3 Ways You Can Make a Difference in Birmingham This Thanksgiving

Unfortunately, empty shelves are an all-too common sight at area food pantries. The good news is that you can make a difference. Photo by Greater Birmingham Ministries.

Hunger and need never take a holiday. Our efforts to offer a hand up – whether through food, monetary resources, transportation, housing, a hot meal – are always needed.

Rev. Melissa Self Patrick, East Lake United Methodist Church + Woodlawn United Methodist Church

If you’re wanting to make a difference in someone else’s life this Thanksgiving, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to do so right here in Birmingham. You can help stock area food pantries, be part of a Friendsgiving, or move your body at a Turkey Trot. 

Help Stock Area Food Pantries

Angel sculpture outside of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now.

“In Alabama, 800,620 people are struggling with hunger – and of them 247,140 are children.” What this means in more digestible terms is that “1 in every 6 adults and 1 in every 4 children in the state struggles with hunger.”

From Feeding America

The reasons for this are complex, and if you want to get involved in making a change at the policy level, many of the organizations that collect food can point you in the right direction. Meanwhile, gathering and donating non-perishable food is one small way to make a big difference during the holidays and any time.

East Lake United Methodist is a landmark on the eastern side of town, and a hub for many good things in the community. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now.

The Birmingham area is full of places that collect food. Look for bins or call to see when’s a good time to drop off donations at places like these:

  •  The Levite Jewish Community Center: 3960 Montclair Rd, Birmingham, AL 35213, (205) 879-0411
  • East Lake United Methodist Church: 7753 1st Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35206, (205) 836-3201
  • Urban Ministry: 1229 Cotton Ave SW, Birmingham, AL 35211, (888) 349-8501
Graphic by Urban Ministry, Inc.

Greater Birmingham Ministries has a great list on their website of the types of items that are most useful to donate. Click here to see that list.

If you’d like, you can volunteer to help distribute food on Fridays. Give them a call at (205) 326-6821 to make a plan to drop off or help distribute food.

They also have a clothes closet, a toy and gift drive, and a number of other ways to get involved. Go to their website to learn more, either for yourself, your family, or a group.

Be Part of a Friendsgiving

Sometimes folks gather with family for Thanksgiving. And sometimes it’s fun to gather with friends.

Mural on the wall of the Magic City Acceptance Center. Photo by Sharron Swain.

Birmingham’s Magic City Acceptance Center (MCAC) hosts three different Friendsgivings for different groups.

According to Lauren Jacobs, MCAC’s Youth Coordinator, each Friendsgiving is free to attendees who are invited to bring a dish. Each event takes place at the Center the week before Thanksgiving.

Lauren provided the following information about these gatherings:

• November 14th from 4:00-5:30 MCAC’s group, Steel City Spectrum, for trans youth ages 13-24 will have Transgiving. This is only open to trans youth ages 13-24. 

• November 14th from 5:30-7:30 the QTPOC Talk group will have a Friendsgiving for Queer and Trans People of Color.

• November 15th from 3:00-7:00 will be MCAC’s Friendsgiving for all LGBTQ youth and their allied friends ages 13-24.

Kids learning about farming and food. Photo by Jones Valley Teaching Farm.

Sometimes it’s fun to gather friends for fun and for a good cause. Jones Valley Teaching Farm does a lot of work in schools with its Good School Food program.

According to Josh Vasa, “hosting a Gather dinner to raise funds for Jones Valley’s Good School Food program is a great way to make a difference around the Giving season.”

If you’re a social butterfly who also thinks helping kids learn about where food comes from is cool, you’ll want to get in touch with the folks at Jones Valley to find out what you need to do to host a Gather dinner. You can sign up for one here.

Move Your Body at a Turkey Trot

We all know Thanksgiving means eating – a lot! And, it’s nice to balance all that eating with some moving around and having fun with friends.

Two great ways to do that are a Thanksgiving morning run and walk at the Jewish Community Center, and a Saturday evening Turkey Trot Contra Dance with Friends of Old Time Music and Dance.

The Sam Lapidus Montclair Run is really two races and a fun run. The 10 and 5 Ks start at 8:30 am, and there’s a 1 mile fun run that starts at 10 am. Register by Monday, November 20th, to get the early bird registration prices. Visit www.samlapidus.org to save your place.

Proceeds from the run go to the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders and the Levite Jewish Community Center Fitness Program. The whole event honors the memory of Sam Lapidus, a young guy who loved life, loved to exercise, and, sadly, lost his life to cancer far too soon.

Contra dancing is a very social kind of dancing that’s easy to learn. Photo by Birmingham Friends of Old Time Music and Dance.

Birmingham Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance, otherwise known as “Footmad,” hosts a Turkey Trot contra dance on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The dance starts at 7 pm in the gym at the YWCA downtown. Check their Facebook page closer to time for information on cost of admission (usually around $10 per person).

In addition to having a great time (which you will, because contra dancing is super-fun, and it’s a great group of welcoming people), you can bring things for the YWCA’s Santa’s Workshop. Footmad collects “new toys, clothes, books, gift cards, and cash.” They’d like all gift items to be new and unwrapped.

Footmad invites everyone who comes to their Thanksgiving Turkey Trot contra dance to participate in the YWCA’s Santa’s Workshop drive. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now.

Whether you prefer the simplicity of donating items to a food pantry or toy and clothing drive, the sociability of Friendsgiving, or the physicality of moving your body, there are plenty of ways to brighten someone else’s day this holiday season. Chances are your local religious institution, your kids’ school, or your workplace may also have opportunities to do some good. However you choose to engage, your holiday – and someone else’s – will be the better for it.