Category: Non-Profit Spotlight

Guest Post: WellStone Emergency Services Director of Development, Karen Petersen, CFRE

It’s about time: “ER” for mental healthcare is finally coming to Madison County

You go to the emergency department for a broken bone or heart attack. But where can you and your loved ones go for emergencies involving mental health? For years, there were only two choices in Madison County: The ER or jail. Fortunately, a third, more effective and appropriate option is coming to the Rocket City.  

WellStone, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is building North Alabama’s first crisis intervention center. The 25,000 sq. ft. facility, which will be operated by WellStone Emergency Services, or WES, is scheduled to be completed in June. It’s on WellStone’s main campus on the Parkway near Torch’s Freedom Center. Experts say the 24/7 stand-alone psychiatric center will be a game-changer for mental healthcare in the Rocket City. The timing couldn’t be better.

After all, more people than ever are affected by mental illness and substance abuse. Fallout from COVID-related conditions have been detrimental to our collective mental health. It’s getting better, but statistics show that at one point, more than 40 percent of American adults reported symptoms consistent with anxiety or depression. Additionally, reports of substance abuse spiked, and overdose deaths surged to more than 100,000 in 2021.

Since the pandemic began, we, as a society, have also been hearing more about mental health crises.  A mental health crisis is defined as “A situation in which a person’s behavior puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others and/or prevents them from being able to care for themselves or function effectively in the community.” A mental health crisis could involve several situations, including (but not limited to) suicidal ideation, psychotic episodes or substance abuse.

When WES opens its new facility, those in crisis will finally receive the compassionate mental healthcare they need with the dignity they deserve. When they leave, it won’t be the end, but the beginning, of their recovery journeys. Some will be referred to other programs and services within WellStone, such as therapy, medical regimens, group homes, support groups or Intensive Outpatient (IOP) treatment for alcohol or drug addiction, clinically referred to as substance use disorder (SUD). We also work with community partners, linking clients to other community agencies and organizations that can assist with sustained recovery plans.

WES won’t just change the level of care for clients in crisis. Currently operating in a limited capacity at a temporary location, WES is already making a difference for law enforcement. When police are called to a mental health crisis, they typically spend hours with that individual, admitting them to the hospital or booking them in jail. Thanks to its partnership with WellStone, officers can bring a person in crisis to WES and be back patrolling our street in about 15 minutes.

“If it is a mental health crisis, there should be a mental health response,” said Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray. “By building a relationship with WellStone and our other community partners, we have been able to decrease the number of repeat encounters with law enforcement for people experiencing a mental health crisis. This partnership has not only served to increase safety for these individuals and our officers but has diverted those in need of appropriate behavioral health services away from the criminal justice system.”

The diversion center will also alleviate the burden of ER staff. An estimated 8,000 people wind up at Huntsville Hospital every year due to mental health crises. Unless there is an accompanying physical emergency, mental healthcare clients will go to WES, not the ER.

This facility has been in the works for several years, after the Alabama Department of Mental Health announced the state had a significant gap in its continuum of care. Those in crisis were slipping through the cracks.

In October 2020, Governor Kay Ivey announced that WellStone would be one of three agencies to operate mental healthcare crisis centers in Alabama. The state awarded WellStone $3m for construction of the new facility. Madison City, Madison County and Huntsville are generously contributing as well. Even so, WellStone remains $5m short of the $10m costs associated with this enormous construction project.

That’s why WellStone is launching a capital campaign and inviting North Alabamians to invest in this initiative. Community members are invited to “Be the Rock,” and help “build a foundation of community, compassion and connection for those in mental health crisis.”

As we roll out this campaign and prepare to open WES’s new facility, we hope people will open their minds to what it means to be in a mental health crisis. Additionally, we hope they also open their hearts, extending kindness to those whose pain, though harder to recognize and even comprehend, is often just as excruciating. Sometimes even more so.

If you are interested in learning more about WES or WellStone’s other mental health programs and services, please visit our website. For information about our “Be the Rock” campaign, including ways to support, click here or contact Karen Petersen at You can also like stay updated by liking WellStone’s Facebook page.

