Happy Holidays!

December 20, 2012

It’s that time of year again!  With 2013 right around the corner, Hands On Birmingham wanted to say THANK YOU!  HOB had an AWESOME year and we couldn’t have done it without all of you! Hands On Birmingham works with such amazing Volunteers, Supporters, Board members, Agencies and Partners and we just wanted to give you all a Round of Applause.

With your help, we recruited 3739 volunteers in 2012 adding to our 19,000 registered volunteers. The economic worth of volunteer labor this year translated to $200,781.42. (One hour of volunteer labor in the state of Alabama is worth $18.06.)

Here are just a few ways HOB impacted our community in 2012:

  • HOB conducted one of the largest Martin Luther King (MLK) Day’s Of Service in the country, having managed 43 projects with 1706 volunteers recruited throughout Greater Birmingham.
  • HOB assisted 120 partner agencies through volunteer labor
  • 2550 Easter Baskets were assembled  for homeless children through the Bunny Aid program
  • HOB Recruited and trained 698 volunteers to serve as Smiling Faces Client Guides for Project Homeless Connect( PHC)

The Hands On Birmingham staff would like to wish you and yours a Happy Holiday and Safe New Year! Looking forward to an AWESOME 2013!


On November 17th HOB will have its annual Family Volunteer Day. This day celebrates families and teaches children the importance of civic responsibility, the importance to helping others, and provides the opportunities for families to spend some quality time together and ALL before football! 



Here are just some benefits of family volunteering:

*They gain a shared sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from giving back to the community

*Volunteering creates positive role models for children and youth

*Volunteering can help families learn about their own community and social issues that affect it

*Volunteering builds the self-confidence of family members
*Volunteering creates a history of family memories
 *Volunteers meet people of diverse cultural and economic backgrounds

*Volunteers have an opportunity to share time and talents

 *Giving to others places a volunteer’s own problems in perspective

*Volunteering forges special bonds between family members

*Volunteering helps children and teenagers to relate to other generations

*Volunteering makes families feel valued 
*Volunteer work gives families a sense of purpose or belonging

*Families can participate together in special events (eg., walk-a-thons) without having to leave the kids behind

*Volunteering develops family pride (Kristen Porritt, 1995).

Join on on November 17th! We are looking to fill 150 volunteer slots and need you and your family’s help! Sign up for projects at www.handsonbirmingham.org  today!

How Will You Remember?

August 21, 2012

 On September 11, 2001, the peace and security of our nation was shattered by terrorist attacks that killed many innocent people at the World Trade Center towers in New York City, at the United States Pentagon, and in the pristine fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It was a tragedy and we all remember it where we were, how we found and how we felt. We felt lost. Scared. Angry. Sad. And the question that we were all asking ourselves hung in front of us for days, weeks, and months. “How am I going to cope with this? What am I going to do?”

 Together we provided the solution. Love one another. Be kind to everyone you encounter. Help someone in need. Lend your hand. The nation rose up and spirit of unity, compassion and determination that will never be forgotten, just as we will never forget those who were lost and injured on that day, everyone that volunteered that day in the recovery efforts, and those serving in our armed forces.

 Hands On Birmingham (HOB) is dedicated to bringing back that feeling of unity and the inspiration to make our community a better place while remembering all those that we have lost.

 We are constantly moved by our volunteers. Last 9/11 Week of Service volunteer filled out cards on how they are going to make a difference. All the sentences on the cards started out with “I will….________________________”

 Here are just a few examples:

“I will go beyond expectations and be more environmentally friendly.”

“I will continue to support people who have gone through difficult times.”

“I will laugh more, stress less and volunteer more.”

“I will cook dinner for my mom.”

“I will do something nice for my coworkers.”

We received hundreds of cards and the consistent message was:

“I will HELP.”


The giving nature of our community is powerful. HOB knows that together we can make a difference.

 What will you do to remember?

It can be something as nice as paying a compliment. HOB will be posting projects on Saturday Sept. 8th as well as throughout the week. Keep an eye out at www.handsonbirmingham.org for volunteer opportunities as part of HOB’s 9/11 Week of Service and Remembrance.

I started volunteering before I truly knew what it meant to volunteer. My family would take me to retirement homes to pass out teddy bears and spend time with the elderly and activity that I thought everybody did on the weekends. I helped with Habitat for Humanity painting the inside of what would soon become a loving home to someone in need. I participated and helped organize food drives at school. Went to the animal shelter to socialize with animals and of course clean out their play pens. When I was older I went to the local shelter and served lunch on Sundays. Needless to say, I just wanted to give back any way that I could. That ideal is what brought me to Hands On Birmingham.

