From WE Community Garden

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.

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

Collard Green Pesto with Pasta

Here’s a recipe to help us get ready for the Collard Green Cook Off!


Collard green pesto with pasta

  • 1 pound bunch collards, ribs discarded, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 (13-ounce) box whole-wheat pasta (linguine, bow tie, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup pecans
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Blanch collards until bright green, about 1 minute. Transfer immediately to an ice bath to shock, saving the boiling water for cooking the pasta. Remove the collards from the ice water and pat dry with paper towels before transferring them to a food processor.

Add the pasta to the pot of salted boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a dry skillet, over low heat, toast the pecans until fragrant. Transfer to the food processor with Parmesan, olives and garlic. With food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until pesto comes together. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

To serve, put enough pesto to coat the pasta into a large serving bowl. Drain the pasta and quickly add it to the bowl. The water still clinging to the pasta will loosen up the pesto. Toss to coat. Add more pesto, if needed. Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl and garnish with Parmesan sprinkled over the top.

Vegan Variation: Substitute the Parmesan cheese for 1 cup soft or silken tofu or plain vegan yogurt.

Enjoy. See you Saturday!

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

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…


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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