Hope, healing and purpose
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Ken Kilpatrick grew up working on a cattle ranch in Texas and went on to become a minister. Wednesday, he and his wife of 44 years, Jan, have settled in Butler County on land which has long been in her family. They now operate a program called Hope Afield, using the great outdoors to provide a setting for hope, healing and purpose.
“I went to school as a Bible major, preached for about 16 years and then felt really led to start a program working with at-risk youth. Most of the kids we work with today are from single-parent families and we started a program in Montgomery in 1994 that worked in the inner-city of Montgomery, and then in 2017 I told my wife ‘if we’re going to develop this farm into a safe place for young people, we’d better get down there before we get too old,’” laughs Ken.
“One of the things we learned with working in the inner-city of Montgomery is if we could get kids outside, you would have a classroom to teach some things you couldn’t teach in a conventional classroom. We try to teach a kid how to work, and how to play, and then how to live.”
Ken sees a real need for a place like Hope Afield, “I think it’s 25 percent of the people in Butler County live below the poverty level. I went to the Superintendent of Education and said, ‘How can I help?’”
Ken was told one of the most pressing needs was for school bus drivers, “I was able to get the route here. That gave me a front-row seat to every family in this community.”
At the moment groups only come a couple of days a week, but the Kilpatricks hope that Hope Afield will grow.
Ken says, laughing, “We could actually do this every day of the week if we had the resources to do it, and so as it is now it’s just what my wife and I can handle, and we’re getting to the age where you spend one day preparing for it, another day having the event and another day recovering from the event, so we’re looking for younger people.”
Hope Afield is about breaking a seemingly never-ending cycle, “It begins with hopelessness, and for whatever reason they feel like they’re in a hopeless situation. If a person doesn’t gain hope, that hopelessness is going to turn to hurt and it goes to the heart of a person, and if the hurt isn’t healed, the hurt turns into anger, and if anger isn’t managed, anger turns to rage, and if rage is left unchecked, it’s going to turn to violence.”
“Our main job is how do we break the cycle? And it starts by giving a kid hope.”
Volunteers are certainly needed. If you’d like to help, go to the Hope Afield website.
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