Dear Whitney and others,
I am writing to give you an update on the Fresh Start Ministry at St. Luke’s Columbia and to request your help.
On 14 October 2016, St. Luke’s began a new ministry called Fresh Start. It was our mission to provide free laundry services, showers, clothing and food for the area’s homeless population and working poor. Since opening, our services have expanded to include free HIV testing, dental care, bus tickets, diapers, and furniture and household items. In less than one year, we have served over 530 different people and average between 70 – 80 people each day of operation. We currently serve our clients each Thursday from 10:00 – 3:00 and the 2nd and 4th Saturdays, also from 10:00 – 3:00. In addition, our Saturday ministry includes a full noontime meal. AIDS Healthcare Foundation has partnered with us on the first Thursday of each month. On those days we provide an advocacy event for clients and community partners on a variety of topics including health issues and other concerns. AHF provides a lunch for all in attendance at no charge. We are also partnering with the Columbia Oral Health Clinic, who is providing free dental care and dentures for our clients. Also, each Thursday Mother Jill+ conducts a noontime prayer and healing service. The needs they bring before the altar are beyond words. When God put the call in my heart to begin this ministry I never could have imagined where we would be today.
We have assisted two people in finding permanent housing, assisted a client who was a victim of domestic violence in obtaining a place at Sister Care and have tested over 100 for HIV – getting the five who tested positive into care. Of all that we have accomplished, this fact brings me the most joy.
Fresh Start began because God called me to this ministry. I began with God’s call and nothing else. We operate 100% on donations from volunteers – both through voluntary service to monetary contributions. We have received a $4000 grant through the Matthew 25 program of EDUSC, $2500 from United Way and smaller contributions from individuals. We will also receive funds following the Trinity Bazaar next month.
Currently we find ourselves in a situation that I did not foresee. We are in the need of more space. We have received bids from two contractors to construct an addition to the O’Neal Center, where we are currently housed. These bids far exceeded the funds we have available. We desperately need more space. Currently seasonal clothing is stored in our only Sunday School room, leaving the children without adequate space. The gymnasium holds furniture, household items and clothing. It is our desire to open our gym to the area youth and begin AAU and/or Upward Bound basketball. This cannot happen until we have built a facility to house the items that are currently located there.
I tell you these things in the hope that the ECW would consider becoming a partner with Fresh Start. That partnership could have several facets. You could dedicate yourself to praying for this ministry and the people we serve. Pray that our clients may find God’s love in this place and that our volunteers will see Christ in all that we serve. You could donate your time. We are always in need of volunteers. Volunteers are needed not only during the times of operation but on Wednesday mornings, when we stock our shelves and freezer with food for our clients. You could consider donating non-perishable food items. If your parish already collects food for Harvest Hope, consider contributing that food to Fresh Start. We receive our food from Harvest Hope, but we must pay for the food we take. You could also consider making a three year monetary commitment to Fresh Start by naming us as the diocesan grant recipient from ECW. Grant funding would get us closer to our dream of adding an additional room onto the O’Neal Center that could be completely devoted to Fresh Start, allowing the Sunday School room and gymnasium to be used as they were designed to be used – to serve are area’s youth.
May God continue to bless you in your work as you remember the command of God given to Micah – “And what does the Lord ask of you? To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”
The Rev’d Deacon Dianna LaMance Deaderick
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
1300 Pine Street
Columbia, SC 29204