Record Donations During Longview’s Huntsville Open House

We held our annual Open House event at our Huntsville office on Tuesday, October 22nd. Once again, we partnered with the Food Bank of North Alabama to collect non-perishable items.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who came out and donated! We collected 357 lbs., a record amount of goods. We truly appreciate your willingness to give. Thank you for spending some time with us!

Guest Post: Planned Giving with Food Bank of North Alabama Development Director, Bobby Bozeman

Considering where you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you already have a pretty good idea of why planning gifts to non-profits, whether from your retirement plan or a bequeath from your will or life insurance policy, is good for you. There are, of course, the great tax reasons, and they are incredibly flexible, but it’s also many people’s only opportunity to leave their charities of choice with that major gift they’ve always wanted to give but haven’t been able to.

A planned gift also allows donors to create a legacy. It doesn’t just leave a lasting mark on the charity or non-profit you choose to give to, but it also creates a lasting impact on your community, leaving the world a little better than what you inherited. 

And on our end of things, planned giving is extremely important as well. Over the rest of 2019 and through 2020, the Food Bank of North Alabama will be putting forth a campaign to inform our supporters about planned giving options as well as creating a society to honor those who choose to consider the Food Bank in their planned gifts.

We’re wanting to make this push with our current supporters and with new potential ones because planned giving provides a sturdy foundation of long-term support. While it’s tempting for me as development director to focus on gifts that come in right away and make an immediate impact, I want to make sure we have long-term stability. Because there are so many agencies — over 260 soup kitchens, food pantries, churches, women’s shelters, halfway homes, child backpack programs, senior feeding programs and more — across North Alabama that depend on us for food, it’s so important that we are here for as long as people are hungry. Planned giving allows us to better navigate any unforeseen problems that might be awaiting us on the horizon.

The Food Bank of North Alabama was honored to be featured in this blog in 2016, but I wanted to share a few ways we’ve grown since then. Many of our programs have changed, most morphed into new programs with new names as new staff members take hold of them.

But the biggest change since 2016 is how much food we’ve been able to provide the people of the 11 counties in North Alabama that we serve. Then we supplied nearly seven million pounds of food to over 200 charitable feeding programs. This year, we are on track to supply 10 million pounds of food to over 260 charitable programs. It’s all because people who choose to support us. 

If you’d like more information about the Food Bank of North Alabama, please visit, and for more information about planned giving or to let us know you’ve made a planned gift to the Food Bank, email Bobby Bozeman at

Sonny Hereford Cheese Distribution

ELM Foundation’s Little Miracle’s Luncheon

Longview team members attended the ELM Foundation’s Little Miracles Luncheon on Thursday, September 5th, 2019 at the Jackson Center. They keynote speaker was Captain Mike Rose. From their website:

Huntsville resident, Capt. Mike Rose, served as a Special Forces Medic with the Army’s 5th Special Forces Group during the Vietnam War. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his acts of bravery and selflessness as he risked his own life to save the lives of others while facing a well-armed and numerically superior hostile force deep in enemy territory. Captain Rose faced enemy fire numerous times to tend to the wounds of his comrades, estimated to be half of the company’s personnel. His actions serve as an example of grit, perseverance, and selfless service–values central to the work of the ELM Foundation.

ELM stands for Expect Little Miracles. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization based in Huntsville, Alabama. They have awarded over $1,000,000 to over 300 participants since being founded in 2012. They “work with individuals and families who are doing the best they can and who need a ‘little miracle’ to help them achieve success. We work with the participant to establish long term goals using strengths, resources, and assets to fill gaps between problems and solutions.” To learn more about the ELM Foundation, visit them online at While there, you can read about success stories, learn about their mission, find ways to give, and learn more about their grant process.

Lauren, Jonathan, Chad, Wes, Jessica & Andrew

Guest Post: A Look into Conservation Easements with Land Trust of North Alabama Executive Director, Marie Bostick

Today’s guest post is by Marie Bostick, Executive Director of Land Trust of North Alabama.

Many different strategies may be employed to conserve land including, donations, bargain sales, bequests and conservation easements.  Each has its own benefits and constraints based on the goals of the parties involved in the transaction. This article will focus on the use of conservation easements.

