Thursday, January 19, 2017

Volunteer 2016 - Mobilized to Bring Hope

2016 was one of our best years to date at CSM! We mobilized 5,579 (officially registered) volunteers here on the campus of Christian Service Mission, as well as approximately 2,000 volunteers we mobilized to assist on projects outside of the walls of the CSM ministry center.  With nearly 8,000 volunteers partnering with CSM throughout 2016, we were about to return an estimated $800,000 in restorative work back to our city.  All of this was made possible through the efforts of the individuals and volunteer groups to come through CSM this past year.  

Our volunteer groups came to us from seven different colleges, 10 local Junior and Senior High schools, four restorative rehabilitation programs, 11 local businesses, 38 churches and span the reaches of 18 different states. All of this includes our groups, not mentioning thousands of other individual, family and small group volunteers from numerous churches, schools and organizations from around the country and the globe.

The volunteer projects for 2016 included, but were not limited to, painting, roofing, several different light construction projects, garden planting, garden maintenance, garden harvest, warehouse organization, food distribution, community events with our partnering ministries, kids' camps, tutoring, interior designing and decorating, writing letters to community partners, data entry, front desk receptionist duties, communications, neighborhood and storm clean-up, school clean-up, canned food drive, disaster relief, diaper drives and distribution, and delivery of Thanksgiving and Christmas meals and toys to the homes of families in need throughout the city.

We have continued to move God's mission forward through the mobilization of thousands of volunteers each year and are looking forward to having even more help to make connections throughout our city in 2017. Below are just a few pictures of some of our awesome volunteers helping with a wide array of projects throughout this past year. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us to accomplish so much last year and we look forward to connecting with you again soon!

Samford Local Poverty Class

Barbara Cartledge's class from Samford with Tracy at landmark church, Bethel Baptist
For the seventh year, the Jan-term Business and Local Poverty class of the Brock School of Business at Samford University collaborated with Christian Service Mission this past week. This annual collaborative learning experience is led by Barbara H. Cartledge, Assistant Dean of Academic Programs with the Brock School of Business. Barbara developed a new course Business and Local Poverty which allows students to engage and discover initiatives within metro Birmingham that seek to alleviate and mitigate the oppression of poverty. The course grew out of Brock School of Business social entrepreneurship focus.

Students enroll in this class to gain insights on the state of poverty within the various Birmingham communities and how businesses/missions are seeking to partner in community development within these impoverished locales. Students learn through the lens of various texts including A Framework for Understanding Poverty (Payne), Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life (Lupton), and When Helping Hurts (Corbett & Fikkert); plus, interactions with the respective community missions/organizations that Tracy Hipps directs and organizes, including a deep look into the wholistic community development, responsible care ministry model of the Christian Service Mission. The students visited with Dr. Michael Wesley of Greater Shiloh Baptist Church in West End Dr. Thomas Beavers of New Rising Star Church in East Lake, and heard about the struggles of the 1960’s at Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville. While there, students helped with a house painting project for the church’s community development efforts.

Barbara told us, “In the course of a full week of visits and dialogues with local community missions and community leaders, the students move from being an observer to an engaged and interactive “pupil” of active community development. Tracy Hipps engineers and coordinates these enlightening interactions and pours into the lives of the students in the class from his 30 years of ministry to the poor.” Barbara also shared a quote from one of the current students: “Nearly all of the ministries and organizations that we visited are deeply committed to partnerships. These partnerships allow them to share their strengths and rely on each other to fill in the gaps where they are weaker. They can do this because their focus is not on themselves.”

Just this week, Barbara received this message from one of her students that she wanted to share with us as well: “I just had to text you and share something I just found out. I am going to be a director at a camp I have been working at the past three summers. This year, we are teaming up with a ministry for a week and leading a camp in the inner-city, and not only leading it, but coming alongside the ministry and equipping them with the tools needed to eventually run their own camp one day. I got the call today that I will be directing this camp. I just had to share this with you because you keep saying how everyone is in this class for a reason. I sure believe it! It's so amazing how the Lord has been equipping me with the tools and knowledge in this class for camp this summer! I'm astounded! God is so awesome and works in such cool ways!”

Samford University is a key CSM partner in many aspects, and every year we look forward to connecting through this life-changing educational experience for all of us. Big appreciation from CSM to Barbara Cartledge for her commitment to excellence and to exposing students to the truth surrounding poverty in our city.

Tracy shared CSM's ministry model of wholistic community
development, responsible care and stewardship.

Tracy introduced the class to the pastor and staff of New Rising Star Church

Connecting with the amazing team from the Star working to transform East Lake

The class experienced a mid-week service together at The Star

Lunch at East 59 Vintage & Cafe to hear about the
East Lake Initiative (ELI) from Pam Bates and Anna Brown

Civil Rights illumination at Bethel Baptist

Tracy and Norman answer student's questions

Service for the community

Hearing Lashundra Smith's amazing testimony at her home in Collegeville

Housing Ministry 2016 - Restoration of Homes and Hearts

Miracles happen when this truck pulls into a neighborhood

God's mercy and justice is revealed so clearly through our Housing Ministry. The leadership team, the SWAT team, and the many volunteers who work so hard to impact our city are like an army of angels! During 2016, Christian Service Mission completed 25 housing rehabilitation projects for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). In doing these 25 projects, we recruited 236 volunteers who served a total of 18,250 hours. The types of projects we completed included painting, roofing, deck repair and installation of vinyl siding.

