Officially it was called “Alabama Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities Awards Ceremony.”. A very nice affair held at the Gordon Person Building auditorium Dec. 3.
But unofficially, it was all about bringing recognition to people and organizations from around the state who work with those with disabilities so that they may be gainfully employed and active members of society. These are folks who take to heart the admonition found in the book of Matthew about doing things for the “least of these.”
There were 12 honorees. Advocate, Large Business Employee, Collaboration, Large Business Employer, Education, Media, Partnership, Small Business Employer, Public Service, Student, Youth Leadership and Small Business Employee.
David Hyche was recognized for his advocacy. A 30-year veteran of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. he is the father of a blind daughter who wanted to hunt Easter eggs. Discovering that plastic eggs equipped with sound were quite expensive, Hyche used his knowledge of working with bombs to come up with a much less expensive version. He then engaged other ATF folks around the country to join the effort and provide plastic eggs for children in their own communities.
Carpenters for Christ are members of the Tallasee First Baptist Church who build handicap ramps to meet needs in their town. Matt Freeman is a welding instructor for the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy who engages students on various community projects. William Roberts of Sylacauga is active with the local community garden. The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex offers a variety of accommodations for those with disabilities.
The Partnership of the Year recognized the collaboration of the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, Stringfellow Health Fund, Exchange Bank of Gadsden and the Beautiful Rainbow Café, a program of Gadsden school system. The café is operated totally by students with disabilities who learn a host of life skills.
The City of Opelika was recognized for their on-gong efforts to comply with ADA requirements. It was great to see my longtime friend, Mayor Gary Fuller, accept this honor. Small Business Employee was Renee Maradik, owner of Something sweet Bake Shop in Daphne, while Met South, owned by Don and Cathy Jesse of Hanceville, was Small Business Employer of the Year.
Students Logan Tice, a senior at Oxford High School and Michael White, a student at the Alabama School for the Deaf were honored for their academic and leadership achievements.
And one old gray-haired blogger was honored with the media award. I was both very surprised and very humbled.
It is individuals and organizations such as these who hold the fabric of our communities and our state together. They are not seeking fame or fortune. They just see a need and use their talents to meet it.
We can all take pride in what they do.