May 232018

We are proud to sponsor this radio ad that runs in our five counties!

The Alabama Community College System Adult Education programs (Alabama Adult Education) provide free adult literacy, basic skills, English as a Second Language and GED test preparation. The cost of the GED® Test is $120.00. GED® testing vouchers valuing $25.00 per assessment are available for individuals enrolled in the program who meet the minimum qualifications. A maximum voucher of $100.00 is available (per student) and the student will pay $5.00 per assessment.

Alabama Adult Education is offering See it 4 Free, an opportunity to take all 4 GED Ready practice tests free-of-charge. In addition, for a limited time, if you pass the GED Ready practice test, Alabama Adult Education will pay for you to attempt the official GED exam.

A GED graduate is eligible to receive a scholarship for one college credit course of up to 3-credit hours at any public 2-year college in Alabama. Ask the school’s Financial Aid office about this scholarship. Visit for more information or to locate the Alabama Community College in your area.

Seniors Teach Seniors Computer Skills

 Project Updates  Comments Off on Seniors Teach Seniors Computer Skills
May 222018

Meet Ms. Shirley Mixon of the Jasper Senior Activity Center. Ms. Mixon is an alumni of the Generations on Line program that was partially funded through Cawaco and administered through M4A.
Generations on Line is nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing communication among generations by promoting Internet access and literacy to elders of the Paper Generation. The software guides novices step-by-step with onscreen instructions on every page in large type, plain English, and a clear, uncluttered interface with friendly icons. It is free to seniors. With Generations on Line software, seniors known as “peer coaches” train other seniors on how to use the computer.
After Shirley completed the Generations on Line training, she began to train other seniors, not only to use the internet but to learn basic computer skills. But without the help of the Senior Employment Program, Shirley said she probably wouldn’t be working.
After working for Proctor & Gamble in Ohio, she moved home to take care of her mother and realized that her skills needed to be sharpened for the modern workplace. Shirley decided to join the Senior Employment Program to learn the skills necessary to re-enter the workforce.
From there, she worked at Bankhead Middle School for seven years, before being hired to work at the Jasper Senior Center to teach other seniors basic computer skills. Now when she isn’t teaching computer training, she is teaching quilting. Shirley Mixon has been working at the Jasper Senior Center for eight years.
To find out more about educational programs for seniors, connect with your local senior center. If you’re a senior in Jasper needing some computer training, go see Ms. Shirley Mixon. Shirley says that if she can use a computer, anyone can!
Click here for the Alabama Senior Center directory to find a senior center near you.

 Posted by at 2:17 pm


 Cawaco Programs, Community, Grant Program  Comments Off on 2019 GRANT CYCLE NOW OPEN!!
May 032018

Cawaco Resource Conservation and Development Council is seeking grant applications for its Challenge and Educational Grant Programs in Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, Shelby and Walker Counties of Alabama. Grant applications can be found on the website under “Forms”.


Challenge Grant Program
The Council offers small competitive Challenge Grants ($2,000- $5,000) to assist public and other 501 (c) (3) agencies in their efforts to serve unmet community needs. Multiple-county projects may qualify for a larger award. Call or email the office for more information.

Educational Grant Program
The Council offers competitive Educational Grants to schools and other public or non-profit agencies for educational equipment or activities. Grants awards range from $2000 – $5,000 except under special conditions. To learn more, call Patti Pennington @ 205-623-0457 or email

Funded Challenge Grant projects will support Council goals that promote economic and community development and/or responsible use of natural resources. Funded Educational projects will serve unmet educational needs with emphasis on, but not limited to, natural resource education.


All qualifying applications meeting the Council goals and following the guidelines will be considered. Grant awards are given on a REIMBURSABLE basis. We recommend you use this checklist before submitting your final proposal.

To be considered, all proposals must be received BEFORE July 1, 2018 and submitted electronically through the website.

Cawaco RC&D programs and activities are available without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status
 Posted by at 1:22 pm

Oneonta Middle School Robotics

 Project Updates  Comments Off on Oneonta Middle School Robotics
May 022018

On May 1, 2018 we visited Oneonta Middle School teacher John Fallin, his robotics team and Rep. David Standridge! In 2017, the school received a grant for robotics equipment and students built a robot for the 2017 BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology)competition at Wallace State. The robot (pictured) was built by the students for the competition and had to be made of wood and not metal. The robotics kit was purchased through a Cawaco educational grant.
During the “Crossfire” competition, the schools were asked to submit a robot prototype to be evaluated alongside other prototypes in a state-of-the-art Industrial Fire Simulator. The robots were not able to touch the fire directly – in order to extinguish it, they needed to launch simulated water from a distance. The highest priority was rescuing a test manikin from inside. Just like in a real rescue, every second counted; robots received more points if they completed the rescue in less time. Points were given for rescuing the manikin, containing the chemical drums and extinguishing the flames. Due to the grant from Cawaco, the students were able to complete the robot and compete with more advanced schools from Alabama. They placed 10th in the competition and had a great time. This project will continue in upcoming years and the class plans to compete in the 2018 BEST competition. As always, we appreciate the legislators who take time to know the needs in their communities and help us locate projects. 

