Category: News

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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Transformational Healing Through the Power of Yoga

This Black History Month, Woodlawn United is sharing the stories of local leaders supporting Black Health and Wellness in our Woodlawn neighborhoods.  Meet Jamella Stroud, owner of Sacred Body Fitness.  After suffering from an eating disorder in her early 20’s, Jamella discovered yoga to be an important aspect of her healing process. Yoga not only helped physically, but the practice also helped her heal mentally as she battled anxiety. Now, because of her own journey to healing and transformation, Jamella is passionate about helping other women develop both inner and outer strength.  Reflecting on her personal experience and deep appreciation of yoga, Jamella realized she needed to share what she learned with others to guide them towards transformational healing.   Her desire to help others led her to complete a 500-hour Yoga Teacher Certification. During this process, her love for the practice grew and inspired her to pursue a Yoga Therapist Certification, which requires an additional 800 hours of training. Becoming a Yoga Therapist will give Jamella the capacity to work with the community in a unique way. Yoga Therapists work in one-on-one settings and address both mental and physical ailments through a yoga prospective.  In 2019, Jamella was inspired to open her own studio, and by 2020 she was taking steps to make it happen. After hearing about the new developments happening in Woodlawn, she felt led to be a part of the community by locating her yoga and strength-training studio here. She connected with REV Birmingham and is currently working to locate the perfect space for her studio. The vision for the studio in Woodlawn is to offer meditation, vinyasa, restorative, and strength-training classes.  While working towards opening her studio, Jamella currently shares her yoga experience through Sacred Body Fitness. Sacred Body Fitness reflects her personal journey of redefining and transforming her physical body. Jamela says:  “A woman’s body is Sacred & Holy, it houses her most valuable assets: her spirit & mind. As she journeys to transform her Sacred Body, she will experience a mindset transformation as well when training with Sacred Body Fitness.”   Yoga significantly impacts the mind, body, and spirit. Jamella experienced this transformation first-hand and now watches it unfold in her students’ lives as they gain awareness and transform their desires.  One way Jamella shares her passion for yoga is by investing in the community. She teaches weekly community yoga classes at SocialVenture in Woodlawn. These classes are open to the community and are donation based. She also teaches yoga to 5th grade students in the Birmingham City School System. Even as children, these students have a lot on their minds, and Jamella is grateful for the opportunity to support them through yoga.  Jamella is a strong, natural-born leader. Her transformational journey is multiplied through her passion and dedication to invest in women through yoga. As she plants roots and opens her studio in Woodlawn, her impact will continue to grow.   Follow Jamella and Sacred Body Fitness online at, on Instagram @sacredbodyfit, and on Facebook @iamjamellastroud.  Yoga is so vast. It’s more than just movement — there is breath work, meditation, and self-study. Yoga is about the union of mind, body, and spirit. Anytime one aspect is out of alignment, the physical practice of yoga brings you back to the awareness of the body’s mental, emotional, and spiritual state to see what needs to come into alignment. 

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Woodlawn United: New Brand, Same Mission

Since 2010, the Woodlawn Foundation has served as a catalyst and facilitator for the transformation and revitalization of the Woodlawn community.

Our goal: to work alongside Woodlawn’s residents and business owners to create the vibrant and sustainable community they envision.

Today, our vision and mission remain the same, but we are excited to announce a meaningful change. The Woodlawn Foundation is now Woodlawn United.

Since April 2021, our team has been working with Telegraph Creative to ensure that our brand aligns with our mission and core values.

During this time, we surveyed 40 partner organizations, spoke with residents, and formed a small committee to have an honest discussion about who we are as an organization and how our work will not only transform Woodlawn but will serve as a blueprint for many communities in our city and beyond.

After hours of dialogue around our brand identity and strategic planning process, we believe the images and words you see today represent who we are to our core – community-focused, aligned, and most importantly, UNITED.

The Woodlawn community’s resilience and commitment to working together to create opportunities for community members to thrive is what makes us who we are. It’s the only reason we are here and it’s one of the many reasons that we are proud to be a part of this community. To be Woodlawn Strong is to persevere through all adversity towards the greater good of all. To be Woodlawn United is to do it together.

We are Woodlawn United.

