Serving with YWCA Central Alabama’s “Building Communities, Bettering Lives” (BCBL) AmeriCorps program comes with many benefits–educational awards, career opportunities, job skills training and more. However, most members don’t consider the possibility of finding love. This was the case for former BCBL AmeriCorps members Alicia Calloway and Walter Nolen-Schmidt who began their year of service at the YW in 2016 with no idea that 2-years later they would be married and starting a life together.
They first met during new-member orientation. It was Walter’s second year of service and Alicia’s first. Walter had been selected to serve with the YW’s Social Justice Department while Alicia was placed at My Sister’s Closet (MSC), the YW’s resale boutique. Walter described their first meeting as “finding a friend I didn’t know I had.” The first time they talked, they realized that they shared many mutual friends and both said that they instantly felt comfortable, accepted and understood by one another.
“This comfortable acceptance and understanding has never left us and has helped us navigate to what has become our lives together,” Walter said.
As their year of service began they became close friends and eventually started dating. While serving, they both developed an interest in helping meet the needs of Birmingham’s homeless population. Walter served closely with individuals experiencing homelessness during his first year of service prior to meeting Alicia. He was placed at One Roof, one of the YW’s several partner agencies, helping coordinate services provided by regional homeless agencies. After completing another year with the YW’s BCBL AmeriCorps program, he returned to One Roof where he is now a full-time Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) data analyst.
Alicia had the opportunity to serve closely with women experiencing homelessness while serving at My Sister’s Closet. MSC is designed to assist women who are in need of career clothes for job interviews and new employment as they work with other programs within the YW to get back on their feet. Alicia still deals with Birmingham’s homeless population on a daily basis in her current position as a manager at Urban Standard.
“While working for a restaurant in the middle of downtown, I still come into contact with the area’s homeless population,“ Alicia says. “I’m able to recall and use those same skills I learned while serving with AmeriCorps when I interact with them now.”
Both Walter and Alicia were led to join BCBL AmeriCorps because of a natural desire to serve. Alicia had recently received a bachelor’s of sociology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and wanted to do more to serve the Birmingham community. Walter had been working several odd jobs for five years to support making art, but had a deeper yearning, that at the time, he could not put into words.
“In finding the YWCA’s AmeriCorps program, I found those words,” Walter said. “In my two years serving in the program, I was able to apply my skills in service to greater causes of ending homelessness and educating young people about social justice.”
To learn more about our AmeriCorps opportunities, visit http://www.ywcabham.org/americorps.