By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
Whether donating bottled water to the city of Flint, Michigan or backpacks to students in Birmingham City Schools, Emily Hayes wants to find a way to serve. Hayes, 31, is the founder of Served, a nonprofit that focuses on mental, physical and spiritual wellness for students, teachers and the community.
Recently, Served surprised students at Hemphill Elementary School with a party where students met Santa Claus, Birmingham Fire and Rescue and received Christmas-themed treats. The organization this year partnered with the Birmingham Public Library and Tuggle Elementary School, to donate 750 backpacks filled with school supplies.
“People would ask me why I wanted to do [a back to school rally] because so many are held in the city,” Hayes said. “Granted there are tons of back to school rallies going on, but there are even more kids who show up to school without school supplies.”
During this year’s Back To School Rally, parents were able to sign their students up for library cards and some received free haircuts from local barbers and sack lunches and ice cream.
“Just to see the gratitude on their faces is what it’s about,” she said. “They’re children, they can’t go make a way for themselves, but if we show them how we can make a way for their future, we’re helping the community as a whole.”
While teaching a fitness class called Served at Urban Attic on 1st Ave. North, Hayes saved all the money she received and looked for a way to give back.
She decided to donate over 4,000 bottles of water to the city of Flint in Michigan which was in the middle of a water crisis. Her second donation was to a back-to-school rally for Birmingham-area students, where over 500 students received backpacks filled with school supplies.
Hayes credited Yvette Richardson of the State Board of Education for help in assisting the schools.
“She knew who to talk to for the events, who to connect with; I’ve been asking her for help a lot, and she’s been amazing through all of it,” she said.
This spring Hayes plans a Field Day to get children outdoors, which is how she grew up.
“It was fun,” she said. “Just going out there and doing the simplest things to be active and getting rewarded with a ribbon for it. I want children to grow up with a healthier mentality than what they are used to having.”
Other goals include helping school instructors.
“I have friends who are teachers and I know they are coming out of their own pockets to take care of [students],” she said. “It’s something they need assistance with as well. I want to provide a classroom with supplies so . . . the classroom will have them available.”
“I want to get to a point to where [Served is doing] something every year,” she added. “Even if it’s just picking up trash . . . that’s my long-term goal.”
The next step is to grow the brand, Hayes said. “When you hear the name Served, you know your students are going to get helped in some capacity,” she said.
Hayes, who earned degrees in fitness leadership from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and sports and fitness management at Troy University, said she only recently knew what she wanted to do.
“I’m passionate about this organization,” she said. “I want to spark this light in someone else’s heart, and have them invest in the community.”
Hayes, who works for a company on 280, and part-time for the city of Birmingham’s fitness center, said she travels as much as possible when not working.
“Even if it’s not major, I try to travel,” she said. “I just went to Memphis this weekend and it was a good time to just relax.”
Hayes said she has a goal to touch every continent in the world, “besides Antarctica” which is too frigid.
“I always tell people there’s so much world for us to not see it,” she said. “If I could give back to the community and travel, I’d be set for life.”