The Birmingham Crisis Center: talking does help

Crises Center

Talking does help.

The Birmingham Crisis Center’s simple motto seeks to very simply convey its mission to Central Alabama, to serve the unmet needs of people experiencing personal crisis or mental health issues and respond with services that promote coping, emotional health and well being.

“We are a safe place,” said Valerie Shayman, the Crisis and Suicide Line Program Coordinator at the Crisis Center. “Our staff and volunteers pride themselves in making sure this is a non-judgmental, safe, and comfortable atmosphere so all of our clients can receive the support they need and deserve.”

And its clients are indeed the Crisis Center’s first priority. As the Center provides support services over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and has been in operation since 1970, it is clear that the Center is committed to maintaining a safe environment for their clients.

The Crisis Center offers several different specialized programs with which it serves its clients. They include the Crisis and Suicide Line (with recently added texting and instant messaging), age-specific lines including Teen Link, Kids’ Help Line and the Senior Talk Line, a Rape Response line (along with other services for victims including exams, legal advocacy and counseling), a Payee Program and the Piper Place Day Program, which offers mental health services.

With so many areas of service, the Crisis Center is always in need of volunteers.

“We’re looking for you!” Shayman said. “We are interested in a wide variety of volunteers! Key traits that work best in our programs are open-minds, nonjudgmental attitudes, patience and a willingness to help others.”

Samford Seniors Emily Bruchas and Ali Rames have been volunteering at the Crisis Center this semester as part of their Family Studies curriculum at Samford University.

“Volunteering at the Crisis Center has given me first hand experience in counseling,” Rames said. “I love being able to make a difference in someone’s life, whether that means helping them through a situation, or simply listening to them talk.”

Bruchas further explained the importance of a listening ear. “I’ve realized that even as a student I can help individuals deal with the current problem in their life. However, I’ve also realized many people just need someone to talk to, especially the elderly. It makes me re-evaluate what we need to do in society to give everyone a full and healthy life,” she said.

After the prospective volunteer completes an application on the Crisis Center’s website, an interview is scheduled with the appropriate coordinator. Volunteers then complete extensive training, which is designed to help the new volunteer be prepared for a variety of circumstances.

“We include group discussion, role-play, and multimedia in our training,” Shayman said. “All volunteers complete ‘shadow shifts’ as well. During a shadow shift, the new volunteer has the opportunity to observe calls or Rape Response cases as they occur to help them feel more prepared for when they begin working cases or taking calls on their own.”

For more information about the Crisis Center or to find out how you can get involved as a volunteer, visit http://www.crisiscenterbham.com/index.php.

Back Down South Films

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Back Down South Films co-directors, Stephen Stinson and Logan Dillard. Photograph courtesy of Jamison Skinner. 

At 22 years old, most people are figuring out their vocation and searching for that perfect job.
Former Samford University students and Back Down South Films co-founders Logan Dillard and Stephen Stinson quickly realized their dream job did not exist — so they decided to create it.

The idea was conceived when Dillard and Stinson produced a music video for a local Birmingham band for a class project during their senior year of college.

“It was a school project that originally wasn’t supposed to be that time consuming,” Stinson said. “We decided that if we were going to do a music video for a great friend, we needed to take our time and make it the best it could be.”

Without a budget and any real resources, the two rented out the deep end of the Samford swimming pool, brought in their own lights, and began filming a music video that soon became the foundation for what is now Back Down South Films.

After releasing the video the two received more coverage than expected, including support from Noise Trade and a few local magazine blogs. It was then that Stinson and Dillard realized their joint collaboration didn’t have to be limited to work in a classroom but could be something they pursued as a career.
“We realized that we don’t have to do this for a grade. We can do this because it’s something that we are good at and passionate about,” Dillard said.
The two said they believed that to make their dreams a reality, they would eventually have to take action.
“So many people are passionate about things, but they are too scared to pursue their dreams,” Stinson said. “There’s always going to be that point of time when you have to take that leap.”

