“The Bridge”: Building Community By Building People

6-20-2013 6-24-12 PMJackie Warner has a vision for all Athenians, and her passion is contagious. She wants to see every citizen in this city have the opportunity to grow in personal quality, whether that means developing a bright future in a given career, learning how to be a good parent, manage one’s money, learning to read, having a community garden, or designing and then executing a business plan. Her intended outcome is to help build all of Athens into one of the most wonderful places to live in Alabama, and her goal doesn’t stop there. To that end, Jackie as a co-founder helped to open The Bridge on S Hine Street, because to her, “community matters.” The Bridge is one place where the she hopes much of this vision comes to pass impacting, engaging, and growing all citizens in our country.

Jackie was born and raised in the South, graduated from West Limestone High School, and earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts (with a minor in business) from the University of North Alabama. She is married to Tommie, and they have two lovely daughters. On the morning of our interview, her oldest daughter was volunteering at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club in their computer room, while her youngest sat in with us. I realized I had seen her youngest daughter participating in a presentation of the wildly successful Leader In Me program that is being used by the Athens Public Schools. The Leader In Me is based on Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. I think it’s safe to say that these girls are not going to be spending their summer being bored.

Jackie says that she “sees The Bridge as an opportunity to help others “Bridge” the gaps that hinder them from success. She had originally planned on getting her degree in accounting, but changed her major because she “loves talking to people,” and felt she could better serve her community by helping to building it, one person, office, or business at a time through community outreach. Another way of putting it is that she loves “building and assisting people who desire to be built.”

One can and should dream, but working with someone who has actually sacrificed greatly in terms of time, sweat equity and finances in order to make a dream come true is pure joy. It is even more so when the work is dedicated to God and the community. Jackie and her husband purchased the building on S. Hine that formerly housed a state office and then a business, and transformed it into a warm, inviting multi-purpose center and outreach facility that is available for classes, events, small receptions, board meetings, and small business resource space. Just recently, The Bridge was awarded charter membership to have the first Community 4-H STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) CLUB in the city of Athens, AL. Youth ages 8 -18 are encouraged to join. Meetings are held at The Bridge twice monthly.

In addition to working in various outreach roles in the community, Jackie and her husband are also very involved in the work of the Lord at their church. Jackie was also instrumental in the forming of the Mayor’s Youth Commission, which is an ongoing project run by Jackie and Holly Hollman of Athens City Hall. Together they and Mayor Marks spent the last year meeting with students from local high schools and teaching them about the Constitution, city government, business, how the State of Alabama gets a law passed, and developing personal skills that will follow them the rest of their lives.

I asked Jackie why I should come to The Bridge for help with my business, or coaching for my life, for that matter. Her reply impressed me. She simply said, “At The Bridge we are sincere and intentional.” She then added, “If we grow one, then we start to grow the “whole” our community” which to me is a profound statement, and made me want to have her as a mentor.

She is also aware that while The Bridge is a remarkable blessing from God for this community, nothing will happen there if you don’t “care, and be a resource in the community” yourself. She has a keen sense of where community infrastructure is lacking, and what can be done so that “pockets of prosperity” grow throughout Athens and Limestone County.

Jackie’s desire is to continue lighting a fire so bright that it will cause people to see the value in sharing that light with others, to lead them, to keep them warm in their hearts and minds, and to build their futures. My desire as the publisher of Athens Now is to help her do just that.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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