• 73°

Seasons 4 Christ soars with first fundraiser

If the skies above Greenville seemed unusually busy Saturday morning, there was a good reason.

Three Pilots for Christ (PFC) planes flew into the Mac Crenshaw Memorial Airport that morning as a part of the Seasons 4 Christ fundraiser, "A Fun Day at the Airport," organized by local business owner Vesta Taylor and fellow Seasons 4 Christ members.

The event was the premiere fundraiser for the fledging charitable organization, with all proceeds going to PFC, an all-volunteer, faith-based ministry that assists those in need of aviation transportation in times of emergency.  The South Alabama chapter of the international organization is based in Monroeville and flies "missions of mercy" in a 350-mile radius of its home base.

A weary but smiling Taylor smiled as she oversaw the day's events underneath a nearly cloudless blue sky. She was thankful for the clear weather organizers had prayed for.

"I think things have gone very well. The pilots and their families are so excited to be here and we're so glad to have them here," Taylor said mid-morning. PFC pilots Tommy Lee, Tim Tirey, Terry Chapman, Bob Eubanks and Fred Kelley, along with Phil Allen, mission coordinator, were on hand for the event.

Free live musical entertainment rang across the airport parking lot throughout the morning as local musicians and vocalists, including the Ben Nelson Band, Tera Simmons Bishop, Sabrina Reynolds and Robert Layton, shared a toe-topping mix of Christian musical styles, from contemporary to Southern gospel. 

Jerry Arhelger, a well-known Nashville-based musician, songwriter and evangelist, also traveled to Butler County to share his music and ministry with local citizens during two sets.

"We're really glad Jerry was able to come down and be a part of this event. We're looking forward to having him perform at Call to Life tomorrow night," Doyle Sasser, a Seasons 4 Christ supporter, said as he nodded his head in time to Arhelger's music.  

Seasons 4 Christ volunteers were on hand in their signature lime green T-shirts, offering attendees freshly grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, cooked by Steve and Jill Stallworth. Fresh baked goods were also offered for sale, along with copies of the new Seasons 4 Christ cookbook and T-shirts.

Youngsters like four-year-old Brannon Morgan sported planes painted on their cheeks, courtesy of volunteer face painter Gina Stephenson. Some dashed around the tarmac with new toy airplanes. Several lucky children and their parents also got to board the real thing for short rides over the Camellia City on the Pilots for Christ planes.

Tammy Gaston was all smiles after her PFC flight. "I really, really don't like to fly - but I wanted my son to have the experience," she explained.

Vickie Golden and her sons John William and Michael were among those enjoying a flight on Saturday morning. Vickie and Jerry Golden received aid from PFC after their late son, Matthew, was seriously injured in an auto accident and required frequent hospitalizations.

The former Greenville residents recently moved to Fairhope, but returned to the city for the weekend in order to be a part of the fundraiser.

"This is a really, really good cause. I'm glad we could come and be a part of it. I never expected three planes to come for the event. I understand they originally planned to bring two more from Atlanta and Pensacola, but morning fog prevented it. We appreciate their efforts," Golden, who manned the cookbook and T-shirt booth, said.

Members of the Pope family of Greenville, recent recipients of aid from PFC, were also present for the fundraiser, visiting with pilots and their families and snapping lots of photos.

Along with the latest in small plane technology, attendees also got to check out the venerable WW II Navy trainer plane on display. Volunteer Tom Braxton climbed up to check out the trainer up close, declaring it "a pretty neat plane." Later, pilot Travis Capps cranked up the vintage plane and took off into "the wild blue yonder" on a demo flight.

As the morning wound down and volunteers began to pack up, Taylor was thrilled to learn several substantial donations had been made to the worthy cause.

"It looks like we are going to clear about $2,000, which is greatŠthis was our very first fundraiser, and we are still ironing things out," she said.

As the organization's name suggests, Seasons 4 Christ, which came together in the spring of 2005, plans to hold a fundraiser during each season of the calendar. And a busy Taylor is already thinking ahead to the fall event.

'We want to raise monies for the Ronald McDonald House. We hope to have a sort of holiday market, probably at the YMCA, featuring lots of vendors, to give people a chance to shop early for Christmas," Taylor said.

She also wants to remind everyone copies of the organization's new cookbook are still available for purchase at her business, Alissa's Closet, in downtown Greenville, and at Just Julie's Caf\u00E9 on the Pineapple Highway.

"I appreciate everybody's help and support and look forward to coming together again in the fall - when it's cooler," Taylor said with a smile.