Pelham Parks and Recreation took home two awards at the 2023 Alabama Recreation and Parks Association State Conference, which was held January 29-31 in Orange Beach. The annual Kites and Bites event won the award for Innovative Special Event of the Year, and volunteer coach Martina Winston won the 2022 Community Service Award for her dedication to Pelham Youth Cheerleading.
Brian Cooper, Director of Pelham Parks and Recreation is proud of his team, and by the team, he means both staff and volunteers. “The staff and volunteers are doing great work. There are hundreds of agencies in the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association, and only 13 awards are given out annually. For us to receive two of them speaks volumes about the team assembled here at Pelham.” While Pelham competed with other programs across the state for these two awards, Cooper pointed out that Pelham Parks and Recreation recently received these same two awards at the district level, along with a third one. Assistant Director Alicia Walters received the District Merit in Recreation Award for her outstanding leadership and dedication to the profession.
Cooper said the recognition for Kites and Bites speaks to the wide variety of programs Pelham Parks and Recreation offers to both citizens and guests of all ages. “We feel like we can reach targeted groups through community events. The Kites and Bites event was unique in that the idea wasn’t borrowed from another community. It was an idea created in-house by staff to serve a special group in our community - those who love kites, enjoy food trucks, or just like being in the park surrounded by activity. To receive this award is a great testament to the wonderful staff here at Pelham Parks and Recreation. We are going to continue to add new programs and services to our catalog of offerings, and hopefully, the citizens will continue to respond as they did for Kites and Bites.”
As the winner of the 2022 Community Service Award, Martina Winston is known throughout Pelham as someone with a great deal of enthusiasm and a positive attitude. She is also recognized as someone who cares deeply about “her girls’’ in the Pelham Youth Cheerleading program. As a volunteer coach, Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Alicia Walters said Winston’s contributions have been invaluable. “Pelham Youth Cheer has benefited a great deal from Martina’s dedication. She began volunteering as a cheer coach in 2010 when her daughter, Jada, was in first grade.” Jada is now a senior cheerleader at Pelham High School. “After year six, Jada moved beyond the recreation cheer program to middle and high school, but instead of retiring from her coaching position after her daughter was no longer in the program, Martina continued with youth cheerleading,” said Walters. She pointed out Winston encouraged Jada and her teammates to share their skills and love of cheering with upcoming young teams. “Martina takes it in stride and smiles when she hears them coaching their young students on some of the same principles she instilled in them as many as ten years ago,” said Walters. Some of Coach Winston’s favorite lessons for her girls emphasize “Perfect practice makes perfect”, and “When it is your time to hit the mat, give it all you’ve got.” She also reinforced that the teamwork they learn is not just about cheering, but how you carry yourself, believe in yourself, and make a difference.
Martina Winston summed up her volunteer coaching experience by stating, “I love this program and all the kids that I’ve had an opportunity to coach and hopefully inspire. It warms my heart to watch them grow, not only in cheer, but in the band, dance, softball, volleyball, culinary arts, and of course, academics. I will forever be Coach Martina and their biggest fan.”
It’s no wonder Coach Winston’s volunteer contributions caught the eye of her peers across the state. Brian Cooper reiterated the importance of volunteer coaches in youth sports. “They’re the backbone of any parks and recreation department. They serve as coaches, advisory board members, gate attendants, team moms and dads, and so much more. Without them, we couldn’t have sports leagues. What makes this award so special is Martina’s commitment over such a long time and her passion for the kids.”
Pelham is known as a destination for outstanding indoor and outdoor recreation, and Cooper believes these awards reinforce that brand. “It brings a certain level of credence to our mission that we are on the right path. We acknowledge we have many areas where we can improve and upgrade, however, we plan to attack each day as an opportunity to make those improvements and upgrades. We have so much going on now, and so much on the horizon. Being recognized by our peers says they are noticing what is going on in Pelham. If they are noticing, so are others. Perhaps it will make people want to visit our wonderful city.”
Alicia Walters (right) accepts the award for Innovative Special Event of the Year at the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association State Conference.
Martina Winston (shown on phone screen) receives the 2022 Community Service Award for her volunteer efforts with Pelham Parks & Recreation Youth Cheer.
Pelham Parks and Recreation wins the Innovative Special Event of the Year Award and Martina Winston wins the Community Service Award at the Alabama Recreation and Parks Association State Conference.