By Hannah Lester
Katie Basden works every day to ensure that members of the special-needs community have the resources they need to attend college and have the opportunities of other Auburn University students.
Basden is Auburn through-and-through. She grew up in the city, attended Auburn University and was one of the Auburn cheerleaders.
Although she moved to Birmingham after graduation, she and her husband soon after moved back to her home city to raise their own family.
She has two children with special needs, both of whom also had the opportunity to attend Auburn University.
“Three years ago when our son had the opportunity be accepted into the EAGLES program at Auburn University our world was changed forever,” Basden said.
The EAGLES program is Auburn University’s program for students with special needs, which allows them to earn a college degree and prepare for life beyond education.
“‘War Eagle!’ is a greeting shared across the Auburn campus and throughout the Auburn Family. The iconic eagle represents the Auburn spirit and the strength that is within all of us. It is therefore fitting that Auburn University’s comprehensive transition program for students with intellectual disabilities be known as EAGLES or Education to Accomplish Growth in Life Experiences for Success,” the EAGLES website said.
Basden’s son, Bradley, graduated from the two-year EAGLES program and is continuing on with the four-year program.
“When we were able to witness the growth and the opportunities that he received through this, we never dreamed he would have the opportunity to go to college, and now he has joined my other two children as being fourth-generation Auburn graduates,” Basden said.
Although the EAGLES program provides the opportunity for students with special needs to attend school, the cost associated with higher education is still more than some families can afford.
“Once we saw how our family was affected by that opportunity, I wanted other families to have that same opportunity,” she said. “But the kicker is that in order to provide the support necessary for a program like the EAGLES program, it is very expensive.”
So, Basden, along with other community members, created a solution: scholarships for EAGLES-program students.
“Most families with special-needs students haven’t saved and planned for those children to go to college because college hasn’t always been an option,” she said.
The Eagles Foundation was formed a year and a half ago. This private non-profit raises funds for those scholarships.
EAGLES Students were able to receive scholarships for the first time in fall 2020, Basden said.
“We plan to continue to be poised to give scholarships every semester from this point forward and just do anything we can to support the program,” she said.
The foundation has not only provided scholarships, but funds for other areas of need for the EAGLES Program, such as a technology lab, Basden said.
So far, the foundation has raised its funds through three separate events, two of which were golf tournaments. The third was a kick-off party to inform community members about how funds would be used.
“Our ultimate goal is to be able to provide scholarships for every student that ever comes into the program, forever,” Basden said.
Those interested in supporting The Eagles Foundation can donate on the website (www.theeaglesfoundation.org) or by mailing a check to The EAGLES Foundation, 648 Monticello Court, Auburn, AL 36830.
Basden is one of six lamplighter award winners that Auburn Mayor Ron Anders named during the state of the city address in November.
Serving Habitat for Humanity
Karen Turner is adding President of the Board of the Auburn/Opelika Habitat for Humanity to her long list of credentials.
Turner has served on the city of Auburn’s Board of Zoning and Adjustments, chair of the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and as a chairperson for the Auburn Beautification Council.
For years, Turner worked as a real estate agent and she said it has stayed in the family. Not only did her mother work in real estate, but so do her daughter and granddaughter.
It just makes sense that Turner would combine her heart for service and community involvement with real estate as president of the Board of the Auburn/Opelika Habitat for Humanity.
“My husband and I moved here, he retired in 1991 from Birmingham, when we moved to Auburn,” Turner said. “And on our way to Auburn, following the moving truck, he said, ‘We’re going to Auburn. We don’t know the first person and it’s up to you to make friends and get us involved in the community.’ And with that, we never stopped.”
Turner and her husband first got involved with Tidy Tigers and the Chamber of Commerce.
“My heart is a servant’s heart,” she said. “Anywhere that I can go and be of assistance to people and serve and to be with people that love the community.”
She first became involved with Habitat for Humanity when her husband joined the board.
“It gave me an opportunity to meet people and to make a difference,” Turner said. “And I hope that through my service that I have made a difference in people’s lives. Just like with Habitat, it’s not a handout, it’s a hand up to help people.”
Although she did not serve her time with Habitat continuously, after her husband’s death she rejoined the board.
“I was looking one day at Habitat, and I said, ‘You know, that was something we both enjoyed, that is something that is related to my profession and I can serve helping people,’” Turner said.
The organization recently celebrated the dedication of its 69th home in the area.
To give to Habitat for Humanity Auburn/Opelika, visit the website (www.auburnopelikahabitat.org) or to apply for a home, visit here: www.auburnopelikahabitat.org/become-a-homeowner/
“Some people have never owned their own home,” Turner said. “They’ve been in a rental situation even when they were children and so to see a family receive the keys to their own home and see their children excited about having their own bedroom and painting it the color they want. Anybody that that would not warm their heart, just doesn’t have a servant’s heart.”
Turner is one of six lamplighter award winners whom Auburn Mayor Ron Anders named during the state of the city address in November.
This is the second in a series of four that will highlight the work these lamplighter award winners have done for the city of Auburn.