University Baptist gives SEA new home

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

The Golden Rule tells us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and that adage has proved true for Shelby Emergency Assistance.

The United Way agency has been the hand of mercy to thousands of Montevallo area residents for more than a quarter century, meeting needs for food, clothing and shelter with a minimum of red tape. Often it is food from the SEA food bank or the money to cover an overdue power bill that allows a family to weather a crisis.

SEA Director Karen Pendleton, long accustomed to being the helping hand, found it was a whole new experience to be the hand grasping for help.

Last year the long-time SEA office on Valley Street developed black mold, and employees were getting sick.

Pendleton realized that the agency needed to move. Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and Montevallo Presbyterian Church provided temporary quarters for short-term use.

“We were desperately trying to find something,” Pendleton said. SEA is settled temporarily at 3822 Alabama 25, where space is limited and parking is tight. “We knew that we needed a bigger place.”

Pendleton said she and her staff discovered a deeper understanding of the woes some of their clients face when they found themselves suddenly homeless before they found their temporary home.

“Things got lost, and it was frustrating sometimes,” she said. “We learned to appreciate our situation as a wonderful way to know what our clients experience.”

Word got out that Pendleton was looking at properties around Montevallo that might be available.

“University Baptist Church contacted us and offered this house to us for free,” she said.

For many years the house was the home of University Baptist Child Development Center, a daycare nursery for children from six weeks and up. The daycare moved to the church’s education building and later shut down. Now, after a period as church offices, the house stands vacant.

The Rev. Daniel Stallings said the fit is perfect to have SEA next door.

“Closing our daycare was difficult,” he said. “It left a hole in our church’s missional identity. SEA filled that hole.”

UBC long has been a supporter of SEA, Stallings said.

“We started out with a practical problem (what to do with a building the church no longer used), and it ended as a solution in both parties’ interests,” he said.

Now, Pendleton has the kind of problem she is used to solving: Finding the grant funds to rehabilitate the house into offices and a food bank.

The size of the place means opportunities to add programs, Pendleton said. For example, she wants to partner with University of Montevallo consumer science students to provide clients with healthy cooking lessons in the big kitchen.

“When we have our annual United Way allocation team meeting, instead of borrowing a meeting room somewhere, we will have the room to be able to have them here,” she said.