 Posted by at 1:02 pm


Apr 132018


How strangers came together to save the Chestnut Creek Heritage Chapel

Photo Gallery                                                                                     Skip to Middle

Since the early 1800’s, the Chestnut Creek Baptist Church was the center of the Cooper community in rural Chilton County Alabama. But after a new church building was erected in 2007, the old church became neglected and fell into disrepair. There was no indication at that time that the effort to restore the original church would serve to reunite an entire community.

It all began when some people researching their family history happened to meet through an ancestry website. Denise Scarbrough says, “We decided to get together at the cemetery at Chestnut Creek Baptist Church and research graves of common ancestors. About 18 people showed up.” Two of the people Denise met, Pam Persons and Lynn Cerney, would play a major part in the story.

One of the most colorful of the common ancestors buried in that cemetery was Alabama Jane DeVaughn Grant. Most of the people meeting that day had heard the local legend that “Alabama Jane was the daughter of a Cherokee Indian Chief who sold her to some white folks”. However, there is no evidence to substantiate this claim.

“When people saw the photo of Alabama Jane in her wedding gown, they gasped” said Denise. “Everyone had heard about her, but it was the first picture we had ever seen of her.”

After the “Cooper Cousins” met at the cemetery, they decided to have a family reunion at the old church. They were expecting around 50 people to show up, but it was closer to 125 people- from eight states. One cousin from California sent a photo of Alabama Jane DeVaughn and her husband Robert Grant on their wedding day. “When people saw the photo of Alabama Jane in her wedding gown, they gasped” said Denise. “Everyone had heard about her, but it was the first picture we had ever seen of her.”

After having 2 family reunions at the Chapel, Pam got word that the Pastor was planning on demolishing the building.  “We met with a church trustee and the Pastor and told him the community would not forgive him if he tore it down.” By the end of the meeting they had reached an agreement: that the building would be sold for a small fee to the group if they would form a separate non-profit, with the goal being to fix it up for the community. Denise, Pam, and Lynn were able to push through the incorporation and along with a representative from Chestnut Creek Baptist Church became the board of directors of the new Chestnut Creek Heritage Chapel.

“We met with a church trustee and the Pastor and told him the community would not forgive him if he tore it down.”

Somehow, they met the local historian Ola Thomas and she joined the board. Nobody seems to remember the events of how they found Ola or when they first made contact.  According to Pam Persons, “It was a God thing.”

L-R Lynn Cerny, Pam Persons, Denise Scarborough, Gerald Logan and Ola Thomas

By that time, the building was leaking and the roof had several holes. Local roofer Jim Butters saved the day, temporarily, by putting 18 patches on the roof, free of charge. After that, even without electricity in the building, the group held fund raising events to raise the cash to save the Chapel.

The first fund raiser was the Craft Bazaar, which has become an annual event.  People from the community donated hand-made items, cookies and cider. “It was December and bitter cold” Denise recalls. “There was no electricity or heat in the building but still, we had a great crowd. It was a magical event, bringing a community together to reminisce and raise funds for a beloved cause.”

“We did everything we could think of to fund-raise” said Pam. “When people heard there was water standing in the building, they would stop and donate.”

Funds for the new roof were provided by donations and a grant from Cawaco RC&D

We did everything we could think of to fund-raise” said Pam. “When people heard there was water standing in the building, they would stop and donate. Whatever was needed, the community provided. If we needed roofing nails, we would ask for a donation to buy a box of nails. Whatever we needed, we let people know, and they gave.”

Eventually they applied for a grant through Cawaco RC&D to help cover the cost of a new roof. Then they got a grant from the Alabama Power Charitable Trust for new air conditioners. Other fundraisers included benefit gospel concerts. The concerts are very popular and those who attend donate whatever they can. An anonymous donor recently contributed blinds for all the windows as well as beautiful new hardwood doors.  “And, thanks to a second small grant from Cawaco, we just got the electricity upgraded” said Denise.

“The reason this Chapel is still standing today is that a small group of people cared enough to do whatever it took to save it.”

Deacon Gerald Logan said the effort put into the restoration of the Chapel was an answer to a prayer. “The reason this Chapel is still standing today is that a small group of people cared enough to do whatever it took to save it.” Now, the Heritage Chapel is once again the hub of this small rural community. People who grew up here have a visible reminder of a past that is precious to them.

