For some, it’s a miracle just in time for Christmas. For many, it will be a life-altering place to lay their head temporarily that will change the course of their journey forever.
For Statesboro and Bulloch County, it’s the realization of a community coming together to achieve a goal. And for Delia Mobley, chairman of the Board of Open Hearts Community Mission, it’s a six-year-long dream that’s finally a reality.
Although the shelter experienced a “soft opening” back in July and began accepting people, Open Hearts Community Mission celebrated its grand opening and dedication ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
With standing room only under the tent on the property grounds, guests were welcomed and thanked for their part in the debt-free facility’s opening.
Mobley said, “About six years ago, my husband and I were asked to spearhead a committee to explore the homeless situation in Statesboro. Shortly after that, concerned friends of various churches began meeting around our dining room table and the plains were laid to begin the journey of building a mission.”
And what a journey it’s been, according to Mobley. Countless meetings and phone calls, plans and stumbling blocks and more plans and then fundraisers. The annual Chocolate Run fundraiser was instrumental in contributing funds to construct the building, but even before the building opened, the board helped house those in need in motels.
Open Hearts Community Mission is unique in that those seeking shelter must go through a background check and drug and alcohol screening and be willing to actively seek employment and save money towards independent living.
“Last week, before we took in two new residents, all but one of our 13 residents had jobs and most are full-time and all of them have a savings account,” said Mobley. “This is a hand up, not a handout.”
“Look at God Go.” Mobley said she often said those words to members of the board, though she refers to them as her team of brothers and sisters in Christ. The OHCM Board Members are: Delia Mobley, Jim Benton, Lawton Sack, Robin Kersey, Ricky Allen, Dorsia Atkinson and Rick Smith. Reverend Jim Lewis is the executive director of Open Hearts.
“I know there are times in our lives when we may doubt what God can do,” Mobley said. “It was during the planning and construction of this building that we got to witness firsthand, the mightiness of Him.”
During the ceremony, two children already affected by homelessness at one point in their lives read verses from the bible that included Psalm 118:23-24, “The Lord has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad” and Matthew 25:35-40 that says in part, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.”
Impact on one resident
One resident, Ms. Judy, through recent trials in her life, has experienced hunger and fear, cold and uncertainty. She explained what it was like to live in her car. “If you can roll the windows up at night, with just a little air hole left open, that’s good. But if it’s hot weather and you have to leave the window down, somebody has to stay awake. You take turns sleeping.
“You don’t know where you’re going to the bathroom and night and if you’re going to find something to eat. You quit drinking liquids early in the day, so you don’t have to go to the bathroom.”
Ms. Judy said, “As far as Open Hearts Community Mission is concerned, it’s just hard to put all that into words. It not only put a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, it’s given us a way to pay back what has been given to us with the jobs we’ve had in the kitchen, helping with food, making sure food is taken care of.”
With emotion that took her breath away at times, Ms. Judy said, “I know who’s original idea this was and I know how hard she worked to get it going and there has to be a special place in heaven for people like her. And for Mr. Lewis to come here every day and do the work that he does…there’s a place in heaven for him to that’s going to be real special.”
Wiping her tears and smiling, she added, “He’s not a spring chicken and he works like one all the time here.”
Reverend Wayne Williams, pastor at New Beginning Christian Outreach Ministries, prayed just before the ribbon cutting and asked for God to set angels on every corner of the building in protection and favor. Fittingly, most people of Bulloch County would say they’ve seen the embodiment of many angels already, spending six years making the shelter dream become a reality.
Volunteers are always needed at the shelter, because, as Dal Cannady, emcee for the event, said, “Opening the doors is not the conclusion; it’s the beginning.”
Visit the Open Hearts Community Mission Facebook to find out how to help.