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.

 

 

 

July 31, 2017
Thomaston became student's family over summer
Thomaston became student's family over summer

The town of Thomaston’s slogan on the sign at the city hall reads: “Where a small town is like a family.” During my time here, I have found this to be true. When I first visited Thomaston last spring, I was surprised by how welcomed I was. I learned quickly that the people of Thomaston have a deep love for Thomaston and love to talk about their home.

By Magnolia Wilson
July 31, 2017
Thank you, Elba!
Thank you, Elba!

The saying “time flies when you’re having fun” describes my summer in Elba as a Living Democracy student perfectly.  It seems like just yesterday I was moving into the Chapman home and attending my first event here, sixth grade graduation. Since then, I have met people and experienced things that I never could have imagined.

By Emily Vick
July 31, 2017
Adventures in West Alabama
Adventures in West Alabama

One of the many highlights of my Living Democracy summer in Thomaston are the road trips that gave me an opportunity to learn about and experience West Alabama. I grew up in Northeast Alabama and had never really visited much of this region. I loved learning about many new places in Alabama’s Black Belt.

By Magnolia Wilson
July 19, 2017
Learning about volunteer firefighters sparks adventure
Learning about volunteer firefighters sparks adventure

I never imagined that I would be behind the steering wheel of a firetruck, but I got the chance to not only ride in but drive a firetruck this summer. I also learned about the amazing work of the Thomaston Volunteer Fire Department. Sixteen volunteers give up their time to train and respond to emergencies and fires.

By Magnolia Wilson
July 18, 2017
Take a book, leave a book
Take a book, leave a book

The Elba community now has three locations to swap books. Books for all ages can be found in the Book Swap boxes at Tiger Town Park, Marrow Village and Kendrick Apartments. Simply take a book and leave a book. Laurie Chapman, executive director of Restoration154, worked with me to bring the book swap idea to Elba this summer.

By Emily Vick

By Ashby Henry
Last Updated: September 11, 2022