From Community Kitchen

Bread and Action for Holy Week

“You satisfy the thirsty, and fill the hungry with good things.” – Psalm 107:9


Dear Friends –

WE Community Gardens

As Holy Week begins, I find myself focused on bread. Bread in our hallway shelves, which provides daily bread for many neighbors and guests who visit us on a weekly basis. Bread baking in our ovens, as McKinzie, our new Chef Instructor, creates healthier, tastier options for our Garden Markets and upcoming Café. Bread chosen from the shelves and then blessed as sacrament for our Wednesday morning service of Holy Communion. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). Bread. Ordinary bread. Satisfying bread. Holy bread. Bread of Life.

L’Chaim! To Life! This old Yiddish phrase proclaims life, and our Spring GROW Campaign is off to a strong start and continues through April 30. Your financial contributions are increased by a generous gift from the Estate of the late Ellen Hodges Powell. Your donations of food – fresh and non-perishable – also make an impact towards filling our Snack Bags and Emergency Food Pantry, making it possible for us to share food with our neighbors, guests, and clients.

As of March 30, 2015, we have received over $35,000 towards our Spring GROW Campaign. We hope to reach our ambitious goal of $200,000 by April 30, and we thank you for your support and for sharing about us with your family and friends. Perhaps this Holy Week would be a time for you to share about URBAN Ministry with your co-workers, congregation, small groups, and other affiliations.

“2 in 1” support: WE Eat Together – Thursday, May 14th – 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

Support our Spring GROW Campaign by purchasing your tickets NOW to our annual WE EAT Together event on the Kress Rooftop downtown home to our friends at Wiggins, Childs, Pantazis, Fisher and Goldfarb. Chef Chris DuPont of Café DuPont is preparing delicious food. Thanks for beverages also go to Good People Brewing, a friend in the wine busines and Ama who will brew her famous WE Tea, which will be a feature at our cafe!

GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY and help us maximize our Spring GROW Campaign goal! Tickets are $39 through April 30; and $49 May 1-14 (including at the door). Email Lisa Jones today.

This year our Silent Auction will feature the work of local artists and select works will be available online. If you would like to donate a piece or know someone who might – visit the link below and share your information.

Thank you for being part of nourishing the larger body of Christ. We hope you’ll let us know how we can support you, and we’re glad to visit with you and your group to share further about our dynamic programs and ministries. You’re also invited to join the women of Table of Grace (Community Church without Walls), as we lead a special Holy Wednesday Worship at 12:00 Noon on April 1 – “Songs & Stories from Women at the Cross.” It will be 30 minutes in length and followed by simple lunch (no charge).

May God richly bless you and your family in the coming weeks, and may you have a blessed Easter.

Rev. Melissa Self Patrick

Send your contribution safely and securely online. Click the link below to give.

*Please consider adding 3% to your donation to cover credit card processing fees. Thank you!

Perhaps you would consider making a regular gift to Urban Ministry.


This year our silent auction for WE Eat Together will feature original art work by local artists. Please consider donating your art (or the art of a friend) for our STARVING ART for WE Eat auction. Art will be featured at the event and select pieces may be available online also. Just click the link below to share your talent for the good of the cause.

Year-End Celebrations and New Staff!!

Our Red DoorTHANK YOU to all who made contributions to our ministry in 2014. You helped us raise our largest total annual income on record: $863,575. Yes, we have been singing the Doxology and giving thanks to God for the bounty that enables us to continue with programs of Compassion for Today and Wholeness for Tomorrow! We look forward to sharing more exciting news in the weeks to come and hope that you’ll let us know how we can be of further service to you and your organization, congregation, corporation/business.

