- Cullman, Alabama

July 17, 2013

Gospel music concert to benefit heart transplant recipient

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

— The Joyful Hearts (Donnie and Brenda Foxx) have brought much happiness, seen many souls saved, and have had their lives blessed in many ways over the years through their singing and their testimony.

A 20th anniversary celebration last year allowed them to sing for, and to gather with, hundreds of people who have come to love them as performers and as people.

The Joyful Hearts will sing at a benefit “Straight From The Heart” for Kathy McElroy at 6 p.m. Monday, July 22, 2013, at the Wallace State Student Center Auditorium, 801 Main St. Hanceville, Alabama.

They will entertain and minister to the crowd with some of their most requested songs, like, “Hymns Medley,” “Place I Love,” and “I've Got More To Go To Heaven For.” They will also sing many old gospel standards that will have the audience singing along. Of course, they are always happy to take requests anywhere they perform.

“We went to Bellview Heights Baptist Church one Sunday morning because we have known the pastor, Rodger James, for many years," said Brenda Foxx. "He and his son, Rodney, and Mary Mooney are the trio, Living Faith Singers."

Cathy James asked the Foxxes if they would like to help with the benefit for McLeroy, and they said that they sure would. "In the 20 years that the Joyful Hearts have been singing, I can't tell you the benefits we have had a pleasure of being a part of," said Brenda Foxx. "We feel like if we can't help a brother or sister in a time of need then we are not being obedient to what God has called us to do."

January 2013, the Joyful Hearts released their first single, “That's Why I Call It Grace.” It debuted in March at 99 on the Country Gospel Charts, and by July it had moved up to 43. "We thank God for what He did in that situation," said Brenda.

Their new CD will be available at the benefit for Kathy McLeroy. All proceeds from the sales of the CD that night will go toward medical expenses from McLeroy's recent heart transplant.

Enell Baker wrote her first song 48 years ago at the age of 12. In the early ’70s and ’80s, she sang with the Country Boy Eddie Show on WBRC Channel 6, Birmingham, Alabama.

Over the years she has performed many benefits and concerts such as this one, often sharing the stage with such personalities as Wendy Bagwell, and the Sunlighters, the Florida Boys, the Kingsmen and the Lewis family, to name just a few.

Enell, who is a nurse at Woodland Village Healthcare Center, has also taken part in many community events like the Relay For Life, Purple Heart of Cullman and for various other charities and individuals in time of need.

She and her husband, Charles Baker, own Baker Productions. She will be singing some of her own songs, such as “Relay For Life” in honor of Kathy’s work with that organization, and as a reminder of her own battle with cancer.

One of her more interesting songs is really a compilation of the titles of 52 different gospel songs joined together to form a song called “Gospel Song of Songs.”

Eric Bridwell was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. He is married to Charlotte James Bridwell.

Eric grew up singing solos and in choir at University Baptist Church in Huntsville, and went on to study classical voice in high school and college.

While in college, Eric was director for the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Baptist Student Union (BSU) Choir, where he sang in BSU ensemble and performed across North Alabama.

In March 2009, Eric joined the southern gospel quartet, Gospel Heritage IV, as tenor. Since then, they have released two CDs, “What A Treasure” in 2011, and “Remembering...The Classics” in  2013. The quartet's home church is First Baptist Church in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

In the spring of this year, Eric released a solo CD called “Sing the Wondrous Story” which contains some of his favorite Southern Gospel songs.

Eric has performed in the North Alabama Southern Gospel Convention and will sing in the upcoming 103rd anniversary, “Remembering the Music,” to be held in Huntsville later this year.

When he is not on the road with the quartet, Eric sings regularly at an assisted living home in Huntsville, a ministry of Lakewood Baptist Church in Huntsville.

“I’ve been blessed with the gift of singing,” says Bridwell. “When I sing, it is truly heartfelt. I am thankful for any opportunity to share the gospel of Christ through song, and I am honored to have been asked to participate in the benefit singing for Kathy McLeroy.”

