Annabelle Vestal: Sidewalk Advocate

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As a kindergartener, Annabelle Vestal asked the Mayor of Fairhope if a sidewalk could be built to connect her neighborhood to the city’s sidewalk system. “I wanted to walk to the pier and to my Opa’s house,” Vestal recalls. When the Mayor explained the process of city planning and budgeting, the response did not deter the 5-year-old—it gave her a plan of action.

Upon learning that her neighborhood falls under the county’s jurisdiction, Vestal met with the Baldwin County Commissioners to request a cost analysis for the .2-mile sidewalk that would connect Meadowbrook neighborhood to the sidewalk at the intersection of Gayfer Road Extension and Bishop Road. When she was told that it would cost $75,000 and that funding was not available, she began documenting traffic patterns and initiated a petition, garnering 65 signatures in support of the sidewalk.

Armed with research and citizen support, Vestal asked Fairhope to partner with the county to fund the project. The Mayor then suggested that she present her proposal to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board. Moved by the student’s confidence and passion, the board unanimously agreed to earmark funds in the 2016 budget. In 2017, after 5 years of hard work—which included the baking of lots of cookies for local officials—Vestal finally got her sidewalk. She was also the first recipient of the Baldwin County Trailblazer’s Giraffe Award—an award for individuals who stick their neck out to make a difference in their community.

Walking on the sidewalk almost daily to Fairhope Intermediate School, she remains an ambassador for the walkway and advocates for its upkeep. “I am proof that every voice, no matter how small, matters,” Vestal says. “Even kids can make big and little differences just by doing the things that make us, us.”

Loren Roman-Nunez: Leading Sustainability On and Off Campus

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As an undergraduate studying environmental biology and the president of EcoEagles at University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park campus in Long Beach, Loren Roman-Nunez is invested in sustainability. “As humans, we have an obligation to be the best stewards we can be, and this cannot be achieved by any one person—it takes many hands,” she says. “Getting involved with EcoEagles has taught me that there are many people out there who care, but they need a means to congregate and share ideas.”

EcoEagles is a student organization focused on outreach, community service and environmental stewardship to promote the social, economic and environmental tenants of sustainability. They collaborate with the school’s Office of Sustainability to promote the campus recycling initiative and encourage sustainable practices in day-to-day lives of students.

The group was awarded a grant last year to construct a community garden on campus to demonstrate how to grow your own food in an environmentally friendly manner. With vegetables, herbs and native flowers growing, the students are encouraged to help maintain the garden as well as provide input on what to grow.

EcoEagles fosters Roman-Nunez’s involvement in the community both on and off campus and has made strides in connecting the university with other community sustainability initiatives. The group partners with Mississippi State University Extension Services for their beach cleanups and they participate in the Pearl Riverkeeper’s Clean Sweep, using kayaks to collect trash from the river. In association with Plastic Free Gulf Coast, EcoEagles also promotes the Office of Sustainability’s efforts to move the campus away from single-use plastics.

Roman-Nunez says, “My hope is that future students will continue to engage with their peers and employers to push the limits on what we can do together to mitigate human impacts on the environment and make better choices in our daily lives.”

Chloe Duren: Leading Peaceful Activism

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Following the announcement of a national student-led march for tighter gun control earlier this year, Murphy High School student Chloe Duren, 16, organized Mobile’s March for Our Lives event. In addition to reserving Public Safety Memorial Park, creating publicity, enlisting speakers and carrying out other logistical tasks, she gave one of the most moving speeches of the day.

“I’ve practiced lockdowns and active shooter drills for as long as I can remember,” she said to the crowd of 500. “The first thing I think when I walk into a room is ‘Where am I going to hide?’” Duren called for attendees to register to vote and to vote out politicians who stand in the way of gun control.

With permission of school administration, Duren also organized a walk-out in solidarity with the Parkland students, which culminated in the reading of the names of the students killed in the school shooting. A few months later, she assisted Ellen Sims, pastor of Open Table Community of Faith, in a prayer vigil for local immigrants and community members concerned about families being separated at the Mexican border. The gathering offered an opportunity for prayer, sharing of stories and the spreading of awareness in support of immigrant children and parents. Most recently, Duren was helping a local animal shelter place dogs in homes in advance of Tropical Storm Gordon.

