At first it seems the two ministries wouldn’t fit together under one umbrella, but Steve Albritton believes both making needed home repairs and providing engaging activities for children have a place in Alabama Rural Ministries.
Now the former Demopolis resident, who makes his home in Auburn, is beginning a new chapter in his life, continuing work for which he has a passion, he has the skills and to which he was led by the Lord.
Albritton joined ARM in January after running a successful construction company for 20 years. “My sons think I’m crazy,” he laughed, but he considers his decision a “great teaching tool” for Jake and Josh.
He made the decision to apply to ARM after reading the want ad for the position. It could have been written especially for him, he said. Everything the ad called for, such as construction and mission experience, he had.
With the support of his wife of 26 years, the former Amy Baxley of Demopolis, Albritton left his business and began coordinating volunteers, checking out potential sites for repair and lining up support for ARM’s construction ministry.
Started 15 years ago by its director Lisa Pierce, ARM strives to get youth and adults to serve others in a meaningful way. The ministry works in two areas in the state. It hosts year-round programs for young people and on-going construction projects in Tuskegee and the surrounding area. In Sumter County is conducts Sonrise Day Camps for children and does repairs on homes during the summer break.
ARM has its headquarters in Auburn-Opelika. Pierce earned her undergraduate degree from Auburn. She received her master’s degree at the University of West Alabama, and it was while she was a student there that Pierce began ARM.
The summer programs allow groups from around the country to serve with families that need home repairs and provide activities for children.
Albritton said ARM has eight college summer interns working in Sumter County this year, four with each phase of the ministry, who serve under a site leader. They are matched with their fields of study, but Albritton said it is important that each “have a ministry heart.”
It is that same “ministry heart” that drew Albritton into mission work. When his father, Walter Albritton, was pastor of the Demopolis First United Methodist Church, he took part in his first mission trip to Haiti in1980.
“It was a train wreck,” he said. “It was the worst series of events for a first mission trip.”
In spite of the horrid trip Albritton continued going on such mission trips, eventually leading them in countries around the world.
When his father asked him why he continued to go in spite of his initial experience, Albritton told him, “I guess I thought I could do it better.”
The question everyone asks him is how ARM chooses the families to help. Albritton said the ministry gets calls all the time from churches, social workers and individuals who tell them of the needs of Sumter and Macon county residents.
“There is no shortage” of need, he said. “We will never run out.”
It comes down to using the “safe, warm dry” approach to determining the individuals that will be helped and how the ministry team will handle the repairs, he continued. Most of the recipients are elderly, sick and poor. “There is nothing they will be able to do to get out of their situation.”
He must rely for the most part on volunteers, who skills sometimes are limited, and on the funds he has to use.
Most of the ministry’s money comes from small donors who give annually. ARM also applies for grants, and local churches sometimes support its work. The mission teams that come to help contribute funds to help pay for the building supplies.
“The challenge is figuring out how to do something with limited resources,” he said.
Albritton said it can be difficult to find local volunteers and churches to support ARM in west Alabama because the ministry only serves the area for two months out of the year. He hopes to grow the ministry by starting Super Saturday mission projects as well as working out partnerships with other groups who work in the field. He firmly believes that local relationships help build the program.