Focus on Urban Hope and Marino Grocery. Alton Hardy is the pastor of Urban Hope Community Church. Urban Hope is one of our partners to whom we distribute food and goods throughout the year. They also partner with us in the work of racial reconciliation through One New Birmingham.

When Pastor Hardy bought his home several years ago, he noticed a vacant home across from his. As he thought about the house, he had an overwhelming sense that the home would become a ministry house for Urban Hope. The feeling motivated him to research, discovering that the Marino family owned it.

Christian Service Mission partners with Marino Foods to buy palettes of food. We use this food to make food boxes that we distribute to our local church partners. Anthony Marino often donates hams to CSM for Christmas. He is a founding member of Associated Grocers, and his grocery stores are in Bessemer and Ensley. Pastor Hardy heard Marino’s name from Tracy Hipps, so he came to Tracy to ask for help buying this home. Once Tracy knew Hardy’s heart for this home, he shared Marino’s contact information.

When Hardy reached out to Marino, he quickly discovered that the home was not solely Marino’s. His mother had lived in the home, and his family was unwilling to sell the house. However, an ongoing relationship between Marino and Hardy began. It would take three years for this friendship to grow before Mr. Marino’s family sold the home to Urban Hope, giving him a discount of $25,000.

After all of this, Pastor Hardy shared that he now considers Mr. Marino a good friend. Mr. Marino spends a lot of time with a person and shares his life, stories, and family. Hardy said he loves to listen to Marino and is fascinated by his life and stories. He sends some church members to Marino when he needs more workers at his grocery stores. And Marino donates items to Urban Hope, so they see one another as partners and friends.

Urban Hope has a campus ministry for Miles College students. Many students come from low-income families with little familial support, so Urban Hope comes alongside students to care for them. The home they purchased from the Marino family will be called the Mary Marino House for Girls, named after Mr. Marino’s mother. Urban Hope plans to use the home as a ministry home for girls from Miles College. These girls will apply to become a resident, must be Christians, members of Urban Hope, and interested in their personal spiritual growth and ministering to others. Mr. Marino donated some of the home’s furniture and plans to donate grocery supplies for a few months once residents are in the home.

Click here for previous stories with Urban Hope.