Tag Archives: volunteer

Volunteer Spotlight: Mark “The Trashman” Wood

Mark Wood has been one of our faithful volunteers and supporters for the past few years. He has supported the ministry in more ways than one: with his time, his finances, and his prayers. Mark has also gained quite the reputation as a volunteer. Every week he comes to our Sunday meal, grabs a trash bag and off he goes! Many volunteers and friends that come to eat the meal have labeled him the “Trashman”. This has been a way for him to easily walk up to the men and women we feed and start conversations as he serves them by picking up their trash.

Mark has also supported the ministry by racing in the Urban Purpose 5K and has come in 3rd place each time! He’s an impressive guy with an incredible heart for the Lord. We are so thankful that God led him to be a part in what we do. Take a second and get to know Mark “The Trashman” Wood.


How did you first hear about Urban Purpose? I heard about Urban Purpose from Elizabeth Johnson (another one of our volunteers) who I work next to at STV.

How long have you been serving with Urban Purpose? I would say about 3 ½ years.

How did you get the title of “Trashman”? Well I started picking up the trash pretty soon after I began coming on Sundays. Elizabeth always gives me direction… But I am very glad I got that title. Most of the folks may not always remember your name, but if you have the bag, they just call out, “Hey trashman.” I respond well to that.

Why did you begin to pick up the trash? I really believe that my part in Urban Purpose is a God thing. I would have never thought I would enjoy this as much as I do. Picking up the trash has allowed me to initiate more and more relationships with people. There are so many folks out there who are hurting, addicted, and may not feel comfortable to talk to just everyone. Admittedly I have also been into drugs, drinking, and the world in general. After years of that, God is working on me. He has brought me to Urban Purpose to talk with folks about getting over their drug use or issues and to share how God can get you out and over ANYTHING… which I can relate to well. I really love so many of these people and look forward to seeing them. I do run downtown every week for the past few years and I get to have interaction with quite a few of our Sunday folks one on one while out running. It always brings a smile to my face to see some of ‘our folks’ while out there running in the streets.

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Mark Wood completing The Urban Purpose Challenge, 5K in 2015

What is your fastest 5K time? 18:48

What are your predictions for the 2016 Urban Purpose Challenge, 5K addition? Will you finally take the title? I have been able to run the 5K each year at Urban Purpose since it started. This past year the course change did not make it any easier. I do not believe I can take the title if those young folks keep showing up. I am getting older and slower. I do not believe I can hold up to those folks in their 20’s,30’s and 40’s once you are in your 50’s you have to realize you may have already reached the plateau for running PRs.


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Meeting While Worlds Apart

Often times the most intimidating part of being around people that are different from us is the fear of having nothing in common with them. We experience this week after week during our meetings, meals and conversations with those struggling, especially with homelessness. Just the other day, one regular volunteer of ours told us that she saw something on Sunday that blew her away.


Our friend Emily, who has become a regular volunteer with Urban Purpose over the last year, was talking with Steve. Steve is a man who openly admits to spending his money on his addiction and that he is not in a place to change right now. Even so, he comes to our meal almost every Sunday and enjoys being around people that love and care for him regardless of his current lifestyle.

While Emily and Steve were chatting about his life, another volunteer came up to join the conversation. Neither Emily or Steve knew this woman because it was her first time to come for our Sunday meal (just another reason why we love having new volunteers- stories like this!). As the three of them continued to talk Steve mentioned that his old lady had passed away from “popping pills”. (As flippant as this sounds, most times death becomes a normal thing on the streets and it is something people tend to get accustomed to.) When Steve mentioned that about his wife, the other volunteer said this: “I know that pain because my husband passed away from a heart condition. It doesn’t matter how they passed away, it just hurts.”

In that moment, Emily noticed a strong connection form between the two people, from completely different worlds. One a man and one a woman. One black and one white. One a drug addict and one sober. One with a roof over their heads and one hopping from shelter to the streets and back.

While there are many differences between our world and the people we serve, sometimes we have more in common than we care to notice. How can something you’ve had happen in your life, good or bad, help connect you to someone who might look significantly different from you?

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Day 4: What A Sunday


Yesterday at our weekly downtown meal, we were blown away by God’s goodness in bringing many people from all over the city to help serve. There were people of all different ages helping in whatever ways they could. We had families with young children to high schoolers and college students. This is such a great reminder for us that we are not in this alone and that there are so many people that God has given a heart for the broken, poor and needy in Birmingham. Jesus makes known that his church, the body of Christ, is made up of people with all  different kinds of spiritual gifts. Yesterday was a beautiful picture of Christ loving on and caring for a group of folks who get very little love

Urban Purpose has been extremely blessed with partnerships and support by many different people. We are always looking for new ways to bring more people into what God is doing in the lives of the homeless people we see on a weekly basis.  If you know of any churches, clubs, businesses, organizations, sports teams or anyone other groups who might be interested in volunteering, please send them our direction!


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Volunteer Spotlight: Kristen Minor, Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy

6 April 6

Name: Kristen Minor

Where are you from? Tuscaloosa, AL (currently in Homewood)

 Occupation? Student at Samford’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy  

How did you hear about Urban Purpose? I attend Shades Mountain Baptist Church, where I’ve heard about Urban Purpose on several occasions.

Tell us about who you served with and why you came downtown today: 

I served with a group of my fellow second year pharmacy students.  We are taking an elective class called Exploring Medical Missions in pharmacy school. We were looking for a service project to do as a group in Birmingham and I brought up Urban Purpose as an option to serve. We decided this would be a wonderful way to step out of our comfort zone a little and serve others.

