Earth Day Purpose and Celebrations

Earth Day comes around every year on April 22 but the history and idea behind the day is not commonly discussed. The concept for Earth Day was for the nation to focus on the environment for one day. Founder Gaylord Nelson was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin. After seeing the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara and being ruled by the student anti-war movement, he related the public needed to be aware of the air and water pollution they were contributing.  Nelson worked until the next year

Earth Day Network states that “on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies.” Learn more about Earth Day.

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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.

Volunteering made easy

HOBpic 2Volunteers pose for a picture after a hard day of work. 

With so many non-profits and volunteer organizations rooted here in Birmingham, it is clear that the people of this city are passionate about their home.

Yet often times people are overwhelmed by the amount of volunteer opportunities available to them, and they don’t know where to start.

That’s just what Hands on Birmingham is for.

The organization, which began in Birmingham in 1998, seeks to connect people with meaningful service opportunities throughout the metropolitan Birmingham area.

“We are a conduit for a lot of people to engage in community service in a very easy format,” said Karla Fields, the PR and Fundraising Manager for Hands on Birmingham.

But how exactly does Hands on Birmingham work?

With more than 200 non-profit partners, the organization seeks to work with the volunteer on a personal level by serving as the sort of liaison between the general public and the city’s non-profits.

“Whatever your interest area is, we can always connect you to an organization that meets the need of whatever you want to do during your volunteer experience — and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time,” Fields said

HOBpic1

A group works on a playground in the Birmingham area. 

While Hands on Birmingham does coordinate several days of service throughout the year and is available for custom group trips, each individual is encouraged to venture into the city and give any time he or she might have.

Volunteers can go to the Hands on Birmingham website, search projects around the city by date, area or type and then register to be a volunteer at that particular project. Projects may be a one-day event or a reoccurring project.

“You can go on our website Friday and register for something and be engaged Saturday,” Fields said.

Last year, more than 8,000 people donated more than 25,000 hours of service and time to the community, and with the deliberate planning that goes in to each of Hands on Birmingham’s projects, it is easy to see why.

“Our staff can scope a project, we can tell you how many volunteers it takes to get that project done, the materials that would be needed to get it done, order the materials, go and pick them up. We will get everything set up so it’s pretty much whenever those volunteers arrive we can tell them how many need to go to this station, and assign the volunteers to a particular station,” Fields said.

For Hands on Birmingham, success not only lies in the completion of a service project, but also in the satisfaction and hard-work of the volunteer.

“When they leave, they can see the immediate impact that they’ve made and its always a good feeling, ” Fields said.

For more information about Hands on Birmingham or to find out how you can get connected with a project, please visit http://www.handsonbirmingham.org/.

By Sarah Anne Elliott
Photos courtesy of Hands on Birmingham

Pick 5: Volunteer opportunities in Birmingham

1) Make-A-Wish: Make a child’s lifelong wish become reality as you partner with Make-A-Wish of Alabama. You can donate financially or become a wish granter. Either way, get involved and see the smiles of children when they find out their wishes are coming true. For more information, visit alabama.wish.org

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Photo credit to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

2) The Lovelady Center: Become a part of the life-changing ministry of the Lovelady Center in Birmingham. This ministry helps women who have been released from prison reintegrate into society while teaching them about the love of Jesus Christ. Donate your time as a prayer warrior, help clean up and redecorate around the center so that the women feel more at home or donate your gently used items to the Lovelady Thrift Store. For more information, visit loveladycenter.org

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Photo credit to the Lovelady Center of Birmingham.

3) American Heart Association: Join the American Heart Association as it seeks to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease in our country. Donate your funds or be a part of the Birmingham Heart Walk June 22, 2013. For more information on how you can get involved and help fight the No. 1 killer of Americans, visit heartwalk.org

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Photo credit to the American Heart Association.

4) Jimmy Hale Mission: More than just a shelter for men, women and children, Jimmy Hale Mission serves as a recovery and education center. If you are looking to offer financial support, there are many different options. The shelter also accepts product donations such as clothes, toiletries and even toys for the children. If personal interaction is more what you’re looking for, it’s always a blessing to see a friendly face serving a meal, tutoring a child or leading a Bible study. To find more volunteer opportunities, check out jimmyhalemission.com

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Photo credit to jimmyhalemission.com

5) American Cancer Society: Help raise cancer awareness by getting involved in relays and other sponsored events. Donations are always welcome, but if you’re looking to do more than just donate money, why not try your old car or frequent flyer miles? Both are accepted and deeply appreciated. For more information, visit cancer.org

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Photo credit to cancer.org