CSM raised funds for an additional fourteen housing ministry projects apart from the CDBG that generated approximately 2,760 more volunteer hours. Currently, we are raising funds to rehabilitate the exterior and interior of Carl Jackson’s home. Carl is the son of our faithful front desk volunteer, Mrs. Jackson. This week, volunteers are here from Redeemer in Baltimore, Maryland to re-roof the house. Mrs. Jackson is blessing them every day with a home-cooked meal prepared by her loving hands, and expressing her gratitude and hospitality through her amazing culinary skills she so often lavishes on us at CSM.

If you would like to volunteer to assist the Housing Ministry team with this project, or like to donate toward this project, please contact Michael Bowen at

Food Ministry 2016 - Our Cup Overflowed!

Willie making sure that food is distributed safely and efficiently
The Food Ministry here at CSM exceeded our expectations last year. We were blessed to receive more than one million pounds of food and other products through individuals, vendors, churches, schools, civic groups, and the list goes on and on. We trust that God has a purpose for every item that comes into our warehouse. We often received resources with which we had no idea what we would do… but God did! During 2016, we experienced some of the worst weather in recent history. Tornadoes and hurricanes struck many of our neighboring states. Through the array of CSM resources, we were able to send out full truck-loads of food and other relief items to those in need. Through the generosity and hard work of many people, we saw God restore hope to those who felt they had no hope.

Rhonda Marshall
CSM Resource Director
Aside from our very busy Compassion Food Box ministry, we provided snacks to after-school programs, summer camps and Christmas parties for children here in our city. Several community events and projects were recipients of the resources we had during the year. Many of our ministry and non-profit partners provided meals to thousands of families they serve on a monthly basis from the food they received from CSM. Our gardens gave us an opportunity to share fresh produce to several of our senior citizen facilities. We also provided monthly resources to some of our local Veterans. During the holidays, we provided more than 3,500 struggling families with food for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This is just a snapshot of what God did through CSM, connecting our resources with those in need in 2016. Proverbs 19:17 says: “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and HE will reward him for what he has done.” We can’t thank our supporters enough for all they did to help us meet so many food ministry needs during this past year.  We can’t wait to see what God has in store for 2017.

A Note From Tracy: 2016 In Review

Christian Service Mission (CSM) closed out 2016 with great results to God’s glory. We collaborated with more than 150 partners and thousands of volunteers who were involved in a variety of community activities that improve the health— both physically and spiritually— of those in need. The Gospel changes people’s lives, and we have witnessed great changes this year.

Working through Christian Community Development strategies, we have seen thousands reached for Christ through evangelistic activities and benevolent outreach. Many, in turn, have joined churches, become better neighbors, and been encouraged by the demonstration of the Gospel lived out through our partners and volunteers. We’ve broadened our outreach beyond the seven communities we traditionally serve to reach out into surrounding areas in the North, East, West and South (NEWS) in a larger effort to work with all our partners to bring the GOOD NEWS to those in need.

We continue to develop communities through gardening, food outreach, home rehabilitation, student activities, and education. Our six community gardens are supported by volunteers and seed donations, providing community togetherness, learning, and fresh and accessible produce. Two thousand pounds of produce was harvested from the CSM garden center alone! We distributed 750,000 pounds of food to our partners, and at Thanksgiving, 3,200 people received a frozen turkey or ham and a box of all the ingredients needed for cooking a Thanksgiving family meal. These groceries were delivered into the recipients’ homes by volunteers. At Christmas, we delivered toys to 400 happy children and holiday groceries to 275 families.

During the summer we took 152 inner-city students to camp at Kids Across America (KAA) in Missouri, where they had the opportunity to experience amazing camp activities plus deep discipleship. Our CSM sponsored events saw 1,500 women honored at a Mother’s Day luncheon and at many other nursing home locations. Through our Housing Ministry, we roofed and/or painted 36 homes, improving living conditions and neighborhood property values, built a new home for the Jackson family where their original family home stood until destroyed in a storm, and rebuilt a nearly condemned home for Mr. Dodson. All of this was done by 5,579 volunteers who donated 31,961 hours of time, valued at $631,649!

Our focus at the CSM headquarters in 2016 has been to evolve from a warehouse filled with resources to a campus with opportunities for education, training, and resource management. We have a unique and large space for special volunteer and community events, which requires logistics and facilitation. Thanksgiving, Christmas and partner events can be hosted here, involving hundreds of volunteers at one location. During this past year our campus transformed from a large warehouse to a Ministry Center that includes: urban gardens, aquaponics, hydroponics, bees, a skill training woodshop, education space, with potential for even more.

Our campus ministry grew alongside our new partnership with eMeals through Cooking Well cooking courses, workshops and clubs. These cooking initiatives bring small groups together around hands-on healthy cooking and nutrition education to better answer the “how do I get a healthy dinner on the table?” question. The program creates an environment conducive to making new friends, instilling leadership skills, and providing our partner churches with opportunities for deeper relationships, one-to-one discipleship and community engagement.

CSM is setting a course for the future to see Birmingham transformed. Our commitment to connecting abundant resources with desperate needs through our partnerships ultimately connects people with our Great God.  As this vision has come into focus, we have clear direction for making a significant impact on the city of Birmingham from the unique position God has given CSM. Thank you for your partnership with CSM through donations, volunteering, prayers, and support. We look forward to 2017 and how God will continue to transform us and this community.