Pilot Club celebrates completion of Pilot Light Home’s renovation, 100th birthday of Pilot Club charter board member Inez Ruehl

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CULLMAN, Ala. – The Pilot Club of Cullman hosted an open house Wednesday at its newly renovated Pilot Light Home. The service organization celebrated the completion of the home’s renovation as well as the 100th birthday of Pilot Club charter board member Inez Ruehl.  

Ruehl had a great time at the party and spoke about the Pilot Club of Cullman’s beginnings.

She said. “I haven’t been really active the past couple of years but we worked mighty hard to get all this started. Lorene Scott was one of those that if she saw a need, she helped. Cullman needed a home for children and they didn’t have enough places to put them. People wouldn’t take them so Lorene said that this was going to be our next thing.”

She continued, “Lorene, she was a real go-getter. We worked! Every night-every day we were out trying to get the money.” The home builder's association agreed to build the new home and many others pitched in to help complete the home. 

“They said, ‘all the windows won’t match’ and we said, well, we don’t care,” Ruehl recalled. “I think it has been a blessing and it was a pleasure just to work. Lorene liked to work. Boy, if there was something to do, she’d really dig it up. She wouldn’t let you say no.” 

Ruehl was presented with $100 from the Pilot Club members that they donated to the club in Ruehl’s honor. Board Chairperson Peggy Harris said, “Inez was very instrumental along with Lorene Scott in starting Christmas Love as well as getting this started. The Pilot Club was organized in 1982 and the Pilot Light Home was the first project. We needed a place so these kids didn’t have to be housed at the jail or wherever until they could be placed in a foster home. It was set up as an emergency shelter and at one time it was a little house near the middle school.” 

The Pilot Light Home was moved to a couple of locations before the Pilot Club decided they needed to build their own home that would be permanent. They were able to complete the home in 1996.

The Pilot Club is currently searching for house parents for the Pilot Light Home. They have used the past several months without house parents as an opportunity to repair and update the home. Harris said, “last year, we noticed the house had gotten in pretty bad shape.” The home can accommodate 6 children and foster parents. 

Many area businesses, churches and individuals donated their time, money, materials and furnishings to help resulting in a beautiful home that is both cheerful and special. New paint helped to brighten the home and a custom table was donated to make sure the family could all sit together comfortably. 

The pilot home has a master suite, a nursery that can easily be converted to a room for an older child, 4 additional bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms, an open living, dining and kitchen area, a laundry area and home office. The interior decor is warm, comfortable and full of gorgeous touches that create a home.

With the renovations complete, Harris said, “now we are needing house parents. We are looking for someone with the heart to look after 6 kids that are not theirs that came from troubled backgrounds. In today’s times, dealing with teenagers is difficult even if they are your own. It would be especially hard when they come from some of the backgrounds where they’ve been mistreated or not looked after properly.

Becoming a house parent is not a simple process. Smith explained that prospective house parents are required to complete an 11-week training program called Trauma Informed Parenting Solutions (TIPS). Each applicant must also pass a state and federal criminal background check, along with clearance through Alabama’s DHR central registry and that of any other state in which the applicant has lived.

Harris noted that the prospective house parents’ own children 14 and older who may live with them at the house must also undergo background checks.  Anyone 19 or older must be fingerprinted.

Harris provided The Tribune with the Pilot Light Home House Parents Job Description below: 

Role: You have many responsibilities to a number of individuals: the child placed in your home, the agency, The Pilot Light Board, the child’s biological family and your own family. 

Goal: The goal is to provide for the physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs of the children. 

Responsibilities to the Child: 

•    Provide a safe and comfortable home for the child to live in with a bed and place for his/her belonging. 

•    Provide for child’s basic physical and emotional needs. 

•    Provide for school attendance, monitor progress and note special needs and accomplishments. 

•    Provide appropriate clothing. See that the child is clean and well-groomed. 

•    Attend to medical and dental needs, including regular checkups as well as special needs. 

•    Provide recreational and enrichment activities that will promote the healthy development of the child. 

•    Provide love, care and supervision 24/7 for up to 6 foster children. 

•    Provide opportunity for children to be involved in church attendance and activities. 

•    To help and guide children through the grieving and adjustment process of removal from their families. 

Responsibilities to the Pilot Light Home Board: 

•    Must be certified as a Foster Parent with Department of Human Resources. 

•    Must comply with state regulations and agency policies and procedures. 

•    Must have read, understand and comply with the Pilot Light, Inc. policies and by-laws. 

•    Must keep the board informed of problems and progress of the child, including any injuries to the child. 

•    Must be available for meetings with the social worker and the board members. 

•    Must submit all requested documentation in a timely manner. 

•    Must keep the agency and Board informed of upcoming requests for changes in the household including pending additions to the family, notification of impending vacations, etc. 

•    Must provide prompt reporting of needed repairs and maintenance for home or van. 

Position- Salary/ Benefits: 

•    Modest Salary 

•    Workers compensation 

•    Home provided for family and foster children – LR, DR, Kit combination, office, playroom, laundry rm., 5 bedrooms, 3 full bathrooms, 1, ½ bath, extra-large double garage; fully furnished – furniture, appliances, kitchenware, cooking and eating utensils, dishware, and bed linens, towels, etc., on ½ acre or more lot. 

•    Groceries 

•    All utilities, insurance, phone, cable are provided. 

•    Van is provided for transportation; all gas, insurance and repairs are covered.

The job description concludes with a warning: “This job is not 9 to 5.  It’s your life. The children that you are taking care of can make it one of the most stressful jobs that you ever had.  You will take care of kids – abused, neglected – that come from broken homes, drug-abusing parents, that don’t usually want to be there.   At the same time, it can be one of the most rewarding jobs, when you can be successful in making lifelong positive impacts for many children.”

House parent/foster parent applications are available from: 

•    Alabama Department of Human Resources, 1220 St. Joseph St. NW, Cullman, AL  35055. Contact Callie Smith at 256-737-5300, or email callie.smith@dhr.alabama.gov 

•    United Way of Cullman County 256-739-2948, located in the Old Depot at 304 First Ave. NE, Cullman, AL 35055 

•    Pilot Light, Inc. Board of Directors Chairman Peggy Harris – gooderharris@gmail.com, 245-531-2525