Neighbors commitment to community is strong as steel

volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center

Driving through North Avondale, you might miss the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center, but the families who use it don’t let a day go by without paying it plenty of attention. The area serves as a neighborhood hotspot for kids to play basketball, use the tennis courts and even receive hot meals.

This area must stay upheld for generations, and O’Neal Industries’ (ONI) operating company is working with United Way Hands On to ensure a favorable future. Just a few miles away from the site, the company makes an impact close to home by putting financial and labor resources behind revitalizing the area and its facilities.

The initiative started in 2019 with rebuilding the Center’s pavilion and evolved into an ongoing multi-year commitment for O’Neal and other passionate community members.

Most recently, O’Neal deployed employee volunteers to help beautify the Center’s playground. As Co-chair of United Way’s Annual Fall Campaign, Melissa Paruszkiewicz, HR Manager for O’Neal Manufacturing Services, another ONI company headquartered in Birmingham, is proud to have an outlet to give back through her employer.

“I know that the O’Neal family has deep roots in the Birmingham community, along with the United Way,” said Paruszkiewicz. “The opportunity to help so many people within the community through a single source and the fact that O’Neal gives back is truly valuable to me.”

Participants in the labor union apprenticeship program from Operators Local #312 work in tandem with volunteers like Melissa from O’Neal and Hibbett. Lee Smith, apprenticeship coordinator for Operating Engineers in Birmingham, says the project achieves two goals for his apprentices.

“It’s all on-the-job experience for my guys. They come out here, learn, and they also learn about giving back,” Smith said. “It’s for a good cause. Anything for the kids. That’s kind of what it’s all about. They’re our future.”

United Way Hands On will continue to facilitate partnerships and help provide resources for community members, local businesses and others on this and future projects. For more information about how to get involved, visit