That’s exactly what the two have done. They walked away from their jobs and started a company founded on their passion for producing quality films. With a love for storytelling, the two believe that in film production, “you don’t have to sacrifice quality for creativity.”
Dillard and Stinson shoot everything from weddings to music videos and enjoy both the production and creative aspects of film. “We don’t want to be one of those companies that just shows up for the production. The planning doesn’t bore us, because we love being involved in it,” Stinson said. “Eventually, we want to work with small businesses and local artists that need advice about what to do next.”

In the midst of the beginnings of this new company, Dillard and Stinson are basking in the freedom to truly pursue their passions. Back Down South Films is expanding quickly and the company that was once two college students’ dream has become a reality.
With the support and collaboration of the Birmingham community, the two are entering this season of growth and expansion with anticipation and excitement. “We feel this is the starting line of a race and we’re ready to sprint,” Dillard said.

For more information about Back Down South Films, visit www.backdownsouthfilms.com

By: Kadie Haase

10 things to do in Birmingham

Sometimes locals forget how much there is to do in Birmingham. If you ever have a day without any obligations, set it aside for exploring; get out into the Magic City and see all there is to see. Need suggestions? Let this be your guide.

1. Breakfast/brunch at Another Broken Egg

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This cozy restaurant is the perfect place for breakfast or brunch (depending on how early you want to start your day). The food is freshly made and you’ll enjoy the French country atmosphere. Another Broken Egg serves pancakes, omelets, French toast and many other breakfast choices, satisfying the hunger of every breakfast lover.

2. Either Birmingham Museum of Art…

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Even if art isn’t your thing (it’s not my thing), I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t enjoy the Birmingham Museum of Art. You can easily find yourself spending hours in this museum without even realizing it, admiring the more than 24,000 works of art. With one of the finest art collections in the Southeast, you’ll find paintings dating back to the early 13th century alongside intriguing modern art.

3. … or Birmingham Zoo

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The Birmingham Zoo is a great attraction for all ages. Feed giraffes, have birds drink out of the palm of your hand, enjoy a sea lion show or simply check out all 800 of the animals that call the Birmingham Zoo their home.

4. Lunch at Mr. P’s

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Mr. P’s is your classic deli shop. Meat is sliced in-store for delicious signature sandwiches made right in front of you. The staff is friendly and the atmosphere is old-fashioned. A few favorites: the Blazer and the Fantastic Fred’s.

5. Picnic at Railroad Park

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Railroad Park is a beautiful space for residents and visitors of Birmingham to enjoy some fresh air in a city environment. I recommend getting your lunch to go, laying down a blanket on the green of Railroad Park and picnicking while taking in the amazing Birmingham skyline.

 

6. Either shopping in downtown Homewood…

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Downtown Homewood has much to offer in the shopping department. You’ll find locally-owned boutiques of all kinds. Downtown Homewood features stores offering children’s clothing, women and men’s apparel, accessories, home décor, maternity wear and so much more. Ambiance, pictured above, is a great example of the kind of shops you can find on this adorable strip.

 

7. … or Birmingham Botanical Gardens

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The Birmingham Botanical Gardens offers an escape from the city and a way to enjoy the outdoor air. Walk along the numerous gardens including the Crape Myrtle Garden, the Dunn Formal Rose Garden and the Asian Glade (pictured above) while enjoying seasonal flowers in the peaceful atmosphere.

 

8. Dinner at Little Donkey

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Little Donkey, which is located in downtown Homewood, is the place to go for fresh, unique Mexican food. From the chips and salsa to the slow-cooked meat, every food item is either bought locally or made from scratch in-house. The lively atmosphere and amazing food make for a great dining experience. (My personal favorite: La Taqueria with a side of Elote — corn on the cob with cotija cheese and ancho chili powder.)

