The Early Days (1998-2003)
In 1998 Neil Eggers had the idea to start Hands On Birmingham (HOB). He gathered all of his Birmingham friends, all six of them plus his wife, to form the first board of directors for HOB. These eight people had exactly zero years of combined nonprofit experience, but their passion and enthusiasm was more than enough.
All were young, married, working professionals with no children and now they are parents of active elementary and middle school children with years of nonprofit experience under them.
This group of eight energetic people conducted a needs analysis and found that people in Birmingham were not clear where to go to volunteer and how to plug themselves into the community.
Birmingham has a rich history of generations of families who have been involved in the community, but what about new people and a younger generation who wanted to become an active participant in the community? Where do they start? The need for Hands On Birmingham was realized.
HOB was formed in July 1998 and became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in 1999. HOB had modest beginnings. Communication wasn't what it is today. HOB had a P.O. Box in Birmingham and the eight board members took turns picking up the mail and it had a LAN line in the Eggers' basement and everyone took turns checking the voicemail. There were also quarterly "stuffing" parties where HOB board members folded, stapled and labeled printed newsletters.
It was a very rough start for HOB. The board members worked hard calling every corporation and every civic group in the area to start up the first ever Corporate Work Day (November 1998). Our first corporate sponsor, Anderson Consulting (now Accenture) gave HOB $5,000! 105 volunteers showed up for the event, despite Hurricane Hugo.
Through funding, primarily corporate sponsorships, HOB was able to expand and they hired their first Executive Director Candi Williams in Feb. 2000. HOB was able to grow! It went from their original two ways to volunteer (calendar and Corporate Cares) to its first ever MLK Day of Service in 2001. That day volunteers worked hard all day and then celebrated all night. From 1998-2003 HOB's volunteers grew from 435 people to 2,161!
The Middle Years
Due to the difficult economy and stock market crashes, HOB shifted its funding from corporations to grants and foundations. HOB still expanded thanks to the financial help and support of Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church. From there HOB added its junior board, Americorp positions, and staff. It also created a strategy plan:
· Host 3 annual Days of Service (MLK/ Project Homeless Connect/ 9/11 Day of Service)
· Offer an ongoing calendar of volunteer opportunities
· Host work days for specific corporate teams, civic groups, faith organization teams and others
· Partner with existing agencies to support their needs
· Create new projects and programs to meet current unmet needs (Bunny Aid, Warming Stations, Back-To-School Backpack drives etc)
· Train a strong group of Project Coordinators
· Host social gathering to increase awareness of HOB
· Leverage technology
· Communicate frequently and effectively (Email blasts, electronic newsletter, Website, Facebook, Twitter etc.)
· Define board member roles and committees
In 2009, HOB merged with United Way of Central Alabama. HOB is a program of UWCA, operating with the same county area footprint. HOB also became a part of Hands On Network and VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster).
HOB is in the midst of expanding all of its services into the following counties: Blount, Walker, St. Clair and Shelby.
HOB has come a long way with the help of passionate individuals and nonprofit partners. It continues to grow, but still holds on to its beginning roots and mission: connect people with organized and meaningful volunteer opportunities to improve their community.
We could not do what we do without the wonderful support from our volunteers, corporate groups and board members. Thank you for helping make an impact in the community and for helping us grow as an organization!