Madison Family of the Year
Madison Family of the Year
The Allison Family
The Lien Family
The Parker Family
The Allison Family
Jay, Betsy, John, Mark, Sarah and Paul
Jay and Betsy Allison are native Southerners, so naturally, they have hospitality in their souls. The gregarious parents to four young children – John (nearly 11), Mark (8), Sarah (7) and Paul (4) – combine that innate hospitality with their deep and abiding Christian faith to open both their home and hearts to serving the community. The perfect symbol for this family’s altruism is sitting in their backyard. Actually, it is sprawling across their backyard, and it is fittingly called “Allison Wonderland.” The enormous wooden play structure that Jay and the children have designed and built in stages over the years includes intricate forts and bridges and towers, and it has become a mecca for neighborhood children.
The Allisons bring that same sense of hospitality with them wherever they go, which given their current season in life is usually a place with a lot of children. But they wouldn’t have it any other way, because their favorite type of service is “working with children and for children to make for a better future,” says Betsy. Whether at home, at school, on the sports field, or at church, the Allisons are making a positive difference in children’s lives.
Jay and Betsy value education very highly, and know it is a key to success for all children. Jay earned a B.S. in Computer Engineering and a Master’s of Business Administration at Mississippi State University (MSU). He went on to complete a Master’s of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). Betsy earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication (Public Relations) and in French, and completed a Master of Arts degree in French, all at MSU.
The Allison children are following in their parents’ footsteps by excelling academically and in extracurricular activities at Horizon Elementary School where Sarah is in 1st grade, Mark is in 3rd grade, and John is in 5th grade. Jay and Betsy’s favorite thing about Madison is the quality of the schools, and they are committed to being active participants at school to benefit their own children and others. This year, Jay is the coach of one of Horizon's Lego Robotics teams. He also judges the school Science Fair, and enjoys sharing his knowledge of software and electronics when he speaks to students about inventions, patents, 3D modeling, electricity, and Raspberry Pi technology. Betsy has served as Room Parent each year and is an avid classroom volunteer. She is also on Horizon’s PTA Board as the Room Parent Coordinator, and volunteers regularly for PTA events and programs.
At Grace United Methodist Church, Jay and Betsy are ardent volunteers, having served in youth leadership, Bible studies, service projects, fundraisers, mission projects and trips, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, church business committees, and more since joining the church when they moved here over 15 years ago. Betsy’s passion lies in children’s ministry, and the Wee BZ preschool ministry she created is thriving. The Allison children are all heavily involved at church with Sunday School, Wednesday Night Ministry, Mission Madness and Wee BZ, and John and Mark serve as acolytes. John and Sarah are also in the GraceFull Singers children’s troupe.
An athletic family, the Allison children play AYSO Soccer, Upward Basketball and baseball with Madison Baseball Association (MBA), while both Jay and Betsy serve as their enthusiastic coaches. Betsy has coached each of their children in AYSO Soccer over the past 7 seasons, and Jay coaches the children in MBA Baseball and Upward Basketball. The Allisons’ youngest family member, Paul, who attends preschool at Madison United Methodist Church Preschool, has always been his older siblings’ biggest fan, but was excited about being able to join a team himself last spring.
The arts are important to the Allison family as well. Sarah is a writer, and even though just in 1st grade, she enjoys writing pages and pages of letters to family members and has written a story for the PTA newsletter. John is an artist, who won 1st place in the City of Madison PTA Reflections Arts contest in 4th grade. John also enjoys being a member of the Madison City Schools 5th and 6th grade Honor Chorus. Third grader Mark has found a new passion in the game of chess during this school year. He is a member of not only Horizon's Chess Team, but also the Madison's All Star East Chess Team.
Professionally, Jay works as a Senior Engineering Manager at Synapse Wireless and he holds three patents related to software. “Our children love that they can call their dad an ‘inventor!” says Betsy. After 10 years as a mainly stay-at-home-mom, Betsy began teaching the 4-year-old preschool class at Madison United Methodist Preschool in August.
The Allisons are well-respected for being servant leaders in our community, and are admired for their inspiring family unity. This is the second year in a row the Allisons have been selected as finalists for Madison Family of the Year.
