By Gary Lloyd Ernest Hemingway penned A Farewell to Arms, 300-plus pages about a World War I love affair between an expatriate and an English nurse. I’m about to write … Continue reading A farewell to Crispitos
In Trussville, a game of capture the slag
By Gary Lloyd To find relics of history, we must often turn pages of thick textbooks or sit in front of the History Channel for hours on end. Many of … Continue reading In Trussville, a game of capture the slag
Before the sun rises
By Gary Lloyd I am an unapologetic morning person, and I’m sure half of you reading that just cringed. I understand. Some folks can’t be bothered until every drop of … Continue reading Before the sun rises
Ready for some football
By Gary Lloyd I’ve covered high school football games across Alabama and Mississippi for well over a decade now, and just before each season begins, I look back at the … Continue reading Ready for some football
Hope Amid Chaos
By Christian G. Crawford Hope is a pursuit. Unending. Hope commands breath. Inhale. Exhale. Our pursuit has ended abruptly—however. Our ears have stopped listening. Chaos is no longer imminent. It … Continue reading Hope Amid Chaos
Alabama Historical Commission suggested ordinance for establishing historic preservation commission
READ: ‘We’re about to lose this thing’: Cahaba Project residents debate future of historic neighborhood SUGGESTED ORDINANCE AN ORDINANCE TO ESTABLISH A HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION IN THE CITY OF , … Continue reading Alabama Historical Commission suggested ordinance for establishing historic preservation commission
US Attorney launches Birmingham Safe Neighborhoods Task Force
‘Here for as long as it takes,’ sheriff says
BIRMINGHAM – The U.S. Attorney’s Office today launched the Birmingham Safe Neighborhoods Task Force to offer prevention and community outreach programs within the city.
This task force will complement the law enforcement work of the Birmingham Public Safety Task Force, which was announced last month, in combined efforts to reduce violent crime in the Birmingham area, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town.
The Birmingham Safe Neighborhoods Task Force will engage law enforcement, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and corporate citizens in a coordinated and collaborative process to ensure parity in prevention, enforcement, and re-entry efforts. Building and restoring relationships between communities and law enforcement is a primary function of the task force.
“This task force will endeavor to meaningfully engage citizens of Birmingham with regard to how we can improve the station of the entire city,” Town said. “It is no longer enough just to prosecute our worst offenders. Prevention and outreach programs that decrease criminal activity and increase opportunity must accompany our overall crime reduction initiative,” he said. “I appreciate the leadership of our mayor, our sheriff, and all of our task force members for their willingness to engage in this worthy challenge.”
Members of the Birmingham Safe Neighborhoods Task Force will collaborate to develop and conduct community programs aimed at education, community-police relations and building opportunities that will benefit the entire community.
“As stated before, we are here for as long as it takes,” said Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale. “I have no doubt this multifaceted initiative is going to have a very positive impact on crime in general, but most especially violent crime. Taking violent criminals out of these neighborhoods and locking them up for 15 or more years will return these neighborhoods back to the good folks and improve their quality of life dramatically. That is the goal. It will be met.”
Building and improving trust and communication between the community and members of law enforcement will be a critical function of the BSNTF, Town said. That will include encouraging patrol officers, deputies and agents to increase general and positive interactions in the community, whether that be helping to spruce up a community park or passing out free ice-cream coupons to neighborhood kids.
The two Birmingham task forces incorporate principles of Project Safe Neighborhoods, the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction strategy, and the National Public Safety Partnership. PSN is a nationwide Justice Department program committed to reducing gun and gang crime by networking existing local programs that target gun crime and supporting those efforts with training and funding.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced PSP last year as a training and technical assistance program designed to enhance the capacity of local jurisdictions to address violent crime in their communities. He selected Birmingham as one of the initial 12 locations to participate in the program. The PSP and PSN programs both reinforce the federal, state and local task force model as one of the most effective ways to reduce violent crime.
A bond beyond baseball
The following story appears in my book Valley Road: Uplifting Stories from Down South. Get it here.
The baseball coach felt as if the pastor was talking directly to him. Sure, there was a congregation full of people, but the message was so pointed, so personal, that it felt like a one-on-one conversation.
The sermon was about stepping outside of your comfort zone. The coach had always talked to his high school players about doing the right thing, about what he wanted them to do. He did the same when he was the coach at his previous job. He had never really shown them.
“Baseball is just kind of an avenue for us,” he says.
When the church service was over and he went outside, he told his wife that he wanted to start a Bible study in their home with any player who wanted to come. He then called a friend, who had been a youth pastor at one time. He was all in to help. The next morning, the coach was preparing to tell his players of his new idea when one knocked on his door. He asked his coach if he would be all right with the players starting a Bible study in the locker room. He told the player that he would not believe what happened the day before.
“It was like God’s way of saying, ‘This is what you should do,’” he says.
The Bible study started the following Sunday. It was not mandatory, and players were told that it would not affect their playing time. It was totally separate from baseball. The coach figured on maybe a handful of players showing up. Fifteen of the eighteen on the roster came. Those numbers remained steady. Every Sunday during the baseball season, the players met at their head coach’s home for food, Bible study and fellowship. Sometimes, the studies lasted fifteen minutes. Sometimes, they lasted an hour. Afterward, they would watch the Sunday Night Baseball game on ESPN or play Wii. Players learned a lot about each other. They opened up about family, girlfriends, choices, college. They grew closer.
