New LightRails underpass adds life to downtown

Downtown Birmingham now features an LED-lighted tunnel.The tunnel can be found at the 18th Street underpass on the east side of Railroad Park.

But this tunnel isn’t just a bunch of lights and a few hundred tons of concrete. It is actually a light sculpture called LightRails by artist Bill FitzGibbons. The computerized LED lights morph from one color to the next in a seemingly supernatural way- creating a life-like color show that will capture any observer.

Junior JMC major Taylor Vassey was amazed by the new addition. “I was very impressed with the design and thought put into the light tunnel,” she said.

The tunnel, finished this past June, is just another addition in Birmingham’s effort to revitalize the downtown Birmingham area. “It definitely adds more value to the city and it shows the leaders of the city are working to improve it,” Vassey said.

Sophomore JMC major Corry Mulligan said, “I had seen a lot of pictures of the tunnel, but I didn’t really know what to expect. I was blown away when I saw it for myself. I really like the fact that you can either walk or drive through the tunnel, and the way the colors change is really cool.”

While pictures and wonder-filled words from Samford students may build a respectable case, the best way to appreciate the tunnel is to go and experience it for yourself. Grab some friends, head downtown and go explore!

By Katy Flinn

A beacon of hope for the children of Northern Uganda

IGFkids1IGF children in Kitgum singing “Victory in Jesus” at a weekly assembly July 2013, in Kitgum. Photo courtesy of Mary Katherine Riggs.

We’ve all felt it before.

That unshakable feeling of deep passion — a tight knot inside our stomachs combined with out-of-control adrenaline that seems to propel our bodies into action despite logic’s repeated reprimands and warnings.

If we are smart, we let that passion move us to wherever it wants us to go. And that’s just what Irene Gleeson did 22 years ago in the small town of Kitgum, located in Northern Uganda.

When Gleeson arrived in Kitgum, she had no plan (as world-changers seldom don’t), but she had that unshakable feeling of passion (as world-changers always do). Shocked by the state of the district which had been devastated by 37 years of war, Gleeson decided to gather the children of Kitgum under a mango tree and teach them songs— a simple gesture that helped restore a future of peace.

Since that fateful day under the mango tree where that first note of hope was sung, over 25,000 children have been impacted by Irene Gleeson. With the help of several donors and a remarkable Ugandan staff, Gleeson created the Irene Gleeson Foundation to ensure her vision would be carried out far beyond her lifetime.

And that it is.

Though Gleeson passed away in July of this year, her vision and legacy lives on. Every day, IGF opens the doors of four schools that ensure over 8,000 children in Kitgum are properly educated, fed and cared for.

IGF runs several other programs in Kitgum, including an AIDS Hospice, FM radio station and a Discipleship training program. A Women’s Hospital is also under construction, and when it opens it will provide advanced pre-natal and post-natal care to the women of Northern Uganda.

IGFjamie     IGF Stateside Director Jamie Ankenbrandt behind the IGF information table at Samford’s recent Go Global missions conference.

Jamie Ankenbrandt, the Stateside Director for IGF, explained the vision behind the ministry: “Our vision is to transform, liberate and empower people through Christ to build sustainable communities by improving the quality of life of children in Northern Uganda. We accomplish this in four areas of work, quality education, quality healthcare, economic development, and community development,” she said. “Our true vision for the ministry is that we will — in our skills through holistic care — raise up future leaders in Uganda so that East Africa becomes the shining light of the continent.”

As IGF’s North American offices are located in the heart of Birmingham off of Highway 280 in Office Park, the organization’s ministry hits particularly close to home for several locals.

Samford nursing students Mary Katherine Riggs and Kelsey Saettele travelled to Kitgum this past July to help care for the children in IGF’s schools, deliver babies at the local hospital and serve in IGF’s AIDS hospice.

“The Nursing School here at Samford teaches us to care for the patient holistically — not just medically. IGF’s vision aligns directly with what we have been learning the past three years here at Samford as the organization believes firmly in the whole care of a child — medically, physically, spiritually and emotionally” Riggs said.

Saettele added, “Applying the skills we learn in the classroom to real life situations and merging my love for missions and medicine was absolutely incredible, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served in such a practical way.”

Riggs and Saettele also sponsor a child, Sandra, through IGF, who they were able to meet this summer.

“Meeting Sandra was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before,” Riggs said. “I was instantly overwhelmed by her beautiful smile.”

Children like Sandra are encouraged every day by the over 450 Ugandan staff that work for IGF — a continuation of Gleeson’s passion.

For more information about IGF and to find out how you could help be a part of Gleeson’s vision and change a child’s life forever, visit

By Sarah Anne Elliott

VisionWalk gives hope in a dark place

VisionWalk’s Natalie Linton paints her face to support the fight against blindness.

Last Saturday, Birmingham’s fifth annual VisionWalk rallied a diverse cast of people to Homewood Park for one cause – the fight against blindness.

