Birmingham is often referred to as having great potential, and there are dedicated residents actively transforming that potential into a reality.
Photos by Beau Gustafson
For this month’s one on one, we brought together two local gamechangers: David Sher, publisher of the popular blog ComebackTown, and Hill Carmichael, executive director of Urban Ministry.
Carmichael serves as the new executive director of Urban Ministry, a nonprofit organization located in the West End community. Founded by the United Methodist Church in 1976 as a response to economic downturn, the ministry addresses long-term causes and consequences of poverty while creating opportunities for people to be a part of a healthy, supportive community. The ministry provides food assistance, transportation services, afterschool programs, home rehabilitation and maintenance, emergency care, and more.
Notable projects include the community garden, which creates a source of fresh, organic produce in the West End community and provides health education along with fair-wage jobs for youth interns. The ministry produces and donates more than 2,000 pounds of food each year, and sells additional food through community markets. Carmichael says that in March of this year, the ministry will open a café and serve food from the community garden. “We’re changing the way people are thinking about health,” Carmichael says. “We’re proud of our long history and excited about the changes that are ahead.”
Prior to his work with Urban Ministry, Carmichael worked as a program manager and senior communications specialist at Alabama Power Company. He has been active in missions and youth ministry and has a history of service-learning leadership.
Sher believes in metropolitan Birmingham’s future despite it suffering from what he calls “low self esteem.” He has watched people and businesses leave for better opportunities and that’s why he created ComebackTown, a blog fostering active discussion of what can be done to form a better Birmingham. He regularly invites guest bloggers to weigh in on topics including government structure, housing, transportation, businesses, restaurants, and more. The email newsletter goes out every few weeks and Sher says the blog’s average readership age range is 25–39. He feels this speaks to the optimism of the younger generation and their power to be a catalyst for change. “We have the opportunity to mobilize Birmingham,” says Sher. “You’d be surprised at how passionate people are.”
Sher has been the chairman of the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), REV Birmingham, and City Action Partnership. He served on the BBA strategic planning committee that developed Blueprint Birmingham. He is also co-CEO of AmSher Compassionate Collection and leads the Small Business Division of Intermark Group.