Birmingham-area ministries work together to help those in need

Going to bed hungry and waking up without power — they’re struggles John Gibson hears about all the time.

For 10 years the ministry he leads — Serving You Ministries (SYM) — has been working to find a way to effectively meet families’ physical needs in Jefferson County. SYM started food banks, began ministries to offer job skills training and provided other kinds of resources. And the ministry — originally started by NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville — collaborated with other churches to find ways to work together.

One umbrella

And in recent months SYM found a new way to pull those resources under one collective umbrella — Thrive Together Jefferson County, three organizations that provide immediate relief with food and utility assistance, then trauma counseling, life skills training and eventually housing help.

Myron Thomas, president of Thrive Together Jefferson County, said the hope is to offer a complete path to independence.

“We take people who are in crisis mode and walk them all the way to the point where they can get a house of their own,” Thomas said.

For example, when they take in new clients they enter them in a central database used by all the organizations. A hub coach assesses their needs to find a good starting point and then sends them to the right organization.

If they’re in crisis they start with SYM for food assistance and training in life skills and nutrition.

“About 90 percent of our clients are single moms,” Gibson said.

From there clients move on to Hope Inspired Ministries (HIM), a ministry that started in First Baptist Church, Montgomery, and expanded to Birmingham. HIM can prepare low-skilled and chronically unemployed men and women to find and keep employment.

And from there East Lake Initiative works to help families by providing tutors to schoolchildren and acquiring distressed properties and renovating them.

All of these organizations also provide a variety of resources like financial literacy classes and domestic violence ministry as well as things like starting businesses that provide jobs for low-income families.

“We’re trying to get them out of the cycle and off of assistance,” Gibson said. “Instead of giving them fish we want to teach them how to fish.”

Thrive Together is staffed by a majority of volunteers and is always in need of those willing to help. The ministry is also looking for church and corporate partners. For more information visit ThriveJC.org.