University of Alabama at Birmingham students, faculty and staff gave 316 hours of community service Friday, March 26, for Into the Streets.
It is the 22nd year of this student-led day of service, a university tradition at UAB and mission pillar of UAB’s strategic plan, Forging the Future. Nearly 140 volunteers worked at 14 sites around Birmingham, with six community partners, while also practicing health-promoting behavior.
The program was updated to meet the school’s COVID-19 social event guidelines for students, which are designed to protect the campus community. All campus safety protocols applied, including Healthcheck. In adherence to social distancing guidelines and healthy behavior protocols, volunteers went directly to their service sites; in some cases, fewer volunteers were able to participate due to social distancing recommendations. Student and faculty/staff site leaders led each group and helped make sure everyone was working safely and participants abided by the guidelines.
The service sites included the Live HealthSmart Alabama community cleanup in Kingston, where volunteers began painting a mural in Stockham Park, cleaned up garden beds and prepared them for plants in the Richard I Memorial Kingston Teaching Farm. Director Mona Fouad, M.D., MPH, thanked the Kingston Fire and Police departments, Live HealthSmart Alabama partners, and UAB students for giving back to the community. “We are blessed to have so many people participating in the Into the Streets event in Kingston and contributing to a healthier Alabama,” Fouad said.
Community cleanups were also held at Mulga Loop Road and in North Birmingham, in partnership with GASP. At Birmingham Botanical Gardens, volunteers planted pumpkins, watermelons and other melon plants in the vegetable garden and weeded, cut back plants, spread pine straw and cleaned up gardens.
Volunteers sorted clothes, organized merchandise and did cleanup for Sozo Trading Co., an upscale thrift marketplace designed to create sustainable income for Sozo Children, a nonprofit ministry caring for vulnerable children in Uganda, Africa. All sales directly fund Sozo Children’s mission. A few volunteers worked for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
Into the Streets was planned by undergraduate students on the UAB Leadership and Service Council, advised by the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership. The economic impact of the day of service was nearly $7,125. Students registered to volunteer through BlazerPulse, UAB’s community engagement platform, which connects students, faculty and staff across campus with partners in Birmingham and beyond.
“Our service to our local community, and to each other, embodies ‘The Blazer Way’; we take pride in having a culture of service to each other and our community,” said site leader Desland Robinson, director of Career and Professional Development, UAB School of Engineering.
This year’s Into the Streets at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens was all about preparation, says Alice Thompson Moore, volunteer coordinator, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.
“Students prepared beds for planting vegetables, replaced poor soil with new soil to revitalize plants and packaged native plants for plant sale fundraisers benefiting the Gardens,” Moore said. “Their volunteer time helped our organization, and the gardens, prepare for spring.”
Everything was set up and ready for people to get to work, which made it “fun and very enjoyable” wrote one volunteer on the North Birmingham Cleanup. Another entreated the public to do their part.
“Please do not litter! Let’s work to keep our streets and rivers clean! It was great meeting new people and partnering with the community!” wrote a Mulga Loop Road volunteer.
Student Kristie Muya, UAB Ambassador, said it was a “wonderful COVID-19-safe volunteering opportunity.”
“The community partners were extremely kind and thankful for our service,” Muya said. “The experience was very humbling, and it felt great to have such a hands-on, direct service opportunity. I can’t wait to participate in similar experiences in the future.”