By June Mathews
When Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight heard Carrie Jones, executive director of Trussville’s Independence Place, speak about her organization at a Trussville Daybreak Rotary Club meeting a couple of years ago, he immediately knew he wanted to become involved in the cause.
As the longtime friend of a man with cerebral palsy and the nephew of a trisomy 21 uncle, the impulse came naturally to him. Knight has spent his life loving and appreciating the special needs people in his world, and he also wants to make life better for them.
“I have seen firsthand the struggles that families go through with special needs children and adults,” he said. “If I can do anything to help alleviate some of this burden, I am happy to do so.”
He initially found an opportunity for involvement with Independence Place in bowling, weekly getting together with the gang at a local alley to roll a few games and just hang out. And the program’s participants couldn’t be more delighted.
“They are such loving people, and it touches my heart to see the joy in their eyes when they get to go bowling,” he said. “They are very competitive, yet they cheer each other on when anybody makes a strike or spare.”
Then an opportunity to help Independence Place to the tune of $5,000 came about through Knight’s position on the county commission and its new Community Grant program for which each commissioner recommends worthy entities in his or her district.
“Independence Place was recommended by me to help finance activities or purchase supplies that help give these young adults opportunities that they may not have had otherwise,” he said.
Knight and his staff, said Jones, helped Independence Place prepare the paperwork needed for the grant committee’s review. The entity was eligible for the grant based on having non-profit status and serving a unique and diverse group of adults in a manner that offers opportunity for growth, acceptance and community involvement.
“Being a part of the group on a weekly basis, Commissioner Knight realized what a true non-profit we are and that we really rely on donations, sponsors, grants and volunteers to operate at full capacity,” said Jones, “and we truly appreciate all the assistance from him and his office in helping us obtain the grant.”
The day of the grant presentation was a banner day for the participants of Independence Place, as they all dressed in their Sunday best for a visit to the county commission. Two participants, Michael Elmore and Eric Best, spoke for the group, telling the commissioners what they love about Independence Place.
Everyone was later treated to a visit to a courtroom, a trip to the top of the courthouse for a view of the city, a tour of the largest fire station in Birmingham and lunch at Parish Seafood & Oyster House, all courtesy of their good friend, Joe.
They were all so very excited for the very special day,” said Debbie Little, Independence Place program director. “It was a great experience.”
And Knight thought so, too.
“They are very special to me, and I love each of them,” he said. “Their hugs are so genuine, and their hearts are pure. While most of us take many things in life for granted, they approach it with zeal.”
For more information about Independence Place and its upcoming fundraiser, Sounds of Summer, visit www.independenceplaceofalabama.org.