Author: Woodlawn United

A Journey Across America: Insights From Eight Weeks of Community Development – Mashonda S. Taylor

The last quarter of 2023 was a whirlwind tour across various cities in the United States – from the vibrant streets of Washington, D.C., to the lively neighborhoods of New Orleans, the flourishing businesses in Grand Rapids, the dynamic initiatives in Dallas, the policy discussions in Montgomery, and the impactful gatherings in the heart of New York City. This journey has been a remarkable opportunity to fill my cup, soaking in inspiration from dynamic organizations and individuals all dedicated to fostering communities of opportunity. In this blog, I’ll share some highlights from my travels and the invaluable insights gained along the way.

Innovative Strategies in Washington, D.C.:

During my time in Washington, D.C., I engaged in discussions with Center Creek Capital, exploring innovative strategies and touring affordable housing developments. It was a deep dive into the mechanisms that drive community development, setting the stage for the enlightening experiences to follow.

The Power of Place Conference in New Orleans:

The Power of Place Conference in New Orleans, presented by the William Julius Winston Institute and Harlem Children Zone, provided a platform for meaningful dialogue. The key takeaway was the importance of understanding people before aiming for goals and metrics. Solutions, I learned, must match the scale of the problem. Additionally, a visit to the Bayou District Foundation showcased a cradle-to-career pathway, exemplifying intentional efforts to create economic mobility and provided an opportunity for me to hear from some dynamic keynote speakers from the Biden Administration.

Community-Centric Economic Development in Grand Rapids:

Grand Rapids became the backdrop for our Annual Leadership convening hosted by AmplifyGR. Here, the focus was on community-centric economic development. Witnessing the growth of businesses and their positive impact on the community was nothing short of phenomenal.

Jubilee Park’s Holistic Approach in Dallas:

Dallas stood out as a favorite with a visit to Jubilee Park, led by the dynamic Marissa Castro. Their community walk-alongs, engagement with residents, and initiatives in community policing and public safety were commendable. Jubilee Park’s commitment to holistic well-being, including a high-quality medical clinic, left a lasting impression.

Policy Shaping in Montgomery:

Montgomery provided a platform for discussing government partnerships and policy shaping at the Southeast Philanthropy Conference. Recognizing policy changes as a significant opportunity for lasting community change, the conference emphasized the vital role of philanthropy in advocacy work.

Federal Reserve Gathering in NYC:

In the bustling city of New York, the Federal Reserve hosted leaders from across the nation to discuss creating opportunity-rich communities and facilitating impact investment. The discussions revolved around absorbing capital into communities, and a design team session explored opportunities for impact investments at a community level. The focus was on adjusting tools in community development to pave the way for self-sufficient communities.


To sum it all up, the journey through the final weeks of 2023 was a profound experience filled with insights and inspiration from practitioners dedicated to community development. Each city contributed to the mosaic of knowledge, from innovative strategies and community-centric economic development to policy shaping and impactful gatherings. As we continue the collective effort towards creating opportunity-rich communities, these experiences serve as guideposts, reminding us that community development, economic development, policy-in-action, impact investment, and place matters.


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Meet Wayne Honeycutt, Jr.

Wayne Honeycutt, Jr. | Owner of The Shop

Today we honor Black History Month by shining a light on local barbershop owner Wayne Honeycutt, Jr. Wayne has owned The Shop for over 40 years and currently serves as President of the Woodlawn Business Association. 

The barbershop is a special place in the Black Community, as it serves as a hub for leadership development, education, and cultural enrichment. Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Wayne was instilled with a vision for Black Excellence and has been dedicated to providing top-notch services to his customers, family, and community. 

To continue elevating and supporting Black Culture, Wayne believes WE must continue amplifying messages of Black Excellence, owning properties, building legacies, and positively impacting the community. 

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Meet Anita Craig

Anita Craig | Owner of Trvl Love Koffee 

Anita Craig is a driven, family-oriented coffee connoisseur who dared to take a chance in the coffee industry. As the owner of Trvl Love Koffee, Anita is breaking barriers and creating opportunities for individuals to see themselves as entrepreneurs. Despite not being a coffee drinker, she specializes in African and Indonesian coffees and is passionate about telling their stories. With a culinary degree and a background in bartending, Anita always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. 

Seeing individuals who look like you succeed in business inspires others to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. In addition, representation leads to a more inclusive and innovative business community where everyone feels valued and heard. Today, Anita is helping to create a gathering spot that uplifts and feeds Woodlawn’s soul. 

Remember, support is a verb that requires a lot of intentionality, so let’s continue to elevate and support Black culture and businesses in Woodlawn! Visit Trvl Love Coffee inside Woodlawn Marketplace Wednesday – Saturday 7am – 3pm!

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Meet Teretia Jones

Teretia Jones | Woodlawn Resident 

Meet Teretia Jones, a proud resident of Woodlawn for over 38 years. 

