Tuscaloosa Gives Back: Helping Others in Need Featured

30 Jan 2018
Alex Karell (Firehouse Subs) with his dog, Tucker. Karell is one of many area residents who work to give back to the community. Alex Karell (Firehouse Subs) with his dog, Tucker. Karell is one of many area residents who work to give back to the community. Alex Karell

One of the most impactful resolutions one can make is the decision to give back to the community.  Tuscaloosa is covered up with great people and businesses who make special efforts to make our community a better place.  Sometimes it is through volunteering or charitable giving – and it’s often through people’s jobs, too.  

Giving and service work are not just about doing for others.  As many billionaires know (just look and see what people who don’t have to work do with their time … volunteer work is a top activity), giving back is very satisfying for the giver.  

Research shows that volunteering:  

  • Reduces stress    
  • Improves mental health  
  • Provides a deeper connection to the community and a sense of purpose 
  • Can help a person develop professional skills in areas like marketing, management, and finance

We all have ways that we can work together for Tuscaloosa and its residents. If you are looking for ways to incorporate giving in 2018, here are some of the many ways Tuscaloosans give back. Maybe you, or your company, can take one of these ideas and create your own way to give back.  

Note:  As we developed this story, we were overwhelmed by the excitement about, and sheer amount of, giving that goes on in Tuscaloosa. We think this is something that deserves to be recognized.  As a result, we are launching a “Tuscaloosa Gives Back” column that will be a regular feature in Druid City Living in 2018.  

Giving Back at Work 

I’ve never thought of my job as giving back to the community, but now that I think about it, that is what my job is all about. At CSP of West Alabama, I work in the Head Start program, where we prepare children to succeed in school and beyond. We provide a safe learning environment for the children, while engaging the parents to become the best parent and person they can be to support their family. Working with children and families has always been a passion of mine.  So, to find a career that allows me to do that is awesome!   

This is so important to me, because we are giving these children and families hope, knowledge, and support that they may have never received before. This empowers the parents to do better and be all they can be for their families. With us giving this support to the families and pouring positivity into them, they will, in turn, do the same for someone else. That is what it is all about. Each one teaching and reaching another to build each other – which, in turn, builds the Tuscaloosa community.      

- Kesha Grice, Community Service Programs of West Alabama 

Pulling Together Small Donations to Make a Big Impact 

Firehouse Subs created the Firehouse Public Safety Foundation shortly after Hurricane Katrina. The founders of the company were firefighters before Firehouse Subs, so they recognized an opportunity help local municipalities through equipment donations. Every one of these donations not only benefits the municipalities, who might not have a large budget, but they also save lives in the communities these municipalities operate in. Since the opening of the Firehouse Subs in Tuscaloosa, we have made several donations, including to the Tuscaloosa Fire Department, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Department, and to the University of Alabama Police Department. The collective donations of small change by rounding up an order, or purchasing an empty pickle bucket, allows everyone to take part and give back to their community.  

- Alex Karell, Firehouse Subs  

Giving Time to Kids 

John Gillis

 I coach youth soccer. I love teaching kids how to stretch themselves and break down goals into achievable steps that require work and repetition to have success.    

- John Gillis, Gillis Jewelers  

Lobbying for Change 

Lisa Riley

Lisa Riley is a busy working mom of two, one of whom has autism. In 2017, Alabama passed a law that mandated coverage of basic autism treatments. Riley worked with a number of legislators, families, and supporters to lobby for that change.  

“During our efforts to get meaningful legislation passed for autism therapy, an insurance company started running a commercial saying they cover ‘what matters.’ This was the birth of #autismmatters.”  

- Lisa Riley, VP of The Lift Fund, and autism champion  

Supporting Through Donations 

Martin Ray, a lawyer in his 80s who ought to be retired, is a long-time supporter of the Children’s Hands-On Museum (CHOM). He says that giving is one way he serves. How does he choose who receives his donations? 

“Giving, first, to your religious preference, is important. Then I think you look at the projects that are available to you to help others and think what is the best way to spend your effort. Those who are in need of food or housing, and the young, have all kinds of needs. I support CHOM because CHOM works with children, and because they focus on the awakening of children to learning.” 

These are just a few examples of the giving that happens in Tuscaloosa every day. As a part of our mission to help Tuscaloosans know each other, and their community, better, we are going to highlight these stories in our new column. We hope that these stories will inspire our readers to find ways that they can be a part of the giving culture here. It’s also a way to say “thanks” to all of those who spend their money, time, and talents in support of the community and its residents.  


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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.


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