Eye-Spy

Every Monday at the Dream Center, the team gathers to reflect on the past week, prepare for the upcoming week, and give any encouragement or information necessary to fulfill their positions well. During these meetings, we discuss any “eye-spy” moments from the previous week. There are several kinds of eye-spy moments: big victories that have occured for someone who the Dream Center is serving, sweet encounters with children in our after-school program, change taking place in someone’s heart because of the Dream Center, or recognition for a staff member’s hard work. As our director says, “When vision leaks, stories fill.” We share eye-spies to fill one another back up, especially after a tough week.

 

For me though, eye-spy time always brings me sweaty palms and a shaky voice, and here’s why: I realized that my involvement at the Dream Center was not impacting other people's lives the way it had the potential to. Each week I would come in and do what what I was required to do, but that’s as far as my involvement went. I wasn’t intentionally trying to get to know our guests or their stories. I wasn’t spending time with other interns and volunteers to hear their stories. I wasn’t giving myself the opportunity to have an eye-spy moment of my own. I was being productive and helping a lot, but I wasn’t meaningfully and intentionally involved. Ever been there? My vision was slowly leaking, and I had no stories of my own to fill it. I had no stories to fill others.

 

Being unintentionally involved looked a couple different ways for me. For example, I am the Social Media and Public Relations Intern here; a lot of my time is spent posting about our programs, our guests, our volunteers, and our services. I would post different information and different stories, but I never had my own experience to relate to this information. If I were to post about a child in our after-school program, though I had likely met the child, the story was probably something somebody told me instead of something I experienced. When I would serve at our Community Dinners, I would often be an extra hand in serving guests their food, but would not know the people whom I was serving. This was frustrating because I desired to know how their lives were changing for the better. I desired to be impacted and impact others in return. I desired to form relationships and serve in a more meaningful way. I was serving with vision, but without meaningful impact.

 

This type of service is all too common. It has its place in the nonprofit sector, and it is important. Any type of service, intentional and meaningful or not, is helpful, kind, and oh so important. So, why did it bother me so much? At a place like the Dream Center, where one has the opportunity to be a part of the difference an organization is making, unintentional involvement almost seemed like a waste of time in the shoes I walked in. Yes, things were getting done that needed to be done, progress was being made, and hard work was being put in, but the Dream Center’s vision is centered around loving people, not tasks. I knew the time that I spent here needed to be reassessed, not just for me and my experience, but those I knew I could love well if I put the effort in.

 

Getting started is supposed to be the hardest part, isn’t it? Yet changing the way I spent my time here and making time to be more intentional was so, blindingly simple. I began sitting in on the middle school class in our after-school program. I had heard so many stories about this class which made me finally decide I wanted to know these stories first-hand. I wanted to live these stories alongside these incredible kids. After sitting in on a class where Army Officers spoke about effective and appropriate communication with other people, I already had a handful of eye-spy moments for myself. I noticed the patience and persistence that Lauren, the middle school leader, and her volunteer, Trevor, had with the students in this class. Out of love, they choose role models that they know can bring change into these students’ lives. Even when things get off topic, they direct the students back to learning and help them apply the information to their lives. I also started serving at community dinners differently. Instead of sticking to a certain task, I decided to be more submissive to serve wherever I was needed and bring intentionality to my service. I began to talk to guests about their lives, ask about good things that were happening in them, and listen with an open heart to the tough things they might be going through. My first experience with this motivated me to continue doing this; I talked to a man named Mike who expressed his gratitude for the Dream Center, explained how it has provided for him both necessities and relationships, and shared with me an area he needed prayer in. I also began getting to know our consistent volunteers and letting them show me how to love and serve people well at the Dream Center. For example, “Awesome Andy” serves every week at Community Dinner and in the clothing closet. He serves people with his entire heart and is always joyful in his service. This trait of his is something I hope can rub off on me by getting to know him better as he continues to serve here! When it came right down to it, the only real change I made in finding my own eye-spy moments was showing up and being kind. I began treating each person I met like a friend. I began supporting my fellow interns in their areas, simply by being there and being kind.

