FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2006
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Teams of Birmingham-Southern students, faculty, and staff have begun delivering checks to the 10 rural Alabama churches damaged or destroyed by fire in early February from the more than $350,000 donated to the college's Alabama Churches Rebuilding and Restoration Fund.
Through the Alabama Churches Rebuilding and Restoration Fund, the college also is distributing funds collected for the churches in other campaigns, including more than $55,000 from a joint effort of The National Conference for Community and Justice, AmSouth Bank, and FOX 6/WBRC TV, and more than $33,000 from The Community Foundation of West Alabama.
Checks already have been distributed to Antioch Baptist Church in the Antioch community of Bibb County, Beaverton Freewill Baptist in Lamar County, Dancy First Baptist in Aliceville, Old Union Baptist in the Brierfield community of Bibb County, Pleasant Sabine Baptist near Centerville in Bibb County, and Spring Valley Baptist in the Gainesville community of Sumter County.
BSC teams will deliver checks on Sunday, July 23, to Ashby Baptist Church in the Brierfield community of Bibb County, Galilee Baptist in the Panola community of Sumter County, and Rehobeth Baptist in the Lawley community of Bibb County. A team visit is tentatively planned to Morningstar Missionary Baptist in the Boligee community of Greene County Aug. 6.
The money is being distributed equitably according to the individual needs of the churches.
The fund was announced March 8 when the college learned that two of its students had been arrested for conspiracy and arson of nine of the churches. The college also included a 10th church in the fund. Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church in Lamar County was destroyed by fire Feb. 11, but was not linked to the other fires.
At a March 8 press conference, Birmingham-Southern President Dr. David Pollick vowed that “the entire community of Birmingham-Southern College—students, faculty, and staff—pledges to aid in the rebuilding of these lost churches through our resources and our labor. Together we'll stand as a reminder of the strength of communities that transcend the differences of religion and place, as well as the effects of mindless cruelty.”
Since the establishment of the fund, unsolicited donations have been received from individuals, corporations, and foundations across Alabama and the nation.
“We've received support from all over the country and from many who do not have a connection to Alabama or Birmingham-Southern College,” Pollick said of the fund-raising total.
“I have been deeply touched by the show of respect for our students and the moral stance of our college.”
The fund was boosted by a $150,000 contribution from a Jackson Hole, Wyo., couple who wished to remain anonymous.
“In Galatians 6:2, God's word instructs us to ‘Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ,'” the couple wrote with their gift. “As Christians we feel compelled to be instruments of Christ's encouragement and comfort those in need. Many people suffer from poverty of hope, of inspiration, of comfort, and of faith to name a few. When we heard about the Alabama church burnings, we felt compelled to see how we could help to bear the burdens of others.”
Since the initial announcement of the college's offer to help rebuild and restore the churches, a Birmingham-Southern committee has been working to determine the specific needs of each church. Members of the committee visited with pastors or leaders of each of the 10 churches to determine what resources were needed.
The college then formed teams of faculty, staff, and students and assigned each team to a church.
“The teams are a link between the church and the resources that the college is distributing,” said BSC Dean of Chapel Stewart Jackson. “Members of the teams first worshipped with the congregations of the churches to build relationships. Each church had unique resources, each church had unique needs, and each church responded to this tragedy in their own way. Therefore we needed our teams to get to know them and help us make the best use of the gifts that have and are being given.”
In addition to the monetary support, Jackson said the college has dozens of offers of physical assistance, in-kind gifts of materials, and charity fund-raising events.