynote address about a mother and daughter surviving the tornado that nearly destroyed the entirety of Brent Alabama on May 27, 1973, an event that also marked its 50th anniversary this year. At the conclusion of his remarks, he revealed that the daughter in the story, was none other than his wife, Sen. April Weaver.

Dr. Weaver made specific mention that organizations like SEA serve the ultimate purpose of helping people in their utmost time of need, times of need that mirror and resemble situations like his wife went through when her home was brushed away.

“Tonight is all about service, tonight is about helping people, it’s about doing the right thing for people,” Weaver said.

Following this keynote speech, Melinda Bennett, who serves as the board president of SEA, gave her remarks on the importance that SEA is playing in the community and how it must remain steadfast as the local area, as well as the country, combats the worsening problems that SEA serves to aid people through.

One such topic close to Bennett’s heart is the role SEA is playing in the mitigation of food insecurity, which she says has doubled since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“25 percent of Americans have food insecurity right now, that is up 5 percent just over last year,” Bennett said. “(This is) due most to (rising) inflation and COVID benefits ending.”

SEA currently looks to aid families and individuals suffering from this issue, and others, through the provision and maintenance of a long list of services. In accordance with SEA’s mission statement, it is all done to help people move out of a state of crisis and into a state of self-sufficiency where they will be empowered to make their own positive contributions to the community.

“The immediate thing we see is how we help an individual or a family be fed for a day or for a week,” said Karen Pendleton, former director of SEA. “How to keep their utilities on, the power, the water (and) to keep shelter and have a roof over their head. But for me, it means a lot more because there’s also other services helping that person learn skills, how to read, how to apply for a job, how to budget their money (and other) things that are going to have a long range of effects that are going to help that family become more stable and be better able to provide.”

Although the night was one looking back on 50 years of dedication and community growth, the efforts contributed each and every day by the volunteers and the staff at SEA are and continue to be aimed toward achieving a brighter tomorrow.

Those interested in volunteering their services to Shelby Emergency Assistance in any way, or those in need, are always encouraged to visit Shelby Emergency Assistance, located at 160 Shoshone Drive, Montevallo, AL 35115.

Those looking for more information can visit They can be contacted through mail at PO Box 18, 160 Shoshone Drive Montevallo, AL 35115 or by phone at 205-665-1942.