“It was an unbelievable time of team bonding away from baseball,” he says.
The coach’s favorite memory from those Bible studies is about a player who was selected in the Major League Baseball draft. He decided to instead play football and baseball at an Alabama university. That player came back to his old stomping grounds one Friday night for a football game. The coach stood with him on the sidelines. He asked if he missed the Friday night lights, playing sports at the high school level. The player said that he really didn’t. The coach was floored. How could an athlete not miss high school sports, his glory days? The one thing the player said he missed were those Bible studies.
“It just humbled me,” the coach says.
The coach has continued the Bible studies since becoming the head baseball coach at his third high school. After one of the studies, one of the boys called the coach thirty minutes after everyone left his home. He wanted to come back. They sat on his back porch for two hours, just talking. Without the Bible study, that relationship may have never deepened.
“I think it’s more than a Bible study,” he says. “It brings kids closer together. To me, that’s the special part. And that’s the important stuff. We are giving them an avenue to talk to us.”
The Bible studies happen during the baseball season, though on some occasions they have begun in December because the kids wanted to start them earlier. The coach says the importance varies from kid to kid, from team to team. Each one has a different personality.
“I just think we’ve seen some kids grow closer together,” he says.
The coach led his current team to its first baseball state championship in school history not long ago. He will not go so far as to say the Bible study was why the team won it all, but it was clearly a factor. That team, he says, just had something different about it. They were close. During the playoff run, at Bible studies on Sundays, baseball was not even a topic of conversation.
“We love it,” he says.
At a football game about five months after winning that state championship, the baseball team returned for the ring ceremony. There were four seniors on that team, and they had all started college at three different institutions. This was their first time being back together since graduating. The coach watched as they sat at their own table in the stadium’s press box, just sharing their experiences as college freshmen. It took the coach and his wife back to when they originally started the Bible study.
The coach gestured toward the group and said to his wife, “Look how special that is.”
Donations to The Foundry by May 31 will be doubled
BESSEMER, Ala.— People like Cris and Austin are examples of the hundreds of struggling men and women The Foundry serves who benefit from the resources and programs funded by “Matching Challenge” contributions. An anonymous supporter has contributed a total of $25,000 and challenged other friends of The Foundry to donate an additional $25,000 by May 31.
Cris, a graduate of the ministry’s Recovery Program, shares that The Foundry changed his life: “By giving me the tools and the opportunity to change my previous situation, I regained the trust I had lost with my family and strengthened my relationship with God.”
Another resident at The Foundry’s Changed Lives Christian Center, Austin, spent years battling addiction and making bad choices that led to a destructive lifestyle. “I built my life on all the wrong foundations, and when troubles came, it all fell apart,” Austin said. Today, Austin is rebuilding his life and “taking the right steps towards living a new lifestyle.”
“Gifts from the community truly have the power to change lives,” Foundry Ministries Chief Executive Officer Micah Andrews said. “Financial contributions turn into tools, resources, support, classes, meals and more that help the individuals we serve realize their potential and find purpose for their lives.”
The opportunity to multiply the impact of gifts lasts until May 31.
“This is an exciting opportunity to make your gift do more good in the lives of addicted and struggling men and women,” Andrews said, encouraging donors to give their best gift by the May 31 deadline. “The funds from our matching challenge donor plus gifts from community partners will double the impact of their generosity. When folks become part of the equation, 1 + you = two. We’ll receive twice the blessings from each donation and be able to offer faith-based recovery programs for even more people seeking freedom from addiction.”
Andrews invites anyone who would like to give towards the “Matching Challenge” to donate online at foundryministries.com or send a contribution to P.O. Box 824, Bessemer, AL 35021. All gifts must be received online or postmarked by May 31, 2018, to help meet the challenge.
For more information on The Foundry’s outreach services and their programs of Rescue, Recovery and ReEntry, visit foundryministries.com.
A bit about ‘Heart of the Plate’
My third book, Heart of the Plate, is one that I wrote rather quickly.
Some may think that it is not of a certain quality, since I wrote it in about four months and had it published five months after the release of Deep Green. That’s for others who read it to judge and not me.
But I will say this: It is a fictional story I had in my mind for a long time, a story of redemption that I wanted to tell. I wrote pages and pages each day because I believed in the story and its message. It’s more than just baseball. It has addiction and overcoming, love lost and love rekindled, heartbreak and uplifting moments. It has something for everyone, and I hope you order a copy and let me know what you think.
Jeff Wright is at the pinnacle of his Major League Baseball career, earning his way into his first All-Star Game. Not long after, Jeff suffers a gruesome, career-ending injury and ventures down a path of self-destruction, and becomes addicted to painkillers. He is arrested for drug possession. Upon completing a stint in a rehabilitation center, Jeff returns to his hometown of Lewis Rock, Georgia, where he discovers that the town’s largest job source, Reynolds Manufacturing, is being sold off and will leave hundreds jobless. He also attempts to rekindle a love that he lost years ago. What begins as mandatory community service for Jeff’s arrest quickly becomes his saving grace. Follow along as Jeff helps his hometown through a difficult time the only way he knows how — through baseball.
The book earned praise from former Major League Baseball players Wes Helms, Matt Guerrier, and Jason Standridge, as well as former college softball head coach Karen Johns.
Read an interview about Heart of the Plate