Connecting to Vets

On my way in to work this morning I heard this story on NPR about a new website that is helping private citizens meet unmet needs of our veterans.  A new website allows veterans to upload a profile and indicate particular needs such as a new washing machine or toys for their kids. The vets  have to indicate a need, but once they do people like you or me can select their profile and choose to donate that thing to help meet the need.

In times like these I think new social media tools like this beg the question of how do we apply this not only to veterans or to farmers or artisans in the developing world like, but also to struggling members of our own community? What about the single mother across town that recently lost her job and can’t afford her son’s inhaler?

Leave a comment and let us know how you would most like to help. We all know that we’re gonna need you.


Advice for the President…

obama-by-studentAs leadership changes, we often contemplate what we would do if we were in charge, what advice we’d give to the new guy/gal.  The New York Times collected the recommendations, requests, and well-wishes of children across the country.  They are amusing to say the least, ranging from advice on foreign policy to his diet.  Below are a couple of personal favorites:letter-to-obama1

Dear Pres. Obama,

Good job on winning. I heard about Area 51. I wanted to ask you if there are any U.F.O.’s there. I think that you should tell people in public the truth about Area 51. You would just maybe say, “That we will take care of it.” And do it.

— Edwin Jara, age 9, New York


If we all undertook this homework assignment of listing our advice and recommendations for the new President, what changes would we want to see in the country, in our community?  Then, let’s ask ourselves how we will assume personal responsibility, even in a small way, in making those changes a reality.  Let us know what makes your list of advice!

Help Make Homelessness Count

count_von_count-1-720172United Way’s dedication to serving people in need has always included the support of families and individuals in crisis through agencies providing services in employment, substance abuse treatment, housing, medical care and mental health.  However, our community must know how many of them are in need and what services will be of most help in getting them back on the road to independence.

Birmingham will host their bi-annual Point-in-Time Homelessness Survey on January 29 – January 30th.  Coordinated by the Metropolitan Birmingham Services for the Homeless, the point-in-time survey is an exciting event in which volunteers canvas shelters, soup kitchens, camps, and parks to speak one-on-one with people experiencing homelessness.  Volunteers ask them about their experience and their needs, information that will help Birmingham provide better services to these individuals and also help bring additional funding to our area to help with this issue.

I volunteered to participate in a Point-in-time survey a few years ago, which turned out to be one of the most educational and rewarding volunteer experiences of my life.  If you are interested in participating in this special event, please visit to sign up.

Help us better serve those in need through this Point-in-Time Survey.   Then, help us provide those services and assist the very people we survey break out of the cycle of homelessness by volunteering for Project Homeless Connect on April 4th.  Be on the look out for more on Project Homeless Connect in future posts.  In the meantime, on January 29th, you can help those that are often overlooked everyday stand up, be counted, and recieve the services they so desperately need.

A Call to Serve

No matter your political persuasion or party affiliation, this is a classy way to get people to give back. Maybe we could get him to do a Lunch & Learn?

The site is actually kind of cool, and we here at LivingUnited are interested to see how they’ll roll out service opportunities beyond MLK weekend.

Speaking of MLK weekend, go visit our friends at and sign up to serve on January 19th.

Where do we go from here?

pedestrian-sign1I find that that although the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas is often my favorite time of year, the time right after is usually the most reflective. Perhaps it is all the New Year’s resolut-ing or maybe just a post holiday fatigue, but either way January tends to find me asking myself existential questions like what do I want to be when I grow up?

This year, thanks to a New Years trip with the wife to Charleston, the existential runway I find myself circling is “why not Birmingham”? Before I go on I have to admit that Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the US. The mix of Southern seafood cuisine, a pedestrian friendly downtown, and that relaxing feeling of a coastal environment  tend to make trips there well worth the 7-hour drive. But don’t get me wrong, I know that like all cities, Charleston has its issues. And I am reminded of the old addage  “the grass is always greener on the other side of the street.” Continue reading

Living apart through technology

jetsons20video20phoneI work a second job in a technology retail position for some extra money.


A few days ago, I read an article in the New York Times that has haunted me since.  The link is here.  


The article discusses the increasing role technology is playing in maintaining contact between families separated in pursuit of a paycheck. This is becoming increasingly common as local opportunities decrease and it becomes harder and harder to sell a home. I have definitely seen firsthand an increase in the number of people using the technology built into the products for these purposes. 


From a health a human services angle we know the importance of a stable income and the importance of having engaged parents in a loving environment. I have often wondered what effects being separated for employment has on families and marriages.  What effect does the separation have on a primary caretakers stress levels?  Do children continue to feel connected to the far-away person, or do they begin viewing them like a distant cousin they interact with regularly on a computer screen?  What effect does being separated from your loved ones have on that individual’s mental health?


My hope is the technology can provide enough interaction to maintain those bonds, but I know technology can only do so much. 


What do you think? Let us know.  I would love to hear your thoughts and insights on this issue.