By Melanie Patterson

The North Jefferson News

Earlier this week, Tony Cooper had tears in his eyes after receiving a note in the mail.

It was from a 95-year-old widow who was sending a $2 donation to the Jimmie Hale Mission Ministries, where Cooper is executive director.

“Her note was hard to read from,” Cooper said. The woman was apologizing for not sending more, and wrote, “please accept my $2 to help those who have less than I do.”

Cooper said it’s caring people like that who keep the Jimmie Hale Mission Ministries afloat.

Last week, Cooper was guest speaker at the Gardendale Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The Jimmie Hale Mission is a member of the chamber.

He and his wife have deep roots in north Jefferson County. They have lived in Warrior for 17 years, and lived in Gardendale four years prior to that. They are members of Gardendale First Baptist Church.

“We love north Jefferson County,” Cooper said. “It has blessed us and ministered to us. It’s home.”

Cooper said the ministry itself is also closely tied to the local community.

One of the Mission Possible Bargain Centers is in Pinson, and the Royal Pines Recovery Center is in Hayden.

The center in Pinson is the most productive of the ministry’s five thrift stores, according to Cooper. All proceeds from the thrift stores support the Jimmie Hale Mission.

Other ministries under the Jimmie Hale Mission umbrella are located in Birmingham, such as the Shepura Men’s Center, Jessie’s Place and two of the Stewart Learning Centers.

Cooper also said north Jefferson provides numerous volunteers to the ministries as well as donations and employees. At least one board member is from Gardendale.

During his speech at the chamber luncheon on Thursday, Cooper gave an overview of the Jimmie Hale Mission Ministries, and then “we had church a little bit,” he said. “The Jimmie Hale Ministries is a Christian organization. I kind of shared my heart with them.”

Cooper said he encouraged churches members that are part of the chamber to be bold, but to “not be offensive or preachy.”

He also asked people to help the poor and to help their neighbors.

“I know we’ve got a lot of giving, caring, compassionate people,” he said. “I was just encouraging us as the church to stop making excuses for not getting involved. You can’t do everything but you can do something to help those in need.”

Alabama has seen enormous tragedy in 2011, with a string of tornadoes devastating the state in April. Cooper said that many people have “almost given out” following the storms.

“A lot of us have given to the point there’s not much left to give,” he said. “You can’t give what you don’t have, so don’t feel bad about that.”

He said donations of used items are as appreciated as monetary donations, and that people’s prayers are invaluable.

Around Christmas is when the ministry begins to see gifts pour in.

“What we see is people are more caring and more sharing and more sensitive to those who are less fortunate,” he said. “We get in 50 percent of our average budget in the last two months of the year. We operate in the red the first eight or nine months of the year.”

A trend that Cooper has noticed this year is that monetary gifts are smaller, but there are more donations than usual.

He said the note he received this week from the woman in her 90s is fairly typical.

“I encourage people that there’s no such thing as a gift too small,” he said. “Don’t think God can’t bless it or an organizations can’t use it. If you give your $2 and I give my $2 and 200 other people give their $2, it adds up.”

To learn more about the Jimmie Hale Ministry, visit www.jimmiehalemission.com or call (205) 323-5878.

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