“This young woman is poised, bright, passionate and delightful,” says Sims, who has known her since she was 7. “I’ve been privileged to watch her grow up and live out a commitment to social justice and peace.”

Call for Yoga Photos

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Imagine yourself on the cover of the Natural Awakenings Yoga Month issue! Submit your photos by August 6th for the chance to be featured on our September cover or in our special Yoga Month section.

SUBMISSION DETAILS:

  • Both vertical and horizontal photos are acceptable but only vertical images will be considered for the cover.
  • Photos should be 300dpi and at least 8x11 for the cover. Photos for interior pages should be at least 4 inches wide.
  • All photos should be sharp and in focus. 
  • Photos can be of individuals or groups. 
  • The background of the photo should not be too busy and you should leave copy space—this is empty space (like a blue sky or white wall) in the photo where we can place words. It’s better to give us lots of extra background area that can be cropped to our needs, than too little.
  • All submissions are subject to cropping and minor editing by Natural Awakenings. Unless you have professional editing experience, please do not do very much editing before submitting your photos. It often reduces the quality of the image.
  • Need some inspiration? Visit our digital archive on Issuu to look at previous September issues. All of our September issues since 2011 feature locally shot yoga covers plus yoga photos in the yoga section. Note that we are interested in advanced yoga poses as well as basic poses. Here’s a link: https://issuu.com/meraiko/docs
  • Submissions are due by 8am Monday, August 6, 2018. Limit 3 submissions per person.
  • Email photos to publisher@healthylivinghealthyplanet.com as an attachment (not embedded in email body) with the following info:
    • where was the photo taken
    • who is in the photo
    • photo credit (who took the photo)
  • There is no cost to submit your photos. If you are interested in advertising your yoga business, contact us to request options and rates.

Mississippi Farm is Rooted in Wellness

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Roots To Home owner, Lilah Brown, was raised on a 40-acre farm in Lucedale, Mississippi, where they have always used natural methods to grow a variety of produce. While heirloom tomatoes have been one of their specialties—and they continue to grow them for local restaurants—elderberry is their newest focus.

“Our farm is rooted in health and wellness. I have been a nurse for 30 years and I wanted to go into prevention instead of treatment,” she recalls. “Natural approaches are better than medicine and food is the best place to start.”

When Brown discovered elderberry’s ability to boost immunity in the body, reduce inflammation and decrease cholesterol, she began producing organic elderberry extract. The American variety of the plant has grown on their property for years, but they primarily grow and use the black European elderberry (Sambucus nigra) because of its higher potency.

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Roots To Home now offers a total line of locally produced elderberry products, including extract, syrup, hand sanitizer and bath products, plus several topical arnica products for pain relief and a soothing massage oil. Their produce and wellness products can be purchased directly from them at local farmers’ markets and from a list of retailers in coastal Alabama and Mississippi.

For more information, call 601-791-0943 or 601-947-7692 or email Discvree7@gmail.com.

Urban Farm Provides Local Food Year Round

 Angela & Dale Speetjens

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Shipshape Urban Farms is a new agritech company creating a zero-waste, localized food network by building hydroponic farms in upcycled shipping containers. Based in Mobile, Alabama and developed by Gulf Coast natives Dale and Angela Speetjens, Shipshape uses efficient farming practices to revolutionize health, the environment and dinner.

Hydroponic systems grow plants without soil in a controlled environment to eliminate the need for herbicides and pesticides. Requiring 90 percent less water and substantially less energy than traditional farming practices, Shipshape’s environmentally friendly process provides healthy, sustainable food that is harvested at the peak of ripeness.

From seed to harvest, LED lighting and drip irrigation systems are used to provide the optimal growing conditions for the produce. These innovative features, combined with vertical growth, allow Shipshape Urban Farms to produce the equivalent output of a 30-acre farm in less than a ¼ of an acre, for a fraction of the cost. The crops are also certified Homegrown By Heroes (FarmVetCo.org/homegrown-by-heroes).

Shipshape’s lettuce, leafy greens and herbs are available year round via a community supported agriculture program (CSA) which delivers weekly produce baskets to locations in Mobile, Fairhope, Gulf Shores, Foley, Pensacola and Biloxi.

