The Dream Center sets its sights on nourishing people 'physically and spiritually.'
By KATIE-NELL SCANLON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
HE GOLD LETTERS ON THE FRONTof the long white building at 160 Trumbull Ave. read "The Dream Center." But for those inside, it's much more than a dream.
A fully stocked warehouse with clothing, food, furniture, and appliances is available at low cost and sometimes, for nothing at all.
Patrons in need of clothes are handed a bag to fill each month. Those able to pay are charged $1 or less for each article of donated clothing they purchase, which benefits ministry programs.
Every Thursday, the Harbor Supply House food pantry passes out bags for hungry patrons to fill -- with no questions asked.
The birth of the Dream Center has been a long time in the making.
The Nehemiah Project, an offshoot of Tabernacle Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Austintown, started a thrift store and other programs, Acts 2, at the same location in early 2000. Mahoning County Chemical Dependency Programs then took over the program in June of 2001.
On Sept. 10 last year, Pastor Fred Mayhew of Trinity Fellowship finished walking 201 miles from Columbus to Boardman to gain recognition for the center to be built at Trinity. Mayhew said the walk was about having a dream and being ready to serve as a Christian.
Trinity Fellowship in Boardman then obtained the property from owner Jim Poma, who rents out the facility to Trinity for an annual fee of $1 aside from utilities. The center officially opened Nov. 4, and renovations have continued through the year.
The center has concluded its makeover and is ready to open to the public today.
Besides the food pantry and thrift store, the facility holds supplies to be sent out into the community, as part of the ministry's community outreach programs. The plan for the center is to bring the resources to churches and those in need, rather than restricting the service to one area.
Pastor John Granchie, executive director of the revitalized facility, said the Dream Center offers outreach programs to the community in addition to the food and clothing programs.
"We feed as many as 70 people a week," the director said, attracting people from Cortland, Struthers, McDonald, as well as Girard.
"We don't check income or anything," Granchie explained. "People come in and tell us if they have a need we can fill."
How are they funding the generous service? Granchie said nine area churches and individual donors currently help to supply the store, but he hopes the grand opening will attract attention and support from community businesses.
"I hope to eventually hire people to run the center and store," Granchie said of the future of the service. "And drivers to deliver and pick up donations."
Besides Granchie, the only full-time employee, the Dream Center has three to eight volunteers come in every day from different area churches. The volunteers sort clothes and supplies for patrons.
Pat Strojec found out about the Dream Center when Granchie made a visit to her parish, Open Door Community Church in McDonald.
"I'm a widow, and I have a lot of time on my hands," Strojec said, as she folded a long-sleeve shirt to be shelved. "The Lord is calling me to do this."
Strojec oversees the Thursday food distribution from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Each needy family fills one brown grocery bag with items from the center's food pantry, free of charge.
The shelves are stocked with canned items, bread, meats and chicken, all donated from Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.
Liz Collins, also from Open Door Community Church, said the reason for her presence at the center stems from her spiritual life.
"God guides your life," Collins said. "When I heard about Dream Center, I felt like he said, 'well, there you go.'"
Granchie's wife, Chris, said it was senior pastor Mayhew's idea for the church, instead of the government, to take responsibility for people in need.
With that in mind, the Dream Center is working hard to reach a time when it can offer food and clothing free to all.
Granchie plans on fund-raisers for the future such as car washes throughout July and August and a bike drive to collect donated bikes for patrons to choose from.
However, the executive director would like to see "community support systems" come together and give monthly to the center's services. He not only wants people to receive immediate attention to their needs, but would "like to help them become more self-supportive."
Another goal of the center is to bring about racial reconciliation and unite people together in a similar vision.
"It's about feeding them physically and spiritually," Granchie explained, "showing the love of Jesus Christ throughout every church community, no matter the denomination."