By Herbert E. Jackson Jr.
I was on active duty in the U.S. Air Force and had just been assigned to Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado when the tragic events of Sept 11th unfolded. Rumor was that President Bush would fly on board Air Force One to Colorado Springs and command from inside the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. Although that did not occur, I felt honored to serve America then and continue to be honored to this day. Today, I proudly serve the citizens of Birmingham, Alabama, as a “Building Communities, Bettering Lives” AmeriCorps member assigned to a nonprofit called Workshops, Inc.
Workshops, Inc. trains people with various disabilities on in-demand job skills resulting in their ability to obtain positions in the competitive environment. Approximately 400-500 individuals complete jobs skills training at Workshops each year. The training programs span from janitorial to food service, to packaging and assembly as contracted by local and national customers. I serve as the Volunteer Coordinator at Workshops, Inc. As the Volunteer Coordinator, I conduct an ongoing, multimedia recruiting campaign in search of individuals and groups from the private sector, government, military, universities, and retirees who desire to offer their time and expertise to adults with disabilities.
From a healthy futures perspective, Workshops is currently migrating its Food Service Training Program to what is called the, “Healthy Living Initiative.” The Healthy Living Initiative is geared toward improving the health of Workshops’ consumers. An off-shoot of the Healthy Living Initiative is Workshops’ New Leaf Kitchen Program, whose coordinator, Xavier Nelson, is also an AmeriCorps member. Since 2013, New Leaf Kitchen staff members have prepared and delivered more than 500 healthy box lunches to local businesses. Workshops recently began offering the same high quality New Leaf Kitchen lunch menu items in its cafeteria, side-by-side with the traditional cafeteria food items.
Consumers can now incorporate the healthy alternatives into their diets and recommend their family members do the same. In time, the Healthy Living Initiative can help break the cycle of unhealthy food consumption. I’m honored to serve as an AmeriCorps member assigned to help find and support volunteers who help the mission of Workshops, Inc. become a reality for the men and women who depend on us.
Herbert E. Jackson, Jr., is a current serving AmeriCorps member at YWCA Central Alabama, with the “Building Communities, Bettering Lives” program. He has been an AmeriCorps member since 2013.