For more information, visit ShipShapeUrbanFarms.com.

The Health Hut Celebrates 35 Years

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For 35 years, The Health Hut has been a local resource for high quality, natural products and superior customer service. Since opening their doors, the goal of the staff has remained the same: to help local residents live healthier lives.

“We truly try to help people conquer their current health concerns and improve their lives,” says Claude Hutchinson, who has been employed by The Health Hut since the early 2000s. “It’s what all nutritional stores should strive to be.”

Jill Fletcher, who has worked at the West Mobile location for nearly 21 years, is proud to be a part of The Health Hut team. “I watch my co-workers day in and day out and see that they are not only knowledgeable in their different fields, they genuinely want to help people. Their kindness and integrity is undeniable,” she says.

Initially the store operated out of a small house on the corner of Old Government Street and Schillinger Road, when that part of Mobile was still relatively undeveloped. It has since grown to three locations (including a Daphne store), and 35 years later, many of the original customers are still loyal patrons at The Health Hut.

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As the local business has grown, so has the natural care industry. As a result, staff members observe that the customer is now much more informed and open-minded about trying natural products. “More people are starting to view supplements and herbs as an effective way to maintain health,” notes Jeff Freeman, co-manager and grandson of the original owner, Betty Freeman.

To keep up with market demand, The Health Hut continues to expand their inventory and offer customer incentives such as a rewards program and various discounts. They also have their own line of organically grown herbs and essential oils called Hale Ola.

Co-Manager Brock Cole emphasizes that superior customer service has always been the primary focus, saying, “Products have come and gone, but the same great customer service remains.” Education is also a priority. All staff members are required to complete ongoing product trainings so they can educate their customers.

“I am passionate about helping others be proactive with their health,” explains owner Jeff Sheldon. “By educating people, we can empower them to take control of their health and happiness, and that is very satisfying to all of us.”

Looking forward, The Health Hut will continue to focus on the health needs of their customers. The customers and their needs are why the staff members—from the owner to the newest employee—go to work every day.

Summing it up, Fletcher says, “Dream big, but don’t ever forget why we’re here—to maintain principles of love and respect for the customers and for each other. We keep the heart of the business about the people.”

For more information, visit HealthHutAL.com.

Pickin' and Grinnin' in Fairhope

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The organic blueberries at Weeks Bay Plantation, in Fairhope, are ready to be picked. The public is invited to start picking from 7 a.m. to noon every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday until mid-June.

Weeks Bay Plantation will kick off 10 weeks of Saturday Harvest Nights in May. These family-friendly events feature blueberry picking (cost is $8 per pound), market vendors, food trucks and live music under the stars. Cost is $5 per adult if you don’t wish to pick berries and children 12 and under are free. Coolers are welcome.

Weeks Bay Plantation is an organic farm and venue that offers berry picking, live music, farm tours, field trips, farm-to-table experiences and other organic adventures.

 

Location: 12562 Mary Ann Beach Rd., Fairhope, AL. For more information, call 251-279-8746 or visit WeeksBayPlantation.com

Outdoor Learning Program Expands Along Gulf Coast

Outdoor Learning Program Expands Along Gulf Coast

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Nature Connect is launching a family program this month in D’Iberville, Mississippi and is enrolling kids for summer camps, preschool and homeschool programs in Daphne and Montrose, Alabama. Serving ages newborn to 12, Nature Connect cultivates a sense of wonder, a love for learning and an appreciation of the natural world. Kids unplug from technology and explore the outdoors to reconnect with each other and the world around them. With lots of educational fun and play, students learn about animal tracking, bird calls, plant and animal identification, and primitive skills and crafts.

“I spent my childhood outside and I want to help foster the next generation of scientists and environmental stewards,” says founder Brinkley Hutchings.

Studies show that time spent in nature increases attention span, ability to concentrate, self-esteem, creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Children who spend more time outdoors and who participate in cooperative group activities also tend to have healthier relationships with friends and family.

“Our programs are not only about being outdoors, but also about nurturing the children to be healthy, vibrant and connected individuals,” Hutchings explains. “We support children to be kind and generous, empower them to navigate life’s challenges, and create the space for them to experience the joys of being alive.”

