From From the Executive Director

Farewell from a Fellow Pilgrim

“We are travelers on a journey, fellow pilgrims on the road; we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load….”
'Farewell' on typewritten pageThis old Sacred Harp song has been playing in my head for several weeks, as I have begun the process of transitioning from Executive Director of URBAN Ministry to pastor of Lesters Chapel UMC.  Many of us have traveled these last five years together, and I am thankful to have been on this journey with you.  Together we have worked hard, made plans for surviving – even thriving – through the recession, and in the last two years, our Board and Staff have charted a strong course for URBAN’s mission and programs and future sustainability.  All of us – volunteers, funding partners, Board, staff, and neighbors – have helped each other, and we have in turn offered deep compassion and wholeness to thousands of people, even as we have offered these gifts to one another.
Tremendous growth and development has occurred in our programs, staff, Board, and within each of us.   Through WE Eat programs, people receive healthy organic produce and greater access to other sources of healthy food.  Last year, WE Community Gardens gifted more than 5,000 pounds of produce and sold over 4,000 pounds of produce.  Courageously, we are turning our Community Kitchen into WE Eat, An URBAN Community Café, where everyone will eat a healthy meal regardless of ability to pay.  WE Grow programs are making an even greater difference in the lives of children and youth, as we plan to implement a formal Youth Interns Program in areas of education, agriculture, and culinary arts.  In the midst of it all, URBAN is a safe harbor for several hundred people who receive emergency assistance through our WE Care programs, including Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing, Senior Emergency Assistance, case management for seniors across Jefferson County, and exterior house painting through our Joe Rush Program, which enables many vulnerable homeowners to remain in their homes and have dignity.
URBAN’s relationships with the leadership of the Community Church without Walls, the West End Community, and hundreds of congregations, organizations, corporations, and institutions have been intentionally strengthened.  While URBAN remains a safe harbor for vulnerable people from across our area, we more readily understand our role as a catalyst for community development in our West End neighborhood.  We invite you to visit us, especially if you have never been to URBAN before or if it has been a while, because you will be amazed by the vibrant and faithful people you encounter and the excitement of a community in transformation.
It has been a deep blessing for me to work and minister among you all these last five years.  I will glean wisdom and understanding from my experiences here for the rest of my life, and I am a better person and pastor because of URBAN and its people.  Thank you for being a partner with us.  Your financial support, prayers, encouraging emails and notes, and steadfast presence have enabled us all to sustain and continue to build a community of compassion and wholeness that lasts.
With Gratitude –

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

September Thank You

“What do you do with your dash? You know, the one between your birth date and your death date. How do you live your life? What do you do with your days? Live them to the fullest! Love greatly! Give generously!”
-Barbara Dooley at Table of Hope on September 11, 2014

Dear friend,

Thank you for giving generously to Urban Ministry’s annual Table of Hope event! Your gifts combined with those of others raised nearly $70,000. We raised more funds and entertained more guests than ever before, and we are still receiving pledges. Wow!

Your support is vital to our programs of compassion and wholeness. Thanks to you, Urban Ministry’s neighborhood children will continue to receive quality After School and Summer Learning experiences, where their lives are enriched and their academic abilities are strengthened so they graduate high school and move on to college. This year we celebrated the most Urban Kids Alumni starting their college careers than ever before. Your gifts help build our part of their strong educational successes and lift up our whole community.

And thanks to you and many volunteers, more than 11,000 meals have been shared with hungry people in our Community Kitchen dining room already this year. We are excited about new possibilities for strengthening our healthy eating and healthy living programs, creating a more sustainable approach for our neighborhood’s ongoing transformation. One of our most fun events is our upcoming Collard Green Cook-off and Wellness Expo. Coordinated by our WE Community Gardens, this free event on October 18 (12:00 noon- 5:00 p.m.) offers great food, great music, and great family fun in Urban Ministry’s parking lot. Join us!

