Michelle Henry had no idea the impact she was making in the Birmingham community.
So far this year, Henry has recorded 929 hours of donated time in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s BlazerPulse, to organizations such as the Crisis Center and Blazer Kitchen, making her the platform’s top volunteer as of June.
BlazerPulse made its official debut with the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 21, 2019. The online platform was launched to promote, organize and measure UAB’s impact in the community. BlazerPulse has continued to weave its way into the community and campus through service-learning courses, activities sponsored by student organizations, and open volunteer opportunities with campus and community organizations.
In its first six months, 1,343 faculty, staff and students logged more than 10,100 combined hours of community engagement in BlazerPulse. By Sept. 5, nearly 40,000 volunteer hours had been committed to community service through BlazerPulse.
Henry, an academic adviser in UAB’s School of Public Health, sees her volunteer work as an extension of the school’s mission to protect and improve the health and well-being of communities, and she encourages students to volunteer for the same reason.
“I honestly had no idea how much of an impact I was making in my community until I started logging my impacts,” Henry said. “I love that I can keep track of my time and find new opportunities for volunteering.”
The response from the campus and community has been tremendous in this relatively short period of time, says Emily Wykle, project director in the Office of the President.
“More than 70 community partners have joined the BlazerPulse platform and are working with us to improve and expand our abilities to meet needs in the Greater Birmingham area and provide service-learning activities for our students,” Wykle said. “We only expect that number to increase.”
United Way, Birmingham-Southern College, University of Alabama and the Birmingham Education Foundation are also launching GivePulse so the organizations will all be able to collaborate more effectively, Wykle says.
By the numbers
The ability to better organize and quantify the work of university faculty, staff and students in the community is a driving force behind the investment in BlazerPulse.
“We’ve always known our campus is highly engaged, and now we are better able to define where and with whom and how much,” Wykle said.
For example, Birmingham’s Crisis Center, which provides services to people experiencing personal crisis and mental health issues, is a chief beneficiary this year; faculty, staff and students have committed more than 1,001 hours to its mission. Henry, an after-hours rape response advocate for the center, is one of those. One week a month — and sometimes more — she is on call 5 p.m.-5 a.m. to assist people who reach out for help.
One Roof, which connects organizations in efforts to prevent and end homelessness, is among the top three community partners based on impacts by UAB volunteers such as Tricia Keith. Keith, a dental hygienist and graduate student who also is among the top three UAB volunteers, began working with One Roof as part of her graduate program in Instructional Design and Development.
“The hours gathered in the process of giving back to the community are small compared to the experiences you gain in return,” Keith said. “I have been very fortunate to be able to meet and work with wonderful people and organizations.”
As with Henry, Keith says her work with the School of Dentistry also “has provided me with a direct link to helping the community,” especially UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day, which provides dental services for homeless and underserved members of the community.
In our own house
At times, the community members needing help are on the UAB campus.
Blazer Kitchen, a campus food pantry that provides fresh and nutritious foods to students, colleagues and patients, is the greatest campus beneficiary of volunteer hours logged in BlazerPulse to date: 2,756. The pantry — financially supported by donations in cash and items — still relies on volunteers to stock and help distribute food and household items in its locations in Medical Towers and Hill Student Center.
“Blazer Kitchen provides so much help to those closest to us in our UAB community by allowing students and staff to come and shop for grocery items and toiletry items that they may not be able to afford between paychecks,” Henry said.
Community nonprofits can partner with BlazerPulse
If you are a local nonprofit and would like to partner with UAB, please email email@example.com to let us know you would like to have a page on BlazerPulse. Please provide the name of your organization, a brief description, address, and the name and email address of the person at your organization who will manage the page. You will receive an email from the system when your page has been created.
Top three individual volunteers at the six-month mark
Top three student groups at the six-month mark
Alpha Xi Delta
Lambda Chi Alpha
Language Without Barriers