 

For more information, call 251-747-7846 or visit NatureConnectAlabama.org.

Mississippi Retreat Explores Natural Therapies for Personal Care

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Reflex-OIL-ogy™️, a new hands-on educational program, is launching with a Raindrop Retreat on April 28 to 29 in Waveland, Mississippi. The weekend will be restful yet invigorating for professionals as well as parents, oilers, caregivers and those interested in self-help health.

During two full days of Reflex-OIL-ogy classes, participants will enhance their knowledge of essential oils and be empowered to share more with others. Topics include the effects of the skeletal and nervous systems on the back, joint and nerve issues; identifying and working the reflex areas in the feet; applying and receiving Raindrop Reflex-OIL-ogy; and the Emotional Congestion Release Technique to help oneself, family members and friends.

The Gathering Place offers a beautiful and inviting meeting place, and accommodations for $35 a night. Mississippi massage therapists can earn continuing education credits by attending one or both days.

 

For details and to register, visit Reflex-OIL-ogy.com

Organic MCT Oil Available at the Health Hut

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The Health Hut now carries the new Garden of Life Dr. Formulated 100% Organic Coconut MCT Oil. According to Garden of Life, MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil is quickly digested, absorbed and converted into energy to provide a fast fuel for the brain and body. The product, created in partnership with leading neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, is USDA organic and non-GMO, ensuring that it meets the highest standards for third-party certification.

“We’ve had a lot of customers asking for MCT oil recently, especially those on the Keto diet. It provides a great benefit for both energy and your brain health,” says Jeff Freeman, manager at The Health Hut.

The Health Hut also carries other Dr. Formulated products such as probiotics and digestive enzymes. Owner Jeff Sheldon states that, “as our area is recovering from a challenging cold and flu season, we have had many customers who are looking for good probiotics to help restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the body. Every day, we help customers find the product that best meets their needs. The Health Hut is your local partner for better health.”

 

Locations: 680 S. Schillinger Rd. (251-633-0485) and 2032 Airport Blvd., Ste. D (251-473-0277), in Mobile, AL, and 6845 US Hwy. 90, in Daphne, AL (251-621-1865). For more information, visit HealthHutAL.com

Celebrate Earth Day Locally and Globally

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Earth Day, on April 22, will serve again as a galvanizing force on ways to save our planet. With the theme of End Plastic Pollution, the Earth Day Network (EDN) is setting a specific focus this year on the importance of reducing the use of plastics and finding more Earth-friendly alternatives (EarthDay.org).

The nonprofit notes that of the approximately 300 million tons of plastic annually produced to make bags, bottles, packages and other commodities worldwide, only about 10 percent is successfully recycled and reused. The rest ends up in landfills or as litter, leaching dangerous chemicals into soil and water, endangering humans and wildlife alike.

EDN asks everyone to pledge to switch to sustainable alternatives, subscribe to its newsletter, spread the word via social media, educate and mobilize citizens to demand action, and donate to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution that will engage individuals, companies and governments worldwide.

Further, EDN is extending people’s ability to take personal responsibility by self-rating and guiding their involvement via practical toolkits. “People can create and follow a plan to reduce their plastic footprint and also share that data to help others via the Billion Acts of Green online campaign,” says Valeria Merino, vice president of Global Earth Day, adding that participants will be able to create an ongoing record and track their commitments. The initiative is also providing materials, tips on organizing cleanup events and social media tie-ins.

Help Coastal Alabama and Mississippi celebrate and forward progress in sustainability efforts by participating in these local
Earth Day 2018 events.  

All events are free unless noted otherwise.

Foley Earth Day

9 a.m. to 2 p.m., April 21

Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermens Market, Foley, AL

Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermens Market will celebrate with Earth Day displays and activities during the market. Master Gardeners will be on site and a yart sale (yard and art sale) and chili cook-off are also planned.

For more information, contact Alescia Forland at 251-709-4469.

