HIM builds hope

Published 4:50 pm Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Hope Inspired Ministries (HIM) held a Hope Heals luncheon at The Club in Birmingham on April 19, celebrating graduates and thanking community volunteers and sponsors who partner with the ministry to restore hope and help program participants on the road to healing.

“The banquet was planned to honor our graduates and that’s why a lot of them were there,” said Lowndes County Site Coordinator Jessica Fails. “It’s one thing we do to show them that we appreciate them and encourage them to trust us to be part of their lives and help them to change their lives.”

The banquet honored HIM graduates and volunteers from across Alabama, including a recent Lowndes County graduate, Christine Thigpen, who works now at the Fort Deposit Senior Senior and as a part time driver with HIM.

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“I am so excited to be here,” Thigpen said. “I learned a lot in the program, especially about working with people.”

Keynote speaker and former coach Bill Clark who is known for reforming football teams at Jacksonville State University and the University of Alabama in Birmingham (UAB), inspired luncheon guests with his story of making a difference in people’s lives through the sport of football.

“The strategy [of football], I liked,” Clark said. “But what I liked more than that was the difference you can make with people.”

Clark described how a 1983 weightlifting injury ended his football playing days and left him pursuing a coaching career instead. After successful stints at Prattville High School, JSU and other schools, Clark eventually landed at UAB where he encountered a team of players who seemed without hope.

“I like to turn things around,” Clark said. “Talk about people with no hope. They had five wins in three years and three coaches in three years. I’m looking at these guys and I cannot get eye contact. I’m pretty sure they are looking at the ground.

“They don’t believe what I’m saying. They just heard this message, I’m sure, from somebody else. I said, ‘I need your eyes because we’re going to talk about some rules. Rule number one, before we tell you anything, we’re going to love you.’”

Clark said he instructed the players to protect the team – the players, coaches, parents, teachers, counselors – , not just on the field but in the world, by how they behave and the choices they make. Rule number two, he said, was to be prepared and by establishing rules, the coach established a culture, something players could take with them the rest of their lives.

Fails said HIM career coaches instill the same values in program participants.

“We set our culture,” Fails said. “We let our students and volunteers know what we do and how we do it. That sets the tone for them, if they want to keep participating or volunteering. We have a culture; we call it the HIM flavor. We put in a lot of work and we want our students to match that. We put in 100% and we want our students to put in 100%.”

Lowndes site career coach Mary Malone-Williams said the luncheon allowed HIM staff to collaborate with one another, finding inspiration and new ideas from their peers.

Fails agreed she felt encouraged by the luncheon, especially Clark’s message for changing lives.

“Coach Clark talked about repeating expectations,” Fails said. “We have a change poem we read to students to let them know, ‘If you don’t make the change, how will the change come about?’”