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Brandi Mizell's Story Brandi Mizell's Story

At the age of 9 I snuck to smoke my first cigarette. At the age of 13 I drank my first beer. At 14 I smoked my first joint. By 19 I had graduated to a harder drug (cocaine). With two jobs and a new addiction I quickly spiraled out of control to working one job and then finally not working at all. After abandoning almost everyone I knew in a few short years with this addiction I began another life of committing various crimes. I shoplifted to support my habit and by the end of 2002 I picked my first and only offense, Theft of Property II with a misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana as a companion. My life as a result of my drug addiction had changed forever. I continued to shoplift and use drugs. It had become my life. From the moment I woke up to the time I went to bed (which incidentally could have been three days at a time) I was getting high or strategizing on how I would get high. My addiction began to steal more than just my energy - every year that went by was a waste. I was arrested every year until 2008 for failure to appear in court. At this point I was living in another state and got arrested after being pulled over and taken to jail for another failure to appear. After an extradition to Alabama, I was sentenced in July 2008 to five years at Tutwiler Prison for Women. From August 2008 until November 2008 I stayed in Dorm 9 better known as "the jungle" before being released on the Supervised Re-entry Program (SRP).

This came after being denied work release because I was considered a flight risk. While being transported to the Lovelady Center on Monday November 24, 2008 I was nervous about what would happen next in my life. (I knew that prison was definitely not the place for me but I didn't know how to go about living this new life. I was heavily supervised and the rules for SRP were very different than the other residents at The Lovelady Center. By December 2009 I had achieved the goal of getting my first job while in the program. It was the first time I had had a job in over eight years. I felt good about myself. I also attended the classes that they had available. Some of my favorites were Celebrate Recovery (a faith-based 12-step program), Looking for Love in the Wrong Places (a relationships class), and my all time favorite Anger Management. I took Anger Management the whole time I was at the center and even sat in on classes after I graduated. Devotions were an amazing learning experience that I still use in my daily life. Waking up Mon-Fri and getting a word of encouragement that could help me through my day did a lot to build my foundation of faith. Wednesday night bible studies and Sunday church was something that I had not encountered since I was around eight years old. My schedule was always full between work and classes at the center but I decided to go to college for dental assisting.

In 2009 it was pretty unprecedented for someone on SRP to go to school but I had stopped going to college years earlier and knew that it was something I needed to do. The courses were very challenging and I thought about giving up several times but I was persuaded to continue by my family. Another area that I found very helpful at the Lovelady Center was its counseling program. I took the counseling very seriously and even did extra sessions on top of what was required. Counseling did not enable me to come in and just throw up all my issues on my counselor, but it allowed me the ability to hear what God said about my situation and the tools to learn a new way to handle certain situations. I loved counseling and my counselor who has been my pastor since I left the center in 2010. I graduated the Lovelady Center program December 18, 2009 which was also the same day that my sentence with the State of Alabama ended. I signed the papers that released me from being the property of Alabama State Dept of Corrections. I decided to stay in Birmingham and signed up for the Shelter Plus Care program and in July 2010 I moved out of the center into my first apartment since I was a teenager. I continued to work and in January of 2011 started taking classes at Jefferson State Community College part time; in my spare time I would go to the Lovelady Center as much as possible just so that I could stay connected to the staff who influenced my life.

