Groups solve charity’s flooding issues

Volunteers Robert Brown, left, of Springville, and Robert Beeman, Helena, pack a wheelbarrow in the back of a truck after helping to clear a drainage ditch and trim plants and weeds around Family Connection in Saginaw. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Several volunteers from throughout the Birmingham metropolitan area braved the heat and humidity Sept. 16 to help a Saginaw non-profit organization cure a longstanding drainage problem.

Representatives from the United Way, Hands on Birmingham and several local businesses helped the Saginaw-based Family Connection clean an overgrown hillside and clear out a clogged drainage ditch as part of the United Way of Shelby County’s 2010 campaign kickoff day.

During the kickoff day, which was organized by Hands on Birmingham, dozens of volunteers met for breakfast at Westwood Baptist Church in Alabaster before fanning out across the county to help several local non-profit organizations.

“This is really a blessing for us,” said Family Connection Executive Director Susan Johnston. “The rain has been washing dirt and rocks down into our drainage ditch, which causes the water to rise and sometimes flood our counseling center.

“These volunteers stepped up today, and it is really going to help us out,” Johnston added. “This is just terrific.”

The project at Family Connection was one of the most labor-intensive tasks of the day, but the volunteers said they were happy to help the organization.

“This is a great opportunity to help charities in Shelby County,” said Robert Brown, a volunteer from Alabama Power who was trimming weeds around the Family Connection counseling center. “We are always trying to find ways to help out our local organizations, and this was a great way to do it.”

Shayla Summerhill, a volunteer with Hands on Birmingham, said she enjoys helping organizations like Family Connection throughout the year.

“I love working at Hands on, because we always have an opportunity to do things like this,” Summerhill said as she shoveled dirt out of the drainage ditch. “We helped organize the volunteer projects today, and we always want to be out there working alongside everyone else.”

Helping Family Connection and other local non-profit organizations complete clean-up projects frees up money and resources for the organizations, said Hands on Birmingham Executive Director Tree Davidson.

“I thought the breakfast this morning went great. We had a great turnout for the volunteer projects today,” Davidson said. “Hands on is always glad to help do things like this.

“Hopefully, it will save them some money, so they can put it toward better things,” Davidson added.