 

On the heels of my own progress and the newfound meaning I’ve found in serving, I challenge you. Next time you serve, be intentional with the guests, volunteers, and staff around you. Ask about their stories and how they got to where they are. Ask how they have been impacted by the Dream Center. If you have given to the Dream Center, come in on a Wednesday night to see what you are giving to. Be willing to let go of your normal routine to optimize your experience here. I promise you won’t regret it. I promise you will leave impacted. I promise that being intentional at the Dream Center will leave you with eye-spy moments of your own.

 

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …” Philippians 2:1-11

 

Written by: Savannah "Bani" Nelson

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Difference by the Dollar

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We often diminish the value of a single dollar. We joke about it; “Don’t spend it all in one place!” We consider it pocket change, there to pay tolls, or buy a $1 large soft drink at McDonald’s when a craving strikes, or purchase a practical find at Dollar Tree. This collective “we” does not exclude any class. Yet to some, the single dollar holds a higher value, even if it is assigned the same purpose. When a family walks into the dream center, a large percentage bring with them a gas station drink or large McDonald’s cup. Our middle school kids love McDonald’s and Sonic because they know these places as somewhere that their pocket change can be put to good use. Our families value these $1 items, because they budget to purchase them, save their pennies to indulge in them, and know the difference that $1 makes. To some, $1 is the difference between getting their electricity turned off. To some, $1 is just 25 cents short of bus fare. To some, $1 is being able to provide a meal for their family. Every dollar truly counts.

We may recognize that 10 one dollar bills adds up to $10, but do we truly recognize the power and potential of each individual one dollar bill? I believe that we are all guilty of this oversight every once in a while, and sometimes all it takes is a sweet reminder. Our reminder came on Giving Tuesday, and it came in a flood. We had been hoping and praying for big donations, trying to reach our goal of $5,000. We were praying to the point of stress: “Will we make our goal? We need to make our goal!” Then one of our Dream Center moms walked in, gave us four quarters, and said, “Here’s my contribution for Giving Tuesday!” She was so proud, she was so kind, and she was so hopeful that her dollar would make a difference. It was such a sweet reminder, to see her come in, knowing that she could use that dollar to pay a bill, buy a soft drink or snack for one of her children, or use it for bus fare. The next day, we looked at our daily giving report to see if we met our goal. We exceeded our goal by $700! When we looked at the giving breakdown, we were so overwhelmed to see not two or three big donations, but several, incredibly kind donations of varying size. We saw a few $1 donations, we saw some $50 donations, and we saw another $20 donation from a young girl’s first paycheck. All of these people came together, gave what they could, recognized the power of $1, and helped us exceed a huge goal.

We currently have 2,135 people following us and supporting us online. If each of these supporters donated just one single dollar, we could provide: 1 month of community dinners, 4 months of after-school programming, or the renovation of 1 added classroom for after-school programming. As we are moving into the end of the year and working to fundraise for 2018 at the Dream Center, we are praying for donations to roll in. We assure you that each individual dollar will make an impact. The significance of $1 and the difference that it can make is substantial to a family that could use a little help and a whole lot of hope. As the year comes to a close, we ask that you would partner with us in the #differencebythedollar movement. We are thankful for each and every one of our supporters, those who give of their time, those who give of their resources, and those who love our families so well. When you participate in end of year giving this month, we hope that you are reminded of the difference that a dollar makes. To make a difference with your dollar this holiday season, visit www.springfielddreamcenter.com/donate!

Nowhere to go but up...