The Lien Family
Hue, Helen and Lana
When Hue and Dr. Helen Lien and their daughter Lana, now 7 years old, moved to Madison four years ago, they knew immediately that our city was the perfect place for their family. With Madison as home base, the Liens have been able to enjoy nature together, be involved in the scientific and arts communities, to be part of a quality school family, and serve the community that they love.
The Liens believe that to have a strong community requires private citizens working collaboratively with service organizations and with each other for the common good. “Whether we are hosting guests or volunteering in the community, we strive to imbue our lives with our family’s philosophy: ‘It is better to build a longer table than a taller wall,’” says Helen.
The Liens currently focus their volunteer efforts in three areas: at Country Day School, where Lana is a 2nd grader and Helen teaches Mandarin Chinese; at the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology, where Helen works; and by serving the homeless throughout the local community.
At school, Hue and Helen volunteer in the classroom, with the art club and science club, and with the annual International Festival and Winter Fest. Helen, who earned a Bachelors in Biochemistry from Smith College, and both a Masters and Ph.D in Biomedical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has also voluntarily collaborated with teachers to create new science curriculum and science enrichment activities.
Hue, who earned a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Hawai’i – Manoa and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and who is an engineer at Engineering Research Corp, brings his expertise to his volunteer work at the school by designing and building whatever is needed.
Helen began volunteering with HudsonAlpha upon moving to Alabama seven years ago and later became an employee. As a docent, she leads tours of the facility, educating visitors about the field of genomics. In her position as facilitator of Advanced Placement Program for Learning Enrichment, she teaches science labs to local AP Biology teachers, and coordinates classroom visits by other scientists.
Hue and Lana enjoy volunteering with Helen at HudsonAlpha each year to make the signature pink and teal ribbon pins for the “Tie the Ribbons” luncheons that raise funds for breast and ovarian cancer research. Last summer the Liens meticulously created 1,300 of these delicate ribbons to be given to each attendee.
Thanks to being inspired by a local friend, the Liens began serving meals to homeless members of the community during the holidays one year, and continued this work as the program evolved into a weekly pop-up soup kitchen. Helen was grateful to develop friendships with the people her family served. After that program disbanded, Helen and Lana continued their service by visiting Tent City in Huntsville to pass out food and supplies. “It’s bittersweet to see a familiar face, but good to know a friend is well,” says Helen.
Hue and Helen have intentionally exposed Lana to a wide variety of different experiences to educate her and to allow her to find her true passion. Following in Helen’s footsteps, Lana has fallen in love with the field of genomics and even took the HudsonAlpha’s BioTech 101 course. Hue has taught Lana how to design and build projects and he has helped her to become quite good with a drill press.
But Lana’s true passion is with the arts. She takes lessons in painting, collage making, weaving, pottery, tap, ballet, and theatre. She also enjoys the art of baking, and joyfully shares her delicious cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and cakes with classmates, friends, and neighbors.
After visiting an art museum in New Orleans last year, Lana presented to her school’s Director a proposal for opening an art museum at the school. Her request was approved, so Lana procured artwork from her classmates, and with the help of her art teacher hung the first gallery of the Country Day School Art Museum.
Together, this engineer, scientist and artist all share a love of nature. They believe that green spaces are vital to a community’s well-being, so they seek out parks and greenways and relish in exploring and preserving them. Their favorite local trail is at Rainbow Mountain, where they hike regularly. Last year, after hiking the Walls of Jericho in Alabama, they set out to hike all over the country. The family made it through a 9-hour hike at Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park in Utah, a 7-mile hike through sand and 100°F heat at South Coyote Buttes in Arizona, and a very cold hike through the Grand Canyon’s North Rim while being pelted by sleet. They enjoyed every minute of the experiences because they accomplished them together. A gifted photographer, along the way Helen chronicled their adventures and shared her breathtaking photos on social media.
"Having that time to focus on each other and enjoy something new together is perhaps our favorite way to build family strength,” says Helen.
Hue and Helen cherish every day with each other and with Lana. “In the end, what motivates Hue and me to maintain a harmonious loving family home for Lana is knowing we can’t take a single day for granted,” says Helen.
The Parker Family
David, Michele, David II and Matthew
When Doctors David and Michele Parker moved to Madison in 2001 after graduating from UAB School of Optometry, they didn’t know they would be pioneers in what would become a thriving medical district in Madison at the southern end of Hughes Road. They opened their Madison Eye Care Center that year in a modest, leased space on Hughes Road, with Michele’s mother working as their receptionist, and with David and Michele juggling part-time jobs at other practices to support themselves as they grew their own practice.
