Story by: Irene Richardson

When things get dark, Birmingham knows how to turn on a light. Whether it’s the present COVID-19 situation or daily life, our community members step up to the challenge. Take a look at how the team behind The Community of Lights, a five-year fundraiser, is supporting One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center and how you can donate, too.

The team at One Place provides services to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. This might include legal assistance, counseling, housing placement and so much more. Unfortunately, domestic abuse is a prevalent problem—making the work One Place does incredibly necessary and important.

“I am inspired to raise funds and work to bring awareness toward domestic violence in our community. I have witnessed the devastation that results from domestic violence.

More importantly, I have seen families overcome the trauma and continue to live beautifully healthy lives. One Place is a wonderful safe haven that allows victims to transition to survivors through programs that provide counseling, housing and job placement.”

Tequila Smith, 2020 Torchbearer for The Community of Lights

In order to support their work, The Community of Lights, a fundraiser through the Junior League of Birmingham (JLB), selects 20 Torchbearers each year. The Torchbearers use personal connections to secure donations for One Place.

2020 Torchbearers—why they are drawn to help One Place

Andy Wallace and Tequila Smith became 2020 torchbearers in different ways, but ultimately with the same mindset. They wanted to uplift a pillar in our community and carry on the work previous torchbearers started.

The project connects our community together

Not only are the Torchbearers helping give back to a center that does so much for Birmingham, but they also get the opportunity to become closer as a community. Andy came to be a Torchbearer after Lindsey Tanner, Chair of the Community of Lights, asked him to join.

“I loved Lindsey Tanner’s vision of looking at Birmingham from an airplane. From the ground, we’re a patchwork of individual neighborhoods, set apart for all kinds of reasons. But from the air, especially at night, we’re a blanket of tiny lights, all connected and unified.”

Andy Wallace, 2020 Torchbearer for The Community of Lights

There are a lot of places to give your money and spend your time. However, like the other torchbearers, Andy and Tequila realize there is something special in the Community of Lights.

“As we continue to move through this change and look for ways to help each other, let us not forget those whose ‘safe space’ is not very safe at all. I hope that we all can take a moment to show gratitude for our blessings and share our blessings with others. Every good thing we have is meant to be shared.”

Tequila Smith, 2020 Torchbearer

Help the Torchbearers meet their goal.

A little more background on the Community of Lights

The JLB turns 100 in 2022, and unlike most gift situations on your birthday, they’re the ones giving a present. On the 100th anniversary of the JLB, they will gift One Place $1.25 million.

JLB selected 20 Torchbearers in 2017 from many different lanes in their community and charged them with raising $10,000. These folks then pass the torch to someone the following year and the tradition continues to where we are now.

“The creation of this campaign was particularly unique because the fundraiser couldn’t disrupt the current funding for the Junior League nor One Place, which meant the traditional way of fundraising was not an option.

As the Junior League of Birmingham turns 100, it was important to the leadership that we not only create a fundraiser to raise the money, but also take the opportunity to create a fundraiser visible to the entire community enabling us to tell our story of who we are today.”

Lindsey Tanner, Chair of the Community of Lights

Now in the 4th year of the campaign, Torchbearers and 2,300 individual donors have raised over $750,000. Each year they exceed the yearly goal of $200,000.

“As most Torchbearers, I was extremely busy with work and family, but after my friend and colleague Amoi Geter shared the details around the campaign, I knew that I could not decline.

Amoi shared how the campaign directly helps One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center. By the end of our discussion, I was honored that she considered me to ‘be the light’ for the campaign.”

Tequila Smith

Growing together and helping others—100 years of JLB

In just a single year, the JLB creates so much light in our community. In a few short years, they’ll turn 100—marking an entire century of bright successes that continue to change lives. Nonprofits like JLB, torchbearers like Tequila and Andy, and so many more are who truly put the magic in the Magic City.

“Even during the COVID-19 quarantine, our community continues to give to this cause because we know how critical it is to help each other in the midst of a crisis.

We understand that our support should only increase during times such as these.  The past few weeks have helped us remember that what we do for others is really the only thing that matters in life.”

Tequila Smith

The deadline to donate to One Place Metro Alabama Family Justice Center via a Torchbearer is Thursday, May 7th . Meet all of 2020’s torchbearers and learn more about the campaign on JLB’s website and Facebook.

Click here to read the original story.