It was here that I heard the phrase “service geek” for the first time and I have been wearing the badge ever since. It is our jobs to help people find volunteer opportunities that they LOVE doing. In all the training, pitches, and volunteer speeches that I heard my fellow co-workers give, I kept hearing “You have to find your fit. Not every opportunity is perfect for you.” While I heard what my co-workers were saying it didn’t really hit until I myself got back out of the volunteer management side and into the volunteers’ shoes. The United Way of Central Alabama has us participate in service learning every year and this year I went to a very familiar nonprofit, Habitat for Humanity. I have been on a HFH site plenty of times; however, this particular volunteer experience was quite different.


My co-workers and I pulled up to HOH that was still in the very early stages of being built. There was the foundation and the trusses, but not much else. I instantly became nervous. I have swung my fair share of hammers, painted plenty of walls, but putting on a roof?? This was new territory for me and heights and I do not go well together. I have no balance and I already saw myself plunging to be a very painful fall. We got our orientation and soon everyone was to work. I helped carry plywood to give to the roofers, I even put in a couple of windows, but my nervousness would not go away. While typically I was the first to jump in, I now found myself slinking back and trying to find other things to do. I actually felt guilty I wasn’t as eager to swiftly climb up a ladder and balance beam walk on an unfinished roof.

That is when I fully understood that volunteering does have to be a good fit. While I LOVE Habitat for Humanity, early home construction is just not my fit. I flourish in community gardens, art, painting, and interacting with people, but when handed a nail gun on a tiny beam I freeze up. Even though it wasn’t a great fit for me I am so happy that I experienced these feelings. By starting over and volunteering at a “new” project I am becoming a better volunteer manager for all of you!

The lesson that I learned was that not every volunteer opportunity is a great fit, even for a volunteer enthusiast! Who knows, maybe in a couple of years I will be up on a roof making it a home for a family in need. In the meantime I will stick with drywall!

Hands On Birmingham loves when volunteers try new projects, but we also want you to be a happy volunteer! We are dedicated to finding your right fit. If you are looking for something that you are passionate about, but can’t find it on our website, just give us a call!

-Thanks for listening! Allie Einsiedel

This year, Hands On Birmingham (HOB) collected Easter baskets for underprivileged children in Jefferson, Blount, St. Clair, Shelby, and Walker County. HOB also collected loose items such as candy and toys which were then put together by our Easter Basket Assembly Team (the EBAT, as their affectionately called here). All together we sent out 2,500 Easter Baskets, our biggest Bunny Aid ever!

I’m working at HOB as an Americorps VISTA, and my primary responsibility is to increase volunteerism in Shelby County, AL. Americorps is a government program that encourages people to volunteer and serve their communities (sort of like a domestic Peace Corps). I found out about HOB from a family friend who works closely with the organization, and while volunteering at Project Homeless Connect 2011. I’ve had an amazing year so far, and it saddens me that I only have three months left.

I had so much fun participating in Bunny Aid this year! Walking into an office filled with Easter baskets made me so happy, and I really felt like spring had arrived. Even though it was hard to walk around at times, the constant influx of baskets made our working atmosphere so festive and fun (well, it’s fun all the time, but Bunny Aid made it extra fun)! It felt so good to know that so many kids were going to wake up on Easter Sunday with candy, toys, coloring books, and other fun “kid stuff.”


Delivering the baskets was great too. I had the pleasure of delivering baskets to the Arc of Shelby County, Safehouse, and Family Connection. While I didn’t get to see the kid’s faces, the reactions of the people who work with the kids was a reward in itself. All of our partner agencies work so hard and they were so grateful for the extra help.

All in all, Bunny Aid 2012 was a huge success. On behalf of everyone here at Hands On Birmingham, I want to thank everyone that donated baskets, candy, toys, and all the other fun items in the baskets. Also, to the EBAT, THANK YOU!!! You guys are total rock stars (putting together 971 baskets in one day is no small feat)! Bunny Aid would not have been the success it was without all of you!


Katie Chisholm

Shelby County Outreach Coordinator

Hands On Birmingham

On Saturday, March 10th over 720 Project Homeless Connect volunteers came to Boutwell Auditorum to not only help those experiencing homeless the services they needed, but also give them the personal support and a friendly smile that makes the day easier!

Project Homeless Connect is an innovative one day event that focuses on breaking the cycle of homelessness, increasing access to services and ending chronic homelessness in Central Alabama.

 For one day, PHC will give people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to access an array of services (housing, medical services, identification services, veterans’ services, employment services, pet care, haircuts, etc.) in a system which is often difficult to understand and navigate.

 Our volunteers guided the clients through this amazing support and changed lives. The impact numbers (shown below) are incredible, but the clients are not the only lives that are changed on this day.

