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Liberty Park member helps restore ranch residentsí home, jobscomment (0)

August 11, 2011

By Sammie Jo Barstow

After 45 years in the construction business and numerous personal building projects, Bill Perry, who lives in Huffman, had a huge collection of tools.

But health problems requiring dialysis five days a week made it impossible for Perry to use the saws, wrenches, hammers and various other tools that were sitting idle in his workshop.

So he began to think about what to do with all those tools. He hoped they could be used in a significant way to help someone. The tornadoes that ripped through Alabama on April 27 provided the unexpected answer. Before the storms, Perry was not familiar with Alpha Ranch, a not-for-profit, interdenominational ministry that provides residential independent living for 20 young men who “are having a difficult transition into adulthood,” according to Gary Liverett, founder and director of the facility near Ashville. But in a matter of days, Perry would have the chance to make a lasting contribution to the ranch’s residents.

The morning of April 27, Liverett was facing multiple crises. As the early morning storm clouds gathered near the ranch, he experienced crushing chest pains. His wife and daughter rushed him to the nearest hospital, about 30 minutes away.

Liverett learned he had suffered a heart attack and needed several stints. The weather was not his primary concern at the moment, but he was aware that tornadoes were occurring throughout the area. Cell phone service was down, and it was a few hours after the storm passed that his wife found out that the young men at the ranch, as well as several family members and neighbors, had taken shelter in their daughter’s basement.

That was good news because the ranch was destroyed. The Liveretts’ home, the young men’s living space, the barn and the workshop were all gone.

“That was the darkest day of my life and then the brightest,” Liverett said of being told about the destruction and then realizing his family and the young men in his care were safe.

Although a few small tools from the 6,000-square-foot workshop were found, the majority of the tools were missing. This loss of equipment was serious because much of the ranch’s funding comes from construction work done by residents under Liverett’s supervision.

When Perry learned that his church, Liberty Park Baptist, Vestavia Hills, in Birmingham Baptist Association, had committed to help restore the ranch, he knew this was a God-given opportunity.

Perry notified Church Administrator David Lucas that he wanted to donate his tools. He, Lucas and church member Ralph Stephens loaded Lucas’ pickup truck and had to make a second trip to take all the tools to the ranch.

“Without Mr. Perry’s donation of tools and what was given to our ranch by others in Liberty Park Baptist and in the community, I honestly don’t know if I would have had the courage to start rebuilding,” Liverett said. “Seeing 23 years of hard work wiped away in about 30 seconds was almost more than I could bear.”

But Perry doesn’t want to be singled out.

“I had a purpose in giving away those tools,” he said. “I felt that the ranch and those people working out there had given so much of themselves, and I knew it was up to me to help them. They suffered a devastating blow, and we needed to do what we could for them. God gets the glory for anything we were able to do.”

The ranch is in the rebuilding stage. And not only will Perry’s tools be used after the workshop is completed but they also are being used in the actual reconstruction of the workshop and other buildings.

Scott Guffin, senior pastor of Liberty Park, and Liverett both were impressed with Perry’s spirit in giving away his lifetime collection of tools.

“Mr. Perry is a World War II veteran and a man who spent his entire life and career working with his hands,” Guffin said. “He’s one of those men who can make or fix anything. He can rest assured that his tools are going for an important cause rather than just being doled out in a yard sale.”

Liverett said he was overwhelmed by Perry’s generosity.

“The spirit with which he gave us the tools was just profound. He was so excited that they were going to be used in the shop with these guys. I just remember him saying that he knew so many boys need a hands-on experience and may not have the opportunity so he was glad to give our boys the chance to have that.”

How did Perry feel about driving away from the ranch and leaving his tools there? “Well, good,” he said. “I felt really good about it. It made me feel like I was able to help somebody. You know, that’s what our Lord said for us to do. We’re to serve Him by serving others.”

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