Fast forward nine years to 2010 and the Parkers celebrated the opening of their brand new state-of-the-art facility located at 66 Hughes Road. Today their hugely popular practice continues to grow, and currently has two associate doctors and 12 employees. “Our philosophy is simple, we treat patients like family,” says Michele. “We truly love them.”
But it’s not just the patients that David and Michele treat as family. Whether volunteering at Rainbow Elementary where sons David II (6th grade) and Matthew (4th grade) attend, coaching their sons in sports, or volunteering with Trinity Baptist Church in Madison to serve the community, David and Michele treat the people they encounter with a genuine and heartfelt kindness, selflessly helping those in need. They live by the words of one of their favorite Bible verses: “Give and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” - Luke 6:38
The Parkers witnessed the sentiment of that verse first hand when five years ago that good measure was measured back to them after Michele was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. Through years of treatments and surgeries, the Parkers remained steadfast in their faith and were in awe of the community’s outpouring of support. Michele’s parents, John and Brenda Chapman; their church family; as well as other family, friends, neighbors, patients, and even strangers all reached out to help. “We needed all hands on deck, and we got them, but we did not just get them, we got them with joyful hearts who never give up, who always lift us up and encourage us,” says Michele. “We got them through unconditional love.”
This summer, the Parkers were looking forward to reaching the 5-year cancer-free mark in August. But in July, as they prepared for their annual beach trip, Michele sensed that she should see her doctor to have a PET scan. As Michele and David sat together in her doctor’s office after the scan, they learned the devastating news that the cancer had returned. Broken-hearted and scared as they were, Michele and David still took comfort in trusting the Lord’s timing and believing in His plan.
When they sat their sons down to tell them the news, Michele says the most amazing thing happened – her sons lifted them up with their optimistic and prayerful responses. “This is where as a parent, you begin to see the fruits of your labor,” says Michele. “It’s amazing how children can be our rocks sometimes.”
The Parker boys are fun-loving, active participants in the Madison community. Avid athletes, David II plays Upward flag football, Upward basketball and golf at Madison Golf Center. Matthew also plays golf, as well as tackle football at Madison Academy, and is quite the talented baseball player. At a tournament with his championship travel baseball team last spring he hit four out-of-the-park homeruns. The boys also excel at school. David II is on the award-winning math team, was a school science fair winner, is in the running and archery clubs, is a Rainbow Rocketeer, and won the school spelling bee. Matthew looks forward to joining some of the same school programs once old enough.
Today, as Michele undergoes more treatment, the Parkers are still the same loving, active, close-knit family as always. They still get up every morning joyful for what the day will bring. They still serve the community. And they still end each day doing their most favorite thing of all - their special bedtime routine where the family cuddles together in the boys’ rooms to read children’s devotionals. “It is such a wonderful way to wind down and reflect on the day and how thankful we are for the blessings in our life,” says Michele.
Michele’s parents and the community have continued to rally around them. David II, Matthew, and school friends recently ran in the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run to raise $3,155 for the Huntsville Hospital Foundation Breast Center. Matthew’s baseball team surprised Michele at its last tournament by wearing pink jerseys that said “Michele’s Cancer Crushers.” Matthew’s football team wore pink socks the entire month of October for breast cancer awareness. And the Parkers’ neighbors have placed pink bows on their mailboxes in Michele’s honor.
The Parkers have themselves been proactive by starting the “Pray BIG” campaign, which asks the community for prayers of healing. In response, churches throughout Madison have added them to their prayers lists. The Trinity Church family also presented Michele with a prayer quilt made of hundreds of knots that were tied onto the quilt by friends, co-workers, colleagues, and patients as they said prayers for healing with each knot they made. Many of the strings on the quilt were not knotted just once, but were double and triple knotted. “I sleep under that prayer quilt every night and I take it to every treatment that I have. I am covered in prayer when I do that and there is no other place safer!” says Michele.
The Parkers are grateful to live in Madison because of the people who make it so special. And David and Michele are proud of the next generation of Madison citizens they are nurturing at home. “I could not be more proud of the way that our family has unconditionally and unselfishly supported, loved, and encouraged each other through this journey,” she says of her sons and husband.