Local pastor to spend time in a shack to represent substandard housing some Alabamians live

Published 10:54 am Thursday, September 29, 2022

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VALLEY — While lots of people at Saturday’s Auburn-LSU football game will be tailgating before and after the game, the pastor of the Shawmut Methodist Church will be in Auburn, but he won’t be tailgating like most football fans. The Rev. Mark Grizzard will be spending time in a three-foot-wide by six-foot-long shack.

He talked about this at the Monday meeting of the Valley Lions Club. Grizzard is a member of the Alabama Rural Ministry (ARM), which sponsors the No. More. Shacks. Program. On Saturday, Grizzard and other ARM members will be living in a small shack in front of the Wesley Foundation building on Gay Street. The shack they will be taking turns in replicates the kind of substandard housing many poor people in rural Alabama live in. The ARM members will be spending time in the shack from Sept. 29 through Oct. 4.

“Whether rain, shine, heat or cold, we will be there day and night talking about how we can work together to stop poverty housing in rural Alabama,” Grizzard said.

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The ARM staff will be joined by community leaders, board members and other supporters giving their time by sitting with the ARM staff to help with the effort. Each shack dweller is invited to raise $2,000 while they sit with the ARM staff. The goal is $200,000 to get the ARM staff out of the shack.

The money raised will be used to get needy people into better housing.

The Alabama Rural Ministry has the vision to transform rural communities with sustainable housing, strong families and community partnerships for the glory of God. Its mission is to discover, develop and deploy spiritual leaders who, as disciples of Jesus Christ, minister with rural and under-resourced communities to create sustainable homes, strengthen families and build strategic community partnerships for the glory of God.

ARM began in Sumter County, Alabama in 1998 as a pilot project through the University of West Alabama Wesley Foundation and Auburn University. Founded by Lisa Pearce, the project was guided by two factors: (1) to minister to families on limited or fixed incomes in rural Alabama and (2) to create intentional missional and discipleship encounters with those involved.

ARM currently has 28 projects underway in 17 Alabama counties.

Grizzard got across what ARM does by talking about an 88-year-old widow that was recently helped. 

“She was the kind of person who didn’t ask for help,” he said. “We revived her home and gave her a better place to live. We have projects going on in this part of the state. ARM has 18 employees and six Auburn University students working for the cause. “

“We work with the Auburn University Building Science department,” Grizzard said. “The students receive academic credit while working with us.”

ARM has a summer youth camp. It’s called the Sunshine Kids Day Camp and provides children with a few opportunities to have some summer enrichment, growth and nurturing. ARM has an after school tutoring ministry in Tuskegee called I Am My Brother’s Keeper (IAMBK).

“We help 60 families in the area every year,” Grizzard.

In the east-central Alabama region, ARM is active in Chambers, Lee, Macon and Russell counties.

“We are unique for the state of Alabama,” Grizzard said. “We have two blitz weekends every year. Anthony Cook, a Baptist minister, is our housing director.”

Grizzard is a native of the Reeltown community and is a cousin of famed columnist Lewis Grizzard. “Lewis died 28 years ago, and we still miss him,” he said. “I love telling stories about him and listening to Lewis stories others tell me from time to time.”

Lewis Grizzard (1946-1994) was a writer and humorist known for his Southern demeanor and commentary on the American South. His columns appeared in many newspapers, including The Valley Times-News.