“Addiction is no respecter of persons. It can touch anyone.” Those words from Micah Andrews, CEO of The Foundry Ministries, give a glimpse into the impactful work done to provide faith-based substance abuse recovery for thousands of men and women from all situations and walks of life over the last fifty years.
Since its inception in 1971 as the Bessemer Rescue Mission, the ministry has reshaped the lives of those battling addiction in our community through programs designed to heal in both physical and spiritual ways; today it operates three campuses (the Men’s Program in Bessemer, Women’s Program in Bessemer, and Foundry Farm in Cullman), runs two thrift stores (in Pelham and Cullman), provides recovery and aftercare services, offers rescue programs for individuals in poverty, and looks to a future where more ministry opportunities can be offered.
Addiction Recovery at the Heart of its Call. More than 100 people die of drug overdoses in the United States each day–a fact that compels the work of The Foundry Ministries. “We are laser focused on faith-based substance abuse recovery,” Andrews said. “We’ve had a variety of ministries over the years, but we’ve really narrowed our efforts to long-term abuse recovery. We want to bring hope, healing, and restoration to the body, soul, and spirit.”
The Foundry’s campus locations house men and women who come to the program from different places and for a variety of reasons. According to Andrews, more than one-third of its residents come from court referrals. “Instead of going to prison, we’re going to give you the chance to get well,” Andrews said. The other two-thirds come by choice— “either their choice, or their Momma’s choice, or their spouse’s choice.”
The process to get into one of the campuses is a simple one, Andrews said and involves an online application, a follow-up assessment, and acceptance. Andrews said that there are few reasons why anyone is denied access, and the one-time intake fee of $495 is the only expense required. It’s an option that is often the last in a person’s life but is one that has worked for thousands of men and women. In 2019 alone, The Foundry Ministries served 831 program participants, provided 1,000 nights of shelter, served 3,500 neighbors monthly with assistance, and provided 920 meals daily.
Residents in The Foundry’s program become part of a five-pronged approach that includes: counseling, care management, classroom environments, employment readiness training, and aftercare. “We provide a multi-year contract, but what happens when your time is up? We want to be there for our men and women. We give them a lifetime access to services,” Andrews said.
Real Life Testimonies. The men and women who arrive at The Foundry do so from a myriad of backgrounds. They may have owned their own business, but then lost it and their home because of addiction. They may have never had a job before because they became addicted at an early age. They may be homeless. Or a single mother. Or a victim of generational addiction. Or someone who was in an accident and became addicted to painkillers. “We’re usually a last stop option,” Andrews said.
Dustin Cox came to The Foundry straight from court, after he was given the option of going to prison for ten years or staying on probation while getting help for his addiction. “I literally stayed at The Foundry for two years with an ankle bracelet on,” Cox said.
According to Cox, he was at a place where he was ready to change. “The Foundry gave me the opportunity to sit down and be still, focused on the Lord,” he said. “I graduated in 2015, did several years of aftercare, and worked there for 4 ½ years.” Cox credits the “whole person” system for changing his life. He said that he needed to work on all aspects of his life–both physical and spiritual–to truly change. “I learned how to be a healthy person, and I needed all the components of The Foundry,” he said. “I needed to get up and make my bed every morning, get up and go to work, be molded into a healthy person.” Today Cox works for the Recovery Resource Center out of Cooper Green Hospital and makes regular visits to UAB, St. Vincent’s, and other places where those with additions need peer support, assessments for support, and other help.
Andrews shares another story of a 45-year-old methamphetamine addict who convinced his brother to buy him a bus ticket and was thrown off the bus between Mobile and Birmingham because he was high. He was arrested but put back out on the interstate the next day. A doctor and his wife picked him up on the interstate and brought him to Birmingham, where he found himself back on the street and on a park bench. “An older gentleman sat down and asked him what was up with him, and he said that he was trying to get to The Foundry,” Andrews said. “The gentleman dropped him off after work, even though the center was closed. He fell asleep on a stack of clothes and in the morning, he walked through our doors.”
While The Foundry provides life-changing opportunities for its residents, it also offers a lifeline to family members desperate to get their loved ones clean. “Every family deserves hope” has become a key mantra for The Foundry’s leaders, and they take seriously the role of support. “Addiction never affects only the user,” Andrews said. “It has detrimental effects for their entire circle. Families can feel relief that their family member is being taken care of and a respite for them because they didn’t know what else to do.”
For Georgia pastor Rodney Thrift, the ministry saved his son’s life from addiction and set him on a new path. After his son graduated from college with a degree in environmental science, Thrift and his wife saw that he had come home with addiction issues. After getting into more trouble, his son’s alcohol and drug dependence created the need for a stay at The Foundry Farm in Cullman. “He got clean and was also able to use his degree there on the farm to help, and was actually awarded the Servant Leadership Award,” Thrift said. “It was a very positive experience for him. It’s always about wise choices and he had to make that choice.” Thrift was also encouraged by the experience The Foundry offered for his family to stay involved, and today he recommends it to those in his Georgia community who are dealing with addiction. “We definitely trust them, and it works,” he said. “I knew about The Foundry even before my son went there, and I recommend it to others. Sometimes that distance is exactly what they need.”
Rooted in Faith. Andrews often has people ask him, “Is professing faith in Christ a prerequisite to getting help from The Foundry?” and he’s quick to stress that everyone deserves and receives help–but that it’s also their responsibility to introduce Jesus to anyone who comes through its doors. “We can help anyone and get anyone out of substance abuse, but our ultimate purpose is to introduce them to a permanent transformation through Jesus Christ. We offer not just recovery, but we want you to find freedom in Christ so that you don’t have to go back to where you were before.”
“We’re going to set the table so that your appetite for Christ is reached,” he said. The Foundry’s resident program provides mandatory chapel services, voluntary small group Bible studies, counseling sessions that come from a Christian discipleship perspective, and baptism opportunities. Andrews himself stepped out in faith when he came to The Foundry Ministries after working with a faith-based addiction recovery program in Tennessee and then 12 years as a youth pastor in Birmingham. “In 2008, I heard God tell me to trust him and step out,” he said. “I had a thriving student ministry, but I decided to step out in faith. I found out about The Foundry one day in conversation, interviewed that night, and was hired the following week.” He started as the volunteer coordinator in fundraising, then served five years as senior director of programs and then as assistant executive director; in 2016, he replaced Bill Heintz as CEO. Andrews said his work is built on a strong foundation of The Foundry Ministries’ former leaders. The ministry was founded by Sam Reynolds, with recovered alcoholic Rev. Bob Bell as its first executive director; following him were Gerald Price, Nelson Hicks, and Heintz.
The Foundry’s Future. As it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2021, The Foundry also looks to the future with plans to continue offering faith-based substance abuse recovery while also reaching out with new opportunities and programs. Andrews encourages the public to continue supporting its ministries by shopping at The Foundry’s thrift stores (which generates about 65% of the ministry’s operating budget while also serving as training facilities for the men and women in the program), and also welcomes volunteers. “We have a full volunteer department with everything from serving as one-on-one mentors to helping with campus beautification projects,” he said. And through all of its programs and plans, Andrews said that they’ll lean on the ministry’s Biblical mandate and hope from 2 Corinthians 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”