 

Earth Day Mobile Bay

10 a.m. to 6 p.m., April 21

Fairhope Pier Park, Fairhope, AL

This is Alabama’s largest Earth Day celebration, honoring the Earth and the beautiful Mobile Bay. The 47th annual event hosts more than 100 environmental displays. Highlights include a children’s parade, educational activities, environmental film festival, electronics recycling and live entertainment throughout the day. Free BRATS shuttle service is provided from Big Lots parking lot on North Greeno Road, plus free valet bike parking is available at the event.

For more information, call 702-496-5050 or visit EarthDayMobileBay.org. See ad, page 4.

 

City of Gautier’s 2018
Earth Day Celebration

10 a.m. to 1 p.m., April 21

George Martin City Park, Gautier, MS

This annual event features a farmers’ market, free eco-tours, vendors and children’s activities that promote learning about the environment. Local vendors will teach about efficient, money-saving and earth-friendly practices.

For more information, visit JaxCoHome.com.

 

Earth Day Pensacola

10 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 21

Bayview Park, Pensacola, FL

This annual celebration and educational forum promotes green lifestyles with a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. The theme is Energy, Transportation and Sustainability and vendors will represent ride sharing, public transportation, hybrid vehicles, alternative energy sources and gardening. Enjoy live music, dancing, yoga and a children’s area.

For more information, call 850-293-3578 or visit EarthDayPensacola.org.

 

Naturally Inspired Art Exhibition 

6 to 9 p.m., April 21

Marnée’s Studio, Mobile, AL

The Earth Day opening reception for this juried exhibition will feature nature-themed work from local artists and a book signing by local author Lee Ann Ward. Complimentary hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be provided and a portion of art sales will benefit Mobile Baykeeper.

For more information, call 251-206-5587 or visit MarneesStudio.com.

 

Earth Day Ocean Splash

1 to 5 p.m., April 22

The Wharf, Orange Beach, AL

Ocean Camp is celebrating nature and the ocean—which covers 70 percent of the planet and provides most of our oxygen—this Earth Day. The afternoon event will feature animal encounters, animal face painting, scavenger hunt prizes and marina walks. 

For more information, call 251-802-8605 or visit OceanCamp.camp.

Peak Alkalinity Offers Simple Solutions for Overall Health

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Can the key to wellness be in the water you’re drinking? Missy Guitterrez believes that the most important step to healthy living is maintaining a slightly alkaline blood chemistry. As the founder and co-owner of Peak Alkalinity LLC, she suggests that the easiest way to do this is to drink alkaline water.

“Sure, you’d probably be alkaline if you ate a raw food diet, lived a stress-free life and avoided coming in contact with toxins, but that’s hard to do,” she notes. “Drinking alkaline water is the simplest and quickest solution, plus it’s all natural.” When pH levels in the bloodstream are at an optimum level (7.2 to 7.4), the body thrives, resulting in a boost in the detoxification process, improved immunity, easier weight management and slowed aging.

Guitterrez practiced pharmacy for six years in Louisiana before spending 20 years in the financial services industry. She is a former collegiate athlete and holder of 10 AAU medals in Shotokan karate, but she has also suffered from several chronic health issues.

After spending copious amounts of time with various physicians, a doctor with a biochemistry background offered Guitterrez some solutions. “She taught me that everything happens at the cellular level, which helped me look at things from a different perspective,” she recalls. Following an intensive round of diagnostics, the doctor incorporated western and eastern medical approaches which, for the first time, led to drastic improvements in Guitterrez’s health. “It motivated me to change my lifestyle—especially my diet, since most everything starts in the gut—and I started drinking alkaline water to change my blood chemistry,” Guitterrez says.

More than a decade later, as a mom and successful businesswoman, Guitterrez experienced another shift in perspective with the passing of her mother. “I knew Mom was a giver but I had no idea to what extent until I started looking through her checkbook and talking with all the people she had touched,” Guitterrez recalls. “Her life was so meaningful and it made me question what mine was going to be about.”

She began researching alkaline water businesses as a desire to give back to the community grew. The multi-level marketing and online sales approach of other alkaline water companies did not appeal to her because she wanted a larger educational component.

“I felt called to help others detoxify and I had a vision for a showroom that could be used to educate the community,” Guitterrez explains. Through a series of serendipitous events, things fell into place and her dream became a reality with the opening of Peak Alkalinity last fall, in downtown Fairhope.

