One on One

People. Talking.

Michelle Reynolds Owner, Coverings Education Chairperson, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve

The conversation this month was all about appreciation. From Ruffner Mountain Nature Center to Second Avenue in the Loft District on a busy Friday evening, the exciting things about Birmingham are the very things that energize our One on One participants.

Michelle Reynolds runs a slip-cover business called Coverings and is a fabric artist who takes the scrap fabric left over from the business enterprise to create art. Reynolds is a volunteer, board member and education chairperson for Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve.  Ruffner is Reynold’s big backyard, and she makes the most of it, managing an integrated environmental education garden at the preserve.

Ruffner now owns and/or manages over 1,000 acres of an undeveloped portion of Birmingham’s unique Red Mountain ridge. The center has been connecting people and nature for over 30 years. The preserve is a special place within a metropolitan urban area where people can come to learn to be good stewards of the earth, caring for and observing biologically diverse native plants and wildlife, preserving remnants of Birmingham’s mining history, and hiking peaceful and uncrowded trails located just minutes from downtown.

Reynolds started volunteering not long ago and has been so energized by the experience she wishes she had become active sooner. “My view on Birmingham has changed,” she says. “I’ve gotten more involved in the community. When I became involved in Ruffner Mountain, I discovered so many great organizations and individuals.” Reynolds feels they have planted the seed that is growing the community in East Lake and Roebuck.

Deontée Gordon Volunteer with Railroad Park, Artwalk, Paint the Town Red and Birmingham Arts and Music Festival

Deontée Gordon has found volunteering to be an excellent way to become immersed in Birmingham. The more involved you get, it is like discovering an entirely new world. Birmingham organizations such as Railroad Park Junior Board, Artwalk, Paint the Town Red, and the Birmingham Arts and Music Festival keep Gordon very busy.

“There are so many things to love about Birmingham,” Gordon says. “Even if people are not nature lovers, for example, parks are great for economic development. My proudest moment was the opening of Railroad Park—being able to see that park open and see the entire community, from bloggers to politicians to artists. Everyone came, and you could tell Birmingham was reaching a turning point. We have had big dreams and so many losses. But Railroad Park was an attainable goal. It gives us a sense of courage to say we might be able to do a little bit more, strive a little harder.

“Seeing the transformations of various areas of the city is very exciting. To see how Artwalk started and see where it is now, it is teeming with people and a completely transformed landscape. It gives me an incredible sense of pride to be a part of these organizations,” Gordon says.

If you want to hear something bad about Birmingham, ask a local, Gordon says: “We can nitpick and find the things that are less than stellar.” Gordon makes it clear he is looking for the good stuff.

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