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New Convert community dedicates storm shelter

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

Chilton County’s newest storm shelter in the New Convert community in Maplesville had already been a crucial safe spot in inclement weather at least four times before a ceremony could be held on May 21 to mark its completion.

New Convert leaders, Chilton County Commissioners and the Industrial Development Authority led a “Blessing of the Shelter.”

IDA Executive Director Whitney Barlow explained that she had wanted to do something different from a traditional ribbon cutting, and thought it “more appropriate … to have the reverend come and bless the storm shelter and bless the community, not just New Convert, but Chilton County.”

She said all of the storm shelters in the county are important in saving lives.

“Each time these storms come through Chilton County and every life that is spared, that is a blessing that God gives to us,” Barlow said.

The Rev. Curtis McCary said a blessing and a prayer at the ceremony.

“We were patient a long time, but the Bible teaches us that patience has a more perfect work, when you wait on something, the Bible teaches us that something that is worth having is worth waiting for,” McCary said. “… We have assembled here today to dedicate this storm shelter that will be used for the purpose of safe haven. I want you to know that this is going to be a safe haven and it is going to be dedicated to God for the people of this community.”

In his prayer, he thanked God for those who made the shelter possible and for blessing on the shelter to be a safe place.

Barlow said the New Convert community had several champions for the project, but Terry Wilson “was persistent, and in the middle of COVID, we got this done.”

Wilson expressed his thanks that the storm shelter was finally complete, especially in light of several severe storms that have come through the area.

“It is an open door to everyone, not just this community, but anyone that wants to come to the shelter,” Wilson said.

Similar in look to other storm shelters in the county, the New Convert storm shelter can house 100 people and is equipped with benches and a bathroom.

The shelter was close to capacity during a tornado and severe storms that came through the western portion of the county earlier this year.

Construction of the shelter was made possible through funding from Cawaco Resource Conservation and Development Council, and the Holle Family Foundation. The Chilton County Commission covered the remaining amount.

The community has been asking the Chilton County Commission for a storm shelter since 2013.

“Terry Wilson, who may be the most persistent person that I have ever met, he has regularly, if not monthly come to the Commission, asking us not to forget this community and how badly there was a storm shelter needed,” Commission Chair Joseph Parnell said.

The Commission said that when a way to fund the project was found, it would be pursued.

When Parnell found out from a FEMA representative about possible funding options, the Commission asked Barlow and the IDA to do what they could to secure it.

“This is something that the County Commission is very proud of,” Parnell said.

Rep. Van Smith, who helped the Commission look for funding, was at one of the Commission meetings about two years ago when New Convert leaders asked again for a storm shelter.

“I was certainly impressed by your leadership,” Smith said to the New Convert residents. “They came with a true need, but they came in a very respectful manner. If I had to use one word to describe that leadership, that is patient. They have been patient for a long time.”

The storm shelter is located at 861 County Road 380 in Maplesville, next to New Convert Baptist Church.