Michelle Henry had no idea the impact she was making in the community. Henry, an academic advisor in the 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.
So far in 2019, Henry already has recorded 456 hours of donated time in BlazerPulse to organizations such as the Crisis Center and Blazer Kitchen, making her the platform’s top volunteer as of June.
“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.”
|“I honestly had no idea how much of an impact I was making in my community until I started logging my impacts. I love that I can keep track of my time and find new opportunities for volunteering.”
~ Michelle Henry
In fewer than six months, 1,343 faculty, staff and students logged more than 10,100 combined hours of community engagement in BlazerPulse, the online platform launched in January to promote, organize and measure UAB’s impact in the community.
BlazerPulse made its official debut with the MLK day of Service Jan. 21 and 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.
“The response from the campus and community has been tremendous in this relatively short period of time,” said 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. We only expect that number to increase.”
By the numbers
The ability to better organize and quantify the work of university faculty, staff and students in 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 575 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 is 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 under-served 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 Blazer Pulse to date: 1,964. 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. (A Blazer Kitchen Toiletry Drive is underway through July 12.)
What can you do? Find a volunteer opportunity
Community engagement is a pillar of UAB’s strategic plan, but it’s also integral to who we are as faculty, staff and students. Some units and classes have built-in opportunities to contribute to the common good — and for everyone else, there is BlazerPulse.
“I started looking for opportunities to give of my time because I couldn’t always provide a financial gift, but I had plenty of free time,” Henry said. “When I volunteer it makes me feel really good, whole and complete to be able to help someone else, whether that’s a consumer at the Crisis Center or at Blazer Kitchen. I continue to volunteer because I can’t imagine not helping in some way.”
Begin with “50 Acts of Service,” one of the year-long programs and activities celebrating the UAB’s 50th anniversary as an autonomous university. On Aug. 3, The Birmingham Schools Beautification Project will host nine simultaneous events at schools throughout the city, and every volunteer will receive a 50th anniversary T-shirt. You can pre-register now.
Need help getting started?
To get started, follow these steps or use these BlazerPulse resources. There are FAQs, videos to guide you and a list of school and unit liaisons to ensure you can get personal assistance.
- Go to uab.edu/blazerpulseand log in with your BlazerID and password.
- Set up a profile (add a picture and information about you and the causes you support).
- Browse UAB subgroups and join the ones that make sense for you.
- Explore upcoming service opportunities with community partners.
- Check out your personal dashboard and start recording impacts.