Guitterrez chose to relocate her family from Louisiana to open the store in Fairhope not only because of its small-town charm and proximity to her previous home, but also because of the clusters of rare cancers being documented along the Gulf Coast.

Approximately a quarter of the people that come into Peak Alkalinity are oncology patients. Because cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment, it is believed that a higher pH level in the body can slow or stop cancer growth.

Striving to continue the generous legacy of Guitterrez’s mom, Peak Alkalinity gives free alkaline water to any oncology patient that comes in and is working on installing alkaline water ionizers in area cancer centers. The business also donates 10 percent of all proceeds to a different charity each month.

Customers come in seeking relief from a long list of chronic issues including acid reflux, gout, arthritis and diabetes. “Plus we see a ton of healthy people that want more energy, and athletes that want to increase their speed and recovery time,” she says.

In addition to filling bottles with alkaline water, Peak Alkalinity offers three types of alkaline water ionizers at competitive prices so consumers can transform their own tap water into health-boosting alkaline water. The store also sells BPA/BPS-free water bottles and houses HydroZen, which offers a full menu of massage services, infrared sauna sessions (which include a collagen shower) and detoxifying foot spas.

Peak Alkalinity believes that drinking alkaline water is a form of preventative healthcare. With customers calling to place orders from across the country and talks of a Mobile location opening later this year, it is evident that this locally-owned store is inspiring lifestyle changes for countless individuals.

“Our mission is optimal health, from the inside out,” says Guitterrez. “It’s more important than ever to keep our bodies as pure as possible, because of the contaminants we encounter daily. There’s no better way to do this than by drinking water that gives us exactly what we need for great health.”

Location: 217-B Fairhope Ave., Fairhope, AL. For more information, call 251-270-7200 or visit PeakAlkalinity.com

Healthy Food To-Go in Fairhope

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Food from Rootz, Fairhope’s nutrition kitchen, is now available for delivery through DapperDeliveries.com from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Rootz provides made-from-scratch meals to-go using local, sustainable and healthy ingredients. Grab-and-go items are always available, and a rotating menu of order-ahead dishes are offered through the weekly meal plan program. Paleo, vegan and gluten-free diets can be accommodated plus the kitchen makes cold-pressed juices and has the locally brewed Wild Magnolia kombucha on tap.

“Many of us live and eat in the fast lane and the speed of life causes us to make impulsive decisions when it comes to food,” say owners Tony Tkac and Sofia Fly. “We too often trade our health for our convenience, and our daily diet can either make us sick or heal our body and promote longevity.”

Rootz strives to provide the healthiest food in a convenient way. By using local farms, their sustainably grown produce is the freshest available, which means that the micronutrient content in the produce is much higher than most store-bought produce.

Location: 209 A S. Section St., Fairhope, AL. For more information, call 251-270-7120 or visit EatRootz.com

A Clean Ocean in the Bag

The It’s in the Bag community cleanup campaign is seeking the commitment of locals on the Gulf Coast to keep communities and waterways clean. According to Keep America Beautiful, litter cleanup costs in the U.S. are $11,500,000,000 each year.

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“We want people to join us in picking up the trash we’re stepping over,” says BJ Smith, of the Alabama Coastal Heritage Trust (ACHT) and founder of the It’s in the Bag campaign. “Be happy and join people around the world who know that picking up trash is the fun, easy and popular thing to do.”

The campaign encourages teams of volunteers to design a unique and local cleanup program. Reusable bags to gather litter are available with a donation to ACHT or teams can use their own. To start a dialogue while tracking and celebrating progress, participants are encouraged to post what litter they’re finding and where they’re finding it.

“We want to hear stories of the weirdest trash and weirdest locations, plus, how you’re talking to others as you pick up trash,” Smith says. “Remember, there is no amount too small because truly every piece makes a difference.”

For more information call 251-455-1859, email Shorecombers@bellsouth.net or visit Shorecombers.org/acht-alabama-usa.

Mississippi Cafe Offers Wellness for a Lifetime

Starfish Café, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, serves fresh local food with a pay-what-you-want policy while offering a free experiential education program to students 18 and older. Donations cover the cost of food and experience, and extra donations are used to make a positive impact on the world.

