The Lovelady Center is a 9- to 12-month faith-based residential treatment and recovery center for women and children located at 7916 2nd Avenue South in the former East End Memorial Hospital in East Lake.
The center was founded by Brenda Spahn in 2004 as Freedom Rain Ministries, operating out of her home and ministering to women at Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka during and after their incarceration. She later renamed the center for her father, James Lovelady. Currently the center houses about 280 women and 70 of their children.
During the first five weeks of the program, adult participants complete five intensive courses in the theology of the Cross, forming healthy relationships, mind renewal, job readiness and money management, and Biblical sexuality. Over the next ten months, women continue classes in practical education and artistic expression and work with counselors to find job placement and housing. Children of residents also receive teaching and enrichment.
The center moved to East End Hospital, with help from a contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to house coastal residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Before that time, Spahn had not allowed children, but turned one area into a "kid zone" for the parents and children. The 5,000-square-foot former emergency room area has been licensed as a day care center.
In 2009 suits against the organization were filed by Regions Bank and an air conditioning contractor, claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid debts and a lien was placed on their property by the Internal Revenue Service. "Freedom Rain", then acting as the financial arm of the center, disassociated itself over a disagreement about opening an electronic bingo parlor. Don Ankenbrandt, head of Alliance Ministries, was installed as chairman of the center's board and led a financial turnaround. The Lovelady Thrift Store was opened in a former Circuit City in Eastwood to benefit the center in 2010.
In 2011 the Lovelady Center purchased the former Carraway Methodist Medical Center in Norwood and announced plans to relocate into the larger facility, which it would rename the MetroPlex. The purchase was made possible by major donations from Philip Crane and Jim Thompson of Docupak.
The Lovelady MetroPlex would have the ability to house as many as 1,200 clients in the former hospital. Additional space would be used for medical, dental and eye clinics, counseling and educational facilities, and various health care, non-profit and retail tenants. A large church is also planning to open a campus at the MetroPlex, along with a hotel and banquet facilities and satellite campuses for two area universities.
- Park, Dave (February 10, 2008) "Drugs divide mothers from children, but Lovelady Center restores relationships." The Birmingham News
- Tomberlin, Michael (January 7, 2010) "Lovelady Center charity, ministry transforming vacant Circuit City store in Eastwood into thrift store." The Birmingham News
- Gray, Jeremy (July 14, 2011) "The Lovelady Center plans to move shelter and recovery facility to former Carraway Methodist Medical Center." The Birmingham News
- Spencer, Thomas (September 15, 2011) "Lovelady Center aims to get out of debt and into new home." The Birmingham News
- Lovelady Center website