A conservation easement (CE) is a land conveyance from a private land owner to either a governmental entity or non-profit 501(c)3 Land Trust, which places restrictions on a property that has appropriate conservation values. The holder of the conservation easement (either the Land Trust or governmental entity) is responsible for monitoring the property in perpetuity to make sure the easement provisions are not violated.  The easement itself is negotiated between the parties to meet specific conservation goals and allow the land owner the continued to use of the property, so long as the uses don’t conflict with the conservation goals.  A key benefit to a conservation easement is the land owner’s ability to take a federal tax deduction for the value of the donation.  However, in order to take advantage of these tax benefits, the land owner must comply with the IRS Code requirements.

IRS Code 170 (a) and (h) provide the requirements that must be followed to execute a “qualified” conservation easement. One of these requirements is that a “qualified” entity – such as the Land Trust of North Alabama – must hold the easement. Another requirement, as mentioned above, is that the easement be held in perpetuity. For example, the restrictions that are placed on the property through the CE must be in the recorded document and the Land Trust must monitor and enforce those restrictions forever. In the event the fee interest in the land is sold to another party, the conservation easement will run with the land and the restrictions remain in effect. In order to assist the entity that is holding the easement to perform its enforcement obligation, a stewardship and defense donation is often included as a part of the overall transaction. Of course, a key requirement is that the property serves a valid conservation purpose, and the IRS Code list four conservation values that are used to make this determination.  Most land trusts also have criteria for conservation properties which must be met. While there is often overlap between these conservation values, the land owner and conservation easement holder must work together in determining if the conservation easement is appropriate for both parties. Lastly, the CE must be substantiated, which is typically done through a qualified appraisal and appraiser and documented by way of a Form 8283.

While completing a Conservation Easement to the standards of the IRS and the easement holder is a meticulous and detailed process, a landowner can realize substantial federal tax benefits.  Currently, a landowner can deduct the value of the conservation easement donation up to 50% of their annual income and carry forward any remaining donation value for period of up to 15 years.  Qualified ranchers and farmers are eligible for greater tax incentives, with the ability to deduct the value of their donation up to 100% of their annual income, with a carry forward period of 15 years.

Executing a conservation easement is a complicated process and the benefits vary with each person’s unique situation. Anyone considering a conservation easement should consult with their own tax professional to determine whether it is a viable option for them.

For information about Land Trust of North Alabama and working with them to protect your land, visit

Community Spotlight: The Liberty Learning Foundation

Sometimes, it’s difficult not be consumed by negative newspaper articles or cable news shows that leave you frazzled and questioning the direction of our nation. Luckily, our school kids, with the help of the Liberty Learning Foundation, are on their way and ready to show us what it means to be a good citizen. 

The Liberty Learning Foundation (LLF), a nonprofit and nonpartisan 501(c)(3), is dedicated to teaching, inspiring, and empowering school children to know about civics, history, good character, community engagement, financial responsibility, and career readiness. These important subjects are often cut by school systems eager to focus on teach-to-test subjects like science and math. Liberty is built on the belief that science and math alone cannot continue our nation’s progress, and that a curriculum that includes lessons about the history of our nation and what it means to be a good citizen add to the overall well being of students.

The mission for the Liberty Learning Foundation began with a simple question: How can schools, community leaders, and businesses work together to ensure out next generation understands its important role in America’s future? The answer is a ten-week Super Citizen program that includes a big kick off with an appearance by Libby Liberty, a professionally-developed curriculum, project-based learning, and an ending celebration that shows children what they’re capable of when they work together. 

I recently had the great opportunity to attend the Liberty Learning Foundation Kick-Off Event for Huntsville City Second Graders (and get my picture with Libby Liberty). It was such a fun and unique event that served as a pep rally for the ten-week educational program. The children left excited about the opportunity to learn more about history and servant leadership. 

Lady Liberty and Jessica Smith

Liberty Learning Foundation currently serves over 40,000 students in 270 schools and communities around Alabama, and they want to grow! They primarily rely on private donations to sustain and grow the program because they don’t want to burden school systems with an unfunded program.