It was Cathy James who put this event together out of love and concern for her sister-in-law. “I believe that each group or person was placed just at the right moment in my path by God as I began to pull together a lineup, and as Debbie Miller and Kathy’s daughter, Brittany Howell, worked on the pieces they were in charge of,” Cathy explained. “We were just a little team trusting in God to do a big work. Without hesitation each person I ask over the course of two weeks quickly responded with a ‘yes’, and not only that, but wanting to know what else they could do to help.”

“The Joyful Hearts graciously agreed to help with getting some advertising out through radio and TV connections,” Cathy added.

“Enell Baker has secret plans all her own that will be revealed at the end of the event,” said Cathy. “This is something worth buying a ticket to be a part of. Enell also mentioned that her husband, Charles, wanted to help so the Baker’s studio will be doing a Skype link so that Kathy will be able to see the event and speak to the crowd at the end.

Due to the delicate nature of the heart transplant, it is dangerous for Kathy to be in large crowds. Even a mild cold could compromise the new heart, causing her body to reject it.

The Living Faith Singers have been together for about 18 years. Roger James, who has also performed with the Victory Aires, ChurchMen and Song Masters, his son, Rodney James, and Mary Mooney are charter members of the original group. Glen Smallwood joined the group as a bass singer a few years back.

Rodney’s wife, Cathy James, is one of their most avid fans. She says the credit goes to Rodney for setting the wheels in motion for this benefit singing for Kathy McLeroy.  

“Kathy is always doing for others, so we can sure do a benefit singing for her,” said Rodney.

The Living Faith Singers have done many benefits for those in need. They have performed each year for the Veterans Day event for the seniors, the Relay For Life event one year, funerals when needed, church homecomings and by invitation to sing at churches. They also travel to Georgia and Birmingham, and on occasion they have even gone to Ohio to sing for a weekend.

They say most of all they just enjoy sharing the love of God in song and being able to help those in need with the talents that the Lord has given them.

“Kathy has touched so many lives in so many ways. She's one of those people that want to rush through the part about her and move on to let someone's light shine,” said James, overcome with emotion. “The thing that we have seen in Kathy is that she seems to focus on the people that might never have even had a light to shine — she wants to help to give them one.”

“We want to help her because the world needs more people like Kathy that are willing to reach out and help someone not for who they are, or what they have, but because it’s the right thing to do,” she continued.

“When a person understands the meaning of ‘the journey is the reward’ and that it's what we do until we meet God face to face that matters will you truly understand people like Kathy or feel the urge to stop what you are doing for one night and attend a benefit singing to help someone in need,” she explained.

Cathy was reminded of Luke 6:38: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.”

You may make a personal donation at Regions Bank. For more information on donations of about the benefit, please contact Debbie Miller at 256-339-5499, Cathy James at 256-338-7289, or Brittany Howell at 256-339-4705


‘Straight From The Heart’ benefit singing for Kathy McElroy on Monday, July 22, 2013, at the Wallace State Student Center Auditorium, 801 Main St. Hanceville, Alabama, at 6:00 p.m.



Tickets are available at the following locations;

The Cullman Times

Woodland Village Healthcare Center

Sandra’s Tax Service

Doug Doggett Jewelers

Tickets will also be available at the door

All proceeds go toward helping with Kathy McLeroy’s medical expenses and medication cost related to her recent heart transplant.


Ticket Information

Adults $20

Children (ages 7-12) $10

Children (ages 6 and under) FREE

Group discounts available. For groups of six or more, adult admission will be discounted to $10 each, children will be discounted to $5 each.


You can reach Brenda Foxx at 256-775-0103

Enell Baker at Baker Productions 256-737-5488

Call Roger James at 256-734-9592 for booking information for The Living Faith Singers.  

Eric Bridwell,  256)652-7721