Known as one of the best kept secrets on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the quaint café supports the local economy by purchasing all of its food from local growers and grocers. Purchased products are supplemented by the vegetables, flowers and herbs harvested from the café’s gardens.

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The 20-week experiential learning program offers students free, hands-on training in restaurant, job and life skills. “Our commitment is to minister to, facilitate and equip each Starfish student with tools to fully and completely reach their potential,” says Executive Director Di Filhart. “We believe that every person is created by God for a special and wonderful purpose in this world.”

Location: 211 Main St., Bay Saint Louis, MS. For more information, call 228-229-3503 or visit StarfishCafeBSL.com or Facebook.com/starfishcafebsl.

Women Gather to Empower Their Authentic Voice

Women of all ages, faiths and spiritual practices will welcome the sacred feminine at the annual Grandmothers Gathering, from March 22 to 25, at Camp Beckwith in Fairhope, Alabama. This year’s theme, Be Brave, Be Strong, Be You: Claiming Your Authentic Voice, will explore the authentic woman. “She’s me, she’s you, she’s every woman who desires to enter the realm of reawakening to their greatest truths, embraced by the sacred feminine,” says organizer Carolyn Garbett.

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The gathering offers an opportunity to meet and connect with other women for inspiration and guidance—sharing laughter, tears and more. From the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony, participants will open their hearts and minds, receiving points of light into their lives so they can see themselves and the world differently.

A schedule of workshops, meditation, music and healing arts is organized around meals and free time. Each day, small circle groups are facilitated to foster meaningful discussion in a safe and empowering setting. Other highlights include a giveaway ceremony for the practice of detachment and a Croning ceremony to joyfully honor those who have reached the age of 70.

The Gulf Coast Grandmothers gather yearly to embody unconditional acceptance and fulfill the ancient prophecy: “When the grandmothers speak, the Earth will heal.”

Cost: $340-$415 registration fee includes three nights’ lodging and all meals. For more information, call Carolyn Garbett at 251-945-1295, email MsParis98@gmail.com or visit GulfCoastGrandmothers.com.

Healthy Living Trailblazer Returns to Mobile

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Virginia’s Health Food Store in Mobile, Alabama is excited to welcome retired nutritionist Betylou Pierce to their staff. Pierce opened the Mobile health food store Naturally Yours in 1990 and for more than 10 years she used the store to help people live healthier lives, often hosting courses on how the body works and heals. She also owned the restaurant Eats of Eden, where they introduced many locals to vegetarian and vegan cuisine and juicing.

Pierce just recently moved back to the area after living in Mississippi for 12 years and she says, “I love educating people about healthy living; it’s my life and I want to share it with everybody.” At Virginia’s, Pierce will work a couple days a week and be available by appointment to help guide customers on a path of wellness.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be working at Virginia’s,” she says. “I’m seeing some familiar faces and having a good time. It’s good to be home.”

Location: 3055 A Dauphin St., Mobile, AL. For more information, call 251-479-3952 or visit Va-FairhopeHealthFoods.com. 

Enroll Your Healing Hands in Massage Therapy School

Alabama Healing Arts (AHA), Mobile’s newest, locally-owned vocational college, is accepting applications for spring enrollment of massage therapy school. AHA educators have over 25 years of teaching experience to assist students in becoming professional licensed massage therapists (LMTs).

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“Therapeutic massage is a beautiful healing practice. It makes a perfect adjunct therapy to many healthcare professions. This fulfilling career allows for great flexibility, versatility and creativity. LMTs are becoming more and more in demand each year,” says owner Kelly Laurendine.

Evening massage classes are scheduled to begin in April, and daytime classes in October. The 650-hour curriculum meets state requirements for preparing students to become licensed therapists. This interactive massage program emphasizes hands-on technique demonstration and practice, includes specialty techniques, fundamental sciences, student clinic and outreach practicum. AHA currently has a 100 percent pass rate for students taking the licensure exam.

AHA also offers 200-, 300- and 500-hour yoga teacher training, and three levels of reiki certification which may be purchased individually, and for continuing education.

For more information or to request an application, call 251-753-1937, email AlabamaHealingArts@gmail.com or visit AlabamaHealingArts.com.