The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

The Student News Site of University of North Alabama

The Flor-Ala

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Kimberly Jackson named Shoals Woman of the Year

Courtesy of the TimesDaily

On Aug. 29, Dr. Kimberly Jackson was officially named the TimesDaily 2023 Shoals Woman of the Year. 

The award has been given annually since 2005, and it aims to recognize women who help those in the community. Other finalists were Shantrice Byrd, Margaret Forsythe, Jacqueline Parsons and Amy Daugherty Thompson.

Jackson, a Florence native, earned her degrees from Samford University before moving back home to begin her career in administration and human relations. After having her twin boys and going back to school to finish her doctorate, she began to notice the unhoused population in the Shoals. 

“I was working at the library, working on my paperwork and dissertation, and I started seeing people come into the library,” said Jackson. “I was kind of oblivious to the homeless population in this area. I knew of one or two people who were homeless, but I had no idea that there were that many homeless people here. I kept working, but then I felt a calling from God to do more in that area, and so I ended up, back in 2015, leaving my corporate job and starting Crossroads full time.”

Jackson founded Crossroads Community Outreach, a nonprofit organization that focuses on helping those in need in the community, out of her own home. Since then, it has grown to include many who share the same calling to aid others. 

“It started off just working out of my home and my car, packing food bags and preparing things at home, and just hitting the streets,” Jackson said. “That turned into a full-fledged street outreach program. I didn’t realize how many people were out there. I started connecting with different churches and restaurants to gather food and supplies. The response was just overwhelming, the number of people that were willing to help and assist.” 

Those who work for Crossroads participate on a volunteer basis, meaning all of the food, supplies and transportation the nonprofit provides come from outside sources through donations. Any resources or monetary donations that come into the organization go entirely toward those in need. 

Through Crossroads, Jackson provides necessities like food, water, clothing and hygiene products. However, her first priority is to connect with the people she serves and to establish a foundation of trust and honesty. 

“We realize that the food and the other supplies we provide are secondary to the nurturing,” Jackson said. “That nurturing, and that building of security and hope in that person is what inspires somebody to come off the street and not continue in that cycle of being on the street. That’s what we’re here for.”

Jackson goes with the people she serves to appointments, job interviews and any type of case management. In doing this, she often operates as the main point of contact between the people she aids and their families.

Crossroads also used to have a small building in North Florence that Jackson used as a food pantry, but during wintertime, she began getting calls from people who were cold and had nowhere to go. She started picking up one or two people and bringing them back so they could warm up inside. 

“Then I started noticing that, when I’d show up in the morning time, I’d have a trail of folks at the door waiting for me to come in,” Jackson said. “They’d say, ‘Oh, I just have to use the bathroom,’ or ‘I just need to get a bottle of water.’ My heart is just not wired to say, ‘You know, it’s freezing temperatures outside. Grab a bottle of water and just leave.’ I had office furniture, so I told my board that because I had so many people coming in, I really had to try to do something different. We contacted Shoals Habitat for Humanity and went down to their thrift store, and over that weekend we literally changed out everything we had, and we converted it over to more lounge chairs and sofas. That’s how our Day Space was born, over that one winter. We swapped it out because the need presented itself.”

This need ended up filling the small Day Space, which only had a bathroom and no shower, with up to 60 people at a time. Crossroads moved furniture and made it work for the number of people who needed a shelter from the cold. 

“To the people I serve, it doesn’t matter,” Jackson said. “It’s kind of like a family. If you’re camping out with your cousins at your house, if there’s ten of y’all on the floor and you’re playing games, you don’t think about it being ten people in this space. You’re just thinking about the connection and getting that warmth. That’s kind of how it was at the time. It was really quaint, and the goal was just to stay warm and that nobody died. The fact that we had people under the tables, over by the desk, wherever, it didn’t matter. We just didn’t want people to be out on the street.”

The American Legion then contacted Jackson and told her that they had a larger space downtown that they could use, so Crossroads moved there. The new space allowed the organization to expand their services, including giving people access to showers, as well as having more space for storage and food preparation. 

In August, Crossroads made the decision to move out of that building because of the increased levels of controversy in the downtown area around the topic of helping the unhoused population. 

“Right now, we’re in an urgent need to try to find space before we go into the winter months,” Jackson said. “In the summer months, our folks can get in somewhere to cool off, but the winter months can get kind of hairy. That is our big thing right now. Even if it’s just a cooling or warming center, [we’re looking for] somewhere we can have a space, because right now we’re back to just 100% street outreach.”

Through all of the time spent helping others, Jackson finds that her primary motivation comes from seeing the end results of her efforts, often through hearing back from people who have gotten jobs or who have made it through rehabilitation. 

When she got the nomination for Shoals Woman of the Year, Jackson was shocked and honored. She and her family attended the event with no expectation to win.

“We were just there, enjoying the moment and watching the videos, and so when they called my name, I didn’t even hear it,” Jackson said. “They were calling my name, and my cousin said, ‘I think they called your name.’ I was just in shock. It has been one of the most humbling experiences I’ve ever had, because I did not see it coming. This is something you just don’t do for any kind of rewards. I’m so honored and humbled by this, I can’t even put it into words.”

More than recognition for her own efforts, Jackson hopes that being named Shoals Woman of the Year can shine a light on the people she serves and bring awareness to the need in the community.

“This is huge,” Jackson said. “It gives a voice to the people that I serve. It’s an acknowledgement that those people are there, and that these services exist.”

Moving forward, Jackson looks to find a new building to use as the Crossroads Day Space. She also hopes to expand the organization’s case management for those they serve. 

Jackson encourages anyone interested in volunteering or donating to reach out to Crossroads Community Outreach at 256-284-2218.

View Comments (1)
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Kelley Peters
Kelley Peters, Managing Editor
Kelley is a junior from Tupelo, Miss. who is majoring in English literature with a minor in applied linguistics. She is currently Managing Editor for The Flor-Ala. She has loved reading for as long as she can remember, which developed her love of storytelling and the English language. Her career goal is to become an English professor at a university. She was previously a volunteer writer in the Fall of 2021, became a Staff Writer in January of 2022 and moved to being News Editor in January of 2023.

Comments (1)

All The Flor-Ala Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • E

    EddieOct 28, 2023 at 2:20 pm

    Wow, she’s so special! She could be a literal brain surgeon!