The hokey pokey, storytime and fundraising are a few ways The Bell Center in Homewood benefits from Vulcan Materials volunteers

The Bell Center Vulcan Materials
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The Bell Center Vulcan Materials
Vulcan Materials Company Cindy Huerkamp and Joe Lawhorn with The Bell Center 2 year old William Gunn. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.

About 4 years ago, Joe Lawhorn, a senior accountant at Vulcan Materials Company was asked to fill in and volunteer one day for his manager at The Bell Center, the highly acclaimed children’s early intervention program in Homewood.

The Bell Center, which was founded locally by Betty Bell, 24 years ago through the Service Guild and Trinity United Methodist Church, is dedicated to maximizing the potential of children from birth to three years of age, who are at risk for developmental delay.

That one day, subbing in for his boss, changed Lawhorn’s life.

“From that day forward I knew I wanted to jump in and be apart of the team (Vulcan’s volunteer team),” said Lawhorn.  “When you work in the corporate environment, there is nothing like coming to The Bell Center and helping out with a child, doing the hokey pokey, songtime, storytime, getting a break from reality for a second, enjoying yourself.  I feel, I’m having as much fun as they are. It really has been a gratifying experience for me.”

8 years of teamwork
Vulcan Material Company
Vulcan Materials Joe Lawhorn, The Bell Center’s founder, Betty Bell and Vulcan Materials Cindy Huerkamp. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.

For 8 years, Vulcan has organized a volunteer team at The Bell Center. Consisting of about 8 or 9 employees, Vulcan volunteers work daily at The Bell Center developing a relationship with a child they are designated to work with for the entire year. As a team, they work together, share notes with each other back at the office and monitor the child’s progress. The team’s entire focus is on the child.

Touching hearts

Cindy Huerkamp, a Railroad sales representative at Vulcan describes how The Bell Center touched her heart.

“Six years ago someone mentioned to me that Vulcan supported the Bell Center and that they allow us to go several times a year to volunteer. I really didn’t know what to expect. When I came in and met these children and saw what they do for these children, it just touched my heart and I want to be a part of it everytime I come.”

Volunteers crucial to The Bell Center’s work
The Bell Center classrooms. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now.

The Bell Center serves about 100 children a year, according to their Executive Director Jeannie Colquett. The children who come to The Bell Center have a wide range of needs, including Downs syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and rare genetic disorders. They also serve children that are considered at risk for developmental delay as a result of premature birth.

“Groups like Vulcan are extremely important to the Bell Center,” added Colquett. The way we provide our services to children requires us to have a lot volunteers, lot of hands-on work in the classroom. We couldn’t do what we do, and the way we do it, unless we have those volunteer hands. Folks like Vulcan who come in and provide that time with the children, that is absolutely crucial to our providing the level of service that we do.”

Tailgate Challenge and BellRunners
Tailgater Challenge. Photo courtesy of The Bell Center

In addition to the hands-on work, Vulcan employees support two annual fundraisers at The Bell Center: the Mercedes Marathon BellRunners and The Tailgate Challenge.

“Welcome to the great state of Alabama where everybody is nuts about their football,” stated Lawhorn.

One of the most original events in the Birmingham area, a week before the college football season opens, The Bell Center gives fans a chance to get back into the swing of tailgating with a food competition and an opportunity to pull their favorite team’s gear out of storage.

Purchase your The Bell Center Tailgate Challenge tickets – HERE.
Volunteers needed
Vulcan Materials Company
2017 – 2018 Bell Center Vulcan Materials volunteer team. Left to Right: Joe Lawhorn, Rick Johnson, Lindsay Dozier, Sheryl Mahaffey, Laura Randle, Susie Lenahan, Cindy Huerkamp. Photo courtesy of Vulcan Materials Company.

Colquett added, “At The Bell Center we have a lot of needs. We always need volunteers, people who will come it and work with the kids. We need volunteers for the events that we have, the Tailgate Challenge or running the Mercedes Marathon as a BellRunner (Vulcan had 13 participants last year). Donations are always great as well. There are a lot of ways people can get involved at The Bell Center.”

“My babies and family”

Betty Bell, The founder of The Bell Center sums up the passion for The Bell Center.

“It’s my life, truly my life, these are my babies and family.”

Whether it be doing the “hokey pokey” with a child or fundraising for The Bell Center, Vulcan is proud to be part of The Bell Center’s family.

Join the cause.

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Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.