One of those people, Mrs. Billie Litaker Bates, shared some of her childhood memories:

In 1945,  Billie Litaker was 9 years old when she was baptized in South Prong creek. In those days, new church members were baptized once a year after the summer revival. Back then, there was always something going on at the church. They had a singing school, vacation bible school and dinner on the grounds. Billie said, “The children from the neighborhood would cross through the cemetery on the way to school. Nobody was afraid of the cemetery.”

Like all communities, the Cooper community had its traditions, and one tradition that Billie got to participate in was the ringing of the church bell on New Years Eve. All the teenagers from Cooper would sneak through the cemetery and climb up in the bell tower and ring the bell at midnight. Back in those days, the church was never locked.

“The teenagers decided to hide in the bushes on the outside of the cemetery, one of the boys with his double-barrel shotgun. They waited for Ms. DeLoach and the girls auxiliary.  When the girls got close enough, the gun was fired in the air.”

Then one New Years Eve, Ms. DeLoach and the girls auxiliary decided that they would ring the bell at midnight. Billie Litaker was around 15 at the time. “The teenagers decided to hide in the bushes on the outside of the cemetery, one of the boys with his double-barrel shotgun. They waited for Ms. DeLoach and the girls auxiliary.  When the girls got close enough, the gun was fired in the air.” She said, “it was so dark you could see the fire coming out of the barrels. The young girls scattered.” It took some time for Ms. DeLoach to reassemble them all, and in the time it took her to get them back in line, the teenagers had already entered the church and were hiding on the balcony.

As the girls auxiliary and Ms.DeLoach started towards the church bell, Billie said “the teenagers began to wail and moan like ghosts. All the girls ran away in fear, and the teenagers climbed up the bell tower and rang the bell at midnight.”

Billie told me, “These days, teenagers would get in trouble for doing something like that”. Billie went on to get married at the Chapel, and her wedding picture is kept in a picture book in the Chapel Memorial.

“This building represents the Heritage of this community” says Denise. “The only reason I became involved in this project was because my mother, Melba Cox Hudson, insisted. It has turned into one of the biggest blessings of my life. Everything I do for the Chapel is dedicated to her.” She adds that there are many people who have made donations and dedicated time in remembrance and respect of family.

The little community of Cooper has changed a lot through the years, but the Heritage Chapel stands as a reminder of what life was like for those who lived back then, and as a place where today’s young people can learn about the past.

Fundraisers planned for 2018:
September 9- Sean of the South
September 15 – The Barefoot Movement (bluegrass)
Last week in October – Sesquicentennial Event- Chapel open to public to highlight history of the Verbena area.
1st Saturday in December: Annual Craft Bazaar
December 16- Celtic Christmas Concert
The next plans for the building are to open the balcony.
Learn more about the heritage chapel here.

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May 242017

Cawaco is working with the Nature Conservancy, the Regional Planning Commission, the Birmingham urban forester, Alabama Forestry Commission and other agencies to map Birmingham trees.

Why? For numerous reasons, urban foresters need a snapshot of the health, age, species, placement and condition of the urban forest. In order to understand pressures, stressors, insect and storm damage and have a plan to replace failing, ill and dead trees. Trees are an important to Birmingham! Alabama summers are brutal without them!

As the Urban Forestry Group begins to tackle an urban forestry plan for the city of Birmingham, we are starting a pilot study for tree inventory this summer.  Our first year we are working at a small scale using the USFS I-Tree Suite to quantify forest structure, environmental effects, and value to communities in 3 city parks in the upper reaches of Village Creek – East Lake Park, John Hawkins Park and Wahouma Park.

Become a volunteer and learn how to identify, measure, locate and map city trees!

Oct 242016
 In 2016, Cawaco projects built 11 miles of trails, restored 20 acres of habitat, educated over 3000 children and more than 2000 adults. For every dollar we spent, we were returned a minimum of eight dollars in added value. See the one-page graphic report here.
Please check out our Annual Report! THANK YOU for all YOU DO in your communities, and when you are out there, remember identify the needs in your communities! And also remember to thank your local legislators for allowing us to continue to receive funding. Without our partners we cannot accomplish anything! 
Click here to read about the projects funded in 2016. 
 Again, thank you all for your help in making 2016 a success for Cawaco and helping to build a better Alabama!

Beginning Farmer Outreach Meeting- Walker County

 Community, Educational Opportunities, Project Updates, Projects, Workshops  Comments Off on Beginning Farmer Outreach Meeting- Walker County
Mar 282016

Once again we are partnering with USDA and Walker County Soil & Water to host a Beginning Farmer Outreach meeting in Walker County! Pass this information along to anyone with interest in agriculture. The purpose of these meetings is to connect beginning farmers to the resources that are available to help them succeed in any type of farming, including timber management. See the flyer for more info. PLEASE SHARE!