Let us know if you are interested learning more about Liberty Learning Foundation or attending one of their local kick-off programs with area schools. If you are a believer in the importance of teaching history, civics and good citizenship to children, it is an event I think you’ll enjoy. Our friend, Dr. John Kvach, Vice President of Liberty Learning Foundation, has offered personal invitations and would be happy to speak with you more on how the Liberty Learning Foundation is creating the “next generation of great Americans”.    

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center

I had the good fortune of serving in Leadership Huntsville/Madison County’s Connect Class 19 with Melissa Reynolds, Executive Director of Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. I saw and felt Melissa’s passion around her work with Merrimack Hall, and I have had the joy of seeing the teams of entertainers from Merrimack perform at a number of events around town. They never fail to put a smile on my face and fill the house will applause.

Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization located in the historic Merrimack Mill Village neighborhood of Huntsville, Alabama. Merrimack offers arts education and social and cultural opportunities to children, teens, and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Debra and Alan Jenkins purchased Merrimack Hall in May 2006 and established the organization as a 501©(3) nonprofit. After nearly $2.5 million in renovations donated personally by the Jenkins family, Merrimack Hall opened to the public in 2007. The facility is now home to a 300-seat performance hall, 3,000 square foot dance studio, and community spaces. Merrimack Hall utilizes these spaces as a venue for socialization and activities for the individuals enrolled in their outreach programs.

Merrimack Hall is home to The Happy Headquarters. The Happy Headquarters has three distinct components:

  • Happy HeARTs – A year-round after-school program of arts education that includes classes in dance, creative movement, choir, yoga, fitness, creative writing and multi-media visual arts
  • Happy Days – A day program for adults 18+ that is focused on arts-related activities, music therapy and life skills
  • Happy Camp – A series of half-day summer camps.

Merrimack Hall serves hundreds of children and adults with special needs diagnoses such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and a host of other conditions. They believe everyone deserves the right to participate in the arts regardless of their disabilities. Their Happy team can be found performing all over the city of Huntsville. Visit the Events section of their Facebook page for where you can find them next.

Merrimack Hall relies on the support of over 800 volunteers each year.  Volunteer coaches work with the students in their Johnny Stallings Arts Program (JSAP) to learn music, art, and dance.  More importantly, they serve as mentors and friends to their partners with special needs.  In each program component of JSAP, they encourage their volunteers to interact with students in a meaningful way to create lasting friendships.

For more information, visit them on the web at, by calling (256) 534-6455, or by e-mail at

2017 HudsonAlpha Foundation Tie the Ribbons

Since 2015, Longview has proudly served as a sponsor for the HudsonAlpha Foundation’s annual Tie the Ribbons event. This year’s event was held on Wednesday, November 8th in the Von Braun Center North Hall. The official press release can be found here.

Tie the Ribbons kicked off Information is Power, a collaboration with HudsonAlpha and Kailos Genetics, in 2015 with a year-long genetic cancer risk testing initiative. The screening, which is a test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer, was free for 30-year-old women and was available for anyone age 19 and older living in Madison, Limestone, Marshall, Jackson, and Morgan counties for a reduced price. Over 1400 people participated in the initiative and around 40 people discovered they had an increased risk of cancer.

In 2016, Phase II was announced. Redstone Federal Credit Union sponsored an expansion of the Information is Power initiative which ran through October 28, 2017. During that time, all women AND men in the aforementioned five counties who are 30 years of age could receive the genetic test at no charge! Anyone age 19 or older can also complete the test for $129.

Now, in 2017, Information is Power has been expanded again, thanks to a generous donation from Redstone Federal Credit Union. Free genetic cancer risk testing is now available to women and men, age 28 to 32 in Madison, Limestone, Jackson, Marshall, and Morgan Counties. The screening not only tests for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but for almost two dozen genes linked to breast, ovarian, prostate, and colorectal cancers.

For information about how to order your test, visit Kailos Genetics’ website.

In this video, you’ll meet some of the scientists working to find the next major cancer discovery and hear personal experiences from individuals about their battle.