In June of 2011, I began a job as a client representative at the Lovelady Center and determined to use what I had learned and experienced while I was there to help other women. I will stop here and say that I learned so much while working there. I learned how to help women just like me and make them feel loved and accepted despite their pasts. I was a tough client representative and used a lot of my military upbringing, my experience in the streets, my knowledge of the system, and love for helping others while doing this job. During all of this I was still going to school part-time. I would take at least one class per semester but never went full-time because my job was very demanding. In June of 2013, I took on a new position at the Center as the first director of a newly formed Phase I program. My supervisors (Ms. Brenda and Miss Melinda) trusted me to design this program with their guidance. It was a learning experience and very hard work but I enjoyed it. By the summer of 2014 I was finally able to enter into the Birmingham Work Release Program and minister to the women there and try to spread the hope of what God had done in my life to them. It was around this time that I also began volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club.  I made the decision to go back to school full time January 2015 and since my schedule would conflict with the hours designated for my position I was allowed to begin work in the counseling department of the program. Since my major was in psychology it was very fitting. During this time of going to college full-time at Jeff State I also began to attend classes at Ambassadors College. After a year of studies there I received my license to preach and preached my first public sermon August 30, 2015. I still continued to go to school during this process and in August 2015 I started the fall semester at Birmingham Southern College; after receiving a transfer scholarship to attend BSC I am now one semester away from receiving my bachelor's degree in psychology (May 2017). My plan is to continue my education from there and get a Master's in Education. I would like to become a high school psychology teacher and pour into the lives of young people and  help them to not go down the same roads that I did as a child. I have also begun work on a prison reform ministry that will be available for women.

I am so thankful for the Lovelady Center and the foundation that it gave me. Being there gave me the support that I needed to start a new life and to move forward. It was so much easier being there and getting a start on life than being released from prison and going back to where I had come from. I will forever be grateful to the Center and all the people that played a part in helping me to become all that I need to be. Although I have not worked there since April 2016 (I took a leave of absence to concentrate on my studies even more) I still am able to do morning devotions and services there to help the women. I have been blessed beyond measure by the Lovelady Center and I am so glad I was sent there eight years ago. This place will forever be a part of my heart and life.

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Amy Brekle graduated from The Lovelady Center in 2008. While at the center, she enrolled in barber college and graduated from the Alabama School of Barber Styling and has been licensed for 7 years now. She was on a path to a new life - or so she thought. Amy had a personal encounter with God, however, she had yet to fully surrender to Him, and soon she fell back into her old habits. Her relationships with her family, even her children, had become estranged. Amy was in desperate need for a second chance. Amy's sons, Justin and, Austin had been praying for their mother for nearly 10 years. On Easter Sunday 2015, Amy's four-year-old daughter Bella went to the altar on behalf of her mother.

The day after Easter, Amy reached out to the place of second chances. She re-entered The Lovelady program on April 9th 2015. Through her second stay at Lovelady, Amy learned that though she had changed she hadn't fully let go of her past and become a new creation. This time God took her through the process of Ezekiel 36:26 "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you." Amy was washed by the blood of Jesus and became a new creation. After struggling with addiction for 25 years Amy was finally free!

All Amy's old ways were buried once and for all, and everything that had been taken from her was restored. She now enjoys a wonderful relationship with all her family, and couldn't be happier with the relationship she has with her prayer warrior children. While in the program Amy saw the opportunity for another new creation in The Lovelady salon. Amy is now the onsite stylist and overseer of New Creations Salon. She enjoys being able to connect with all those currently in the program by celebrating their inward transformations with an outward one. Through Lovelady affiliates Amy will move into a new home by the end of 2016! We are so happy to have her as part of The Lovelady Center!

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Renita Fluker's Story

This morning, like every other morning these days, Renita Fluker woke up praising God. However, that wasn't the way it always was for her. Renita's life has been riddled with abuse. Suffering from drug abuse, as well as domestic violence, she had been left with a multitude of injuries. Renita graduated from The Lovelady Center in 2011, but it was her return in 2015 that really changed her life.

"I wasn't honest with myself the first time around," she reflects on her first visit. There was still a lot of demons she needed to confront. Upon her return, she sought medical care for some injuries that had contributed to her long suffering. For 15 years Renita had written off pain in her foot as arthritis, but an examination showed a bone spur, which she recently underwent surgery for.

Renita enjoys the social interaction she gets to experience while working in the kitchen department of The Lovelady Center, and eagerly awaits her return after she recovers from her foot surgery. When asked what message she would like to leave with those following after her in the program she said, "If you lie about your recovery you're not going to be healed." For someone who was once shot and drug by a car, a life walking with Jesus is the one she's always dreamed of. 