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Change doesn’t happen overnight, but (WE) Lead is where the rubber meets the road for program fellows, an intergenerational group ranging from early 20s through retirement. (WE) Lead’s priority is to give fellows real-life skills they can use as members of the Woodlawn community in personal, professional, and civic capacities. The program was funded by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham with the goal of creating sustainable leadership where fellows use their skills to identify, assess, and solve community problems. The first half of the program focuses on building skills while the second half will focus on subject matter, including health care and economic development. Fellows have already completed 4 sessions in the 14-part program: – Servant Leadership, where they each took a leadership assessment to set the tone for the rest of the program. – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) session, where they were challenged to think broadly about what equity means including classism, ableism, and ageism. – A two-part Communication workshop and panel led by local communications professionals, Rick Journey and Ronda Robinson. For fellows, it’s all about effort and connectivity. (WE) Lead creates a safe space where everyone feels comfortable asking questions and learning, without fear of failure or judgement. Fellows also share an excitement to be in the same room, spending time together and learning from each other. (WE) Lead leader and Woodlawn resident, Myeisha Hutchinson, describes this as a full circle moment for herself as she works with participants building leadership from the ground up. Hutchinson says the group is finding its stride and experiencing many “aha” moments, but for the inaugural class of (WE) Lead fellows this is just the beginning. (WE) Lead serves as a catalyst for fellows to become community leaders as they seek out new areas of service and set out to impact Woodlawn.

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Woodlawn Foundation Now Accepting Cryptocurrency

BIRMINGHAM, AL (December 28, 2021) – Woodlawn Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to the holistic revitalization of the Woodlawn community in Birmingham, is excited to begin accepting cryptocurrency. On Tuesday, December 28th, 2021, the organization accepted its first Bitcoin donation from supporter Clay McInnis, owner of Commerce Consulting based in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, and early adopter of cryptocurrency. “The number of global crypto users today is the same amount as internet users in 1997. Blockchain technology and digital assets are here to stay,” said McInnis. “The Woodlawn Foundation’s commitment to accept bitcoin is not only exciting for a broad and younger donor base, but a clear signal that innovation and impact in a community goes hand-in-hand.” With the continued growth and popularity of cryptocurrency, Woodlawn Foundation recognizes the importance of meeting the evolving needs of its donors. Accepting cryptocurrency provides new flexibility and an additional opportunity for philanthropy. “At Woodlawn Foundation we take pride in being innovative and using diverse funding opportunities to bring our mission to fruition,” said Mashonda Taylor, Woodlawn Foundation Executive Director. “By adjusting with the times, we enable a new form of donor to partner in our work and further provide the much-needed resources to ensure the continued holistic development of the Woodlawn community.” Cryptocurrency donations can now be made to Woodlawn Foundation via The Giving Block at

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(WE) Lead Fellowship Program

Since Woodlawn Foundation’s founding in 2010, Woodlawn Foundation’s 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 Fellowship Program 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. Participants are required to attend in-person with social distancing and mask required (see COVID disclaimer and waiver) at least 80% or 12 of the 14 sessions to complete the fellowship and receive the program financial stipend successfully. Applications are due Tuesday, October 5, 2021, at 5:00 pm. An independent committee of reviewers will review applications. The 2021-2022 fellowship program year is scheduled as follows: 1. Tuesday, October 19, 2021 2. Tuesday, November 2, 2021 3. Tuesday, November 16, 2021 4. Tuesday, December 7, 2021 5. Tuesday, January 4, 2022 6. Tuesday, January 18, 2022 7. Tuesday, February 1, 2022 8. Tuesday, February 15, 2022 9. Tuesday, March 1, 2022 10. Tuesday, March 15, 2022 11. Tuesday, March 29, 2022 12. Tuesday, April 12, 2022 13. Tuesday, April 26, 2022 14. Tuesday, May 10, 2022 Each session will take place from 6 pm – 8 pm. Contact Information: Please submit your application and resume to Jason Meadows, Director of Community Engagement, via email at, mail to 5529 1st Avenue South, Birmingham, AL, 35212, or to arrange a physical drop-off, please email or call (205) 500-6963 to speak with Jason by Tuesday, October 5, 2021, at 5:00 pm. Program fellows will be announced on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Application Link:

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Mashonda taylor named executive director

The Woodlawn Foundation Board of Directors proudly announces that Mashonda Taylor has accepted the position of Executive Director. The Foundation, founded in 2010 serves as the lead organization of Woodlawn United, a collaboration of partners

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