Living Democracy

Ashby Henry discovers 'new home' in Camden

Less than a year ago, I did not know what the City of Camden was, I did not know anyone from Camden (except for the governor), and I could not have pointed it out on a map. Now, it is a place that I can call home. 

I visited Camden twice before I moved in for the summer of Living Democracy, and I quickly got the impression that the town was made up of good, kind, hardworking people. It is that and so much more. 

I have been welcomed as one of their own this summer, and I am so honored to have gotten to be a part of it, even for a little while. The people I met are smart, interesting, hardworking, genuine, and care deeply about their communities. 

Spending most of my time at Blackbelt Treasures, I got the privilege of getting to know the staff. 

I cannot thank my community partners, Sulynn Creswell and Kristin Law, enough. Their efforts to introduce me to the community, answer my questions, and suggestions on who to talk to were incredibly beneficial, and my internship would not have existed without them. 

My thanks also go to all those I interviewed, spoke to, or met. It was intimidating for me to move into a community I knew almost nothing about, without knowing anyone previously, but every step of the way I was greeted and welcomed by this community. I am so thankful for all those that I got to interview. I enjoyed the interactions I had and enjoyed getting to know new people. 

Those I spoke to may not have even realized the impact they made on me, simply my engaging in conversation or answering my many questions. 

Another person I must thank is Betty Anderson. I met Ms. Betty for the first time on my first visit to Camden last December. She took the time them to show my mother and I around her museum. Little did I know then the impact Ms. Betty and her museum would have on me. 

I chose to dedicate my project this summer and the proceeds received from it to Ms. Betty’s museum for an air conditioner. Ms. Betty has worked very hard over the years to accumulate, display, and maintain her Shoe Shoppe and Quilting Museum, though she is still without air conditioner. 

In observing how difficult the heat made it to comfortably maintain the museum and give tours, I decided this was a strong investment. The museum itself is full of local history, and a big lesson I learned this summer is how significant that history is. 

Personally, I had never considered West Alabama to be a historically and culturally significant part of the state. I knew very little about it. But constantly throughout the summer I learned that Wilcox County is such a treasure, as are the people there. Contributing to Ms. Betty’s museum was a small way for me to help preserve that history and beauty. 

I am so thankful for Ms. Betty. For her introducing me, allowing me to help her, and for becoming a friend. 

The investments you make are important, and I am so grateful I got the chance to know and to love Camden. Though I grew up only about an hour north of it, I learned about its differences and quirks, the challenges it faces, the people who live there, how they interact, and how they worship and how they live. 

Embarking on this summer I was very unsure of what it would bring. I am so grateful that it brought me a new place to call home.

 

 

 

August 6, 2018
Portis plans to carry Camp Hill lessons forward
Portis plans to carry Camp Hill lessons forward

When I first learned about the Living Democracy experience, I couldn’t think of a better way for me to spend the summer before I began graduate school this fall. Living Democracy put students in communities across Alabama to work with people and organizations. I am interested in pursuing a career that involves civic engagement and community development, and this was the perfect opportunity.

By Daphney Portis
July 31, 2018
Mount Sinai Church offers youth program
Mount Sinai Church offers youth program

This week I lived democracy by attending the Mount Sinai Church Youth Day program. Mount Sinai is the home church of many Camp Hill families I’ve met and grown to love over the course of my summer. I was happy to attend when a family extended an invitation for me to join their Sunday service.

By Daphney Portis
July 11, 2018
Improv Camp develops leadership skills
Improv Camp develops leadership skills

This week I lived democracy in Camp Hill by working with Camp Star’s Improv Camp, an all-guys camp focused on using art to develop leadership skills. Increasing the emotional inventory for campers was the goal for the week.  Campers, ten young men ages 15 to 19, attended from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday. 

By Daphney Portis
June 26, 2018
Janeisha Broome's determination leads to healthy change
Janeisha Broome's determination leads to healthy change

Many struggle to maintain healthy eating habits but staying healthy in rural communities is even more challenging. Camp Hill area resident Janeisha Broome decided to meet that challenge when her health declined. By cutting drinks, fried foods, and junk food from her diet, drinking primarily water, and walking three to four miles daily, Broome has lost 256 pounds over the past 18 months.

By Daphney Portis
July 3, 2018
Cowgirl Camp rounds up future leaders
Cowgirl Camp rounds up future leaders

This week I lived democracy in Camp Hill by working with the counselors of Camp Star. Camp Star is a grassroots organization that provides high quality youth programming in east Alabama. This week was Cowgirl Camp, a leadership development camp complete with horses. 

By Daphney Portis

By Ashby Henry
Last Updated: September 11, 2022