Giving back: Scenes from the Hands On Birmingham MLK Day of Service

Nadia Tellis and Roald Hazelhoff at the Birmingham Southern College Ecoscape

For 18 years, Birmingham has held one of the largest MLK, Jr. Day of Service events in the country for a city its size. Yesterday, volunteers organized by United Way of Central Alabama’s Hands On Birmingham  worked on projects throughout the Magic City restoring parks, nature preserves and ecoscapes, cleaning schools, and supporting seniors, the homeless and youth.

The call

They all answered Martin Luther King’s call:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Ecoscape at Birmingham Southern College – Photo by Pat Byington

On MLK Day 2018, Bham Now visited the Birmingham Southern College (BSC) Ecoscape, where we met volunteers from Temple Beth -El and Spire Alabama clearing trails and plant beds.

We were met by Southern Environmental Center longtime director Roald Hazelhoff who gave us a tour and background about the center’s original ecoscape.

1996 Olympic Soccer

Built in 1996, the  4 acre nature classroom was once used by the National Guard and the Naval Reserve on campus. An eyesore with no grass or flowers, the spot was adjacent to the college’s intramural fields. In 1996, Olympic soccer came to Birmingham. That particular global event provided Hazelhoff the opportunity to transform the place into an ecoscape.

Hazelhoff  smiled and chuckle, “the Mexican and US National teams team practiced on those fields (pointing to the intramural fields),  so I built this garden, so I could come watch some of their games.”

More than twenty years later, the BSC Ecoscape entertains more than 14,000 students a year.

Volunteers from Temple Beth-El

“We are always grateful for service days when groups come out to help us maintain these gardens.  We have done this with Hands On Birmingham for over 10 years. Its a great day to get people out and re-connected to nature,” stated Hazelhoff.

Along with the BSC Ecoscape, volunteers worked on two additional ecoscape sites for the 2018 MLK Day of Service, the Sims Ecoscape,  in Homewood and the entrance to the falls of Turkey Creek Nature Preserve.

FullSizeRender 212 Giving back: Scenes from the Hands On Birmingham MLK Day of Service

Why it is important to volunteer?

Several of the volunteers at the BSC Ecoscape offered up reasons why they decided to forgo a restful day off and volunteer.

“For me, this day is special because of all the service Martin Luther King did. That has always been important to me. I’ve always thought it was my place, even outside of MLK day to lend my hand back to the community as often as I can,” said Nadia Tellis with Spire Alabama.

Cale Campbell, member of the Board of Directors for Hands On Birmingham, concluded, “it’s a great way to help people and make an impact on the community. Make the community a better place.”

From nature preserves to schools, hundreds of our neighbors made a difference on MLK  Day this year.

Will you follow their example and volunteer in 2018?

Hand On Birmingham is ready to help you give back.

Additional scenes from MLK Day of Service:

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Photo via Mayor Randall Woodfin facebook page
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Photo vis Hands On Birmingham
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At Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, photo from Hands On Birmingham via Facebook


Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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