Connie Farrell's Story

"There's no rehabilitation for you," the judge said  to Connie Farrell after the second time she appeared before him. The very same judge had sentenced Connie to 2½ years a few years earlier, and he was so set on her serving a full term that he handed down two consecutive sentences: one sentence of 10 years and another of 15. Connie faced the 25-year sentence with the mentality that it would be better if her life would just end. When she arrived for her sentencing, the same judge who desired for her to spend the rest of her life in prison held in his hand a letter of acceptance from The Lovelady Center. The judge gave her the option of going to TLC for a period of 3 years as opposed to the previous sentence of 25 years in prison. After taking the TABE (The Adult Basic Education) test that all Loveladies are required to take upon acceptance, her strong educational background became evident. She was immediately placed in the Education Department of The Lovelady Center. Around that time one of the instructors, Dr. Bob Hall, brought in Judson College, and the Education Department entered a new season. In a bizarre twist 2 years later, the order by the judge of a 3-year stay at TLC was changed to "completion of the program." Connie was encouraged to go ahead and graduate the program but she chose to finish out the 3rd year as she had committed. Shortly after her graduation, Connie was chosen as the new Director of the Education Department. As Director of Education, Connie oversees the weekly TABE test that helped change her life years before. Being an innovator, the first thing Connie did was to institute 34 required course hours of continued education courses, which has greatly benefited the clients of The Lovelady Center. One important mission of TLC is to help those clients without a diploma get their GED. This year, 12 of our clients have done so, but Connie doesn't boast of that statistic (her record is 28)! We are blessed to have Connie's services at The Lovelady Center. 

 

 

 

Wendy Chapman

I entered The Lovelady Center on April 21, 2010. I was a mess. I was not your typical addict. By that I mean what society sees as a typical addict. You know, like someone that grew up with addicted/alcoholic parents, was abused as a child – or a single, struggling parent situation. I grew up in a middle class family. My mother was a stay at home mom and my father worked at US Steel. I was an only child and grandchild until the age of 8 when my sister, Sherry, was born. Needless to say, I was spoiled. I went to a private, Christian school and attended church with my family. I remember asking Jesus into my heart when I was 8 years old, sitting in class at school. I still recall the "feeling" I got and I knew that I wanted to know Jesus. The problem was I didn't know how to have a relationship with Him. I knew how to go to church but nothing about a relationship with Jesus.

At 12, I drank for the first time. At 14, I smoked pot for the first time. Just experimenting, I drank on the weekends throughout high school and into my early 20's. I smoked pot through my early 20's but nothing that interfered with life – or so I thought. At 15, my parents divorced & I ended up living with my Daddy. Me & my Daddy were very close; I kind of became his mother figure. Now he had a mother, an awesome mother, the thing was that he had never taken care of himself. He went straight from living with his mother to being married to my Mom. I cleaned house, cooked, made sure he was up for work & packed his lunch. At 16, I tried cocaine for the first time. After doing it a few times, I discovered that my Daddy was the supplier of what I was using. So after a bit, I used with my Daddy. I really didn't like cocaine that much but it was free & everyone was using it. I had met my first husband by this time & he ended up living with me & my Daddy after I turned 19. We married on March 2, 1990. I was working at a law firm in Birmingham and was over all the collections in Jefferson County for SouthTrust Bank, GMAC & a few smaller loan companies that the firm collected for. I had this awesome but somewhat stressful job, had just gotten married & then in May of 1990, my Daddy was arrested for drug trafficking. It was just too much for me to handle. I went to see my doctor & was prescribed Xanax. Now I had taken Xanax & Valium before but just for partying purposes. I took Xanax until I was 38 years old; I took them everyday until the day I walked into The Lovelady Center. I had quit using cocaine at 19 and by the age of 28 I had quit smoking pot but still drank some. I divorced in 1995 & stayed with him until 1997. I moved out on my 27th birthday. In 1997, I started dating someone that I knew from high school. He was married but told me that they were in the process of a divorce, which wasn't true. I was with him for 6 years; he was married for 3 of those 6 years. He cheated on me, was an alcoholic & abusive, both mentally & physically.