Project Homeless Connect is a powerful experience for volunteers and often volunteers are overwhelmed with emotions. When a volunteer has an eye opening or life changing  experience, Melissa (HOB’s Progam Manager), calls it an “Ah Ha Moment.” It is a moment during the project when the true impact of his or her work hits the volunteer.

One volunteer, Xavier, had his “Ah Ha Moment” during Project Homeless Connect. Xavier said:

“I must commend you for the magnificent display of compassion shown to the target population as well as to the volunteer corps. To say it was impressive does no justice. There was love and God all in that place. Borrowing from the Jimmie Hale mission, Hands on Birmingham put together a colossal hand up, not a hand out. People looking for an opportunity to serve found it in you. Those needing a hand founded it to. People from all walks of life came together to be a blessing and to be blessed. Women, men, young, old, professional, non professional, educated, laymen, rich, poor, healthy, sick, black and white hand in hand saw a need and meet it. There was no difference between the giver and the receiver. The population we set out to serve gave us a much needed lesson. If by chance we thought we were coming to serve a people who had no dignity, self respect and love in them, shame on us. But, even if we did, the notion that there are no coincidences in life and that everything happens for a reason proves itself true. That day was not for the physically homeless, but for we privileged few who might very well be self righteous. HOB served the whole community on that day. It was incredible and awesome. There was renewed hope in the human spirit. Hands on Birmingham gave people an opportunity to put their love into action. By doing this, you showed that “we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny; that what affects one directly affects all indirectly”. There were so many conversations amongst volunteers echoing their gratitude for being able to help. So many were cognizant of how they were no different from the person they escorted through the mall. While volunteers were strangers to the guests, they were also strangers with one another. This to me was one of the extra blessings of just showing up. People who were forced to interact in love had the chance to share how they came to volunteer on that day. Many had the chance to recognize similarities they shared with others while embracing and respecting their differences. In one morning, we all saw what could be of this world. I cannot express adequately the impact you had on our(the volunteers) lives. We are all forever changed. I had a conversation with a volunteer who is a white female serving as a nurse in a hospital somewhere. She just started talking to me. She made me feel like we were old friends. She went on to tell me how she had always thought that since she was in the helping profession that she was doing enough. Somehow or another she recently came to realize that she wasn’t. Hands on Birmingham provided for her the chance to do something that to her, really made a difference. Thank you HOB. I am eternally grateful to you just for the opportunity.”

This is just an example of ONE volunteer story. If you have a story please share it with others. The entire HOB staff hopes that all participating volunteers had a moment like this. We are so proud of all of the volunteers hard work during this incredible day of service. We could not even begin to address an issue like homelessness without the hands of our volunteers. Thank you all for being part of the movement to end homelessness!

There is something whimsical about a visit from the Easter Bunny. Children wake up to see where he hid their presents and once they find them they start to eagerly unwrap brightly colored baskets filled with chocolate eggs, jellybeans, and soft and cuddly stuffed bunnies or chicks. But what about the children in need that the Easter Bunny had a hard time finding?

This was a community need that Angela Stancil, a Hands On Birmingham Junior Board Member, recognized 10 years ago when she started Bunny Aid. Bunny Aid is a Do-It-Yourself Project that allows volutneers to be creative with filling Easter Baskets for children in need. Angela formed the group E.B.A.T (Easter Basket Assembly Team) and created 20 East Baskets in its first year! Over the years the project has only grown and Angela is now up to her not-so-bunny-ears in plastic Easter eggs and she is still finding fake basket grass in her car and home. In 2011, E.B.A.T assembled 889 baskets for local children!!!!

Angela said, “It’s amazing how year after year we continue to sustain the project with only individual donations! It’s such a fun project that folks keep coming back year after year and telling their friends.”

You don’t have to be in E.B.A.T to make a difference! Hands On Birmingham offers Bunny Aid as a Do-It-Yourself project to allow friends, family, coworkers, church members, and classmates to get together and celebrate the season by giving back to the community through a Bunny.

It is very easy to volunteer for Bunny Aid! All you have to do is get with your friends, families, coworkers etc. and fill some Easter Baskets with treats like fake grass, plastic Easter eggs, individually wrapped candy, small stuffed animals or toys, and or coloring books and crayons! These are just examples of what *might* go into a basket! Please use your imagination!

All baskets need to be dropped off or picked up by MARCH 30th! Drop off days are Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm to HOB’s office located at 3600 8th Ave South Birmingham, AL 35232!

Floyd the Hands On Birmingham Bunny and Bunny Aid mascot (pictured below) will be hopping over to agency partners, like (but not limited to) YWCA, Pathways, The Salvation Army and Birmingham Aids Outreach, to deliver the volunteer made baskets.

Follow his trail via Facebook all through March and up until Easter to see his Bunny Aid travels!