Special Social

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Like everyone else, special-needs young people and adults love to go out, meet new people and enjoy life. A United Methodist church in Birmingham has made socializing easier with the “Good Neighbor” program – a fun-filled fellowship that nurtures a sense of community and self-esteem.

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What would make a 73-year-old get down on the floor and play? Love.

John Hargett / Volunteer: “I love to see the smiles on their faces and see the joy that they experience when they come here.”

For more than a decade, Saint Mark United Methodist has opened its doors to a special group.

Margaret Alexander / Group Leader: “We’re all handicapped in one form or another; theirs is a little more visible.”

Church socials give Birmingham’s mentally challenged a place to let loose, and their caregivers a welcome break.

Martha Robinson / Parent: “Yes, it lifts my spirits to be able to know that Katherine is in good hands here. So it makes it easy for me to get out for a couple of hours.”

Katherine Robinson / Group Member: “I love my good friends a lot.”

The night is packed with activities. Participants have varying abilities and lifestyles, but their greatest common need is acceptance.

Martha Robinson: “I think she feels every time she comes here that she is valuable.”

The group sometimes ventures out to ball games and other special events. Church volunteers say it’s worth the effort.


Margaret Alexander: “I can have a hard day at the office, but once I get here they just rejuvenate something in me.”


It can be hard to make friends when you’re different. This place helps.

Debbie Morris / Volunteer: “Who doesn’t like someone to notice them and hug them and appreciate them?”

John Hargett: “And we hope we implant in them a little of God’s spirit.”


Since its founding in 1989, the program has expanded to include arts and crafts, bowling and out of town mission trips.