From their website, here’s a brief synopsis about HudsonAlpha:

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to innovating in the field of genomic technology and sciences across a spectrum of biological challenges. Opened in 2008, its mission is four-fold: sparking scientific discoveries that can impact human health and well-being; bringing genomic medicine into clinical care; fostering life sciences entrepreneurship and business growth; and encouraging the creation of a genomics-literate workforce and society. The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. Designed to be a hothouse of biotech economic development, HudsonAlpha’s state-of-the-art facilities co-locate nonprofit scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. The relationships formed on the HudsonAlpha campus encourage collaborations that produce advances in medicine and agriculture. HudsonAlpha has become a national and international leader in genetics and genomics research and biotech education, and includes more than 30 diverse biotech companies on campus. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit

JJ, Debbie, Whitney, Jessica, Lauren, and Andrew were in attendance.

Hope Grows Garden

The Hope Grows Garden is located in McMillian Park on the campus of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. It opened in July 2017. From their website:

This July, the “Hope Grows Garden: Breast and Ovarian Cancer” will blossom on the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology campus. The garden was created to pay tribute to those who are battling or have battled breast and ovarian cancers as well as those who are working diligently to find new discoveries for these diseases. Located in McMillian Park inside a bend on the Double Helix path, the garden will feature colorful blooms and provide a space to relax and reflect.

The Hope Grows Garden includes a special memory area to recognize Dr. Kimberly Strong’s contributions in the fields of genetics and genomics, and her valiant struggle with breast cancer. Kim died in March 2017. Donations can be made in her memory for this special area.

The garden will also feature a ribbon pathway where you can purchase a paver to recognize and remember your mother, sister, wife, daughter, aunt, friends, colleague or neighbor with a special tribute.

For information about the Hope Grows Garden or to purchase pavers on the ribbon pathway please visit Proceeds from the Hope Grows Garden will benefit HudsonAlpha’s initiatives to improve health and well-being through the area of greatest need fund.

We were fortunate enough to hear Dr. Kimberly Strong speak at the annual Tie the Ribbons event, and her story left a lasting impression on many of us. Longview is proud to play a small part in honoring Dr. Strong and all who continue to fight.

2017 Kids to Love’s Denim & Diamonds

Longview proudly served as the Presenting Sponsor for Kids to Love’s inaugural Denim & Diamonds event held on Saturday, April 29th, 2017. 

The Denim & Diamonds event was held as a fundraiser and open house for Davidson Farms, a 10,000 sq.ft. home on 10 acres in Madison County, Alabama. The home, a gift from Dr. Dorothy Davidson, will serve as “A Home for Girls” for tween and teen girls in foster care. Guests were treated to a tour of the newly-remodeled home, garden-to-table dinner on the grounds, and entertainment by The Michaels. With over 200 in attendance, the event raised over $30,000 through tickets, donations, and a live auction.

How To Give or Support Kids to Love

Kids to Love is a 501(c)3 organization that has several opportunities to volunteer and give financially. In addition to the education programs listed on their website, they also need funding and volunteers for the following:

  • Bibles For Kids – An opportunity to buy a foster child a bible for $5.
  • Christmas For Kids – An annual drive for Christmas gifts for foster children. You can sponsor an entire wish list, donate individual items and money or volunteer to wrap presents.
  • Camp Hope Alabama – S weekend camp that serves to reunite foster siblings that have been separated and offer them a home-like environment with fun activities.
  • More than a Backpack – Sn annual school supply drive. Kids to Love sends out over 5,000 backpacks full of school supplies every year to students in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. There are opportunities to donate or host a drive.
  • Scholarships – Kids to Love honors students each year with scholarships, giving out 448 scholarships since 2005.
  • Davidson Farms – In addition to monetary donations, they are looking for donations of household furnishings, appliances, decorations, etc. There are also potential naming opportunities should you be interesting in sponsoring a room.
  • Legacy gifts – Kids to Love also works with donors on legacy gifts. If you are interested in giving through your will or another future donation, they are happy to discuss options with you.

How to Contact Them and Learn More

If you are passionate about helping children and are interested in learning more about Kids to Love, their programs or ways to volunteer or give, you can visit their website or on Facebook

Lauren, Jessica, Lee Marshall, & Whitney
Larry & Debbie West
Whitney & Lauren

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