Tell us a little bit about what your experience was like downtown:

Our group as a whole really felt humbled and blessed to have the opportunity to serve with Urban Purpose. It was a reminder that people in our own community are in such need. We found it to be such an eye opening experience and have a renewed gratitude for all we have in our own lives. We really enjoyed serving this group of people and were so encouraged by their grateful attitudes. This organization has done an incredible job at building relationships and serving as witnesses to many of the homeless people over time. It’s amazing how people from such different backgrounds can relate to each other and communicate. We realized that no matter your place in life, (such as a group of pharmacy students or a wonderful group of Sunday School members to donate a meal), our common goal is loving others as Christ loved us, and following Jesus’ example of humbly serving others.

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jason & Kim Tingle

ImageJason and Kim with their children, Abby and Alex.

Name: Jason & Kim Tingle

Where are y’all from? I am from Tuscaloosa and Kim is from Birmingham.

Where did y’all meet and how long have you been married?  We met when we were both attending the University of Alabama, and while I was working for the Tuscaloosa Police Department. A coworker of mine who was a neighbor of Kim’s set us up on a blind date.  We have been married for 14 years and have two children.

Occupation: Kim stays at home with Alex and Abby and I am an attorney.

How did y’all learn about Urban Purpose? Mark and Michelle Jenkins joined our Sunday School class and asked for prayers about the formation of the ministry.

How are y’all involved in Urban Purpose?

Jason: I’ve had the opportunity to provide legal counsel and representation to some of Urban Purpose’s clients on an as needed basis.  Specifically, I have been able to work very closely with two of their clients who faced significant family law issues representing them in local courts.

Kim: I had the privilege of helping to introduce a young lady to Urban Purpose whom I had become involved with through an outreach of our Sunday School class.  I have had the opportunity to accompany and mentor her as she has met with Mark and Jim and progressed through the Urban Purpose program.  Also, since we are still in Mark’s Sunday School class Jason and I also have the ongoing opportunity to hear about and pray for specific needs of the ministry and the people it is working with.

What has God taught you through your involvement with Urban Purpose? 

Kim: Through my involvement with Urban Purpose I feel like I have learned to trust in God’s provision because I have not only experienced it in my own life but I have seen it first hand in the life of my friend as she has worked with the ministry. Whether it was a place to live when she was living out of her car, a job when she didn’t have one or clothing for her children when they needed it; God has continued to provide.

Jason: Through my involvement with Urban Purpose God has revealed that there is a great need in our own community for people to see the love of Christ shown through relational ministry.  God has also taught me that He can use any one of us for His purpose and to meet the needs of others . . . I mean if He can use a lawyer, He can use anyone!

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Holly Talley: We Haven’t Missed It At All

Holly is the book-keeper for Urban Purpose, so she has a unique perspective into how we use the resources that God blesses us with. Take a minute and listen to her share why her family financially supports Urban Purpose.

Right now we are looking for 150 individuals/families to make a monthly donation to Urban Purpose. Currently we have 31 monthly supporters. Will you prayerfully consider being 1 of the 150? Signing up is quick and easy. Click here to sign up online or to get more information about setting up a recurring payment through your online banking.

Thanks so much for your prayers and support.

Jim & Mark

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Volunteer Spotlight

Claire (left) & Loren (right) building relationships at our Sunday downtown meal.

Each month we highlight some of our key volunteers and give you the opportunity to meet some of the folks make up the Urban Purpose team.  We have people of all ages, from children to senior adults, involved in the ministry on a weekly basis.  As you’ll see, no matter what phase of life you’re in and what you’ve got going on, there are ways for you to plug in and show the love of Christ to the needy in your city.

This week we want you to meet Loren Roth and Claire Cummings.  Loren and Claire have been involved in the ministry since the spring and are a key part of what we do each week downtown.

Where do y’all go to school and what grade are you in?

We’re both seniors at Vestavia.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in?

Loren: I Figure skate, I’m on Rebelettes, and I teach hip hop to 4th/5th graders. I go to The Lovelady Center on Tuesdays and I’m president of NHS.

Claire: Rockettes and dance classes

Do you know where you want to go to college and what you want to study?

Loren: I want to go to Duke in the fall (hopefully I’ll be accepted!), and I want to study physical therapy or global health

Claire: It’s between Auburn and Alabama. I plan to study either child development or education.

Who is your favorite musician/band?

Loren: Ben Rector or Steve Moakler

Claire: Hmmm… I like a lot of music! I really like Ben Rector and James Morrison at the moment.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Loren: Baha Burger

Claire: Johnny Rockets.

When did y’all start going downtown with Urban Purpose?

I think we started going in February or March of our junior year.

Talk a little bit about having the opportunity to serve alongside your close friend(s)?

Loren: Claire and I have been friends for a long time, but I have learned the most about her and her relationship with Christ through conversations we have had together with the people downtown. Also, I really like having someone there to keep me accountable to come back week after week and to pray for the needs of the people we meet each week.

Claire: It’s neat to watch my friends grow spiritually by being the hands and feet of Jesus on a consistent basis. The impact it has on their lives is so evident. Loren and I have become even closer friends by meeting and serving these people together.

What has God taught you through serving with Urban Purpose?

Loren: God has taught me the importance of prayer. Whether it may be seeing the negative affects of a lack of prayer in someone’s life or seeing how my consistent prayers really do bring about change in my life and in others, God has reassured me that our prayers are heard and our prayers are powerful.

Claire: There is an abundance of needs all around us, and God is teaching me so much about what it means to do what I can with a servant’s heart. It might mean serving a meal, hugging a homeless woman before she goes on her way, handing out hygiene kits, or just exchanging jokes and laughing with a homeless man. The smiles on their faces and the fact that they come back most every week shows me that what I can contribute truly does affect the Kingdom.

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