 

9. Steel City Pops

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To cleanse your palate, stop by Steel City Pops, located conveniently next door to Little Donkey. With such a variety of unique flavors, there is something for everyone. Craving adventure? Try ginger wasabi. Want a classic? Chocolate is always available. All the pops are made fresh every day in the store with all-natural ingredients.
10. Visit the Vulcan

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To conclude your day in Birmingham, why not end it with a view? The Vulcan gives you an amazing perspective of the Magic City. Try to catch the sunset and watch the city transform from an urban metropolis to a sea of twinkling lights.
Using this guide, get out into your city. Explore and find things on your own. Birmingham is filled with many other great restaurants, attractions and places to shop. These are just a few fun and favorited places available to try.

By Abby Colella

Old and magnificent: The Alabama Theatre

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The Alabama Theatre may be old, but it is not forgotten.

Concerts, movies, dance competitions, weddings and film festivals take over the theatre from January to December, bringing people – young and old – together under the ornate domed ceiling in downtown Birmingham.

Built in 1927 by Paramount Studios, the same year that “talking pictures” debuted, the historic and beloved landmark became a public place where locals enjoyed nights of vaudeville and movies. In the 1930s, children took over the theatre on Saturdays for The Mickey Mouse Club meetings, which soon evolved into the largest club in the world.

When downtown Birmingham struggled to stay afloat during the economic recession of the 1980s, the once-booming theatre also suffered.

“When downtown was experiencing quite a bit of vacancy, the property owners just really thought that the theatre wasn’t going to produce any profit. They were going to make it a parking lot,” said Brant Beene, executive director of the Alabama Theatre and director of Birmingham Landmarks, Inc.

Thankfully one of the oldest and most unique instruments, the “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ, had enough loyal advocates who simply refused to witness the destruction of “Big Bertha.”

“This group of people realized that in order to save the organ, they would have to save the whole theatre,” Beene said. “They put together a campaign and got the newspaper involved and all kinds of people.”

The nonprofit organization, Birmingham Landmarks, was formed in 1987 to purchase the building and save the “Mighty Wurlitzer” and the Alabama. Cecil Whitmire, who passed away in 2010, founded Birmingham Landmarks. Whitmire, his wife Linda and Birmingham attorney Danny Evans lead the nonprofit over the next ten years to restore the theatre. “They spent a lot of money and time bringing the Alabama back to life,” Beene said.

By 1998, the Alabama, cleaned and refinished under the supervision of Whitmire and dedicated volunteers, was more than back in business.

Currently the month of December is one of the busiest for the Alabama. The Holiday Film Series draws crowds to the 2,200 seats. “White Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Story” are just a few of the classics to grace the theatre year after year.

“For the last four or five years we’ve had quite a bit of sold-out houses. Every now and then we get a few angry calls when we don’t show a favorite classic Christmas movie,” Beene said with a smile, “But we do our best and try to add shows so everyone can experience their favorite at the Alabama.”

Oil paintings and gilded furnishings, granite, marble, mirrors and hundreds of elaborate light fixtures adorn the unforgettable interior of the theatre.

“I’ve been working at the Alabama for about six years now, but I find something new on the walls, in the details, just everywhere, all of the time,” said theatre employee Tommie Folker, who makes sure the lighting throughout the theatre is in perfect condition.

Beene said one of his favorite parts about his job is witnessing younger generations come to the theatre for the first time, either as a visitor or a performer, and then come back years later for concerts, movies and weddings.

“It’s really neat to see people come back from 50 or 60 years ago, because things haven’t really changed inside that much,” Beene said. “People really get to step back in time and remember their first visit at the magnificent Alabama.”

 

By Rebekah Robinson

Iron City Birmingham: A place of many talents

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Legends are born, not made.

At least that was the case until Iron City Birmingham opened its doors this past March.

Mark Creager, Iron City’s general manager, said that every aspect of Iron City was constructed with the customer in mind.
“We started with the customer. What’s going to make the customer the happiest, what’s going to give them the experience? Our standard here is leaps and bounds above the rest,” Creager said.

The venue, which has a 1,300 person standing capacity, is located in the heart of downtown Birmingham.

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The standing-floor of Iron City Birmingham is right in front of the stage and is surrounded by lofted seating.

