Get to Know the New Employees

Once a team of a dozen, Strong’s ranks have grown to over 100 this month. With so many employees, introductions can be brief, and it’s not always easy to get the full story on our new team members.

This feature highlights interesting anecdotes, curious facts and memorable traits from some of our newest summer hires.

Sarah Drexler – Social Media Assistant

  • What’s the strangest talent you have?
    • I can tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue…? Does that count?
  • What is the worst pet you’ve ever had?
    • They’ve all been good boys! My cavapoo, Benson, is a
      Doesn’t that face say good boy?!

      diva, but 100 percent good boy! You can also search #BensonGram on Insta/Facebook for more pics.

  • What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now outside of work?
    • I want to start renovating my townhouse in the near future. It was built in 1972, and some of the features are still original – hello salmon pink guest bathroom! I’ve been there for 3 years and am ready to start adding my own touches and fixing the halfway-done DIY repairs made by previous owners.
  • What is your favorite family tradition?
    • My great-grandmother was a Sicilian immigrant, and she owned a grocery store in North Birmingham. We make her spaghetti and invite all of our extended family and friends over (Seriously, we would discuss how much noodles to make/buy by the POUND- usually in the 4-6 range). We used to do it every Sunday, but then college, careers, kids, etc got in the way. But it’s the real deal and can end wars. We also have her meat grinder from the grocery store and every year around the holidays my parents get together with some fellow Sicilian-immigrant friends and make homemade Italian sausage. It too has the power to bring world peace!

Brittaney Collins – Account Coordinator

  • Can you play an instrument? If so, which one, and how did you learn?
    • I can play “Yankee Doodle” & “Mary Had a Little Lamb on the Piano,” practically a young Beethoven!
  • What’s the strangest talent you have?
    • Walk around on my hands.
  • What was your childhood nickname?
    • “Beedy” or “Beed” and still is! If I hear “Brittaney” in my family’s household, chances are, I’m in trouble.
  • Who is the coolest celebrity you’ve ever met, and how did it happen?
    • Believe it or not, I met Pat Monahan (the lead singer of “Train”) at the Atlanta Airport on my way home from my interview with Strong! We didn’t exactly talk, but I very quietly asked, “You’re Pat Monahan, aren’t you?” and he just smiled and raised his drink – I think this was his way of saying, “Thank you for asking without drawing attention to me.”
  • What is your favorite family tradition?
    • My family has a room in our home that’s dedicated to all things music. The room is sound-proof, the ceiling’s covered in classic rock records, and every holiday we end up in this room together to watch some of our favorite performances. There’s a dart-board, and we have the ring-toss game; plus, a lot of our family friends and neighbors end up over there so it’s always a blast.

Anthony Savage – Digital Marketing Assistant

  • Can you play an instrument? If so, which one, and how did you learn?
    • I am able to play guitar. I spent a lot of time in middle school teaching myself and spent a lot of time learning from my friends. They wanted to start a band and perform at local events, so most of the things that I learned pertained to whatever role they needed me to fill. (These performances never worked out for us, luckily! I was very shy and had a lot of stage fright!)
  • What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?
    • The nerdiest thing I do in my spare time is probably video games. I’m not very good at them, but my friends like to play, so I do, too. Any time I get to spend time with friends doing things they enjoy is good with me!
  • What was your childhood nickname?
    • I played tuba in high school and the section leaders always decided to give freshmen nicknames. They gave me the nickname Stache, because I had a mustache on day one of band camp. It stuck for much longer than I ever wanted it to, and I’m thankful to leave it in the past!
  • What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now outside of work?
    • I am currently working with a friend to create a video about fighting your anxiety! We want to encourage people to not let their anxieties and fears hold them back from achieving their goals even when they feel small or worthless.
  • What are you looking forward to most for the rest of the year?
    • I’m looking forward to growing in new ways this year and experiencing things with a fresh view. Every year brings new experiences, opportunities and challenges, and I’m excited to just be able to look back over the year and see where I have been and how I overcame and made it to the next step.

