On March 25, the Cullman Times recognized seven local citizens as "Unsung Heroes" and another as a "Distinguished Citizen" for their all-too-often overlooked contributions to the community. Of those eight individuals, four are active members of Cullman First United Methodist Church. Their work in education, in helping those facing unexpected tragedies, and in working toward social justice embodies faithfulness to the gospel and to the vision of the North Alabama Conference. Here, in brief, are their stories.
Carol Griffin, Unsung Hero
Amanda Wimberly faced a grim future when her house caught fire, ruining much of what she owned, and all of her children’s clothes. Faced with the prospect of sending her children to school in clothes covered in ash and reeking of smoke, she considered dropping out of college to recover. Her math teacher at Wallace State Community College, however, had other ideas. Carol Griffin met her, offering alternatives to complete her coursework, gift cards for food, clothes, and entertainment for the kids, and a model of the example of Christ. Wimberly will be moving on to the University of Montevallo in the fall, thanks in no small part to the work and witness of Carol Griffin. Griffin has continued our long Methodist tradition of reacting to immediately needed short-term mission opportunities.
Berta Pylant and Richard Haggard, Unsung Heroes
For more than ten years, Berta Pylant and Richard Haggard have been ministering to the Hispanic community in Cullman County. Every morning, Haggard picks up thirteen children in a church bus and drives them to school, often after undergoing treatments for his own health issues and before going to work. Pylant acts as an advocate for members of the Hispanic community in a variety of settings. She helps in providing food, clothing, furniture, housing, and in meeting the vast number of needs that would otherwise go unmet. Along with the bus ministry, Pylant helps coordinate a tutoring program to help the children excel in school. Both Pylant and Haggard are working toward the social transformation so essential to our Methodist identity.
Jan Harris, Distinguished Citizen
Dr. Jan Harris has provided grounded Christian leadership throughout her time as superintendent of Cullman City Schools, creating an atmosphere of respect and support for both students and teachers. Her philosophy of balancing faith, work, and personal life provides an example for students, teachers, and parents for how to live faithfully. Her book The Principal’s Office: A Primer for Balanced Leadership spells out this philosophy and is being used by UAB’s education program to help develop more teachers who can effectively balance faith, work, and life. Dr. Harris has been working to empower a new generation of Christians for years by leading not only in the school system, but by leading within the local church. She and her husband Wholey have taught the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University course multiple times, helping teach financial responsibility. She is in high demand as a guest Sunday School teacher among younger adult classes.
Contributed by Rev. Peter von Herrmann