The Wings of Grace Relief Center has settled into its new home at Holt Baptist Church.
Before moving, the nonprofit that provides helps needy families was housed in a 1,400-square-foot modular building in the Forest Lake area near University Place Elementary School.
However, the city's zoning codes prohibit modular buildings or mobile homes in residential areas. Wings of Grace, which began as a disaster relief center after the 2011 tornado, was granted a special exception to the rules in two-year intervals. In 2017, the Tuscaloosa Planning and Zoning Commission ended the special exception, forcing the center to search for a new location.
“It wasn’t our choice to move, and we really were looking for somewhere closer to the middle of town," said Terri Hibbard, director of Wings of Grace.
Hibbard says the center's mission hasn't changed: It continues to provide assistance to those in any kind of need, such as the homeless, people undergoing cancer treatment and those who have lost their homes to fire or extreme weather. But with the move, Hibbard wants to get the word out about the center's new location.
"Since we’ve moved, we’ve lost over 100 clients that are not coming here. We don’t know if it’s the distance or because people have kids out of school and cannot come, but our numbers are down about 100 people from what normally come to us for assistance. We’re seeing about 114 to 120 families right now, and we’re used to 238 to 250 families.”
Wings of Grace clients are recommended to the center by various organizations like Druid City Regional Medical Center and the fire and police departments.
The center provides clothing, food, toiletry kits, furniture, bicycles, children’s toys and games, books from the public library and devotionals from Charles Stanley ministries.
Hibbard says it's a satisfying experience to help those in need.
“Seeing all of the donations come in, watching it whip right back out the next week and then starting all over again is incredible,” Hibbard said. “Then it just repeats itself every week, but we don’t get tired of it because we see how much of it goes to bless other people, and it’s wonderful to see people bring stuff to us just because they want to give back.”
The center is staffed entirely of volunteers and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every Thursday.
“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Hibbard said. “It’s really important that we have people here helping behind the scenes and packaging the breads and foods we give out, organize the sizes of clothes from children to adults, making toiletry kits and we’re wrapping Christmas presents already, so there’s something for everybody to do.”
Even with the stress of moving the center, Hibbard firmly believes that this work is what she was meant to do with her life.
“I used to be a tennis player but had my neck broken in a bicycle injury, so I was unable to do those things anymore,” Hibbard said. “The Lord put me in this field of service after that. He just picked me up and put me right where I needed to be.”
For more information, call 759-1039 or visit the Wings of Grace office at 3101 Alabama Ave. N.E. between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Thursdays.