Alabama Nonprofit Demonstrates The Value of Being a ‘Community Quarterback’

Woodlawn Foundation, Inc. (Woodlawn ), a nonprofit organization located in Birmingham, Alabama,  demonstrates the immeasurable benefits of community revitalization, when it is approached as a shared goal amongst partners. Woodlawn is regarded as the “community quarterback” for Birmingham’s historic Woodland neighborhood. It is not a direct service provider, with the exception of a few programs.

In an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, Precious Freeman, director of development and external relations, explains that the organization works to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. She says that three pillars are mixed-income housing, education, and community wellness. Woodlawn’s website explains that the Purpose Built Communities model for holistic community revitalization it follows was crafted from the successful transformation of Atlanta’s East Lake community in the mid-1990s.

Partnership is key in reimagining a neighborhood whose majority of residents are low- or moderate-income and African American. In 2017, This is Alabama reported that there is perhaps no other area in Birmingham that has seen the life-changing transformation that is happening in Woodlawn.

“Crime rates are down, home ownership is up; more students are graduating, and the community is healthier,” This is Alabama reported.  “In 2010, The Mike & Gillian Goodrich Foundation established the Woodlawn Foundation, which is the ‘community quarterback’ for the Woodlawn United partnership.”

Mashonda Taylor, Woodlawn Foundation’s executive director, told BLACK ENTERPRISE that in eliminating generational poverty, the organization tries to bring together every single component of the Purpose Built Communities strategy focusing on the three pillars instead of simply focusing on one area at a time. Forty partners work with Woodlawn Foundation. In doing so, duplication of services is eliminated, while 5,800 people are served within the community.

Freeman adds that partners are pulled together to meet identified needs and fill gaps to leverage resources. They have collaboratively provided everything from COVID-19 vaccines to an early learning center and manner of addressing food insecurity. Coming to Woodland is about putting down roots, not coming to flip houses for making cash. Woodlawn even owns over 100 parcels of land in the community, Freeman told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

(Photo courtesy of the Woodlawn Foundation)

“Revitalizing a community without displacing current residents is delicate work. In our mixed-income housing strategy we’ve included 64 townhomes known as the Park at Wood Station. In the next 18 months we will add 50 low-to-moderate single and multi-family housing units and will break ground on 12 homes that will be made available to families who have gone through Homeownership training. This will be in partnership with the Housing Authority of the Birmingham District.” Freeman said.

In a written statement, Pinky Cole, CEO and founder of Slutty Vegan ATL, underscored this mindset, telling BLACK ENTERPRISE that she knew that the Woodlawn was the right fit for her first location outside of Georgia.

“We look to expand into food deserts and locations right in the middle of economic and community revitalization,” Cole said. “ We pour into the communities we are in and It feels good to be a Black woman in business right now. We are representing Black excellence and will continue to do so as we bring Slutty Vegan to Birmingham.”