By Chuck Chandler
Brother Bryan Mission of Birmingham has completed the second-largest purchase in its 80-year history, paying $340,000 for a neighboring building in an effort to soon provide beds for 100 men.
The city’s oldest mission currently is able to house 76 men for its addiction recovery and back-to-work programs, said Executive Director Jim Etheredge, who heads a 20-man staff. In addition to the headquarters at 1616 2nd Ave. N., Brother Bryan Mission added the 10,000-square-foot building at 1608 2nd Ave. N. in 2012, and the parking lot at 1620 2nd Ave. N., in 2015.
The latest addition at 1630 2nd Ave. N. has been an expansion target of the mission for years, but the cost was beyond the organization’s financial means. After the property was on the market for several years, negotiations resulted in a lower price.
“We were able to purchase the new building without debt through the combination of using the cash cushion that we try to build up at the end of the year along with the proceeds from two estate gifts that had been left to Brother Bryan Mission in 2019 and 2020,” Etheredge said. “Using the cash cushion makes the mission’s account pretty lean right now, but our hope is that the generosity of the community will continue throughout 2021, since the need of those who are hurting and homeless is always present.”
It costs $26 per day to accommodate the food, medical and transitional needs of each of their clients, Etheredge said. The mission founded in 1940 by a group of businessmen at the request of the Rev. James Alexander Bryan relies entirely on individual and organizational contributions, receiving no governmental funding.
Now that the building has been purchased, Etheredge is turning his attention to raising funds for an additional $750,000 needed to renovate it.
“I try to break these numbers into phases, so the task doesn’t seem so daunting,” Etheredge said. “Our goal is to be able to occupy the second floor, where the beds would be, before we would begin to remodel the first floor. We are extremely fortunate and grateful that a local developer has stepped up to offer help in a very substantial way through his construction company. We are currently working with an architect to bring plans to a point where we see some work begin.”
Four years ago, Brother Bryan Mission had another prayer answered when the kitchen and dining area of its services building underwent a $500,000 renovation.
“A local contractor approached us with the desire to give back to the community since they had experienced a good year prior,” Etheredge said. “Not knowing the size of their desire, I spoke of some smaller projects without finding much interest from them. I felt the Lord nudging me to throw out for consideration the kitchen and dining area renovation. The contractor immediately responded with, ‘That’s what we’re looking for.’”
The Daniel Foundation and one of Brother Bryan’s granddaughters recently challenged other contributors by offering to match any gifts up to $50,000. Etheredge said it is “a great opportunity” for potential donors to double their money to the mission and its impact on men needing help.
In May, a significant portion of the Brother Bryan clients tested positive for coronavirus, although most cases were asymptomatic. Still, it forced a reduction to 56 dormitory beds to allow safe distancing and other health measures.
“BBM is weathering the COVID-19 crisis with great caution for those in our care while at the same time having as much compassion as we can for those who are hurting and homeless,” Etheredge said. “The constant stream of hurting people continues to knock on our doors. The greater number of beds with our new building will mean more people will find help and hope through the programs offered through the mission.”