“Being able to help people in a time of uncertainty like this has been very humbling and gratifying.”
- Rusty, Birmingham Service Corps member
In early March, the City of Birmingham worked alongside public and private partners to launchBirmingham Strong, an organization aimed at strengthening Birmingham’s COVID-19 response by promoting public health and economic resilience. Birmingham Strong is a response to two challenges brought on by the COVID crisis: Birmingham residents need support to meet basic needs and Birmingham workers need to be empowered to build a resilient post-COVID economy.
Birmingham Strong’s central program, the Birmingham Service Corps, meets these challenges by hiring recently unemployed or underemployed workers to address critical community needs through paid service opportunities. The program supplies workers with short-term supplemental income while also providing a pathway to stable future employment through professional training.
“Since the start of COVID, 20% of Birmingham workers have lost their jobs,” said Birmingham Strong Executive Director Suzanna Fritzberg. Without programs targeted to help support these families and fight unemployment, an estimated 34,000 households will fall below the poverty line due to unemployment. The individual and community impact of such an economic downturn will have a lasting legacy for Birmingham’s future growth. The goal of Birmingham Strong is to help lessen the economic impact of COVID-19 on our workers whose livelihoods are most directly hit by this crisis and foster a resilient local economy. On average, our corps members have experienced a 50% decrease in income as a result of COVID-19. Through our BhamStrong service corps, we are providing short-term jobs and professional development to help workers remain financially stable.”
“Being able to connect with one another and seeing the city ensure that its residents have jobs has had an incredible impact for many Service Corps members. Through BhamStrong, the city has shown that it puts citizens first.”
- Dewayne, Birmingham Service Corps Team Leader
The Birmingham Service Corps has placed over 300 Birmingham residents in paid volunteer positions across the community. The projects support public health and economic resilience, with participants setting up and staffing testing sites, staffing public sites for safe re-opening, processing small business loan applications, and supporting local nonprofits in their work to combat COVID-19.
“In its first months, Birmingham Strong worked to meet immediate COVID-19 needs,” said Fritzberg. “We created a $2.4 Million small business loan fund prior to when CARES ACT funding became available. We set up call centers to inform residents about stimulus funding and helped establish the city’s first testing sites. Now, through our BhamStrong Service Corps, we’re focusing on ensuring workers have access to jobs during and after COVID-19. As we continue to grow, our Service Corps opportunities will build skills in high-demand local industries, creating new career pathways for Service Corps members.”
“For three years I was my mother’s full-time caregiver. Unfortunately, she departed March 5, 2020. I buried her Saturday March 14. 2020. I didn't have a chance to look for work, or get a place of my own before the city was closed. It's a privilege and an honor to assist others in these times. I am thrilled about the position as a Birmingham Strong Service Corps Member. Very thankful for the opportunity!”
-Delwyn, Birmingham Service Corps Member
Fritzburg says they are grateful for the support provided by generous local donors, including Shipt, the Altec/Styslinger Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Goodrich Foundation and the Alabama Power Foundation. She says the goal is to make the Birmingham Service Corps a permanent part of the Birmingham Community.
“Our vision is that the city’s small businesses and workers are empowered to build a resilient, inclusive community that overcomes COVID-19,” Frizberg says. “We’re invested in connecting unemployed and underemployed Birmingham residents with opportunities to serve their community and assisting workers in developing competitive skill sets that support our local economy.”
If you’d like to donate to #BhamStrong, your company or organization would like to host a Service Corps member, you’d like to apply for the Service Corps, or you want to find out more, visit bhamstrong.com.
“Because of the school closing order on March 16, I was laid off from my job as a preschool teacher. I became very worried about how I would pay my bills in the coming weeks and months, because if I don't work then I don't get paid. I learned about Birmingham Strong through social media and immediately applied. Working with Birmingham Strong has been such a positive experience for me during this time! I'm civic-minded and I truly love people, so being able to reach out with helpful information to fellow Birmingham residents and local small business owners has been immensely rewarding.”
-Kendall, Birmingham Service Corps member
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