by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell
In the mid-’90s, Brenda Spahn had it made; she and her husband, Jeff, enjoyed very successful careers, raised four children, and planned to retire early, spending their days traveling and relaxing at their beach house. But God had other plans for Brenda. After she narrowly avoided a prison sentence following an unexpected brush with the law, the desire was born in her heart to minister to incarcerated women. The extraordinary true story of Brenda, her longsuffering family and the ex-cons who radically changed her life is recounted in the book, Miss Brenda and the Loveladies.
Realizing that the existing halfway house programs were not enough to enable hardened prisoners to make lasting changes in their lives, Brenda began dreaming of what she called a “Whole Way House.” She fought hard and eventually convinced the state of Alabama to let her take in seven felons, fresh out of Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the most dangerous women’s prison in the country. Not having the first clue what she was doing, without much support, and with a lot of prayer, Brenda allowed these strangers into her home. She expected to house and help them—she did not expect that they would steal her heart. Brenda’s dream has given birth to the Lovelady Center (named after her father) in Birmingham, Ala., now the largest and most successful nonprofit transitional center for women in the country.
“I lost my riches, but I discovered riches of the spirit,” says Brenda. “I learned that within each of [the women]—even the most terrifyingly brutal felons—dwelled an undeniable spark of the divine.”
For more information, visit loveladycenter.org.