May Thank You

Ms. Belle at 2012 Table of HopeThank you for your generous contribution to Urban Ministry during the month of May. As we continue to offer programs of compassion and wholeness, we give thanks to God for you and the significant way in which your gift is combined with the gifts of others to sustain our ministry and those we serve.

May is the month of endings and beginnings, and for all of us at Urban Ministry, we are particularly focused upon the upcoming retirement of our beloved “Ms. Belle” Carlisle, Director of Community Kitchen. She has cooked and fed hungry people for more than 31 years at Urban Ministry, and we cannot begin to count the many ways we will miss her. Many of our daily lunch guests have come to call her “mama,” and all of our staff hold her in high regard as our colleague, friend, and confidant. No matter how busy Ms. Belle is preparing lunch, she takes time to listen and to guide. Needless to say, we will miss her tremendously!

Between now and June 30, we have planned a couple of opportunities for all of us to pay tribute to Ms. Belle’s many years of service being the hands and feet of Christ to this part of the world.

The culminating event will be a BIG Celebration in Ms. Belle’s honor on Sunday, June 29, at Vestavia Hills UMC, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. There will be a time to meet and greet Ms. Belle, enjoy tasty refreshments from Chef Charlie Gagne’s kitchen, and enjoy a program paying tribute to Ms. Belle’s 31+ years of service with Urban Ministry’s Community Kitchen. We hope you will make plans to join us.

In honor of Ms. Belle’s retirement, we will have a “Love Offering Box,” which you may contribute to on June 29 during her Celebration at Vestavia Hills UMC. If you’re unable to be with us, we are happy to receive gifts for her at our mailing address.

Additional plans for Celebrating Ms. Belle are in the works, and we will share those in the coming days. We hope you will join us to pay tribute to this amazing woman of God

Blessings and deep gratitude for your support,

Rev. Melissa Self Patrick
Executive Director

April Thank You

                        All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, so thank

                        the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all his love….

WE Garden tomatoesThese lyrics from Godspell are so fitting for this time of year.  Many gifts surround us at Urban Ministry – your generous contribution during the month of April, which moves us closer to our Feinstein Campaign goal – is one of these “good gifts.”  And when I look at the beauty of the Spring greens and colorful flowers blooming in WE Community Gardens, I’m reminded of God’s gift of re-creation.  Even as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we remember, too, how God is at work re-creating each of us and breathing life into every living creature.  And so we give thanks for all good gifts.

One of the greatest gifts of God is the gift of community.  Thank you for being part of our community, even though you may be on the other side of Birmingham or well beyond.   People like you make a big difference for all of us at Urban Ministry.  Already this month, a United Methodist Women’s group provided a wonderful Easter party for our Urban Kids, friends from another non-profit whose golf tournament was rained out (for the second time in 2 weeks) brought us more than 100 boxed meals, which were shared with Urban Kids and their families, and volunteers from Birmingham-Southern College helped spruce up our offices by painting the trim work begun by Magic City Miracle volunteers last Fall, and then assisted with composting work in WE Community Gardens.  All good gifts.

And the gifts keep on giving…Join us on May 8, in the beautiful new Hulsey Hall on the campus of BSC for our WE EAT Together event to celebrate and sustain WE Community Gardens.  This is the most fun garden party of the season, and you don’t want to miss it.  From 5:30-8:30 p.m., enjoy wonderful jazz music from Shaun Pezant, delicious food from Chef Chris DuPont of Café DuPont, beverages from Alabama Crown and Good People, and a “Green Silent Auction!”

As we continue to be mindful of all God’s good gifts, know that we are thankful for you, for your support of our shared work and ministry, and for all the good things yet to come.