We also give thanks for the following Foundation gifts received as 2014 closed and 2015 began:

SAIL (Summer Adventures in Learning) via Alabama Power Foundation, Joseph S. Bruno Charitable Trust, Mike and Gillian Goodrich Foundation, The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, and The Daniel Foundation of Alabama:
$30,000 for Urban Kids Summer Learning Camp

Butler Snow Foundation:
$15,000 for WE Community Gardens, Emergency Food Pantry, and Urban Community Cafe and Jr. Chef Interns Program

The Daniel Foundation of AL:
$15,000 for WE Community Gardens, Emergency Food Pantry, & Urban Community Cafe and Jr. Chef Interns Program

Whole Cities Foundation (Whole Foods):
$4,800 for WE Community Gardens, Urban Community Cafe, and Jr. Chef Interns

Independent Presbyterian Church Foundation:
$5,000 for Wellness Programs

North AL Conference UMC Missions Resource Team:
$7,000 for Joe Rush Center for Urban Mission

The Gratitude Foundation:
$5,000 for Wellness Programs

UAB’s One Great Community CHIA (Community Health Innovation Awards):
$12,500 for Urban Community Cafe and Jr. Chef Interns Program

And for an unexpected, and very significant gift from the Estate of Ellen Hodges Powell, we give thanks that in her passing she has enabled us to strengthen and grow our programs here in the West End Community of Birmingham and well beyond.

But wait…we have more! In January, we welcomed 3 outstanding, new staff members to our Urban Ministry Team:

Lisa Jones is our Director of Development and Communications. She brings a wealth of experience in marketing, fundraising, and non-profit management to us, having worked with Baptist Health System’s former SportsFirst, and then many successful years at the YMCA of Birmingham. She is a longtime member at Trinity UMC (Homewood), where she remains active as a leader.

Wanda Larosiliere is our Director of Urban Kids. She brings a wealth of experience as a former Birmingham City Schools math/science teacher, corporate executive, and has Masters degrees in the Sciences. Wanda has been a longtime friend of WE Community Gardens and Urban Ministry, and she has a heart for children and young people and for Urban Ministry’s mission and vision.

McKinzie Harrison is our new Chef Instructor working closely with Ama Shambulia, Wellness Director, on our upcoming Urban Community Cafe. She will instruct our Jr Chef Interns regarding all things Culinary. McKinzie was trained as a Chef in California, where she also served as a Chef Instructor, and has a wealth of knowledge to share. She is also the niece of our beloved Church without Walls’ “Ms. Ernestine” Washington, and she also supports their ministry via meals served at each of 4 weekly worship times.

We do not rest but have already been hard at work in 2015 to deepen and expand Compassion and Wholeness in this part of God’s kingdom. We covet your support – your gifts, your prayers, your action – and look forward to another exciting year!

Together We Make a Difference

Tomatoes in Palm“I am thankful for my life and for this community!” said one of our Urban Kids with confidence and excitement.  Her words resonate for each of us, especially during this season of thanks and generous giving.

With your help, our programs are making a lasting difference for all of us:

  • Urban Kids serves 30 children in After School and Summer Learning Programs, where our children gained 8-10 months average in reading and math skills!
  • Together we celebrated with Community Church without Walls the high school graduation of our largest number of students: 19 young people, 14 of whom had their start with Urban Kids.
  • Community Kitchen served more than 14,500 meals, and we celebrated our beloved “Ms. Belle” as she retired after 31 years of cooking and sharing hope.
  • Emergency Food Pantry has served more than 250 families during crisis and will continue to meet many needs through December 19.
  • Our new Monday-Tuesday Crisis Intervention and Snack Bagshas served more than 480 persons since October 1.  We’ll expand to a Wellness Hospitality Time in 2015, increasing health and wellness among our most vulnerable guests and neighbors, especially the homeless and near homeless.
  • Homelessness Prevention, Rapid Re-housing, & Street Outreach has assisted more than 206 people to permanent or transitional housing, medical care, food resources, and referrals to stabilization.
  • Beeson Senior Services & Senior Emergency Assistance has served more than 500 seniors with utility/rent assistance and case management.
  • WE Community Gardens has sold or gifted more than 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to our community, engaged 900+ people in healthy eating and healthy living programs, and employed 4 area young people.
  • Joe Rush Center for Urban Mission’s 679 volunteers (most of them young people) painted 22 houses and built relationships with the 41 family members.  Many more homeowners (most of them vulnerable seniors) await their exterior house paintings.

We need your financial support to finish 2014 strong. And we have exciting plans for deepening sustainability, community empowerment and transformation, healthy eating and healthy living in 2015 in our West End Community and beyond.

Like our Urban Kids, we give thanks for all you have done in the past and ask you to give again so we can continue to respond with compassion and wholeness.

Peace and Blessings,



Rev. Melissa Self Patrick, Executive Director

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

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…


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