Project Empathy eliminates nearly $10M medical debt in the Black Belt

Medical Debt In The Balck Belt
Thank you, Project Empathy for forgiving Medical debt in the Black Belt. Photo via UAB Hospital

Project Empathy, a project of the churches in the Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, has met—and surpassed—their goal to eliminate medical debt in the Black Belt. Their original goal was to raise $50K but ended up raising a total of $96,859.98. Read more to find out how they helped forgive medical debt.

How it came to be

Montgomery Is Being Honored As One Of The 50 Most Innovative Cities In The World! Photo Via City Of Montgomery.
Montgomery happened to be one of the cities impacted by Project Empathy. Photo via City of Montgomery.

The idea of Project Empathy can trace its root to Southminster Presbyterian Church after the congregation heard about the success of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s debt forgiveness for parish members. St. Luke’s had partnered with RIP Medical Debt, which perked the interest of Southminster Presbyterian Church.

“RIP Medical Debt sounded too good to be true. Southminister found that it was a legitimate charitable corporation formed by two former debt collectors. After discussing the idea at the Men’s Prayer Breakfast, and the church decided to take the idea to the Session of Southminster Presbyterian Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.”

David L. Stephens, Southminster Presbyterian Church memeber

Members of Southminster brought the idea to the Presbytery’s Executive Council who rightfully approved the Project. They were able to contact and partner with RIP Medical Debt. Thus, Project Empathy began.

FUN FACT: They started this project at the beginning of the pandemic, so they had to campaign on Facebook and across their churches.

Forgiving medical debt in the Black Belt

Medical Debt
Selma, pictured here, is one of the cities in the Black Belt affected. Photo via The Bama Buzz.

Project Empathy partnered with RIP Medical Debt to eliminate $5 million of debt across ten counties in the Black Belt. Their initial goal was to raise $50K but ended up raising a total of $96,859.98. Through RIP Medical Debt, every dollar erases roughly $100 of debt. This allowed for a total debt forgiveness of $10,292,875.15—WOW.

Alongside their goal of $50K worth of debt forgiveness, the presbytery wanted to help the ten poorest counties in their district. Ultimately, they relieved $639,521.35 of medical debt in the Black Belt.

The money came from churches, individuals and other organizations who donated.

Here’s a rundown of Project Empathy and RIP Medical Debt’s hard work:

  • roughly $10M of debt forgiven
  • 23 Alabama counties helped
  • 9,071 people living medical debt free

Also, check out some of the counties in the Black Belt impacted by this project:

  • Pickens:
    66 recipents | $295K forgiven
  • Sumter:
    21 recipents | $21.8K forgiven
  • Hale:
    42 recipents | $53K forgiven
  • Perry:
    22 recipents | $18K forgiven
  • Dallas:
    85 recipents | $109K forgiven
  • Macon:
    16 recipents | $8K forgiven
  • Jefferson:
    7,199 recipents | $7.3M forgiven

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Summer Guffey
Lover of Weiss Lake in the summertime and camping at Cheaha in the autumn.
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