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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Birmingham Baptists provide housing for UAB patientscomment (0)

November 7, 2002

By Susan Chaffin Goggins


What if a doctor told you a heart transplant was necessary to save your life? And what if the nearest hospital were hundreds of miles away from your home? Where would you live while you waited for that matching donor? If you are a patient at University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital, the Caring Hands medical apartments ministry may help meet your needs.
   
Directed by Donna Creech of Birmingham Baptist Association, Caring Hands  provides a furnished, short-term home for patients and their families as they face surgery and critical illnesses.
   
The Caring Hands Ministry occupies the entire seventh floor of the  UAB Townhouse near the hospital. A framed poster in Creech’s office explains how she manages to keep all of the apartments in excellent living condition:  “Volunteers give the greatest gift of all.” The apartments are furnished, maintained and cleaned by volunteers from churches in Birmingham Association.
   
Volunteers from the Seasons Women’s Ministry of NorthPark Baptist Church in Roebuck began helping clean the apartments after Creech shared with them about the ministry of Caring Hands. Members of Foundations Men’s Ministry of NorthPark joined Seasons in raising funds to redecorate the hospitality room of the Caring Hands facility, an area for patients and families to gather for games and fellowship. A churchwide barbecue and individual donations at NorthPark helped fund a complete renovation including new paint, furniture and curtains.
Southside Baptist Church in Birmingham works so closely with the apartment ministry that Caring Hands is included in the church budget. Lois Driver shares, “Donna knows she can call us if there is a need. For example, the microwave oven in the hospitality room recently went out, and we were happy to replace it.”
   
Some churches, such as Deerfoot Baptist Church in Trussville, have chosen to sponsor an apartment. Sponsoring an apartment may include decorating and furnishing it and cleaning it periodically as well as personally ministering to the patient who occupies it.
   
The apartments have many needs as Deerfoot’s Diann Peoples explains, “Our daytime Women on Mission group spent a month collecting paper goods to stock the apartment. Meanwhile, our night group recently purchased new furniture and regularly brings meals to the family.”
   
Caring Hands Medical Apartments is a ministry the entire church can embrace. At Caring Hands Oct. 6 open house, members of first- through sixth-grade Girls in Action from NorthPark filled the halls. The smiling girls visited the residents and brought snacks and supplies.
   
Becca Bryant and Jenna Kritner, sixth-grade GAs from Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Center Point, are excited to take part in the ministry: “We love to come down here.”
   
Lakeside Baptist Church of Hoover brought 25 GAs to the open house.
   
The presence of volunteers means much more to Caring Hands residents than just paper supplies, meals, and new furniture. According to resident Charlene Baker, the volunteers make the apartments “more like home and provide a wonderful atmosphere.” She adds, “When I first came here, I wasn’t sure about being away from my family, but having someone who cares about you means everything.”
   
Baker has lived at Caring Hands since August 2001 awaiting a lung transplant. The Sara Finley Sunday School Class of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood sponsors her apartment, and the Dawson women maintain a close relationship with her.
   
Baker’s 14-month stay is longer than usual for the average resident, according to Creech. Waiting for organ transplants and recovering from surgery is the most common reason for a stay in the apartments. However, Caring Hands has also met the needs of patients with cancer, parents of premature babies and others.
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