Wild About Volunteering – September Volunteer of the Month
Mechelle Wilder is a founding and non-managing partner of ARC Realty, a company that employs more than 350 agents in seven offices statewide. She is also president of the Birmingham Association of Realtors MLS board, which represents more than 5,000 agents in 12 counties, and is currently enrolled at the Birmingham School of Law. She was selected as one of the “Women Who Shape the State” by Alabama Media Group in 2018; is a member of countless boards, organizations, and non-profit groups, and has served alongside her husband at Bethel Baptist Church in Collegeville for more than 31 years. Despite juggling an agenda that seemingly defies the need for sleep and that would make the most seasoned multitaskers sweat, Wilder has also been dedicated to the weekly Discovery Club gatherings at Hudson School since the location was added. She insists that it’s a program that everyone should consider becoming involved with, especially minorities in professional vocations.
“This is what I do,” she said. “This is who I am. I’m busy, but I fit it all in. I feel it’s my obligation to give back. When God puts you on this earth you need to be doing things to show people your light. Discovery Clubs is one of the ways we give back, but for the gospel.”
When a friend came to her and mentioned starting an after-school Bible group at Hudson in 2012, Wilder jumped at the opportunity. She knew the club could play an internal roll in bridging a connection between Bethel Baptist and the children in the inner city. Now, more than seven years later, the employees at ARC know that when Tuesday afternoon rolls around, she’s on her way to Discovery Club and the children in that program consistently find their way into the activities that Bethel offers.
“A lot of these same kids come to our church on Wednesday night and we feed them and teach them and love on them and relationships are started,” she said. “We had kids come to our camp and so for us, it was an outreach to that community and we had the opportunity to teach Bible [in school].”
Wilder exudes an energetic charisma and she uses her immense talent as a life-long organist and musical director to inspire the children.
“They let me do the music for all the groups there,” she said with an infectious smile. “I love acting like a kid and I love getting the kids excited about Jesus. And so…why not?!”
Not only is she a prime example of how an extraordinarily successful and busy individual can work volunteering into the schedule, but she’s actually challenging other professionals to do the same. On a deeper level, Wilder is convinced that programs like Discovery Clubs also provide minority leaders, especially women of color, unparalleled influence among inner-city children.
“There are doctors, lawyers, and business people who sit on their gifts,” Wilder stressed. “I say use your gift. It’s just an hour once a week. Especially if you’re from the inner city, you really need to give back and pay it forward. Show them that if you can do it, they can do it. There are little girls looking and saying ‘I want to do that [career], but I need to see someone who looks like me doing it so I know that it’s possible.’ The kids need affirmation and the gospel is nothing but affirmations!”
Although Wilder has been profoundly influential throughout central Alabama, and the state as a whole, in a host of ways, Discovery Clubs holds a special place in her heart. There are not only volunteer opportunities currently available at 30 Birmingham-area campuses, but there are countless children eagerly awaiting mentors to begin programs at their schools.
“Invest in something for eternity,” she exclaimed. “You don’t know the difference you’re going to make in the lives of those children by just spending an hour a week encouraging them, loving them, and telling them they’re smart. This is a way to impact someone’s life, and if they believe what you’re saying, it can cause their life to take a whole different trajectory. If someone good doesn’t step up, who will?”