The fastest way to get from South Huntsville to Highway 72 East is to take Jackson County 5, a winding road through the backwoods of Madison County. About 15 minutes in — right past the only traffic light you’ll see — you’ll come across New Hope, an oft forgotten part of Madison County that has been plagued with poverty, drugs, crime and low graduation rates.
You have to stay to the left, or you’ll get real lost. Trust us on that one.
The road is tilted in a way that you can’t see where it’s taking you when you turn left, so you’re pretty much going on blind trust or the fact that you’ve driven that road a hundred times on your way to Scottsboro or Chattanooga. You can even get to Hollywood if you keep going, but you might be let down when you realize Hollywood is just another small town in North Alabama. But if you don’t take that left turn fast enough, you’ll end up in the Church of Christ parking lot. Don’t worry; they’re nice people who will help you get turned back around.
On the left, at the fork-in-the-road, you’ll see The CARE Center, a small building in the tiny town, a building you’d miss if you aren’t looking hard enough. In the 18 years since it began, The CARE Center has grown to help more than 1,000 families in New Hope. Considering there are only about 3,000 people living in the area, that’s a pretty good ratio.
There are parts of New Hope that seem bucolic — like that home that has had fake deer in the front yard for years and years or the cottages near the school that look like something out of Better Homes and Gardens. Even the town diner, Dot’s Dairy Den, looks like it came right out of Mayberry. Still, New Hope is hiding some darker truths, ones that The CARE Center is trying to eliminate through food pantries, after-school programs and community initiatives that make sure the elderly are taken care of.
As is the case with many nonprofits, funds are slow to come in. That’s where WAY-FM’s summer outreach comes in. Each year, nonprofits apply to be the recipient of donations collected during their WAY-FM-sponsored, summer concert. Admission is technically free, but WAY-FM asks concertgoers to bring donations in lieu of purchasing tickets, said Brent Richards, operations director at WAY-FM.
“We want to support (nonprofits) in whatever needs that they have on a practical level,” Brent said.
New Hope for New Hope
The CARE Center started when four churches from different denominations teamed up to “to start The CARE Center after recognizing the unmet needs of our under-resourced neighbors in southeastern Madison County,” according to their website.
At first they were helping 60 families each month. But since The CARE Center’s establishment in 2000, that number has grown to more than 1,000 students and families.
“They came together and formed … basically (a) food pantry, and it just blossomed,” Brent said. “The need became greater. That’s also a very heavy, stricken area with drugs and poverty because of unemployment in that area.
“It’s very rural, very not a lot of industry. Not a lot of opportunity there, but they have a lot of people who live there,” Brent explained.
WAY-FM has a legacy of giving back. Their Christmas Prayers program has grown over the years to help hundreds of Huntsville families around the holidays. So, it’s really no surprise they’d spend their summers finding ways to mix music and giving in a way that lets people go to a concert for the price of a few school supply items.
In 2017, WAY-FM called musician Brandon Heath to perform and raise money for the Huntsville Drumline. This year the headliner will be Austin French — one of the top names in Christian music, largely because of his song “Freedom Hymn.”
This won’t be your typical jam-packed concert, though. There are only seats for the first 1,000 people, so the atmosphere will be different from what you see at SoulStock.
“It’s a real scaled-down type of show, so it’s a more intimate feeling,” Brent said.
WAY-FM works to get the artists on board with the mission each year, and when Brent told Austin about The CARE Center, he immediately jumped at the chance to help both through his music and through the donations that will be collected.
“I hope that when people hear my music or come to a show that they see and hear the Gospel in action, saving me currently and reaching out to their reality,” Austin wrote on his website.
The concert is set for July 29 at 7 p.m. at CrossPointe Church in Madison. Admission is free, but it is strongly encouraged that you bring a donation of either supplies or money to support The CARE Center.
You can find out more about the CARE Center here, including additional programs that help that New Hope and the surrounding areas of Madison County.
Here’s a complete list of donations needed:
2- HP laptop computers
PA system for the thrift Store
New logo wrap for their box truck
1″ and 2″- 3-ring binders
3 and 5 subject notebooks
Wide and college-ruled, loose-leaf paper
Hard-back composition books
Depends adult diapers
Pens and #2 pencils
Boxes of Kleenex
Liquid hand soap
Boxes of cereal
Instant mashed potatoes
Shaving cream – men and women
Razors – men and women
Deodorant- men and women
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