Hope House Church in Jasper accepted a $5,000 check Thursday to help partially with the cost of a major $55,000 kitchen suite that will help with feeding the homeless — as well as offering a …
Hope House Church in Jasper accepted a $5,000 check Thursday to help partially with the cost of a major $55,000 kitchen suite that will help with feeding the homeless — as well as offering a bathing facility for them.
Cawaco Resource, Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council officials, were joined by Hope House Church lead pastor Thomas Martin, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, state Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Jasper, and Paul Kennedy, the executive director of the Walker Area Community Foundation. (State Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper, could not attend as her mother was having surgery.)
The transformation has been the latest for the old Murphy's Furniture building at 1620 10th Ave. that was converted for the church roughly five years ago. The new 1,500-square-foot addition was part of a section of the building built in 1958, and concrete floors can still be found, albeit painted red.
The floors "look pretty snazzy for $1,700," Martin told the officials Thursday while taking them on a tour. "We applied it all ourselves."
About six months after the church was started there, a food truck was purchased, leading to a remote food service in the area that has continued to this day.
Martin said the area started with a room converted to a soup kitchen dining area less than two years ago, providing an area where the homeless could eat.
"The first time I came in here, you had a bank of Crock-Pots," Kennedy told Martin. "There were about six of them," all of them in operation. Martin said God will bless small efforts, leading to larger things.
Cooking is still a staple today, starting with the Monday meals.
"Every Monday this room has 60 people. Sometimes we take in extra chairs," Martin said. He noted the church "is strategically located for those who walk or ride bicycles." Some people even walk from East Jasper for a meal.
Hope House Church hosts the weekly 11:30 a.m. Monday lunches in cooperation with and organization from Jasper's First Baptist Church, Farmstead Baptist Church, First Christian Church. Basically the church provides the power, facilities and clean up on Mondays, he said.
The church also feeds people (opening the doors to anyone in the community) on Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m., and other special meals are also given. He is hoping to have Friday meals in time, as that day is underutilized by local churches for meals.
"It's amazing on that Monday to come in here maybe a half an hour before and see people walking in from this direction and from that direction, riding bicycles. It's the community coming together. I love it," he said.
The feeding program has gone on for five years at the church. Meals are also fed on Wednesday night, serving close to 100 people through the soup kitchen.
"We've been cooking that food in one convection stove and in a regular ol' house-style stove, and have been doing that literally for a couple of years," he said. "We also do a food serve on the second Monday of every month, when we go out to an elderly village on Blackwell Dairy Road. We feed 150 meals that are hot and prepared, and we deliver those door to door to our elderly low-income community."
He said that service will be expanded as the church now has a dedicated kitchen. The new commercial-style kitchen, which has just been completed after six months of work, was built to serve more meals in the area. Thanks to the expansion, the church's food truck will go into more areas, such as East Jasper, West Jasper, Sipsey and Warrior.
Volunteer labor was important in completing the effort, Martin said. He pointed out the Carpenters for Christ team from Jasper's First Baptist did the stud work, for example.
In moving beyond the dining area now in use, one finds a hallway with rooms. One is for an office for the operation, and another is a "hidden secret" that is about to be launched around Thanksgiving, he said.
The secret is a bathroom has been constructed with a shower.
"It is not just a bathroom for the soup kitchen. We're opening this up in late November as Jasper's first bath area for the homeless," Martin said. "We'll be open a day or two a week where people can come in. We have a pretty good population of homeless ... who live in tents in the woods," as well as abandoned houses. Kennedy added some are living in warehouses.
"This is going to be an opportunity for someone who comes in for a hot meal that they can also get a hot shower. We're going to provide towels, soap, deodorant and shaving cream and all that kind of stuff. They can get cleaned up and have some dignity about them," Martin said.
Martin said it could be used as a tool by social services to help the homeless make a transition. He said many of the homeless were once "great members of society, but they have a series of events that put them in an area that they are in such a deep place that they can't climb out by themselves." However, with some help they might return to their former place, noting the name of the church is Hope House.
Moving through the hallway, one finds the kitchen with commercial appliances, where walls were torn out to give proper space.
"There is plenty of room to work and move around," said Martin, who also has worked at Jasper Industrial Supply for 17 years. "We can put things in hot boxes and transition them straight out the door to load up on the food truck. This is going to be an amazing thing for this community," he said.
Areas are provided for freezers and dishwashing, as well as wire shelving for food storage. A loading dock is available for unloading pallets of food. A laundry area may be added for the homeless, as a washer and dryer are available, although the church would have to overcome a venting and draining problem in the old building.
"This was a warehouse that had no plumbing and it had sketchy electrical that was put in 40 years ago. Everything had to be brand new," Martin said.
The $5,000 given by Cawaco on Thursday went toward an $11,000 cost to deal with plumbing issues, as it was expensive to dig new ditches, put in new sinks and other related work.
"It was a big job, but it was a super blessing to get that money to help with that," he said.
Aside from volunteer labor, about 100 people at the church helped in self-funding the overall project, Martin said. All the staffing for the church and the meals are part-time.
The church is building a volunteer list to help out so that the complex can be fully used, noting lunches are being planned to help. However, he noted that gas appliances are hooked up and the new kitchen will be used to cook for the next Wednesday meal. Extra portions of fresh, hot food is available, and, knowing the visitors will need food the next day, the organizers give out to go containers. No food is saved, as only fresh food is served.
Elderly and children are the usually the ones who come, Martin said, and it was noted sometimes the elderly, such as grandparents, are taking care of children now.
Sometimes children will come from West Jasper, with a 15-year-old child leading younger children by the hand, Martin said. The church sometimes team them up in cars to go back so they are not walking on a four-lane road at night.
Reed said he has watched the work at the church for some time, and he said it was "phenomenal" what it is doing in the cause for Christ. Moreover, he said the church is already at work on the project regardless for the grant.
"That's a joy for folks like Tim and I" to work with agencies to help fund projects already underway, he said. "It is an incredible thing on what you've done here."
Wadsworth, who said he has known Martin's family for years, said he was proud of what the church is doing. "You are doing something that is really sincere in your heart," he said.
Drayton Cosby, a program developer for Cawaco (cawaco.org), was visibly excited after seeing the facility.
"I don't even know what to say," Cosby said. "You just get so excited when you are part of a project like this. This is like things we are looking for. Just to be a part of the hands and feet of what Jesus is doing, and knowing we can actually be just a small part of helping to finance that, it just makes us feel great."
"It is amazing what Thomas is doing and what his church is doing," said Dwight Hicks of Jasper, a member of the RC&D council and an employee of the Drummond Company. "This is all about community and what Christ talks about collectively."
Kennedy said he was amazed at how much the facility has changed, noting the foundation has given a couple of grants to the soup kitchen over the years. "I've never seen anybody stretch a dollar like they have," he said. "After the first grant, I had no doubt that when he was asking for something that it was desperately needed and they would make it go as far as humanly possible."
He said due to the geographic location, the soup kitchen "is absolutely irreplaceable because the people they are serving really don't have transportation." Without helping basic human needs, one can't help them to solve their problems, he said.
Anyone wanting more information can call the church at 205-717-HOPE or go to hopehousechurch.org . Anyone wanting to donate to or volunteer for the food ministry may go to the website for the food ministry, loavesandfishfoodtruck.com.