University of Alabama student Nicole Mullins was looking for volunteer opportunities. Aaron Sparks came because his wife, Amanda, heard about the event at her office. UAB Department of Ophthalmology’s Megan Yates just came to lend some enthusiastic support.

Birmingham is just one of 51 cities hosting VisionWalk, a seven-year-old fundraising event for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. So far, VisionWalks across the nation have raised $28 million in the fight against retinal degenerative disease, according to the organization’s website.

Events assistant Kensi Magnum announced that 2013 was one of the organization’s best years. “It’s a wonderful cause,” she said. “We have really given hope.”

Walk chair Randy Ferguson agreed, citing a personal connection to VisionWalk. Ferguson’s daughter Lauren suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a hereditary condition that attacks her peripheral vision.

“Five years ago, I didn’t think there was any hope for a cure,” Ferguson said. “But thanks [to VisionWalk], we have hope. This is a great thing.”

Hope is exactly what psychologist Laura Dreer hopes to give to the visually impaired community. Dreer, who first moved to Birmingham to study traumatic brain injury, noticed there was little psychological aid for adults with visual impairments. To fill that void, she started UAB Connections, a support group for adults adjusting to blindness.

“Of course it affects your eye,” she said, “But [I’m here] to show they can still have a great quality of life.”

Marcellus Scott, who is legally blind, needed to hear that message.

“Connections is a great support,” he said. “It’s a struggle to live every day, but at least you know you’re not alone.”

Paul Mayo, a friend from the Department of Rehabilitation in Homewood, concurred. Also legally blind, Mayo dedicates his time to raising awareness for people with little to no vision.

“I’m just trying to give a little back of what’s been given to me,” he said.

For more information on supporting the Foundation Against Blindness, visit this link.

By Jonathan Adams

Hannah Duncan: changing lives one bow at a time

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This is Hannah Duncan- a freshman pre-pharmacy major from Lakeland, Florida. She is also a new member of the Phi Mu sorority. But beyond the basics, there is something special about Hannah that a lot of freshman girls can’t claim. Hannah is the founder of Bows for the Broken charity and the owner of a fashion line called A Simple Seam.

Hannah was inspired to start Bows for the Broken after attending Student Leadership University (SLU) 101 in Orlando, Florida, after her freshman year of high school. During the conference, she saw a video about Compassion International, the Christian-based child sponsorship organization. Soon after, Hannah began sponsoring a young girl from Peru.

“Six months later, from the letters I had gotten from her, I just wanted to help in some way more than just sponsoring her each month and to help Compassion in general.” Hannah said.

_MG_4775-2Her solution: Bows for the Broken, a non-profit organization aimed at raising funds for Compassion International. Hannah raises money through making lanyards, zipper pouches and, of course, bows.

One Christmas, Bows for the Broken was able to give $805 to the Compassion International Christmas fund. This money went towards two cows, five chickens, several goats and a pig for different families and communities connected with the Compassion organization around the world.

Hannah estimates that Bows for the Broken has been able to raise about $2,500 so far.

As far as the future goes with Bows for the Broken, Hannah said, “Samford’s Phi Mu chapter supports two kids with Compassion International, which is one thing that drew me to them. So I would like to maybe get other girls involved with Bows for the Broken in Phi Mu or anyone.”

Besides Bows for the Broken, Hannah also runs a handmade pocket tee-shirt business called A Simple Seam. _MG_4847-2

She started A Simple Seam at the end of her senior year of high school. Hannah had purchased a pocket tee and soon after came up with the idea to try and make them herself. “All my friends were already starting to wear pocket tees, and then I experimented with how to make the pocket and came up with what works best for me,” she said.

Through the love of sewing, she began making and selling pocket tees to friends. She also started a blog where she documents her faith, projects and all things sewing.

She has also recently started an Etsy store where she will soon be selling her pocket tees, coffee cozies and monograms.

Since coming to Samford, Hannah said A Simple Seam has been gaining more and more buzz. She kicked off the year with about a dozen orders and said she hopes many more will come.


If you are interested in purchasing a pocket tee from A Simple Seam, here are the prices: $15 for a pocket tee, $10 to monogram, and $5 fee for any extra applique. You can order through her Facebook page and find other information on her blog at Also, keep your eyes peeled for the opening of her Etsy shop coming soon.

By Jenna Adams
Photographs by Jenna Adams

Birmingham’s hidden treasure: swimming hole

Cahaba River

It’s that time of year again- when summer is barely hanging on by a thread and the crisp breezes of fall are fast approaching. Before you run out of warm weather, you may want to check out one of Birmingham’s most exciting (and unknown) attractions. While the Cahaba River is a beautiful location to fish, swim and boat, if you don’t have access to these amenities, what are your options? Continue reading

Annual Greek Festival offers color, flavor

Greek Festival

Birmingham is known for being a major contributor to the beauty of the Southeast. From fried food to Southern hospitality, visitors often leave Birmingham with an appreciation of the history and comfort of a “small” big city. However, what many people have grown to love most about Birmingham is a fall event that captures the hearts of natives and visitors alike with zest and color. From September 28 – 30, people all across the Southeast came down to the 41st annual Greek Festival, eager for a plate full of chocolate baklava and Greek chicken and a night of Greek dancing and music.

