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Tuscaloosa’s Calvary Baptist adopts 25 families after tornado destroyed their homescomment (0)

May 19, 2011

By Gary Hardin

When the devastating April 27 tornado destroyed the homes of thousands of Tuscaloosa families, Calvary Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, took a bold ministry step and adopted 25 families.

“We made a commitment to provide everything these 25 families would need to start over — from dish towels to appliances to furniture to shower curtains,” said Tim Plant, minister of education and administration. In most cases, the Tuscaloosa Baptist Association church is also paying utility and rent deposits.

This ministry decision grew out of the Hope Initiative, started by Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox in 2009. Maddox, working with the Tuscaloosa Police Department, identified seven “zones” in the city where crime was the highest. A key strategy for reducing crime involved churches and other faith-based communities building relationships with people in these zones and ministering to them.

Calvary Baptist took Zone 2, which included Rosedale Courts, a government-housing complex known for receiving the highest number of crime calls, averaging about 11 percent of all calls.

So when the dust settled April 27 and Rosedale ended up being one of Tuscaloosa’s hardest hit areas — only 44 of the 188 housing units were left standing — church leaders started seeking ways to help. Willie Forte, director of the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority, identified 25 families consisting of handicapped people, senior adults and single parents for Calvary.

A team from the church goes to each family to evaluate needs and form permanent relationships. A team of movers then brings all the needed items and helps set them up in the housing unit. The church estimates spending about $5,000 per unit to help the families start over.

Church member Billy Hatmaker has organized all the moving efforts.

“Since moving back to Tuscaloosa after my retirement, I knew I needed to do something for Rosedale. This is it,” said Hatmaker, who grew up in Rosedale Courts. His wife, Barbara, also grew up there. “We’re getting a lot of folks together — church members and University of Alabama students — to live and to tell the story of God to the people of Rosedale Courts.”

But how was Calvary able to take on this project with no guarantee of donations?

Pastor Tim Lovett explained.

“Calvary celebrated 100 years of ministry in January 2011. As part of our celebration, we eliminated all debt to position ourselves financially to help people with no strings attached,” he said. “We had no idea back then that we would be in the position to adopt 25 families but God did.”

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