In Alabama, the transition to recovery is challenging, full of hope

Posted on August 15, 2011 by Michael Corley, consultant with The Patterson Foundation

By Pam Truitt, The Patterson Foundation

Feeling their pain. Watching their body language. The smell of new construction. Sensing their hope. Seeing their eyes light up at the mention of their new home.

These emotions ran through me as I  toured rural areas in Northeast Alabama to see how the First Baptist Church Williams had leveraged dollars to help those with little or no resources begin to rebuild their lives and communities. In May, The Patterson Foundation (TPF) contributed $50,000 to help rebuild efforts.

Many of our readers know that TPF has been active in Northeast Alabama, following the April tornadoes. TPF has contributed $50,000 for rebuild efforts and last week announced an additional $100,000 matching challenge with the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama.

On August 11 and 12, I traveled to Alabama with three objectives:  announce, listen and learn.

And boy did we listen and learn. Northeast Alabama residents Jennifer and Ricky personify the stories we heard during our visit.

Jennifer and three children survived the first tornado by running away from their mobile home, finding a shallow ditch and hanging onto each other. They survived the second one (minutes later) by taking refuge in a nearby storm shelter filled with 2 feet of murky water.

I am glossing over the chilling details, but their story was very emotional.

Their mobile home was completely destroyed and for the past four months, the family of five has been living in two travel trailers. But, in a short few weeks, the family, including two dogs, will move into a furnished 1,100 square-foot, three-bedroom home. The couple has advanced the move-in schedule by working nights after the crews leave. As we toured other homes that weren’t as far along as Jennifer and Ricky’s, we saw that First Baptist Church of Williams volunteers added poignant sayings to interior studs, asking for blessings to protect the family and home. We sure hope so.

This was my second trip in four months to Northeast Alabama. Folks there have asked me the same question: Why does a foundation in Florida want to help us? I’ve gotten better at articulating the answer, so here goes...

Part of The Patterson Foundation's work is to relieve the impact of crisis in people's lives whether from  natural or manmade disasters. As we look to engage in positive impact following such disasters, we consider and weigh the opportunity to leverage generosity and inspire philanthropy through strategic partnerships.

In May, when TPF was exploring how it could help an area in Alabama - a great partnering opportunity with The JOY FM in Sarasota presented itself. A partnership that would help us leverage dollars to rebuild homes. Later, as TPF explored a deeper commitment, we began conversations with the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama, an organization we knew had the relationships on the ground to leverage a larger match.

In other words, we choose opportunities that align with our our core tenets, including to leveraging resources, connecting and inspiring philanthropy.

·       In May, TPF chose to leverage The JOY FM’s gift card campaign for Northeast Alabama, an opportunity that would leverage an ongoing effort while inspiring philanthropy from generous people in Florida.

·       First Baptist Church of Williams has continued to leverage TPF’s funds through reduced or donated building materials.

·       First Baptist Church of Williams has reached far and wide, inspiring philanthropy from individuals, other churches and ministry groups throughout the US.

·       First Baptist Church of Williams screens people selected for homes and provides counseling and mentoring (if necessary) on homeowner responsibilities.  Additionally, they are required to carry homeowner insurance for two years or homes revert back to the church. TPF calls this building financial sustainability.

Wallace Almaroad,  First Baptist Church of Williams's volunteer workhorse and construction go-to guy nailed last week's home tour when he said, ”We had no idea this was going to open so many doors to help fill a tremendous need.”


  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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