MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — A woman that built her career on service to our country, retired and started her own business. A community leader who brings people together for different functions and is not afraid to chase her dreams — that is Bailey Erickson, a 2022 Tennessee Valley Remarkable Women finalist.

Bailey was described as enthusiastic, honest, and full of integrity by her nominator and friend, Donna Phillips.

Bailey’s visions have made a difference in the city of Madison. She created and developed numerous projects such as the Volksmarch, River of Hope and even started her own business during the pandemic.

Volksmarch is an annual non-competitive activity that gets families outdoors and allows them to learn about Madison’s history. When COVID-19 shut everything down, she created an app, Discover Historic Madison, so that families could still get outdoors and learn about Madison’s history all on their own.

“During the beginning of COVID, about six months in when people were starting to feel nasty and negative about being closed in,” Bailey told News 19 that’s when her next project, “River of Hope” was born.

Photo from the River of Hope completion in July 2020. (Photo: WHNT)

The River of Hope is a painted rock garden at Dublin Park that symbolizes the community’s strength during the pandemic.

It started with a conversation over coffee, “We wanted to think of a way the citizens of Madison could come out and do something, express their concerns about COVID-19 or encouragement to reach other people…To this day it’s a reminder of inspiration to the people in Madison,” Bailey said.

Another project, while still focusing on bringing the community together, benefitted nature in return.

(L to R) Bailey Erickson poses with Alabama Master Gardener Mayra Pangborn.

Bailey had read an article that the monarch butterfly, Alabama’s state insect, was seeing about a 90% decline in population due to urban development and herbicides. Naturally, she decided to see what she could do to help.

She looked into what type of plants attracted and nourished the butterflies in hopes that it would increase the population, “I just thought it was something we can do, and my friends have the knowledge – so why not?” Not long after, “Save Our Monarch” was born to encourage community members to develop butterfly habitats.

Outside of her work within the Madison community, she is also a mother. Bailey raised her children on her own, “I have a son, Christian. He’s an electrical engineer. My daughter Alexis, followed in my footsteps and joined the Air Force. I miss her so much but I’m so proud she’s serving our country.”

As if Bailey wasn’t busy enough, she and Alexis used their downtime during the pandemic to start a waffle business. Like many of us, COVID-19 had a lot of people trying new things — baking new items, learning different skills and more to try to keep themselves entertained during quarantine.

“During COVID, my daughter and I, she’s 19 now. She and I were very bored…. and wanted to come up with an idea for a product that would make people happy. We thought of Belgian waffles,” Bailey said.

Wafel-Bitte, LLC” is a Belgian “Liege” waffle business that the two run together and they make homemade waffles for residents across the Tennessee Valley. Even after working for the U.S. Government for nearly 30 years and serving in the Air Force for four years, Bailey doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

Her advice to future entrepreneurs?

I would suggest if you have an idea for a business, don’t keep knocking it around in your head. As soon as you come up with an idea: plan it out a little, make an outline of what you’re thinking and contact the Catalyst Center and the Small Business Development Center at UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville). They’re both there to give you free advice. They were my secret to success.

Bailey Erickson, 2022 Tennessee Valley Remarkable Women Finalist

As mentioned above, Bailey was nominated to our Remarkable Women contest by her friend Donna Phillips. You can read her nomination essay below:

“My dear friend Bailey is very deserving of this “Remarkable Woman” nomination and award.  She retired from the U.S. Government after serving 28 years in civilian federal law enforcement and previous to that, 4 years in the U.S. Air Force. She currently owns and operates a small business in Madison called Wafel-Bitte, LLC, a Belgian “Liege” Waffle business. She has two children, Christian, who is an Electrical Engineer and Alexis, currently in the U.S. Air Force. Bailey’s passion is giving back to her community and she is very involved with several organizations. She volunteers with the Rotary Club of Madison-Sunset (Chair-Elect), Rotary Club of Madison Foundation Board (member), Madison Visionary Partners (Board member), Women’s Economic Development Council (WEDC), CSNA Community Coordinated Response to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force, Tennessee Valley Air Force Association (member), and was a Military Emeritus Docent at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. She also routinely assists the Madison City School system with projects as needed. Bailey has been instrumental with several major projects and events which contributed to the betterment of the Madison Community. She led a project in Madison called “Save Our Monarch”. That project was a large community effort to develop butterfly habitats. The Monarch is Alabama’s state insect and its population has declined by 90 % due to many factors including urban sprawl and the use of herbicides. Other recently completed projects include the Madison River of Hope and the Quaranteam (both of which raised funds for those impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic). She developed the idea for and led Volksmarch of Madison (2018 and 2019). The intent of the Volksmarch of Madison was to provide an outdoor family walking event promoting the historic and business districts of Madison. This year, Bailey took the Volksmarch idea and transformed it into a Smartphone app called “Walk Historic Madison”. The app has been approved by Madison City School System as a history teaching tool for students and is a local attraction for visitors and citizens alike to enjoy.”

For a look at other nominees and 2021 nominees, visit the Remarkable Women tab on WHNT.com.