Today's blog post is a look at a new ministry here in my hometown. It's called the Dream Center. I sat down with Lynn and Julie Hicks, who are heading up the ministry, last week to talk about the Dream Center, how they got involved, and where they want to see it go. The story and more photos after the jump.
A fledgling ministry in the Arkansas River Valley is looking to improve the lives of the area's homeless and needy. The Fort Smith Dream Center is a new ministry partnered with and sponsored by New Life Church on Dallas Street. New Life Church has a Dream Center in Little Rock, and now Lynn and Julie Hicks are helping to bring the idea to Fort Smith.
The Dream Center includes a "Cars" ministry, "Adopt-a-Block" ministry, a homeless ministry, and will soon have a food bank. The "Cars" ministry gives donated vehicles to families in need of transportation, primarily single, working parents. The "Adopt-a-Block" ministry seeks to build relationships with communities and fulfill needs where they are found. The homeless ministry is aimed at helping and feeding the many homeless individuals living on the streets in Fort Smith. The food bank that will provide groceries to needy families is in development.
Even though this ministry is only a few months old, the programs are already impacting lives. Vehicles have already been donated and given away. In August, a back-to-school program will help to provide school supplies for area children. On April 30th of this year, the Dream Center kicked off by having a BBQ at Hope Park to feed local families and homeless people.
According to the ministry leaders, Lynn and Julie Hicks, the Dream Center isn't just about providing a couple of meals or giving away some cars. It's about building real relationships with the people of the River Valley and touching their lives. The Hicks are helping to create a Dream Center in Fort Smith because they love people.
Lynn stated, "Julie has always had a heart for that ministry (homeless), getting out and meeting people. I come from a little different background, my heart wasn't really there. Then we started going to New Life Church, sitting under Marcus [Brown] as pastor. One thing I noticed from the start was that I wanted to have his love for people. Something sparked when we first started being around Marcus, and God cultivated a seed for loving people. Then we met with Marcus and felt that we wanted to bring the Dream Center to Fort Smith."
Lynn, Julie, and other volunteers go into the local neighborhoods to spend time with people, getting to know them and building friendships. They hope to bring the love of Jesus to not just the communities, but the individual families and people. According to Lynn, the best way to show that love is by showing the individuals that they really care for them and want to help all of their needs be met, be they spiritual, emotional, or physical.
"It mentions over and over in scripture that Jesus would turn from the crowd and speak to the one."
By showing love and compassion for the individual, Lynn and Julie hope to replicate some of the success of the very first Dream Center. The first Dream Center was built on skid row in downtown Los Angeles. Within four years of being built, the surrounding community saw gang violence drop by 73%, homicide rates drop by 28%, and occurrences of rape drop by 53% (source: Wikipedia.org). The Los Angeles Dream Center also hosts classes, counseling, and housing for many of the area's needy and homeless.
Being a brand new ministry in Fort Smith, the Dream Center is currently focused on building relationships with people in the neighborhoods, encouraging communities, and meeting their needs. They hope to have the food bank up and running in approximately six months once all of the paperwork has been cleared by the city.
The Hicks desire to see the Dream Center grow to be much more in the coming years. They hope to partner with other churches in the River Valley in order to pool ideas and resources to reach and help more people. They also hope to one day have a dedicated building to provide shelter for people in need, and to offer tutoring for school children, financial classes for adults, and counseling for those who want it.
If you would like more information on the Fort Smith Dream Center, or would like to donate money, time, or other resources, please contact Julie at 479-739-6136 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Lynn at 479-883-1299.