At the age of 29, I was given Lortab for migraines & it made me feel like superwoman. I could work, clean house & just maintain it ALL or I thought I could. So from this point I'm taking Lortab & Xanax everyday. If I didn't have them, I was really sick. It's lonely & sad to live as an addict. I had been arrested a few times for little things but nothing really major yet. I had several jobs by this time and I always had great jobs. I worked at UAB, 3 more law firms & a hair salon. I had several possession charges by 2000. However, God's great grace & mercy had always covered me. I had times through the years that I tried to attend church & get it together but I still knew nothing about a real relationship with Jesus. Looking back over my life, God covered me so many times. I should have gone to prison but that wasn't God's plan for me. By the end of my addiction I had done things that I NEVER thought I would do.

In 2009, I was sentenced to 10 years in Tutwiler Prison & I couldn't believe it! Judge Fancher, who had given me chance after chance, was done with me. By this time I had appeared before him many, many times. My attorney appealed my case to Circuit Court & I was finally sentenced to 15 years, split 2 years probation. That was in December of 2009. By the time I entered The Lovelady Center in April of 2010, I had been arrested 4 more times & again God's mercy found me. I had an awesome probation officer who wanted to see me change my life & not go to prison. He never violated me, even through all the arrests and the fact that I couldn't pass a drug test for him.

When I entered the program at TLC, I was a broken mess. I had covered & medicated my feelings for almost 20 years & I had no idea what to do or how to just function. For the first several weeks I wanted to do nothing. Gradually, I began to change. I attended classes and worked in Kid Zone. I learned about a true relationship with Jesus. I started walking in truth & obedience. Things really started changing. My sister that wasn't speaking to me now teaches a Sunday school class with me every Sunday morning. Restoration takes time but Jesus gives us the hope to wait for it. My relationship with my Daddy continues to grow. By the way, he didn't do any time for his arrest. The attorneys that I worked for furnished him an awesome attorney & he got probation. I love my Daddy & blame him for NONE of my choices. He hasn't used drugs since 1991. My Mother always stood by me & I am truly thankful for that. She didn't choose tough love for me. Some of my family did & that was ok but if all of them had, I'm not sure I would have made the same choices.

God was writing me an awesome love story & I had no idea. That story started right in my home church (First Baptist Pleasant Grove) in the weekly daycare program in 1997. I kept my husband's 3 year old daughter. Ten years later, in 2007, I met Hubert Chapman, I thought for the first time. His divorce wasn't final & he had young children. He knew it wasn't right & he quit seeing me, I was crushed. He did remember that I was Ms. Wendy from daycare after a few weeks of seeing each other. He was right though, the time wasn't right, not yet. However, God's timing is perfect & in December of 2012, I got a Facebook message from my husband's sister about some donations her mother wanted to give TLC. I told her that I had moved back to Pleasant Grove & could just swing by & pick them up. So I did on December 12, 2012, I went & Hubert was there. We were married on Sunday, April 21, 2013. We decided on that date because it was on that day 3 years prior that I began this Jesus Journey & my life was forever changed. It was that day 3 years prior that I quit using Xanax & Lortab. That date already meant so very much to me and to marry my husband on that day was awesome. The things that I have today are God blessings & not worldly blessings. There is a huge difference. I have peace, joy, happiness, truth & blessings that can't be measured by any human. I know that I hurt many people through the years of my addiction. However, I also know that God was molding me into the person I am today. I am a sister, daughter, friend, Client Representative at TLC & a wife. I could be none of these without Jesus. God doesn't promise us it will be easy & it's not always rainbows & sunshine. However, He does promise to NEVER leave us & He always gives us what we need for every situation. Jesus is truly ALL we need. There is nothing special about me other than that I allowed Jesus to change me. He will do for anyone that calls on His Name what He did for me. Make you a new creation in Christ! 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come. He can & will change you from the inside out. You just have to allow Him to.
 

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