Birmingham’s Bham Strong finds work for people unemployed due to COVID-19 crisis

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Many people are without jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but a Birmingham organization is providing paid opportunities that also help serve other needs.

Bham Strong is a public-private partnership dedicated to addressing concerns created by the pandemic. In April, they created the Birmingham Service Corps, a group made up of people who are unemployed or underemployed due to the pandemic. They are paid to work on service projects throughout Birmingham related to the pandemic. Some also have been placed at local non-profits in need of assistance.

So through the service corps, Bham Strong serves the dual purpose of offering employment and providing necessary services.

“I think the most exciting thing for us is that there’s really a sense of solidarity and community,” executive director Suzanna Fritzberg said. “These are people who are eager to help out. They’re eager to serve Birmingham in a moment of crisis. And so to be able to put them in a position to do that is really a tremendous privilege for us.”

Dewayne Jones is one of the leaders of the Birmingham Service Corps. He’s seen the way it’s helped the volunteers who make up the group.

“Knowing that I’m able to impact not only a certain group of people that I’m leading on the team, but knowing that we’re able to impact the citizens of the community of Birmingham is an awesome thing,” he said.

On average, the people being assisted by Bham Strong lost 50% of their income due to the pandemic, according to Fritzberg. But most of them have told here that the money they make from the Birmingham Service Corps has helped them to pay for rent, utilities, food and other necessities.

Bham Strong has received recognition for its efforts. The Brookings Institute recently published an essay calling the Birmingham Service Corps “a model for other cities, counties, and states in approaching the health, economic, and social challenges posed by COVID-19.”

Fritzberg said cities in the South, Pacific Northwest and Midwest have reached out with interest in implementing similar programs.

“We’re excited that we’ve had the opportunity to kind of share our work,” she said. “We’re excited that the city has invested in us. And really we’d like nothing more than to see efforts replicated in cities across the United States. And we’re always energized and excited when we get a call from a partner city saying, ‘hey we want to learn a little more about what you do because we think this could help people here.'”

Fritzberg said she believes there’s an opportunity to create similar efforts on a national scale, and she would love to see that happen.


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