Those who travel on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive might have noticed some changes recently, specifically at 60 MLK Drive.
The tearing down of old buildings and clearing and cleaning of the site mean exciting news for the future Open Hearts Community Mission homeless shelter.
If work for the shelter continues on schedule, it will open by midyear 2014.
And that’s just what anyone involved with the mission would expect because, throughout the lifespan of the project, doors have opened, funds have grown, community and church members have volunteered and given graciously and prayers have been answered.
“Every time we’ve needed something, we’ve gotten it,” said Delia Mobley, the chairwoman of the Open Hearts board. “It’s been a ‘God thing’ from the beginning.”
Open Hearts describes itself on its Facebook page as “a faith-based ministry serving homeless by reaching out and extending God’s love.” Its mission is “to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, restore the downtrodden and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The mission strives to get homeless people off the street and equip them to work, with the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency. Occupants must search diligently for employment and, once a job is secured, they must save money. Occupants must also receive financial counseling, as well as any other counseling they might need.
About three years ago, Mobley said, downtown businesses and churches began noticing more homeless individuals on the streets and at the doors of the churches, asking for help. Local churches and pastors began discussing the imminent need for a shelter.
“Max Manack, chair of missions at First United Methodist Church, asked my husband, Chip, and me to come to a meeting,” she said of the early stages of the project. “I suspected what he wanted and, not that long before that, my husband had told me that I needed to learn to say ‘no’ more often.
“Max asked if the two of us would explore forming a committee for a homeless shelter, and before I could say ‘yes,’ my husband agreed,” she continued. “It was a very settling feeling. There’s nothing like working together as a couple.”
She smiled as she added, “But, when I walked out of the meeting, I said to Chip, ‘What have we just gotten ourselves into?’”
Delia Mobley has worked tirelessly on the project since that day.
“From the beginning, our desire was for churches to drop denominations and come together as Christians to serve the homeless,” she said. “And our advisory board is a reflection of that diversity. It’s a community effort. It’s amazing how the community has embraced this mission. From Realtors to architects to attorneys to builders to cleaners – so many have volunteered their time and asked for no money.
“And our funds just keep growing,” she continued. “This community has helped with fundraisers, donated money, given graciously. This is the little community that can … and they do.”
Mobley shared one example of the way she believes God has opened doors for the project.
“Emily Nevil, Janice Wilbanks and Bill Brannen, children of the late Mr. Lester Brannen, had signed a lease-to-buy agreement with someone for the MLK Jr. Boulevard property from out of state,” she said. “But God had other plans for the property, and the tenant never showed back up.”
The Brannen family worked with Open Hearts to make the property available for the shelter.
Mobley has many stories of families already served by the mission. She happily shares them with anyone who asks and has a couple of hours to spare, like stories of four of the most successful families who are now self-sufficient and active members of the churches that took them under their wings to lift them to their feet again.