Lovelady Center gardens in Birmingham bloom with renewed beauty

Four years ago, the Lovelady Center Gardens in Birmingham underwent a remarkable transformation, turning a desolate space into a vibrant oasis.

The once neglected garden, established in 2004, had lost its appeal until help arrived in the form of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO).

Today, the Lovelady Center gardens boast vibrant flowers and a cornucopia of crops that have become the lifeblood of the center’s residents. From juicy tomatoes and crunchy green beans to succulent squash, zucchini, corn and watermelon, the garden provides fresh produce to nourish the Lovelady Center community. But the garden’s purpose extends far beyond sustenance: The beautiful blooms in the garden add joy to events and also serve as an enriching backdrop for gardening classes offered to the women residing at the center.

A faith-based, nondenominational residential facility, the Lovelady Center serves as a haven for vulnerable women and their families. With a mission to empower and transform lives, the center provides its 600 residents with shelter, meals, childcare and comprehensive rehabilitation services.

Joni Morton, volunteer coordinator at the Lovelady Center since October 2018, vividly recalled the impact made by the volunteers from APSO’s Magic City Chapter whose service ignited a passion to breathe new life into the rooftop spot.

“The support we receive from APSO has greatly benefited our women and children as they recover from hardships and transition their lives,” Morton said, noting Magic City APSO’s 2018 contributions in building the flower and vegetable garden and designing an inspirational mural. “These meaningful contributions provide such value to our center and help give our residents faith and hope as they grow in their recovery.”

Birmingham Energizer Wilbur Johnson (left), Magic City APSO chair Kaylon Mikula and Marquita Hall, CEO, Foundation for Inner City Enrichment, helped with the 2018 project. (contributed)

In 2018, members of Magic City APSO and the Mountain Brook Horticulturist Club, along with Watco Rail Services employees, gave new life to the garden. Kaylon Mikula, a senior Marketing specialist at Alabama Power, chaired the project, with APSO members helping install the first four sets of railroad ties. Mikula noted the work couldn’t have been done without the help of JaCorey Murray, Mechanical Safety & Training manager at Watco Rail Services, whose team helped with the installation. Watco also donated the railroad ties.

“It was really difficult getting the ties placed on top of the roof, but Watco Rail Services brought out equipment to install them successfully,” Mikula added. She said the APSO members, plus volunteers from the Birmingham Division chapter of the Energizers, Alabama Power’s retiree service organization, combined to put in about 100 hours on the project.

It’s not the only contributions APSO Magic City members have made to the Lovelady organization. Volunteers also have provided hygiene products and held a holiday toy drive for the children of Lovelady residents.

Garden is powerful metaphor for life

Just as the garden flourishes with purpose and growth, the Lovelady Center helps its residents cultivate a renewed sense of purpose and rebuild their lives by supplying the needed tools to reintegrate into society. Residents have access to educational opportunities, enabling them to complete their GED and obtain other degrees, as well as taking part in life-skills classes. The center’s nine-month education program, supported by dedicated volunteers, ensures that each resident departs with a secure place to stay and the prospect of a brighter future.

The garden is awash with color in summer and fall. (Andrew Rhodes / Alabama News Center)

The Lovelady Center encourages individuals from the community to volunteer their time and skills to help. Supporters can visit the Amazon Wishlist page to buy much-needed essential items, which make a significant difference in residents’ lives. For more information about how to uplift the center’s residents, click here.

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