POINT OF LIGHT AWARD WINNERS AID THEIR COMMUNITY
While growing up in Montgomery, Willie Durham spent 15 years at the Montgomery Housing Authority’s Gibbs Village.
He is an agent/operator of State Farm on Eastern Boulevard, but he has not forgotten his past. He talks to students about his humble beginning. “There are young boys and girls out there that may believe they don’t have any opportunities,” Durham said. “They can see somebody like me that grew up in similar situations in the housing authority and they see my billboard or see my commercial or see my face (on) my vehicle. I go to the schools and talk to them. It gives them hope.” Those students may begin to believe that they, too, could have their own business.
It’s all part of paying his civic rent, Durham said, but it’s also personal because he was born here and grew up here. “It’s all about being involved and trying to make a difference. As a businessperson, we all try to make a profit, but we also try to make a difference.”
Durham and DeRamus Hearing Centers' owner Glenda DeRamus were two minority business owners honored for their “achievements and contributions to the community.” They received the Point of Light Award at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce 10th annual ceremony.
DeRamus, who owns locations in Montgomery, Selma, Clanton and Opelika, said, “We all know it’s better to give than to receive. Giving back to the community is something that we’re supposed to do. And I love it. You need to be involved in your community and help the less fortunate.”
She helps those less fortunate in numerous ways, including a free lunch and free hearing exam (for those who signed up) for the residents at Elizabeth Wright Apartments, a complex for low-income seniors. There will be a drawing and the winner will receive a free hearing aid with free batteries and adjustments for life.
DeRamus is a member of Medical Outreach Ministries, which provides health services for the needy. She donates hearing aids.
Her extensive community involvement includes buying clothes for children living at Addullam House, which is home for youths of incarcerated parents. DeRamus spends $500 on five children for a December clothes shopping spree at JCPenney. The store offers a steep discount so the $100 per child buys much more. It is a Good Morning Montgomery Kiwanis Club event. She is also involved with Easter Seals of Alabama, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, RiversEdge Church of Montgomery and Through the Grace of God Ministries.
Durham, too, is busy with such organizations as Child Protect, Habitat for Humanity, Montgomery Sunrise Rotary Club, where he is president elect; and Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, where he is a member of the Executive Committee. He provides clothes and school supplies to organizations and frequently talks to youths.
“When we talk about a community, and if we sit back and complain that nobody can make all the difference … but most of us can make a difference,” he said. “So, roll up your sleeves. If we want to have a good community it’s incumbent upon us to be involved. Everybody can pick an area they are passionate about whether it’s education; whether it’s children; and find a way to get involved. That civic rent is not someone else’s responsibility – it is our responsibility.”
Durham said “it was a humbling experience” just to be nominated for the Point of Light Award, which is given to businesses in existence for 10 years or less and businesses that are more than 10 years old.
“To actually be the recipient and somebody recognizes that your labor in the community is not in vain,” Durham said. “We don’t do it to be recognized, but to be the recipient is a win-win.”
Durham said his team members enable him to leave the office and attend various events. “My team is competent and capable,” he said. “They can take care of the day-to-day operations of my clients. Some business owners don’t have enough personnel or enough of a team, where they are so involved intimately in the day-to-day operations they can’t be freed up.”
Durham and DeRamus were both deeply touched by the award and surprised. “It was overwhelming,” said DeRamus, who opened the Montgomery location in 1982 and added the Selma and Clanton sites around 2000. She opened the Opelika location in 2009. Her company, which has six employees, sells hearing aids and accessories, and provides hearing exams and consulting. “I was really happy that my employees nominated me. It was such a compliment from your employees.”
2014 Point of Light Nominees
CATEGORY 1 - IN BUSINESS 1-10 YEARS
CATEGORY 2 - IN BUSINESS 10+ YEARS