Needle’s Eye Christian Life Center helps change people’s lives for the better


By LINDA M. LINONIS

linonis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

There’s a modest building on the city’s South Side where lives change for the better because of the caring atmosphere.

It’s the Needle’s Eye Christian Life Center, 74 Kenmore Ave., off Oak Hill Avenue, which will celebrate its 40th year during an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

The center’s beginning was in the heart and mind of Irma Davis, who died in 2009. She made it her mission to help people in need, especially those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.

Emaline Smith, executive director and the only paid staff member; and volunteers Bishop Joseph MacNeal of New Wine Ministries Church Without Walls; Yvonne Taylor, who leads a Bible study; and Betty Caldwell, receptionist, discussed the center.

Caldwell, a volunteer for 25 years, exemplifies how the center changes lives. “I was an addict when I came here,” she said, adding she took drugs and drank. “This place changed my life,” Caldwell said. “It gave me a positive message ... now I’m saved and sober. I follow the 12 steps, and it’s my way of life.” The center uses 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous enhanced with biblical comparisons.

Smith said Caldwell is one of the many success stories at the center, which was Needle’s Eye Christian Counseling Center. “We changed the name because the needs change,” Smith said. “Our mission and foundation remain.”

The center focuses on helping youth and adults from getting “involved in societal issues that plague poverty-stricken communities,” a brochure notes. “People feel safe when they come here,” Smith said. “They feel comfortable opening up about issues in their lives.”

“They don’t feel judged,” Taylor added. “This is a safe haven.”

Smith credited the “Christian-oriented approach” for positive changes in people’s lives. “We pray and call on God. It’s holistic prayer. It’s not about poverty of the mind but the spirit,” she said. “God has met our needs here ... it is a place of God and a place of miracles.”

She said a continuing program is the Good News Club for youths that focuses on drug and alcohol prevention and incorporates Biblical principles. Learning life skills is one aspect; participants also take field trips and attend a summer camp. “We want to go the new museum in Washington, D.C.,” Smith said of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest Smithsonian museum.

Smith also said the women’s and men’s support groups remain the backbone. “We see how this helps people see and walk in a different way,” she said. Vander Jones leads the men’s group and Smith, the women’s.

There also are men’s and women’s Bible studies. Taylor, who leads the women’s group, has been involved since Davis founded the center.

“She had a mother’s personality,” Taylor said of Davis. “She loved people and there was a strength about her. I saw in her a presence I wanted to instill in myself ... to be that loving and kind. She’s been an inspiration in my life.”

Taylor added that Davis showed her how important it was “to turn to God as the foundation” and she tries to impart that to others.

Bishop MacNeal, a program specialist, is involved in new health-oriented initiatives. He is working with the pastoral care department of Cancer Treatment Centers of America that helps clergy with training and support for cancer care ministries. A cancer support group will be offered at the center. Another project is distribution of prescription assistance cards. A monthly community health presentation on topics as hepatitis C and sickle cell will be offered through CHAMP, Community Health Access to Medicine Project.

Bishop MacNeal, a 20-year volunteer, said involvement at the center becomes “part of your blood.” He said that because of Davis and the foundation she forged, generations that followed were able to build structure in their lives. “They learned where they fit in,” he said. “I learned and others learned from her what faithfulness is.”

He continued that faithfulness to Davis’ approach has produced “changes in people’s lives.”

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