The lively festival began in 1972 by the Ladies Philoptochos Society and has since become one of the most popular cultural events in Birmingham. Now hosted by the Holy Trinity-Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Cathedral on 19th street, the three-day event offers food and culture that might not be common to the south but is certainly adored. The event has a community-centered spirit to it, offering large round tables and long lines that give visitors and church members opportunity to mingle, meet, and relax together.

“The Greek Festival is an exciting and engaging way to learn more about Birmingham and its intriguing culture and history. The Greek population is quite extensive and influential in Birmingham society, and the fact is dually noted at the annual festival,” Birmingham-area native and local college student Courtney Bell said.

“Amazing food, entertaining dancers, and a tour of the chapel were enough to have me saying ‘OPA!’ It was not my first time to attend nor will it be my last.”

By Rebekah Robinson



(Un)adopted Coordinator, Amy Floyd, at partnering church in Uganda. Picture courtesy of Amy Floyd. 

There are over 153 million orphans across the globe, many without the potential for adoption. Whether it’s because of legal complication, or often times just because of age, these children are deemed “unadopted”. They remain in group-homes for their upbringing, and at age sixteen they are released from the facilities, and forced to begin providing for themselves. Without preparation or training in a specific skill set, many of these children wind up looking for support in the darkest of places, turning to lifestyles of sexual exploitation, drug abuse, and slavery.

(Un)adopted, is a ministry in Birmingham, Al, founded in 2008, that educates, nurtures, equips and loves orphans in eleven different countries across the globe. With a mission statement rooted in James 1:27, (Un)adopted reaches out to local Birmingham churches, and asks them to partner with an international church. They empower and equip these international churches to care for the orphans in their communities.

“We understand that there isn’t a potential home for every orphan, so we have to make sure we are meeting these children where they are”, said Amy Floyd, (Un)adopted Coordinator. By empowering these communities, they are creating a sustainable transition opportunity for children all over the world who are aging out of orphanages. Rather than being forced into human trafficking and lifestyles of drug abuse, orphans across the globe are pursuing dreams of being doctors, policemen, lawyers and teachers. Children are not only feeling empowered by their communities, but they are also beginning to understand the deep, abiding love of their Heavenly Father. Above all, (Un)adopted believes this truth sustains far past any physical support they can provide for these children.

While much of the work (Un)adopted does is overseas, there are many ways in which the Birmingham community can come alongside them in the support of orphaned children. Annually, (Un)adopted hosts Run for One, a 5K aimed to raise financial support and awareness for each of the eleven partnering churches overseas. (Un)adopted also offers opportunity for short term trips to many of the partnering countries. The best way to understand what the organization is doing overseas is to meet some of the children in which (Un)adopted has impacted.

Transformation is happening in communities all over the world, and the quality of life for orphans is increasing daily because of the support that organizations like (Un)adopted faithfully provide.

By Kadie Haase

Jeremy Moore: Up and Coming

The passion, piercing lyrics and haunting melodies coming from Jeremy Moore make Birmingham proud to claim him as a native. Moore, a recent Samford graduate, grew up in Birmingham as a worship pastor’s kid—a “PK” as some call it.

Moore led worship for church services and Disciple Now weekends for years, honing his skills on drums, guitar and piano. Although he never anticipated a solo career, Moore went to Samford for classical music training to serve as a basis for his musicianship. Moore believes, “If you don’t know where you come from musically, you don’t know where you can go musically.”

With an ever-developing style that delights the ears, Moore’s music ranges from rock to blues, yet his lyrics primarily revolve around relationships. “I want people listening to my music to have something they can fall back on to that connects to their emotion at that moment and helps them realize either a greater truth or a deeper meaning. If someone listens to one of my breakup song after a break up, I see that as the highest compliment.”

jeremy! jeremy1! jeremy2!

The main priority in Moore’s life is his faith. As the Music Associate at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, he is able to use his musical gifts on a weekly basis. Moore experiences the tension between the Christian and secular music industry as many others do, however, Moore thinks that faith and music are intended to intertwine. “I think they can play a vital part in the struggle and in the content you write about. You’re asking hard questions but at the end of the day you come back to the realization that God is sovereign and He’s always going to be something you can rely on no matter what.”

Jeremy Moore is an aspiring Birmingham-renowned musician. After releasing his Perfect Mold EP in May 2013, Moore started to play at open mic nights and music competitions around Birmingham. He recently won Moonlight on the Mountain, which led to a radio spot on Birmingham Mountain Radio and the production of an upcoming EP with Higher Ground Studios.

You can download Moore’s Perfect Mold EP on iTunes or support him by “liking”

By Eleanor Stenner
Photography by Eleanor Stenner