COVID-19 can't stop Into the Streets volunteers from safely serving Birmingham community

For the 21st year of Into the Streets, a student-led day of service at UAB, 84 volunteers gave a combined 168 hours of service, working at 12 sites with seven community partners, while safeguarding against COVID-19.

Photography: Steve Wood

The COVID-19 pandemic will not stop University of Alabama at Birmingham volunteers from giving back to their communities. 

Into the Streets, a student-led day of service, took place Friday, Oct. 23. It is the 21st year of the university tradition at UAB. Eighty-four students, faculty and staff gave a combined 168 hours of their time and effort. They worked at 12 sites around Birmingham, with seven community partners, while also practicing health-promoting behavior.  

This year, the program was updated to meet the school’s COVID-19 social event guidelines for students, which are designed to protect the campus community. Fewer volunteers were able to participate so they could maintain social distancing space. Each site had a student and faculty/staff site leader, who led the group and helped make sure everyone was working safely. The students and staff who were able to participate abided by the guidelines.

UAB Into the Streets fall 2020, by the numbers:

  • 84 volunteers
  • Gave 168 hours of service
  • With seven community partners
  • At 12 sites
  • For an economic impact of nearly $4,000

Into the Streets was planned by seven undergraduate students on the UAB Leadership and Service Council, advised by the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership. The economic impact of the day of service was nearly $4,000. Students registered to volunteer through BlazerPulse, UAB’s community engagement platform, connecting students, faculty and staff across campus with partners in Birmingham and beyond.

For the fall 2020 Into the Streets day of service, volunteers:

  • Cleaned up the banks of Valley Creek with Black Warrior Riverkeeper
  • Packaged boxes of food for families in need through Community Food Bank of Central Alabama
  • Planted new plants at the Birmingham Botanical Garden
  • Painted a mural in North Titusville with Live HealthSmart Alabama
  • Conducted a roadside cleanup for the Village Creek Society
  • Assisted with grounds beautification with Northstar Soccer Ministries
  • Wrote uplifting cards to Birmingham City School children with Better Basics

Volunteer staff site leaders were Angela Stowe, Student Counseling Services; Michelle Benedict, EHS/Campus Safety; Joey Kennedy, Department of English faculty; Victoria Smith, First Year Experience; Dominic Ezemenaka, Materials Science and Engineering; Gwynne Mountz, Office of the Provost; Meredith Kahl, Parent and Family Services; Synclaire Casselberry, Student Conduct and Outreach; and Scotty Rainwater, Myah Morton and Jessica Brown, Student Involvement and Leadership.

UAB volunteers with the morning sessions at Birmingham Botanical Gardens worked on cleaning up and weeding invasive plants out of the park’s Bamboo Grove, in preparation for drone footage being shot of the area, says Alice Thompson Moore, volunteer coordinator with Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The Grove is at the base of the Japanese Garden and includes an elevated boardwalk, giving visitors a place to stroll through the peaceful shaded garden.

Volunteers helped plant at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, painted a mural in North Titusville with Live HealthSmart Alabama, cleaned the roadside for the Village Creek Society and more.

“The afternoon volunteers tackled planting camellias, azaleas and ginkgo trees in the Hulsey Woods, just outside of the Japanese Garden,” Moore said. “These plantings will help fill in and revitalize this wooded area. The groups were all fantastic and accomplished a great deal of work.”

One of those student volunteers said they enjoyed seeing the impact the group had and how much they accomplished together. “It was also incredibly calming to be out in the bamboo groves during a time where there is much distress in the world,” the student wrote on the post-event survey. 

A student who worked with the Community Foodbank of Central AL said they learned about different organizations that they did not know existed in Birmingham and will consider volunteering at the Foodbank again in the future. 

Photography: Steve Wood