“It’s a big enough facility that it’s still intimate for the crowds and for the artist. We wanted a platform that we could get legends on but not have the arena-sized crowds around them — to give back the very personal nature of music to the artist and to the customer,” Creager said.

Perhaps it’s that unique feel that has been drawing big names like Passion Pit, Ben Rector, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros to the Iron City Stage.

“There really is something for everybody,” said Kendall McPheeters, who recently attended a Passion Pit concert at Iron City. “I really enjoyed being so close to the band, but thought it was so cool how the different levels offered at Iron City catered to each individual’s needs.”

That’s exactly what Iron City planned. The main venue space where the central stage is located features three different levels: a dropped floor below the stage creates a more intimate space for the most dedicated fans, the main floor features the bar and a loft space surrounding the stage with several sets of tables and chairs allows for patrons to watch the concert from a more relaxed vantage point.

But Iron City isn’t just a well thought out concert venue — it’s so much more. The space is also available to rent out for private parties and it features two smaller stages for smaller-scale events.

Yet maybe the thing that sets Iron City apart from its local competitors is the fact that it’s not just a concert venue or place to hold an event—Iron City also boasts a full-service restaurant.

“You can come up here and have a dinner that’s not like bad bar food,” said Creager.

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Iron City Grill is a top-notch restaurant  just steps away from the concert hall.

Iron City Grill features a full service menu that is competitive in price and flavor to Birmingham’s Southside area. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner and Saturday for dinner, the grill is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat before a show.

With all that it offers, what’s next for Iron City? “More, More, More,” Creager said.

For an up-to-date calendar and grill menu, be sure to visit www.ironcitybham.com.

By Sarah Anne Elliott

Photographs by Sarah Anne Elliott

Thumbnail photo courtesy of Iron City Birmingham

Buy a gift, change a life

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Just about everyone likes to receive a special gift.

With WorldCrafts, the Fair Trade division of the Woman’s Missionary Union, giving a special gift can feel as good as getting one.

“Our goal is to develop sustainable, Fair Trade businesses among impoverished people across the world,” said Emily Swader, the Marketing Strategist for WorldCrafts. ”Through purchasing WorldCrafts products, you can really change the life of someone.”

The organization started in 1996 with only one artisan group from Bangkla, Thailand. Today, WorldCrafts works with more than 60 artisan groups in 30 countries – offering dignity and eternal hope to each individual in every group.

“Everything we have is handmade,” Swader said. Each product also comes with a card with the maker’s picture and story on it.

But in a world that seems to be Fair Trade-crazed, what exactly makes WorldCrafts different?

“What sets WorldCrafts apart is that we are not only interested in people having that sustainable living income, we’re interested in them having eternal hope,” Swader said.

And because the WMU’s national headquarters are located here in Birmingham down Highway 280, local shoppers don’t even have to leave the city limits to change the life of a person thousands of miles away.

Mary Holland Novkov received a set of wooden coasters from WorldCrafts as a hostess gift from an in-town friend.

“They are a really great conversation starter,” Novkov said. “Every time people come over they ask about them and I get to explain their story.”

With several product categories including home décor, stationary and women’s accessories, similar stories from all over the world are waiting to be told.

The most popular items from WorldCrafts include nativities from around the world, ethnic jewelry and scarves made out of recycled sari’s from India.

From left to right, popular WorldCrafts products include a nativity scene (Jerusalem — Bethlehem Carvers, $39.99), a stationary set (India — Ergon Handicrafts, $14.99) and a scarf (India — Village Artisans, $34.99).

WorldCrafts products are mainly available for purchase online, through catalogue or locally at the gift shop located at the WMU’s national headquarters.

Individuals and churches are also encouraged to host WorldCrafts parties where guests can pick up catalogues of items available for purchase and learn more about WorldCrafts’ mission. Free party ideas and themes can be found on the WorldCrafts website.

“Thousands of parties are hosted every year,” Swader said.

For more information about hosting a WorldCrafts party or about how to purchase WorldCrafts merchandise, visit http://worldcrafts.org/.

By Sarah Anne Elliott
Photos courtesy of WorldCrafts