By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
The Campus of Hope at Marks Village in Gate City will officially open in four weeks, the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District (HABD) announced Wednesday.
The Campus of Hope features major upgrades to transform the traditional community center into an opportunity center where individuals and families have the opportunity to access resources designed to put them on a path of financial and social awareness and self-sufficiency.
“We’ve transformed this building from something that is kind of drab to a very beautiful building,” said Michael Lundy, president/CEO of HABD. “We’re going to have a one-stop shop for supportive services, educators, coaches, workforce development staff, social workers, colleges, city schools.
“Families can come here and receive services that connect them to self-sufficiency and they can receive job training as well as healthcare services,” he said. “UAB will provide the health and wellness training and evaluation components to ensure that we are successful.”
The Wednesday event included a tour of the new facility along with a ceremony where two recruits – one from East Lake and the other from Ensley – were officially sworn into the U.S. Army reserves.
Reservists Olivia Hopson, 18, graduated from P.D. Jackson Olin High School last year and Alydra Wimes, 17, attends Woodlawn High School.
Hopson said she wants to retire from the Army.
“I want to stay in as long as I can,” she said. “This is going to be my career. I’ve never seen myself do anything other than this. I’ve seen myself in college at some point, but it doesn’t get me as excited as it does to serve my country.”
Hopson said her mother and brother were in the Army, but her passion comes from her desire to serve the U.S.
“This (country) is where my family lives, and where my family will be raised; I want to know that it’s being protected,” she said. “What better way to know than to actually protect it yourself?”
Wimes said she has always wanted to make a difference.
“I want . . . to be able to help take care of my family,” she said. “I want them to have the future that others didn’t have. My goal is to attend college after the Army. I want to be a homicide detective, so I want to join a police department afterwards.”
While based in Marks Village, the Campus of Hope will also service residents of nearby Tom Brown Village, Harris Homes and Morton Simpson Village. Together, more than 3,300 HABD residents live within the four community service areas. The center also will be open to the nearby residents who do not reside in public housing.
HABD partners in the venture include The U.S. Army, Birmingham City Schools, The UAB Minority Health & Health Disparities Research Center, Lawson State Community College and the Dannon Project. Other partners are: Maranathan Academy, Church of the Highlands, Aletheia House, Girls Inc., Boys Scouts of America and the American Heart Association.