Central Alabama was forged in the fires of industry. The area’s rare abundance of iron ore, coal and limestone — the three raw materials needed to produce pig iron used in making steel — and the rapid growth of railroads in the late 1800s quite literally created the “Magic City” of Birmingham. At every turn, laborers doing backbreaking work were integral to the development of this boomtown; and through the years, they’ve continued to support their home in a variety of ways. The local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) exemplifies this dedication to community: they’ve supported United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) since its earliest days, when it was still known as the Community Chest, and traffic to their
“In the past, when the UMWA blood drives were held at the Red Cross building in downtown Birmingham, they had so many miners come in to donate blood that they literally had to shut down city streets,” said David Clark, Community Services Liaison at UWCA.
So it’s no wonder that when UMWA recently learned of the blood supply shortage facing our community during the COVID-19 crisis, they stepped up to the plate, eager to help Central Alabama through the toughest of times.
“UMWA Vice President [Larry] Spencer called me about doing a blood drive,” said Clark. “He said the mineworkers were excited to give back, but there was a catch: we only had about two weeks to put the event together.”
Even under normal circumstances, blood drives can take about six to eight weeks to put together; and given the new safety measures that must be followed in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, such a tight timeframe would be tough. But in Central Alabama, there’s just as much iron in our wills as there is the hills, and UMWA was determined to make it happen.
“The mineworkers really went above and beyond,” said Clark. “They spent Memorial Day Weekend cleaning the Brookwood local union halls and removing the auditorium seating so we could socially distance during the drive.”
But social distancing wasn’t the only precaution taken to keep participants healthy. Before entering the building, donors went through a temperature check and were given both hand sanitizer and a disposable mask. And every chair, as well as all surrounding surfaces, were wiped down between appointments.
“It’s a lot more than people even realize,” said Clark. “We even had to wipe down and reboot the tablets between each person. It’s really amazing how much went into keeping everyone safe.”
The stringent safety protocols did little to dampen UMWA’s enthusiasm for the cause, however, with about 150 people participating in the drive, including current mineworkers, their families, neighbors and even some retirees returned to their old stomping ground for the greater good.
“I was amazed at the turnout and the great participation,” said Clark. “Everyone was so wonderful, and it means a lot to continue this relationship with such a great organization.”
David and the entire team at UWCA would like to thank both the UMWA locals in Brookwood for hosting such a successful blood drive and the generous donors for participating. Now more than ever, it’s important for Central Alabama to LIVE UNITED. You can browse volunteer opportunities on INVOLVE, UWCA’s online volunteer platform, or arrange an event for your organization through United Way Hands On.