Table of Hope’s success – made possible by you and many friends – means that our homeless neighbors will receive compassionate case management from our social workers, medical care, and a place to live. Your gifts mean that a vulnerable, senior adult neighbor’s home will finally be painted, even as life-changing relationships are manifest between young people and our neighbors. And your gifts make it possible for us to serve more than 250 seniors and 330 families with emergency utility assistance and food boxes.

On behalf of our Board of Directors, Staff, and community, thank you for investing some of your “dash” with Table of Hope. And thank you for widening our circles of hope so that all God’s children move towards greater compassion and greater wholeness.

With deep gratitude,


July Thank You

Duke volunteers, Spring 2014“Hey! Rev. Melissa, are we going to Camp Sumatanga this summer?!” From last January until May, this is the excited question I heard from Thomas, one of our Urban Kids, every time he saw me. Like the consistency of his eager question, my enthusiastic response to him never wavered, “Yes! All the Urban Kids are going to Sumatanga this summer!” On the other side of the generational aisle, Rush Program Director, Danny Jones, is frequently asked by many senior adults, “Will y’all be able to paint my house this year?” And he’s able to respond to approximately thirty (30) of the hopeful homeowners, “Yes! We will be painting your house this summer. Let’s schedule a visit so you can pick out your colors!”

Through your generous financial support of Urban Ministry, you are one of the reasons we are able to answer our community’s questions with a resounding, “Yes!” On behalf of all of our Urban Kids who are enjoying our Summer Learning Program, and all the senior adults and disabled persons whose homes we’ve painted thus far, thank you for your generous gifts of support. Because of you, the needs and hopes of vulnerable people are being met.

Because of you, our neighbors in the West End Community of Birmingham and well beyond are experiencing the hands and feet, the body of Christ, and we are all more whole because of our relationships. Thank you for your faithful commitment and for taking the time to make a difference in the lives of children, senior adults, and everyone in between.

And because your gift came during our Summer Matching Campaign, it will be matched dollar for dollar (up to $40,000). We are right in the middle of our Campaign and hope you will help us spread the word about this great opportunity to meet our goal of $80,000 this summer.

While there’s still plenty of summer remaining, we want to go ahead and invite you to SAVE the DATE: Thursday, September 11, at The Club, beginning at 5:30 p.m. for this year’s Table of Hope. We are excited that Barbara Dooley, regional humorist, storyteller, businesswoman and wife of the former Georgia Bulldogs football coach, will be our guest entertainment for the evening. She will inspire us with her stories of life and faith, and she will leave us laughing! For more information, visit

Peace and gratitude,

Rev. Melissa Self Patrick
Executive Director

June Thank You

Cooking in the kitchen with Ms. BelleOn behalf of everyone at Urban Ministry, and with a glad heart, thank you for your generous contribution during the month of June. Your gift sustains our core programs – Community Kitchen, Homelessness Prevention, Rush Center for Urban Mission, Senior Emergency Assistance, WE Community Gardens, and Urban Kids – and we are deeply blessed by you.

Now that June has arrived, our children are enjoying the gifts of summer – swimming, playing ball in Woodward Park, going to overnight camp, as well as deepening their math and reading skills. WE Community Gardens are bountifully growing, and we’ll soon share our popular tomatoes, okra, peppers, and more! You can purchase our produce and help sustain our Gardens by visiting Princeton Hospital Professional Building on Wednesday mornings or Pepper Place Market on Saturday mornings. Our first Rush volunteer groups arrive June 15, and it looks like we’ll have a banner summer painting the exterior of many seniors and disabled persons’ homes.

Most of all, this month we are bracing ourselves for the 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!

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. On Wednesday, June 18, during our regular lunch hour, our regular guests and other friends will host and serve lunch in Ms. Belle’s honor. This will be a time to break bread together, as always, but Ms. Belle will have a seat of honor so that everyone can greet her and appreciate her amazing work among us. 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.

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

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

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…