Maddie Wohlfarth – Account Team Assistant

  • What is the nerdiest thing you do in your spare time?
    • I really enjoy reading, and I’ll frequently pick up school textbooks to try to learn a new thing or two. I’m one of those people who really just love to learn, so picking up academic books or watching things like Crash Course videos on YouTube are things that I really enjoy.
  • What’s the strangest talent you have?
    • I’m pretty good with a hula hoop. I went through a small phase a number of years ago where I was really into hula hooping, so I grew a small collection of hoops and started teaching myself some tricks. I was even in a club at one of the schools I went to!
  • What are three things still left on your bucket list?
    • Okay so first I’d have to say some variation of scuba diving. Probably either in the Great Barrier Reef or diving with great white sharks in South Africa. Second would probably be completing a 10-day silent meditation in either Bhutan or Nepal. Basically, you go stay in a meditation retreat that’s almost like a temple and you have 10 straight days of silence and meditation. Third is probably to become a certified yoga instructor.
  • What job did you have in high school?
    • I taught swim lessons. I was a really dedicated athlete all throughout high school and that made it really hard to have a job since I was spending most of my time outside of school at practice. So, to make some extra cash, the team that I swam for let me use the pool to teach some swim lessons. It was surprisingly lucrative!
  • What is the coolest thing you’re working on right now outside of work?
    • I’m trying to learn more about botany and the scientific aspects of plants. I’ve also taken a lot of interest in marine plants as well. I have an obsession with coral and I am trying to teach myself as much as possible without being near an ocean.

Chicken Wing Festival Supports Adult Literacy

Kickin' Chicken Wings

Six years ago, Graphic Designer Holly Blalock went on a whim and accepted an invite to an annual fundraising event – the Girlfriend Gala. Expecting a night of reverie amongst friends, she instead found a calling that would remain with her for nearly half a decade.

A History of Literacy

The event Blalock attended was held in support of the Literacy Council of Central Alabama. This organization’s mission – to teach reading and writing skills to illiterate adults and to those for whom English is not the native tongue – touched Blalock at her core. Yearning to participate in the cause, she joined the council as an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) tutor. She spent several months with an ensemble of 10 students, a group Blalock described as a melting pot of nationalities and dialects. Yet, as fulfilling as her impartment of linguistical knowledge on these expatriates was, she simply could not keep up with the time demands of being a full-scale tutor. Blalock likened the experience – with its lesson plans, grading and instruction – to having a second job.

Desperate to remain involved, yet unable to continue teaching, Blalock discovered the council’s Junior Board. As a Junior Board member, she is still able to participate in the organization’s affairs and offer her skills whenever she can.

“It is so essential that this type of support exist for illiterate adults, especially if they have children at home,” Blalock said. “Without being able to read or write, it’s difficult for them to help their kids in school and navigate through general life.”

It is through her Junior Board membership that Blalock became involved with the organization’s newest fundraiser, the Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest.

Chicken Wing Festival on August 18

Two years ago, the Literacy Council’s president came up with a novel idea. Birmingham, with its predilection for foodie showcases and brewery bashes, was missing one thing: a chicken wing festival.

The nascent idea quickly sprouted into a notable event. Fliers were printed, wings were baked and the first annual Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest was a raging success.

Now, in its second iteration, the Literacy Council announces the return of the chicken wing festival on Friday, August 18 at Ghost Train Brewing Co.

At the festival, guests will enjoy all-you-can-eat wings (while they last), live music, a kids’ zone and craft beer available for purchase. The event runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., with music beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets are available for $15 until August 10, after which they increase to $20. Local music groups Riverbend and Camryn Grace will perform.

This festival is also a cook-off, meaning guests will enjoy a variety of fried, smoked and baked wings in differing categories of flavor and heat. Judges from esteemed female culinary group Les Dames d’Escoffier will be present to select the winner of the cook-off.

How Wings Help

While your palette certainly won’t mind an afternoon of wing feasting, there is a far greater benefit that comes from your support of this event.

Money raised goes directly to the Literacy Council’s educational initiatives. The majority of programs offered do not charge fees, so events like this help to buy books, computers and test preparation materials. In addition to ESL courses, the organization offers GED prep classes, opening career opportunities for people in our community.

Piggly Wiggly donates all wings and water for the event, while Ghost Train provides the space and Pepsi sponsors the kids’ zone. Consequentially, event costs are minimalized, allowing for as much money as possible to go toward educating Central Alabama citizens.

Blalock encourages everyone to consider participating in this unique event. It serves as a well-timed decrescendo to summer and is poised to become a favorite among Birmingham festivals.