It’s undeniable that Birmingham has undergone a revitalization in recent years. I think it has officially become a “destination” city. You can view historic architecture, watch movies at elegant old theaters (the Alabama Theater is one of my favorite places), and dine on incredible Southern food. You can visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, a crucial stop along the Alabama Civil Rights Trail. Yes, previously you might have driven through Birmingham, but you weren’t planning a trip here.
Establishments like the Alabama Theatre and the Lyric Theatre are incredible gems in our city. Locations like Railroad Park are important places of rebirth for this city. And The Pizitz building now houses everything from Ethiopian cuisine and homemade Pimento Cheese to Southern barbecue. Birmingham is a big city that now feels more like a connected community.
While all this growth in so many different arenas is exceptional, to me it’s not even the most excellent aspect of the Magic City. Charitable organizations exist all over Birmingham. Birmingham has its flaws and has a blemished history of civil rights issues. But the people of Birmingham have come a long way, and in 2012, Birmingham was voted the third most generous metro area of the 50 largest U.S. metros, according to www.al.com.
Two weeks ago, a group of friends from our Sunday School class had an incredible opportunity. We had the chance to visit The Lovelady Center, located in downtown Birmingham close to Woodlawn High School. We were able to help them with a few projects around the center and meet some of the wonderful residents there. I love to take our children fun places to make memories, but I also want them to see that serving others is more than fun – its JOYFUL! Serving others brings joy to the people we serve and to us as we help some wonderful people in this city. Here is additional information about The Lovelady Center and more treasures of hope in Birmingham that truly put the “magic” in The Magic City.
What Puts the “Magic” in The Magic City
The Lovelady Center
Back in 2016, Brenda Lovelady Spahn got a call from the warden of the Alabama Department of Corrections to tell her that The Lovelady Center was partially responsible for a decrease in the recidivism rate across Alabama. While The Lovelady Center works directly with women, their success has lowered the rate for both men and women across the state. The Lovelady Center strives to help women overcome addiction in a safe, loving, faith-based environment. The Center provides on-going education for its residents, helps with employment opportunities, and provides a school for residents’ children so they won’t fall behind in school. The women come from many walks of life and need specific services for a variety of reasons. The services and love that The Lovelady Center provides for this community of women in Birmingham are imperative and enable these brave women to re-enter society successfully. These women are grateful for this “second chance” at really living. Another thing I noticed at the Center as we toured was that the ladies who greeted each other always ended their conversation with, “I love you.” They want each individual to continually know how valuable and loved they are! I thought to myself, I really need to follow their example more!!
The Jimmie Hale Mission
The Jimmie Hale Mission is a Christian-based organization which has a homeless shelter for men, and a shelter for women and children. They provide after-school bible clubs, recovery programs, and several different learning centers. They are known for meeting the spiritual and physical needs of those in the Birmingham community. Jimmie Hale Mission has been serving Birmingham for 75 years and is one of the greatest treasures this city has for helping those in need to get back on their feet.
My parents introduced me to The Jimmie Hale Mission. I remember back in the 1970s they would talk about organizations they felt were doing a great deal of good and that they deserved our support. The Jimmie Hale Mission was at the top of their list. Seeing my mom and dad financially support The Jimmie Hale Mission encouraged me (years ago) to work with our church to take them food after Sunday School and, more recently, to collect money for their annual Thanksgiving meals they provide to shelter residents. The Jimmie Hale Mission made a big impact on my attitude toward giving and continues to make a tremendous impact in the lives of people in Birmingham.
Lifeline Children’s Services
At Lifeline Children’s Services, adoption is believed to be a way that God gives vulnerable children to families who will love them and provide them with a safe and secure childhood! The Lifeline staff walks alongside these families through the adoption process and helps provide necessary resources.
When vulnerable families go through crises, lack of money, lack of support, and sometimes lack of necessary parenting skills can often turn problems into tragic situations. Children in these situations may suffer neglect or abuse and may eventually be placed in state custody. Through the Harbor Families program, Traditional Foster Care, and Families Count™, Lifeline affords the local church with the ability to provide hope, financial support, emotional and spiritual support, and education to at-risk families as they work toward the ultimate goal of reunification with their precious children.
Like all of these organizations, volunteers are crucial to Lifeline’s ministry. Volunteers can pray for children and families, receive regular updates about church initiatives and partnership opportunities, or participate in behind-the-scenes administrative work such as writing letters or making phone calls. Being a Lifeline volunteer can make a tremendous difference in the lives of children and families across Birmingham!
Sav-A-Life is a pregnancy care ministry created in 1980 by Wales Goebel. Since its inception, it’s been committed to the confidential and FREE care of women, men, and families in the throes of unplanned pregnancies. According to the Sav-A-Life website, the organization understands there is a variety of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs that go along with unplanned pregnancies. For these reasons, it has established a broad ministry to meet those needs. They offer free and confidential services in a loving environment to women.
Sav-A-Life provides free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, abortion information, parenting classes, and material assistance to empower both women and men to choose life. They state that their ultimate purpose is to affirm all life — both physically and spiritually. In addition, those struggling with past abortions often find God’s healing and forgiveness through the loving words of these employees.
I wasn’t aware of the origin of Sav-A-Life until the mid 1990s. It was then that I learned my former neighbor from Hoover had started this life-changing ministry! Since then I’ve made a better effort to know my neighbors!
The WellHouse ministry statement is straightforward – they exist to honor God by rescuing and helping restore a sense of normal life to female victims of human trafficking.
The WellHouse was started when a human trafficking survivor decided there needed to be a place of safety and security for victims being rescued. Thanks to her outreach and help from others, she came up with the idea of a home with no stipulations that can often keep victims from receiving needed assistance.
The WellHouse is an amazing operation — a 24-hour shelter offering immediate help to trafficked women who are rescued from anywhere in the United States. Entry requirements such as a driver’s license or a birth certificate are not necessary, because these are often the things that can hinder a woman’s access to an immediate, safe environment. Survivors who desire help and who want to move toward becoming overcomers are welcomed, period. The WellHouse provides an environment that leads women out of hopelessness into a life filled with potential. All women are welcome regardless of race, color, creed, or religion. The WellHouse is a place of acceptance right here in Birmingham.
This Magic City
Birmingham continues to grow in culture, entertainment, and employment opportunities — all important aspects of a city on the move. But what I find best about Birmingham is that thanks to these organizations and many more, it continues to grow in GRACE. Birmingham continues to become a more gracious, connected community with citizens who want to help one another. That is what keeps the magic going.