City’s BOLD partnership provides Birmingham woman a pathway to work

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After giving birth to her second daughter, Jazzmine Huggins knew she wanted serious changes in her life.

She was 24 years old, living in public housing and not always making what she felt were the best choices for herself or her children. The low point may have come when she found herself in a confrontation with a man, staring down the barrel of a gun.

Mrs. Huggins wanted to get on a pathway to a better life for herself and her children. She had past work experience and soft skills that would serve her well in the job market. But she had real hurdles to joining the workforce, too — specifically, a lack of consistent childcare and transportation.

“My mom was helping me out wherever she could,” Mrs. Huggins said. “But my car became unfunctional and kept shutting down. Not having a ride … that was one of my biggest barriers.”

Mrs. Huggins overcame that obstacle, and more, thanks to a new program created by the City of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity.

The BOLD program — short for Building Opportunities for Lasting Development — has distributed $2.5 million over three years to local organizations to help promote economic opportunity for Birmingham residents and businesses. The funds are awarded through a competitive process that favors organizations that work together and achieve real results.

One of the entities that has received BOLD funding is The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, which used the investment to further its work convening nonprofit organizations to improve services to low-income women and their families. The city BOLD program supported The Women’s Fund’s work with Thrive Together, a collaboration including East Lake Initiative and Serving You Ministries.

“The Women’s Fund invested in Thrive Together to fuel integration of the services provided by the partnering organizations, ultimately leading to more holistic and lasting success for women and families in the community,” said Melanie R. Bridgeforth, President & CEO of The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham. “Our research and previous experience in funding similar models demonstrate that when moms and their children can access a broader range of supports simultaneously and seamlessly, their needs are better addressed.”

Since December 2020, 87 families have been served through Thrive Together Jefferson County.

Mrs. Huggins, who now lives in North Birmingham, is one of many success stories. “They took those foundations that I already had and made them a little bit stronger,” she said.

Among other things, Mrs. Huggins went through the workforce development program and received coaching that helped her with life skills, like managing money and setting goals. As she was working with Thrive Together, it so happened that Serving You Ministries needed a part-time receptionist, and they liked what they saw in Mrs. Huggins.

Mrs. Huggins started the job early last year.

She likes it not just because of the income, but because it gives her the opportunity to help others. She has also purchased a reliable car — one that had been donated to Serving You Ministries — to help meet her long-term transportation needs. She has begun looking for full-time work, has gotten married and has modeled the lessons she wanted her daughters to learn.

“I want them to see that I’m focused on God, that their mother and new stepdad are working to help them to succeed, and that we are working to be homeowners and be an asset in their community and to be able to give back,” she said. “I want them to see these are stepping stones.”

Mrs. Huggins has learned lessons along the way, too — chief among them that it’s not a failing to need and accept help like the assistance being provided by Thrive Together and funded through the city’s BOLD program and The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham.

“The biggest thing for me was being prideful. I’ve learned it’s OK to get that help if it’s offered up and you really need it. They’ve helped me a whole lot in that program,” she said. “It is truly a blessing.”

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