COVID-19 can seem like an overwhelming problem for many, but Birmingham’s Woodlawn community has a nonprofit standing up to the coronavirus in several effective, community-centered ways.
“In these times and with the virus everywhere, what makes the Woodlawn Foundation different from any other revitalization effort is our mission: to focus on what the needs and assets of the community are and to be the vision-keepers for our residents,” said Mashonday Taylor, executive director.
The Woodlawn Foundation didn’t have to change much of what it’s been doing when the virus began spreading in Alabama.
“COVID-19 may be disturbing things and changing the way foundations and companies deal with their people, but that is business as usual for us. We always took care of our people closely and with much care,” Taylor said. “As we are bringing people together, which we feel is our role, we are a connector. We want to make sure that the residents are getting access to these service providers and that the providers are getting access to each other.”
Dealing with COVID-19 has not changed the goals of the Woodlawn Foundation, but it has altered some of the ways it delivers services to residents. Taylor and the Woodlawn Foundation, which has received support from the Alabama Power Foundation and other groups, continue their efforts to make Woodlawn a remarkable place to live and work.
“We are trying to eliminate generational poverty in the area. One of the things we focus on is affordable housing. We built 64 townhomes at the park and cottages at Wood Station,” Taylor said. “Between Zoom meetings and conference calls, we’ve been doing what we need to do to stay connected during this health crisis, while being careful and socially distancing ourselves.”
For Taylor, this has been a dream job. “I love what I do. I have such an amazing team, and this crisis will not stop us from doing what we do. We work very hard with our community partners to make the area livable and walkable despite the COVID-19 challenges. Our residents deserve that.”
Taylor began working for the Woodlawn Foundation in 2012 and became the executive director in March. She has assembled more than 30 partners under Woodlawn United to serve the residents in health care and other aspects.
“This is the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve gotten to see this work in so many different ways and on so many different levels,” Taylor said. “Our community is strong and our partners are amazing. I get to do some really meaningful and impactful work. The foundation is bigger than me. Our partners are rising up to these health and other challenges every day in this community. If that’s the legacy that we leave, then we’ve done the right thing.”
COVID-19 may be disturbing the entire world, but in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Birmingham, Alabama, a small outfit is putting up quite a fight.
For more information, visit www.woodlawnunited.org.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected].