Finding Grace in Times of Trouble


 
Red Mountain Grace cofounders, Jason Carroll, left, and John Burdett.
Red Mountain Grace staff, from left, Ashley Weaver, Patient Coordinator; Debbie Tidwell, Patient Coordinator; and Lizzi Wilkerson, Executive Director.

Everyone needs grace during difficult times. With that in mind, Jason Carroll and John Burdett founded Red Mountain Grace, a non-profit dedicated to providing housing for families whose loved ones are hospitalized in the Birmingham area.

In 2013, after learning that an average of 30 to 40 families remained on housing waiting lists every night in Birmingham, the two drafted a business model that would provide lodging in an efficient and scalable manner. Carroll and Burdett used their own funds to get the project off the ground, and Red Mountain Grace has become one of Birmingham's fastest growing non-profit organizations.

"Many people come to Birmingham for chemotherapy, transplants, severe accidents and other medical problems because we have excellent medical facilities. Think of how your world could turn upside down if you can't plan for such an emergency whether it is financial, emotional, or having to take time off from your job," says Lizzi Wilkerson, Executive Director of Red Mountain Grace. "Recognizing that there is a need and being able to minister to these families in their darkest hours is important to our organization. Medical diagnoses can be overwhelming for families, and the added stresses and expenses can make it worse."

Wilkerson says their number one mission is to lead people to Christ, but they also want to meet a need which is to make sure no one sleeps in a waiting room or car at night. "We want to make sure they have a roof over their head, a bed to sleep in, somewhere to cook a meal, and a place of respite during a difficult time," she says.

Red Mountain Grace is thankful for their apartment partners: 150 Summit Apartment Homes - IRRES; The Oakley Group; Southside Apartment Company; Highland Historic Properties; LIV Development; KORE, LLC; JH Berry & Gilbert, Inc.; and Bridgewater, LLC. With the help of local apartment owners and property management companies, Red Mountain Grace maintains and continues to expand a portfolio of clean, quiet, comfortable apartments within a few miles of world-class hospitals.

"It gives families a place to settle and unwind. We believe home is more than a place to eat, shower, and sleep, and we welcome each of our guests with warmth and an individual connection," Wilkerson says. "We want people to come to Birmingham to receive the best care they can, and this is a means to make that happen."

Red Mountain Grace partners with apartment complexes that offer a discounted rate to help keep overhead down. Donors, called "apartment adopters," provide monthly gifts to help cover rent. "We ask for a nightly fee of $10 per family, which equals about $300 a month. Local hotel costs average about $200 per night which can add up quickly" Wilkerson says. "We started this ministry six years ago with two apartments and we currently operate 22 fully-furnished homes that have welcomed more than 350 families since we opened our doors. We added our third staff member in 2018 and are in the process of hiring a Marketing Coordinator within the next few months."

Red Mountain Grace has a newly formed Advisory Board made up of local business people. "Some of those members are apartment owners or work in the apartment industry. They have been instrumental in helping us connect with new owners to develop relationships," Wilkerson says. "In addition, we are fortunate that one of our original board members is an apartment owner, and has opened doors for us. We have been blessed with wonderful supporters.

"We have been able to house these families, and also share the love of Christ with them and become a member of their extended family. Our patient coordinators visit guests weekly, and we have volunteers who clean our apartments between stays. Our donors are instrumental in everything we do, and we realize that we can't do anything without our volunteers. We believe that God reveals himself in the difficult seasons of life, and it is our honor to provide gracious housing to patients and families."

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