A BRIEF HISTORY
On December 30, 1997, at the request of several RSVP volunteers, Claire Stewart, an employee of the City of Prattville, called a meeting for the purpose of finding a new location for the community clothing closet. In attendance were representatives from local county and city agencies, the recently founded Family Support Center, The Autauga Baptist Association, local Christian churches of various denominations, and social outreach ministries such as Community Concern and the Clothing Closet. Early on, the group addressed a broader topic. The experience of the various participants led them to agree unanimously on the need for a comprehensive outreach program to assist local people in urgent situations.
Community Concern, an ecumenical ministry founded in 1982, had been providing food and very limited financial assistance to those in need through a telephone “hotline.” This ministry, like the Clothing Closet, was also searching for a more suitable place to locate. Other helping agencies and groups expressed frustration at the lack of central coordination of assistance. Frequently, clients had to go from church to church in order to receive help. There was a genuine desire to serve those in desperate situations, but there were also concerns about duplication and possible deception. The group formed a Board of Directors to plan and oversee a coordinated effort to meet the criteria they had outlined. Both Community Concern and the Clothing Closet agreed to become a part of the new organization.
The Directors decided that the ministry would be Christian in character, but those seeking help need not be church members. Since various denominations were represented, volunteers would not be permitted to proselytize or impose their religious beliefs on clients. They would, however, be encouraged to share their faith and pray with clients who were open to this. A tract outlining the message of salvation would be included in the grocery bags distributed by the ministry. A comprehensive intake form would be used to screen potential clients. The service area would include the City of Prattville and all of Autauga County. All Christian churches in the area would be invited and urged to participate. The group composed a Mission Statement and By-Laws, and AICC was incorporated on March 26, 1998. Letters were sent to area churches, requesting financial support for the ministry. After several more months of planning and searching for a place to locate, the director of the Family Support Center graciously offered three rooms in the building where her agency was located. Thus AICC was able to begin serving the public on October 5, 1998. In January 2000, having outgrown the original location, AICC moved to a rental building on Northington Street. Sometime later, the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama provided a $20,000 grant to be used toward the purchase of a permanent location for AICC.
After months of searching, the Building Committee learned that a small brick structure on Third Street in downtown Prattville was available, and that the owners were willing to sell it for $20,000. Even though the building was only half the square footage needed to properly house the ministry, the Board of Directors considered it providential to have located a property before the grant expired. They decided to purchase the small building and rent additional necessary space. They paid for the building outright and secured a loan for extensive renovation.
In April, 2003, AICC moved into its present location. At the advice of the Finance Committee, a fund was set aside for the future purchase of enough space to accommodate the entire ministry. The Board of Directors has made this goal a high priority. AICC was a totally volunteer operation from the outset, and remains so to this day, with the exception of several permanent staff members who receive a small stipend. Compassionate volunteers rotate in taking responsibility for the various daily tasks necessary to distribute all aid. The ministry is entirely dependent on God’s blessings, which have been given in abundance through the generosity of member churches and the community at large. These resources have never failed to materialize, often in seemingly miraculous ways.
As the Autauga Interfaith Care Center marks the tenth anniversary of its beginning, we are deeply grateful for the foresight of our founders and for the wholehearted generosity of our supporters. We pray for continued vision and compliance with Divine guidance as we work together, mindful of the Lord’s words, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me…” (Mt. 25:35-36)
(Source: AICC Annual Report 2008)