Rev. Melissa Self Patrick

Executive Director

You’re Invited



  • support growing food and growing community at WE Community Gardens
  • eco-friendly, sustainable silent auction
  • mouth-watering menu from Chef Chris Dupont

how to help:

  • buy a single ticket
  • buy a couples ticket
  • donate a silent auction item
  • become an event sponsor along with Cafe Dupont, Alabama Crown, Good People Brewing, The Modern Brand and Birmingham-Southern College!
Donate to Urban Ministry at

peace and gratitude
from the fields,

Upcoming Excitement

WE Garden Compost in a 5 gallon bucketThank you for your generous contribution during the month of March. Our annual Feinstein Campaign, which aims to address food insecurity in our area, has begun. As you know, our goal is to raise $250,000 – double last year – as several funders have had to either reduce or withdraw their funding. Your financial and/or food contributions, combined with the generosity of others, are multiplied by the Alan Shawn Feinstein Foundation efforts to contribute $1 million across the country, including Urban Ministry’s efforts. We remain grateful for your support and are excited about the possibilities of continuing to make a difference here in the Birmingham area so that more people have greater access to food, especially healthy food, and so that no child, or any person, goes hungry in the midst of plenty.

These are exciting, yet challenging, times at Urban Ministry, and so your gift is all the more important. WE Community Gardens’ Markets have begun at both Princeton Baptist Medical Center in the Professional Building Atrium each Wednesday from 9:00am-1:00pm, and we will soon open at Pepper Place Farmer’s Market. You might be interested to know that because of supporters like you our Gardens are now composting at 100%, meaning we no longer need to purchase supplemental soil. Further, we are selling our “black gold” compost in 5-gallon buckets at $12/bucket while supplies last. This is a wonderful opportunity for gardeners to support our efforts in a food desert, while enriching their own soil. Sort of a combination of West End meeting yours or your gardening friend’s soil, which is bound to be a good thing!

Plans are also underway for our WE Garden Party set for Thursday, May 8. Stay tuned for more information regarding the venue, entertainment, and tickets.

As we’ve shared in our earlier letter, our beloved Ms. Belle Carlisle will retire on June 30 after 31 years of service cooking and serving good, hot lunches. Just last year, we hit a record 26,000+ meals served! We are planning a special event in her honor and will let you know as soon as a date is secured.

Thank you, again, for all that you do to support our programs of compassion and wholeness. You are helping to make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of people who struggle, especially in our West End Community, because of deep poverty. If you’d like to visit us, please do not hesitate to contact me or Scott Denton, and if you have a group who’s interested in volunteering, please contact Danny Jones at (205)781-0517.

Very truly yours…


Helping Our Neighbors Stay Warm

Woman & grandchildren, by trudeau, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  trudeau 

On behalf of everyone here at Urban Ministry, thank you for your recent and generous contributions.  Between several closings due to inclement weather, some of the lowest temperatures on record, our broken office heater (for the first three weeks of the year), and now many people’s requests for utility and food assistance, your dollars have been stretched in unusually long ways.  You have made a positive difference in the lives of those we serve, and you have also allowed our staff to feel the warmth of hospitality as our office heater was restored to working order.

As I admired the winter wonderland through our home’s front storybook window, I could not help but think of how creative God is to provide us with such a beautiful picture through snow and ice, and yet I also could not help but think of Ms. Claudia, our neighbor in West End, who I know tries to conserve all the electricity she can by only running her space heater at bedtime.  I worry about her – period; however, I was particularly concerned during those very cold days, as I am certain you must have been, also.  Because of generous and faithful people like you, Urban Ministry is able to both assist neighbors like Ms. Claudia with electric bills, and we are able to engage her through weekly seniors chair yoga classes and worship, too.

Thank you for remembering us – and people like Ms. Claudia – with your generous support.  We appreciate your prayers, too, as we go about God’s work of being present to people’s lives during their greatest moment of need, as well as during their regular, weekday world.  As we remember the difference we collectively make for people like Ms. Claudia, our staff has recently compiled our 2013 Annual Report.  Like the year prior, we served more people than ever before, and our volunteer hours increased dramatically, too.  A copy of the Report is here, and I hope that you will take a moment to absorb the many ways you have joined our efforts so that together we serve others through programs of compassion and wholeness.