Ms. Jones is now a retiree from Otis Elevator 40! Teretia has seen the Woodlawn Community as it ebbed and flowed over the years. 

Teretia reminisces about being the first Black family on her street, where she serves her community faithfully. Ms. Jones prefers leading from the back by actively supporting Woodlawn’s leaders and engaging with the neighborhood association to build a resilient and inclusive community. This Black History Month, we asked Teretia what it means to her, her thoughts on building equity and inclusivity in our communities, and her advice: “Don’t let the naysayers say you can’t do it. Instead, surround yourself with people who support you and your diverse thoughts.” 

Together, WE will continue to champion Black culture in Woodlawn, have meaningful conversations, and make a positive impact that will create legacies of equity and inclusiveness for future generations.

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In Woodlawn, Change Is Happening Together


We believe community is a partnership — one defined by a commitment to build meaningful and enduring relationships between residents, community partners and business owners.


It’s every individual coming with their lived experiences, their dreams, their hopes and going on the same trajectory. Together, we define our community and ensure it thrives.


That’s the Power of WE.

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WE Lead Fellowship Program Set to Launch Second Cohort

Since Woodlawn United’s founding in 2010, its mission has been to serve as a catalyst and facilitator for the transformation and revitalization of the Woodlawn community in Birmingham into a vibrant and sustainable community in which its residents have an opportunity to thrive. The WE Lead was developed to address the Woodlawn Community’s gap in access to leadership development opportunities. This 14-week community-focused program seeks to identify individuals who desire to improve their community and give voice to traditionally underrepresented community members. WE Lead fellows will engage in weekly training to learn from political, business, and community leaders. As a cohort, participants will partake in initiatives to address current issues impacting Woodlawn. The program goals for WE Lead Fellows are:   · Increased participation in formal and informal neighborhood leadership. · Understanding of complex systemic issues. · Increased resident participation in community-based organizations while serving in various leadership roles. · Be connected to a vast network of community and civic leaders. · An understanding of public/private partnerships and how to leverage funds.   PARTICIPATION QUALIFICATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS Ideal applicants must demonstrate a commitment to Woodlawn and neighboring communities with a desire to serve their community through positions of impact (e.g., volunteerism, advocacy, non-profit boards, etc.). Each session is an integral part of the program, and participants are required to attend at least 90% of the sessions or 10 out of the 11 sessions to successfully complete the fellowship and receive the program financial stipend. Applications are due Tuesday, October 25, 2022 at 5:00pm. Apply at: The 2022-2023 fellowship program year is scheduled as follows: • Tuesday, November 1, 2022 • Tuesday, November 29, 2022 • Tuesday, December 13, 2022 • Tuesday, January 10, 2023 • Tuesday, January 24, 2023 • Tuesday, February 7, 2023 • Tuesday, February 21, 2023 • Tuesday, March 7, 2023 • Tuesday, March 21, 2023 • Tuesday, April 4, 2023 • Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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Woodlawn United Hires Deputy Director

Birmingham, Ala. – Woodlawn United  (WU), formerly Woodlawn Foundation, a community quarterback that leads an alliance of partners committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in Birmingham’s historic Woodlawn community, is growing its team. Woodlawn United is excited to announce the hire of Meghan Ann Hellenga as its Deputy Director. As Deputy Director, Meghan Ann will assist the organization in extending its capacity to ensure that the organization can continue to meet the needs of the Woodlawn Community through fundraising, strategic planning, and operational efficiency.  Hellenga brings years of fundraising and organizational experience. During her time at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA), she worked with the team to secure funding of more than $7 million annually. She was also instrumental in the development, planning, and fundraising strategies at the BMA. Before her time at the BMA, she served as director of development at AIDS Alabama before becoming the organization’s administrative director of programs. In addition, she implemented fundraising initiatives and cultivated community partnerships. “Over the next few years, Meghan Ann will work with partners to identify resources that foster equity and opportunity for Woodlawn residents,” stated Mashonda Taylor, Executive Director of Woodlawn United. “Meghan Ann will work alongside residents and local stakeholders to help prioritize initiatives and leverage resources across three main pillars: cradle-to-college/career education pathway, high-quality mixed-income housing, and community wellness programs.”   Woodlawn United facilitates a holistic approach to community revitalization. Community partners, residents, business owners, and civic leaders work collectively to elevate initiatives to grow a safe and healthy community where children learn and play, families live in quality housing, parents work in stable jobs, businesses thrive, and everyone contributes to the growth of Greater Birmingham. It follows a model established by Purpose Built Communities, an organization that helps communities across the country implement proven and practical strategies to increase equity and resiliency. “I think it’s important for our organization to amplify the story of the Woodlawn Effect,” said Meghan Ann Hellenga, Deputy Director for Woodlawn United. “If adequately resourced, the work happening in Woodlawn will continue to provide equitable opportunities for all residents in the community to thrive and serve as a model for other communities throughout the city and region.” About Woodlawn United  Woodlawn United (WU) is a community-based 501(c)3 organization that facilitates community revitalization in the Woodlawn Community of Birmingham, AL. Woodlawn United works to grow a safe, healthy community where children learn and play, families live in quality housing, parents work in stable jobs, businesses thrive, and everyone contributes to the growth of Greater Birmingham.

