Lamar Benefield says when he was growing up he didn’t see a lot of doctors, lawyers or judges around.
“We saw a lot of illegal entrepreneurs, and a lot of people gravitated to that lifestyle because they had bills to pay — that was the resource,” he explained.
That was his reality in the Fountain Heights neighborhood of Birmingham, where a significant portion of the population lives below the poverty line.
But Benefield, 26, is trying to change that. This summer he organized a job fair for the community, hosting 25 employers, including Amazon and UAB Medicine, and offered a variety of job types.
More than 200 people from the community attended, and Geno Reasor, who works with Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, was amazed when he stumbled upon it by accident, according to The Birmingham Times.
“We go inside, and it’s a full-blown job fair,” said Reasor, who was in Fountain Heights that day on business. “It was awesome … we were very interested in the companies that were there because most of them were Birmingham-based companies.”
Benefield said what he’s trying to do in the Fountain Heights area is “give them hope.”
‘Changes the narrative’
“When you bring a job fair to the neighborhood, it kind of changes the narrative,” he said. “Now they have another alternative.”
He’s following that up with a college fair Oct. 20.
“The parents (in the area) don’t know what to do with the kids after high school, because they didn’t know what to do after high school. It’s like the blind leading the blind,” Benefield said. “This would be an opportunity for the young ones to come out and talk with their dream college and ask questions they’re curious about.”
Benefield graduated from Huffman High School, then earned a degree in mass communication from Miles College in Fairfield. That education equipped him to turn around and help the community where he grew up.
His road getting there wasn’t easy — in addition to not having a lot of career role models, he also had two brain surgeries as a young teen. But he was determined, and “ran into a lot of opportunities and met a lot of people.”
“I was always about challenging myself,” said Benefield, who attends Faith Missionary Church in Roebuck.