What did the 59/20 bridge project have to do with a gift of furniture to the YWCA? Find out here.


YWCA Central Alabama furnishings donated by Johnson Brothers Corporation
Furnishings donated by Johnson Brothers Corporation to the YWCA. Photo via YWCA Central Alabama’s Facebook page

How are the complete redo of the 59/20 bridges through downtown Birmingham, a 114-year old real estate company and the YWCA of Central Alabama all connected? Turns out, all three came together in a way that means a lot of women and children who get housing through the YWCA will have a cozy and safe place to call home. Keep reading to find out more, and learn the role that Watts Realty played in making it happen.

Johnson Brothers Corp. was the company that rebuilt the 59/20 Bridges

Remember when we all thought it was such a big deal that the highway was going to be closed through downtown Birmingham for just over a year?

Back in January 2019, Texas-based Johnson Brothers Corp. was given an assignment: get those bridges rebuilt in 14 months or pay a hefty sum ($250k per day, to be precise) if they were late. To get the job done and done on schedule, they needed to hire 200-300 workers.

Of course, once those workers were on board, some of them needed a place to stay. This is where a 114-year old Birmingham company named Watts Realty entered the picture.

Who knew a large group of bridge workers lived in Pinson during the bridge redo?

Apparently, Johnson Brothers needed a place to house all those hard workers, so they bought an apartment building in Pinson. As you do when you are a 90-year old construction company working on a $475 million-ish project.

Since they are in the construction business and not the property management business, they contracted with Watts Realty to manage the building.

Once the bridges were done, the furnishings needed a new home

worker What did the 59/20 bridge project have to do with a gift of furniture to the YWCA? Find out here.
Do you think that guy lived in Pinson while he was working on the bridge? Photo via Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

I bet you never thought about all the people who worked on that bridge project once you got to drive on it again. I know I was so focused on the road being done that I just moved on.

But once all the workers left, Johnson Brothers had a lot of furnishings that needed a new home. They asked Watts to take care of finding a suitable local charity to donate them to.

Finding ways to make Birmingham better: business as usual

wattsandstewartperry What did the 59/20 bridge project have to do with a gift of furniture to the YWCA? Find out here.
Some guys from Watts + Stewart Perry, back when people could do groundbreakings like this. Photo via Watts Realty’s Facebook page

When I asked Michael Watts of Watts Realty about it, here’s what he said:

“The YWCA was our first call because we knew they had programs that could use the type of furniture we had. They said they’d come and get it. For us, this kind of thing is just part of what we normally do when the opportunities arise.”

Michael Watts and I have had the opportunity to speak several times since January 2019, when I first wrote a story about YMCA Camp Cosby. He’s a huge fan and supporter of the camp and of Birmingham as a whole.

The way that Watts Realty likes to operate, though, is quietly and behind the scenes, looking for opportunities to make a difference along the way.

Did you know the YWCA provides affordable housing to families in need?

Here’s what the YWCA posted on social media on May 12:

“Still at work! Even at the start of the COVID-19 public health crisis, #YWCACentralAL staff were busy making YW residences comfortable. The facilities team coordinated with @WattsRealtyCoInc to get donated furnishings and other essentials to YW families in need. The donation is welcome by YWCA Central Alabama clients in a time of self-isolation and social distancing in residences.

Did you know?
Last year the YW provided 80,072 nights of affordable housing to 290 individuals.”

As you can imagine, for the people who receive housing through the YWCA, this legacy from the 59/20 bridge construction project will provide a safe and cozy place to call home.

“We are grateful to Watts Realty for sending Johnson Brothers Corporation our way, and for helping to facilitate the beautiful donation of home furnishings and essentials for YW families.”

Dr. LaRhonda Magras, YWCA Central Alabama CEO

Now tell us, Birmingham, do you know other stories of Birmingham companies quietly helping others make a difference? Email us at hello@bhamnow.com and let us know!

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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