By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
They’ve come from the nonprofit sector, the Birmingham mayor’s office, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), small business, and many other backgrounds. They all share a love for their city and did not hesitate when it came time to volunteer for The World Games 2022 (TWG 2022).
Corey Bishop, who runs Refresh Clothing in Birmingham’s Five Points West community, said his work with the Games allows him to build relationships he might not have otherwise.
“[TWG 2022] is gonna be great. It’s gonna be huge,” Bishop said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity, but I’m grateful for the gift that comes after the World Games, which means the relationships I have with people in Birmingham that I normally wouldn’t talk to.”
“It’s crazy, the number of people who have who I bump into [through volunteering with TWG 2022],” he added. “They’re excited just to see somebody else excited about something that they’re putting their heart and soul into.”
Those relationships Bishop is building can also help his community.
“Sometimes [people in western Birmingham] do get left behind. … For me to be a store owner, having a lot of people in this area that know me, and have the opportunity to be involved this closely [gives people in my community] a different look at life and how things can be accomplished,” said Bishop, who is also vice president of the Five Points West Chamber of Commerce.
‘One In A Lifetime’
Kathy Boswell, vice president of community engagement for TWG 2022, said the opportunity to volunteer is “once in a lifetime.”
“Serving as a volunteer for [TWG 2022] is important because our motive is to be the best and present the best of who we are as a city, as a state, as corporations, and as businesses,” she said. “This is a historic moment for us.”
Boswell said TWG 2022 is a chance for volunteers to help showcase Birmingham to the world and turn a page in history.
“A majority of the world knows [Birmingham] as the catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement, so what people visiting may know about us may come from history books,” she said. “When they come in July, they will see something different, … not perfect, but better.”
Boswell added, “It’s a really exciting time for Birmingham. And for a volunteer to say they have a hand in the history that is to soon be made through the arrival of [TWG 2022] is really an accomplishment and honor.”
Jillian Marie Browning, an Ocala, Florida, native who has been a photography professor at UAB for a year, said volunteering with the Games has enabled her to feel more at home in Birmingham.
“[My volunteering] really made me feel super welcome to the area because everyone was so interested in being involved with each other,” she said. “I thought that was super cool.”
Browning’s volunteer experience also introduced her to a variety of other people outside her own field.
“As an educator, I do sort of surround myself with other academics or other educators, so I’m sort of always in that bubble of kind of the same type of people. … Then when you get to work with people in an artistic capacity that maybe don’t have the same viewpoint as you, it’s such an interesting experience to have those conversations,” Browning said.
TWG 2022, which will draw elite athletes from more than 100 countries around the globe, will take place from July 7 through July 17 at various venues across the Birmingham metro area—including Protective Stadium, Legion Field, the Birmingham CrossPlex, and the Hoover Metropolitan Complex—and is expected to have an estimated $256 million in economic impact.
The event is held every four years, in the year following each Summer Olympic Games. Staged over 11 days, The World Games represent the pinnacle of competition for 3,600 of the world’s best athletes in 30-plus unique, multidisciplinary sports.
Chanda Temple, who serves as senior project manager in the office of Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and has also volunteered with TWG 2022, underscored the importance of assisting with the event.
“We are going to have thousands of people visit Birmingham,” she said. “They’re going to be in so many venues, and we need volunteers to help greet them, help assist them, and just help them explore and understand Birmingham.”
Seeing the excitement for Birmingham with other volunteers was “mind-blowing,” Temple said.
“If people like to get to know people or just want to reconnect with [their] co-workers, with [their] family members and just do something fun, they should definitely sign up and be a part of the volunteer team connected to [TWG 2022],” she added.
Ann Trondson, co-director of the Birmingham-based arts nonprofit Vinegar, agreed, saying the people make the volunteering experience.
“I was in a room with really a whole bunch of really amazing people,” she said. “That felt just as significant as it being for The World Games.”
Tiffany Nabors, communications and marketing coordinator for VIVA Health, said she was proud to participate in making a brighter future for Birmingham.
“To be able to play a role in it and kind of have a front seat as [the city is] making history is absolutely exciting for me,” she said. “I’m very overjoyed to have contributed to this historic event.”
Nabors urged others to “take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” by volunteering with TWG 2022.
Zhaundra Jones, senior program officer for the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, said it’s special that The World Games is coming to Birmingham, a “small but mighty city [that] has come a long way.”
“It is an international city, historically, just in terms of leading the Civil Rights Movement, … a place where people fought and died for the rights that we all have the privilege of having around the country, [a place that serves] as an example for people around the world,” she said.
Residents can help Birmingham with TWG 2022 in a number of ways, Jones added.
“I think everybody can do something for the [event], whether you are making sure your neighborhood is clean or just having a smiling face during that week,” she said. “We can all do and play our own part in welcoming people and making them feel at home and safe here in our city.”
Volunteers selected for TWG 2022 complete eight hours of training and will have the opportunity to determine their schedules based on the needs of the event.
TWG 2022 will take place July 7-July 17 at various venues across the Birmingham metro area. For more visit twg2022.com