As March nears, we are reminded of another important date:  Ms. Belle’s retirement from 31 years of service through Community Kitchen on June 30. Last year Ms. Belle led our staff and volunteers in serving more than 26,000 meals to nearly 2,000 people.  This is staggering to me/us, especially when you take a moment and do even an average calculation of her 31 years of meals served – wow!  We will honor Ms. Belle at an upcoming event and will make sure you are included.  In the meantime, Ms. Belle can always use an extra pair of hands to help serve hungry people.  Call her at 781-0517, or speak with Danny Jones at the same number, just in case she’s busy serving people – her favorite thing!

With deep gratitude…

December Thank You

Dorothy Day quoteAs Dorothy Day said, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” This has been our focus during the month of December. You are a big part of the power of Love within our shared ministry community, and as Christmas nears, all of us at Urban Ministry would like to thank you for your generous contribution during the month of December. We are overwhelmed by your generosity. Because you have shared great joy, we have been able to assist many people with a variety of needs, including facilitating Christmas for several hundred children, providing Christmas lunch on December 12 for several hundred people, and special Christmas presents for elderly neighbors who live in nursing facilities in western Birmingham.

And because of you, lives are being touched, healing is occurring, and we are all being transformed by the power of Christ’s love at work among us. Even though we don’t all know one another and don’t share the same life story, we are part of the same kingdom of God and are called to bear witness to what that looks like. Mary’s Magnificat is a beautiful example of what the kingdom of God looks like: Lifting up the lowly, filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich away empty. We see this at Urban Ministry every day, and you help make people’s burdens lighter, and their lives more whole. From Urban Kids to young people working in WE Community Gardens, from volunteers feeding “the hungry” alongside Ms. Belle in Community Kitchen to seniors receiving Emergency Assistance, from volunteers painting the homes of seniors in need to the homeless receiving Homelessness Prevention services from a social worker, thousands of lives have connected and vital services have been offered during 2013.

As we move closer towards 2014, we are heartened by your ongoing support, and we have several exciting plans to share in the coming months. If you’d ever like to visit with us, I hope you’ll not hesitate to let me, or one of our staff members, know.

May God richly bless you and your family during this holy Christmas season, and may the peace of Christ rule in all our hearts.

Giving thanks in our Community Kitchen

Volunteers in the Community Kitchen“I thank you for the meal I’m about to receive for the nourishment of my body.” This is what a woman says to me as she comes through the dining room to receive lunch every day. She’s been eating with us for quite some time, and she has never failed to bless me.

Her words remind me of my childhood. If we ate, our neighbors ate, because my mother always cooked enough to share. There was always enough for our family and for others to join us as needed.

It is a blessing to prepare and serve meals to our neighbors. Being able to work with so many wonderful volunteers who join our efforts every day makes it even better. We are so blessed to have so many regular volunteers, and we always welcome new ones to join us.

Community_Kitchen_2_mobile[1]As 2013 comes to a close, we are thankful for each of you. Your prayers, financial contributions, and volunteer assistance help us take care of our community so that all of God’s children receive nourishment for our bodies and our spirits.

With love,
Ms. Belle Carlisle
Compassion Programs Director
Urban Ministry


I acted and behold, service was joy

Dear friend,

Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Let me tell you about one person who has found himself through service at Urban Ministry.

We’ll call him Steve. He’s a member of a large suburban United Methodist church in the Birmingham area. When he became chair of the missions committee a couple of years ago, he decided to find out more about our work.

Garden sign: Let Food Grow“Until I visited, I had no idea of the breadth and depth and scope of your ministry,” he says. “I met you all and learned what you do, and it blew me away.”

Steve became not only committed to continuing the financial support of Urban Ministry, he became committed to working with us.

“Until you put on their shoes and walk a mile in them, you can’t appreciate what they are facing,” he says.

His children began working in WE Community Gardens, which not only helped feed the neighborhood, but also allowed quality time for his family as well.

“Working together at Urban Ministry has been truly transformative,” he says. “It’s one thing to just write a check, although that’s needed too. But it’s another thing to get blisters together…

That’s what changes you. It’s what changed me.

In the United Methodist Communion liturgy, we confess that we have not heard the cry of the needy,” he continues. “We say that by rote every month. It’s time for us to walk among it, embrace it, and go help change it.”

