Caraway and Byrd take simple approach to community service
While lending their neighbors a hand may just be second nature for Bruce Caraway and Mack Byrd, their long-standing willingness to roll up their sleeves and pitch in makes them ideal candidates for Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass honors.
“If you’re raised right, your family teaches you to help if you’re able,” says Byrd, who is known for his barbecue fundraisers. “That’s what the good Lord puts us on the earth for: to help people.”
“I just like to help,” adds Caraway, who assists the Florala community in several ways. “I guess it’s just in me. I grew up doing it.”
Wiregrass Electric Cooperative (WEC) and WTVY News 4 gladly bestowed the Silent Heroes honors on Caraway and Byrd at a recent presentation at WEC’s Dothan office. Since 2016, the Silent Heroes program has honored the contributions of several area residents, a testament to the spirit of the Wiregrass.
“To continue to find the great stories that we hear through this program after five years highlights just how special the people who make up the Wiregrass really are,” says WEC Chief Operating Officer Brad Kimbro. “We are truly blessed to live in a great region. We are thankful WTVY has partnered with us to provide each of these heroes with much-deserved recognition and a $1,000 gift from our Operation Round Up Charitable Foundation.”
A Labor of Love
Byrd’s family instilled in him a desire for community service and also nurtured his love of cooking.
“My mother taught us all to cook, and I enjoy cooking,” says Byrd, the June award recipient. “Then, some friends and I got into competitive barbecuing. I was in competitive barbecuing for several years.”
Some years ago, a football coach approached him with an idea to create a barbecuing fundraiser to support the team. Following that event, Byrd and his friends have fielded requests to cook for many in need.
“We’ve cooked for some ladies who had cancer and people who’ve had other things wrong,” he says. “We’ve cooked for a family who lost a child — anybody that just needs help.”
A barbecue fundraiser takes a lot of preparation. Byrd, who lives in Slocomb, must ensure he has enough smokers to handle the amount of meat or plates sold. If he’s cooking on a Friday night, prep work can begin as early as Monday morning.
The cooking itself usually takes more than a day, too. He and his team smoked about 1,200 Boston butts for their largest fundraiser — taking 2 1/2 days to complete the cooking alone.
Still, Byrd enjoys the work and its benefits. To ensure the fundraisers generate as much revenue as possible for the supported causes, Byrd and his team chop their own pecan wood. Byrd also works with a local grocer to keep costs down.
“We don’t charge anything to do all this,” he says. “We price it in a way where the cost of the meat is about half of the proceeds. The other half will be profit that you can give to the people.”
Caraway, the May honoree, maintains a legacy of assisting those around him, even at 87 years old. In years past, he’d volunteer to drive people to critical doctor’s appointments. Today, the former farmer uses the earth to serve his fellow man.
Caraway maintains a large garden, which he uses to provide food to the needy. His donations have been extremely important during the coronavirus pandemic, which has prevented many from going to grocery stores.
“I have one lady that I’ve been growing a garden for for years and years,” he says. Caraway has also used his tractor to help others repair their driveways. He uses a proactive approach to his community service projects. “If I see a need, I go tell the people I can help,” he says. “I don’t wait to be asked.”
Appreciating the Program
Both Byrd and Caraway believe the Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass initiative carries tremendous value for the region.
“I think it’s a wonderful program. You’ve got people who are willing to do a lot of stuff to help people, and they’re not doing it for recognition,” Byrd says. “We don’t know when we’re going to be the one that needs help.”
“I think it’s a great program to let people know what’s going on and to motivate somebody else to do something,” Caraway says.
WEC and WTVY News 4 launched the program for those very reasons, Kimbro says.
“So much good happens in our region that goes unrecognized,” he says. “If we honor these actions, though, not only do we encourage our everyday heroes, but we also inspire new ones to support their communities.”
To nominate someone for the Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass honor, visit WTVY website and click on the Silent Heroes of the Wiregrass tab.