Making a difference in the lives of people who live in Shoal Creek Valley is what Vernon White lives for.

For the past three years, White is just thankful he is alive. On April 27, 2011, a deadly tornado hit Shoal Creek Valley. White was driving the fire truck that was picked up by the tornado and tossed upside down in the Coosa River. White was able to escape from inside the truck and is alive today to talk about it.

Last week White, the fire chief for the volunteer fire department, was surprised at the fire station with a plaque from Birmingham television station WVTM-13 honoring how he makes a difference in his community.

White is the 2014 Making a Difference winner for June.

“It is such an honor to receive this award,” White said. “It means so much to know people think of you that much to honor you like this.”

White said God was looking over him that day he was tossed into the river.

“It is an honor to be in the position where I can help the people who live in our community,” White said. “I have to give credit to everyone who serves in the fire department.”

There are 22 people who make up the Shoal Creek Volunteer Fire Department. They are responsible for 650 to 700 households. The ISO rating is 4-9, which is better than the 9-10 they used to have.

“That was a big improvement,” White said. “There are very few volunteer fire departments in the state with a 4-9 ISO rating.” 

White’s wife, Linda, said so many people in the Valley depend on Vernon.

“Some people will call Vernon before they call 911,” Linda White said.

“They will call him to come check their blood pressure, among other things.”

If anyone is interested in becoming part of the volunteer fire department, they can call White. Meetings are held the first Tuesday nights of each month at 7 p.m. at fire station 1.