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Woodlawn United Community Input Meeting

September 20, 2022 – Drop in anytime between 3 PM to 7 PM  The cities of Birmingham and Trussville are working with Norfolk Southern to submit a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) planning grant application to plan new railroad grade separations in the vicinity of Brussels Avenue near Harris Homes in East Birmingham and at Mary Taylor Road in Trussville.  These new grade separations are proposed to be constructed in conjunction with the closure of at-grade crossings at Antwerp Ave/64th Place and 56th, 57th and 59th streets in Birmingham and at Parrish Lane and Peggy Lee Lane in Trussville.  The plan would also include a bike/ped grade separated crossing in the vicinity of 59th St.  These improvements, if implemented, will improve the safety and mobility of people and goods.    The recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act authorizes the RCE Program to enhance rail safety, improve the health and safety of communities, eliminate highway-rail and pathway-rail grade crossings that are frequently blocked by trains, and reduce the impacts that freight movement and railroad operations may have on underserved communities.  The grade separation project if constructed would improve the operation of the Norfolk Southern Norris Yard and reduce the number of instances where roadway grade crossings are blocked by stopped trains at Brussels Avenue, which is the only access road in and out of the community. The proposed Brussels Avenue grade separation would especially benefit the Harris Homes neighborhood which experiences regular blocked crossings at Brussels Avenue. Reduction of train-horn noise will be a related benefit for communities along the railroad including Woodlawn, Crestwood, and Harris Homes.     Woodlawn United is working with the Cities of Birmingham and Trussville to receive public comment about the proposed FRA planning grant and to solicit YOUR INPUT about potential plans to build grade separations and close nearby grade crossings.  A Community Input Meeting will be held at the Woodlawn United offices on September 20, 2022 from 3 PM to 7 PM.  Comments may also be provided at the Woodlawn United website.  For questions or additional information contact Jim Ritchey, Whitman Requardt and Associates at   

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Atlanta Based Slutty Vegan Joins Momentum in Woodlawn

A crowd from across Birmingham lined up on 55th Place South in Woodlawn to support Slutty Vegan’s sixth restaurant opening, the first location outside of Georgia. People queued up as early as 6am in anticipation of the 1pm Grand Opening on August 21st. It is a historic moment for Birmingham and the Woodlawn community.   Slutty Vegan Founder and CEO Pinky Cole chose to locate her business in Woodlawn because of the momentum happening in its central business district. Last weekend, Woodlawn also welcomed POLARIS, Alycia Levels-Moore’s flexible co-working and event space, one of many new businesses opening in Woodlawn this year, including d-Trespa Consignment Boutique, Thrive Wellness Lounge, and Woodlawn Bar & Lounge.   Cole received a warm welcome from Barnes & Associates, REV Birmingham, and Woodlawn United who hosted a celebratory Block Party.   “The energy in Woodlawn this weekend was palpable!” said Mashonda Taylor, Woodlawn United Executive Director. “It was inspiring to welcome two Black women-owned businesses to our community. From Alycia Levels-Moore, Founder of POLARIS Birmingham, hosting her Grand Opening to Pinky Cole, Founder of Slutty Vegan, opening her sixth brick and mortar (first location outside of Georgia), our community showed great support and pride. The Woodlawn story continues to evolve, and I’m honored to witness a movement that will impact future generations.”   Cole is a serial entrepreneur dedicated to giving back to communities and mentoring fellow entrepreneurs. The Grand Opening was a perfect example of Cole’s entrepreneurial spirit uplifting small businesses. Forty local Black-owned businesses participated in the Block Party, sharing in the excitement and making connections across the community. As Slutty Vegan helps draw even more people to Woodlawn, we look forward to seeing the businesses in Woodlawn continue to expand and thrive.    Photo by Quentin Renard Gunn

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The Power of WE: Valencia King

Who is Valencia King? I’m a Woodlawn Native and I’ve lived here for over 30 years and I’ve seen Woodlawn through all of it’s iterations. I currently serve as the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association President. Also, I’m an alum of Woodlawn High School. What does the Woodlawn Effect mean to you? It’s us, as partners, being daring and problem solving through the efforts we are facilitating to re-energize Woodlawn. It also serves as a model for other residents to take best practices implemented in Woodlawn back to their communities foster their own renaissances. What do you love about Woodlawn? It’s my life, it’s home, it’s family. You don’t really get that feel in the suburbs. When I can go into a local establishment and they know me by name, when I can go on my neighbor’s porch and discuss how our neighborhood is growing, that is something that you can’t simply replicate.

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