Exciting Updates for ASP

It’s hard to believe that our mission arm Avondale Samaritan Place (ASP) has been in existence for ten years!  What began as a hopeful possibility and partnership between Avondale United Methodist Church and Canterbury United Methodist Church to create “a Christian hub for community service” has become this beautiful, thriving place where relationships are built, friendships are formed, resources are shared, and lives are transformed.  It’s truly been a privilege these past few years to have a front-row seat to see the amazing work God is doing through ASP.

Because it’s ASP’s 10-year anniversary, our ASP Board began this summer to consider working through a strategic planning process to dream about what God is calling ASP to become over the next ten years and to set goals to accomplish that work.  The Board has begun working with a professional strategic planning group with a goal of having our plan in place by January 2024.  We are excited about this process and look forward to what it yields.

At the same time, we have had some key staff members decide that they need to transition out of their roles.  Our Director of ASP, Mike Higginbotham, resigned effective September 22.  He began working with ASP in the summer of 2019 and helped ASP weather the many pivots and challenges of the pandemic.  His administrative skills and attention to detail helped keep everyone organized, and his compassion for our homeless neighbors was unmatched.

In addition, our Director of Programming, Leigh Ann Sisson, will retire effective December 31.  Leigh Ann has been with ASP since its formation in 2013 … first as a volunteer, then as a board member, and currently as Director of Programming.  She helped move our feeding ministry from a brown bag program to our current food cooperative model which provides more food for families as well as more resources and opportunities for empowerment for those whom we serve.  In addition, she was instrumental in creating, developing, and implementing our summer enrichment program Use Your Noodle that began this past summer.  These are just a couple of the many ministries Leigh Ann has played a major role in shaping.  ASP lives deep within Leigh Ann’s heart.  Although she will no longer be an official member of staff, she will remain with ASP as a board member.

These staffing changes led the ASP Board to step back to consider our current staffing needs.  We’ve long dreamed of the day that our ministry had grown to the point of needing a full-time Executive Director.  We realized recently that day had come.

I’m pleased to let you know that we’ve hired Dr. Michael Wilson as our first Executive Director of ASP.  Michael brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this position as well as a big heart and deep passion for serving people.  He served in many positions within the Birmingham City School System for many years, finishing as the principal of Glen Iris Elementary School.  He went on to work tirelessly to open The Magic City Acceptance Academy and create a safe space for LGBTQIA+ students and allies to go to school.  Michael’s ability to work with community partners, write grants and fundraise, and relate to people from different races and socioeconomic classes will be an asset to the mission and ministry that is ASP.  His first day will be Monday, October 16.  I can’t wait to see how God uses Michael and ASP to touch lives in meaningful ways.

Please join me in praying for ASP, its ministries, and the people it serves.  May God continue to guide us as we seek to truly be a place of welcome, safety, empowerment, and especially “a Christian hub for community service.”


Rev. Malinda Weaver

P.S. To read more about Michael, click here for his staff bio.

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