What are you thankful for?

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(Martha Needham for The Cullman Tribune)

We recently asked leaders throughout Cullman County to share what they are grateful for this holiday season. The changemakers who serve the community with open hearts readily gave thoughtful and gracious responses. 

Cullman County Attorney Emily Johnston 

“What I am thankful for…Everything.  It starts when I open my eyes and have another day. Without making this exceptionally long, I will name just a few. There are no words to express my gratitude for God’s grace, mercy and blessings. Also, the gift of family and friends. Finally, I am thankful for everyone who works to improve the lives of others in our community.” 

Cullman County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shane Barnette 

“I am thankful for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, my family and friends and our awesome school system.” 

The Link of Cullman County Executive Director Melissa Betts 

“I’m thankful for so much. My family- that they are healthy and living their best life and that they love me. I’m thankful for the ability to work at an amazing organization, The Link. I’m thankful to live in a country where we are free.  I’m thankful that God loves me and gives me an opportunity to love others.” 

Executive Assistant to the Mayor, City of Cullman Leanne West 

“I’m thankful for a lot of things, but I guess at the top my list (below my faith in the Lord) would be my family. I am grateful for the time I had and the good memories I made with family members who are now gone and I’m grateful that he has seen fit to leave me here long enough to be a wife, a mother and a NanAnn. It’s a fun life!” 

Cullman County Commission Chairman Jeff Clemons 

“I’m always thankful to serve the citizens of Cullman County.” 

City of Hanceville Industrial Development Board’s Nolan Bradford 

“For my parents who taught me proper values and work ethics.” 

Cullman Regional Airport General Manager Ben Harrison 

“A supportive board who works with us, along with a city and county who help us achieve goals.”  

Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry 

“When I think of gratitude, first and foremost I think of salvation. I am eternally grateful for our Lord and Savior who sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to save us all. Secondly, I am so grateful for the love I have for my wonderful wife and my children. They are my anchor and my reason for being the man I am. Lastly, I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the citizens of Cullman County and the men and women at the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office. I get to be the sheriff in the greatest county in the state of Alabama, and for that I will always be grateful.”  

Wallace State Community College President Dr. Vicki Karolewics 

“I am thankful most of all for my faith and my family, but also food on my table and a roof over my head, the love of friends and the beauty of the world God has provided for us.” 

Cullman County Commission on Aging Director Stephanie Lawson  

“There’s so much that I’m truly thankful for! I’m so very thankful to have been raised by parents in which love and compassion was given. I contribute this as to why I have a heart to help others!” 

Cullman County Extension Coordinator Kira Sims 

“I’m thankful this season for my family, who show me grace when I deserve it the least, and my relationship with Christ, who carried my sin and shame that I might have life eternally.”  

Flourish of Cullman Executive Director Melissa Dew 

“I am thankful for the amazing individuals we served in our community. Seeing each of them overcome so much to set goals and see them meet those goals. I am thankful for the smiles on their faces and the pure joy they have when they get a job or their first car or apartment. I am thankful for the amazing team at Flourish that work tirelessly to see individuals get the support they need to be successful in our community. I am thankful for our community that supports Flourish’s vision. Last, but not least, I am so thankful for my family. Without them, I could not do what I do.”  

Friends of the Public Libraries of Cullman County President Tanya Allcorn 

“I’m the most thankful for the blessings that I’ve received through my children, family and supportive friends. We are so fortunate to live in a wonderful community that places value on our children, families and educational needs. My heart is full of gratitude.”   

Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism’s Brian Kirk 

“There are so many things. I’m grateful of my recovery, my church, my work and especially my wife and family.” 

City of Cullman Planning Commission’s Michael Sullins 

“I’m grateful for my family and friends and that I live in my favorite city in the world.” 

City of Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs 

“Looking back on this past year, there’s a lot to be thankful for.  From the perspective of Mayor, I am thankful of all the opportunities that Cullman has been presented with and how, as a whole, we have taken on these opportunities with a consistent vision of the future. I am thankful for the great people of this community and the hard-working, blue-collar mentality that is reflected state wide.  I am also grateful for all the hardworking men and women of the city who bring a proactive approach to their jobs each day to allow Cullman the opportunity to continue to be a great place to raise a family as we progress.  We owe a lot of thanks to the foundations that this community was built on and continues to thrive under no matter what opportunities come our way- faith, integrity, compassion and humility. 

“This time is also a point of reflection on the relationships we have been blessed with.  Just this past year, we lost Mayor Don Green and Councilman Coach Andy Page.  In this respect, I am abundantly thankful for my time as a member of the Council under Mayor Green’s leadership and my time of working alongside Coach Page during his tenure on the Council- I am thankful men like these, full of life and personality, chose to serve their community.  Life is about relationships; it is not about our individual accomplishments, and it’s important we always remember that when counting our blessings.   

“Personally, this year also provided me the blessing of becoming a grandparent to a healthy baby boy, Lincoln. I am so thankful for my wife, Connie, who has relished her new role as a grandmother.  God blessed me with a wonderful son and daughter-in-law, Tyler and Jen, who are great parents, and for that, I am very proud of them.  I also have a strong sense of gratitude in the joy that my daughter Hannah brings to everyone she encounters daily. She is a constant reminder to me that a smile and a hug can bring more joy to people than anything materialistic. I am not sure what I did to deserve all these wonderful blessings, but I thank the Good Lord daily for letting me be a small part of them- there’s nothing like family, nothing like watching your family grow up and become servants of our Lord.  My prayer is that God never lets me lose sight of the ‘big picture’ in life and that I can continue to serve as he leads me.”