Piedmont native returns home to help
by Laura Gaddy
lbgaddy@annistonstar.com
Sep 26, 2013 | 1388 views |  0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Michelle Bivins in downtown Piedmont where she grew up. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
Michelle Bivins in downtown Piedmont where she grew up. Photo: Anita Kilgore/The Jacksonville News
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In 2007, Piedmont native Michelle Ludy-Bivins began trying to bridge the gaps between children and their incarcerated parents in Georgia.

That year Ludy-Bivins said she started using her own money to rent vehicles and take children from some of Atlanta’s harshest neighborhoods to visit their moms in prison. This year she formalized her efforts and began Bridges for Hope, a nonprofit that exists to care for children with incarcerated parents and now she wants to extend her work into Alabama.

“People don’t normally think about the kids that are left behind,” Ludy-Bivins said this week on a return visit to her hometown.

In 2007 there were 744,000 inmates in prisons across the nation. Fifty-two percent of state inmates and 63 percent of federal inmates at that time were parents to an estimated 1.7 million, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Ludy-Bivins was driving home alone on a trip through America’s heartland when she said a prayer and asked God what she could do for him.

“It was so penetrating and sound,” Bivins said. “It just came to my spirit. I tried to fight it.”

An hour later she turned the radio on and she said the people on talk radio station she settled on were talking about the number of children who have parents in prison.

“I was just blown away by the kids that were affected,” Bivins said.

For some time she funded the project with her own money. But, now that she has federal nonprofit status for Bridges for Hope, she’s able to solicit donations and fund the program’s expansion.

Already, she said, she’s received support from Walmart and Target, who have supported her effort with gift cards. And, she said, a local church helped buy school supplies for children helped by Bridges for Hope.

Bivins said that in 2007 she met with the warden at Lee Arrendale State Prison in Alto, Ga., to ask if she could help by bringing children to see their incarcerated parents. They gave her the chance to speak with moms to find out if the inmates at Lee Arrendale needed someone to bring their children for visits.

“Everybody did. I was shocked,” Bivins said.

Now she is trying to assess the need in Alabama. And Ludy-Bivins said she has already reached out to prison officials at Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka, the state’s prison for women, to see if she can do there what she is doing in Georgia.

The child of a pastor and a former abuse-intervention specialist, Ludy-Bivins didn’t know any of that when she decided to begin helping children. Ludy-Bivins said her childhood in Piedmont and her professional career that followed have been so good, they prompted her to want to give back.

“It was just in my blood, I guess,” Ludy-Bivins said.

Staff Writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.
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Piedmont native returns home to help by Laura Gaddy
lbgaddy@annistonstar.com

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