Won’t you embrace that confession as well by helping us reach our year-end financial goal?


“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” -Rabindranath Tagore

You can discover that joy by supporting Urban Ministry today. When you support our work, you help people through Homelessness Prevention with utility aid and food assistance. You help seniors receive transportation assistance, health and wellness support and home visits through Beeson Senior Services.

You help change people’s lives through WE Community Gardens, Urban Kids, and the Community Kitchen (which continues to experience record crowds this season).

Our compassion ministries, funded by the support of people like you, help all we serve to find wholeness across the full spectrum of their lives.

We need funds to keep the lights on, to keep our building in good repair, to buy supplies and pay our staff. Every dollar you donate is matched by far more in donated supplies and volunteers. But we still need the cash to keep going.

Urban Ministry building

I hope you will make your donation and couple it with a pledge to visit us at Urban Ministry in the coming year, so you can become one of the people whose life is changed by our ministry of compassion and wholeness.

We need your help to continue serving those who walk through our door. We need your donations in order to meet our budget for 2013.

Join our community by giving generously of your money and time.

As Dorothy Day said, “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

Please give prayerful consideration to this request, and send your contribution today.

With deep gratitude,




Rev. Melissa Self Patrick
Executive Director

WE Blog: WE Eat Swiss Chard!

This week’s recipe first appeared on the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s blog. The Community Foundation is a generous supporter of WE Gardens! Thanks CFGB for investing in the health & wellness of Birmingham through WE Gardens. 

Blog West End GROW SignAsk Ama Shambulia what she most enjoys about her Mama Ama’s Marinated ‘Greens’ Salad and she’ll tell you it’s the recipe’s use of fresh, seasonal produce. “This salad is ALIVE with flavor,” she says enthusiastically.  But to get it right, she adds, it has to be made with love.  And Shambulia means that quite literally.  The recipe’s final ingredient is–you guessed it–love.

That word seems to frame everything Shambulia does, including her work as director of WE (West End) Community Gardens.  At the moment, the gardens (located at the corner of McMillon Ave. and 12th St. SW) are bursting with all sorts of gorgeous produce, including vibrant, oh-so-delicious red and golden chard–the base components of the salad.

Blog Swiss Chard“Thanks to the Community Foundation, we are able to reach over 700 people each year in healthy living programs and gardening activities. We are also able to provide fresh, natural foods at an affordable price here in our community.  The Foundation’s partnership and leadership throughout Birmingham are so valuable,” says Shambulia.

We are proud to have supported the expansion of WE Community Gardens, a program of Urban Ministry, with our 2011 grant of $50,000.  The grant, spread over two years, is designed to help in the development of a curb market and community center for long-term sustainability of this important effort. Together we are helping people lead healthy lives by making it easier to gain access to healthy food.

Blog West End SignVisit their curb market on Wednesday mornings from 10am to 1pm at Princeton Hospital (located in the Professional Building Atrium). WE produce is also sold at Pepper Place Market on Saturdays.  You can join WE visitors and volunteers by calling 205-781-0517.

The Community Foundation grant was made possible through Community Funds and additional donors through the Giving Together program.  Learn more about this strategy to help people lead healthy lives or add your support to this effort by contacting Erin Stephenson.  ContactKathryn Corey to learn more about our Giving Together program.


Mama Ama’s Marinated “Greens” Salad

Feel free to mix and match the greens based on what’s in season.  Ama likes to serve this alongside black-eyed peas.

4 bunches fresh greens (chard, collard, kale, mustard), washed and finely sliced

1 rib celery, finely sliced

1/2  red onion or 1 shallot, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 fresh thyme sprig, leaves chopped

Chopped cayenne pepper, to taste

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos*

1/4 cup olive oil



1. Combine greens and next 5 ingredients in a salad bowl.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, Bragg Liquid Aminos, and olive oil.  Pour over greens mixture; toss to combine.  Serve immediately.

*Bragg Liquid Aminos is available at your local health food store.  Substitute 1/4 cup soy sauce and 1/4 water for Bragg Liquid Aminos.


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