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In 2003, Jarrett Gipson found himself on the cusp of a breaking point. He was living alone in Florida, with no real family or friends, struggling with a drug addiction, and living in a tent outside of a fellow drug addict’s house that was full of standing water. His head was filled with thoughts of hopelessness and despair because of the negative experiences he had encountered in his childhood: abusive family members, shuffling from foster homes to institutions, and no real spiritual beliefs or life guidance. That’s when he met his bride, Melissa Rutherford. He was sitting in a friend’s trailer when she walked into his life. She was invited over by a mutual friend, and there was an instant connection between the two. That same day, they moved in together. She went with him to his tent and retrieved what few belongings he had, all of which were soaked from the rain and infested with frogs and insects. Three months later they were married and trying to raise a family together. Melissa had two children from a previous relationship that Jarrett connected with immediately. He finally had a chance to be loved and learn what it meant to have a family. Unfortunately, they still had their struggles. They moved to Missouri where the ups and downs seemed to continue relentlessly. 

 

Upon their first visit to the Dream Center, Melissa and Jarrett felt like they had truly and harshly hit rock bottom. Their family had suffered some incredible losses throughout the last few years, and they felt like they no longer had a grasp of who they were and where to turn for help. In April of 2014, the Gipson’s lost their oldest son. Shortly after, investigators found black mold in the grieving family’s home, resulting in them moving into emergency shelter so their 3 girls weren’t removed from the home. They were booted out of their family home, forced into a motel for months, and had to sell their car to afford the rent. The Gipson family felt like they had been completely devastated within a matter of days. There seemed to be no way out of the darkness that had swallowed them. That’s when Melissa first heard about our organization. 

 

When Melissa first starting coming to the Dream Center, the only help she wanted was from the food pantry, so she could feed her family. Adamant that she had no interest in talking to anybody or becoming involved with the Dream Center, Melissa was content to stay in her corner, alone and without support. On some level, she felt that there was no point. She felt like the bare minimum was enough effort. Looking back, that line of thinking breaks her heart. However, she slowly grew to trust the staff here at the Dream Center. After just a few visits, she was talked into joining the Circles Program. According to Melissa, this is what opened up a whole new world of possibilities for herself and her family. At first, it felt like her whole family was against her. She felt that her husband, Jarrett, wasn’t supportive of the idea, and her kids were fighting her the whole way. It felt like she was losing the battle before it even began. But she wasn’t ready to give up just yet. She set amazing goals for herself, brought her husband to classes with her, and brought her kids here to get them involved in the process. Eventually everybody was on board and supporting her; she even talked Jarrett into enrolling in Circles, too. Melissa believes that the Dream Center gave her the motivation to start over. It helped her realize dreams she didn’t even know she had. The hope she now feels for her family’s future is driving her to new, incredible heights. 

 

Now they’ve become a huge part of the Dream Center family! Melissa and Jarrett love to volunteer and give back any way they can. For them, it’s a way to get back to God and give back to a community they love so dearly. It’s a support system they didn’t know they needed and now they want to be that for somebody else. Now, Melissa is looking to start up her very own home business, Jarrett has recently come to know Christ and is working on becoming a more supportive husband and father, and their middle daughter is very involved with the North Point youth program. Melissa believes that this place is a second home for her and her family. It gives her kids some place to go that’s safe and structured; she never has to worry about them and knows they’re learning valuable lessons here. It’s also a safe space for her and her husband to socialize and be comfortable. We are so incredibly proud of the victories that the Gipson family has had here. They’ve come so far and we’re so excited to see where they’re headed to next! Families like them are truly the heart of this organization. 

 

Melissa, ever the confidant and encourager, wants each of our readers to remember, “As long as you make someone smile, it’s been a good day.” She passes on these words in memory of her sweet son.

The First Family

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When our doors first opened in March, it wasn’t long before we had our first family. Nicole walked in, five kids in tow, looking for childcare–it was clear that she prioritized her kids and would do pretty much anything for them. Her son, Javen, was one of our first students in our after-school program. We welcomed him into the Dream Center family with open arms, encouraged and rooted for him daily, and were quick to see the effect it had on him. Soon enough, his mom noticed changes too. When Nicole came to pick Javen up one day, she mentioned that his behavior at school had begun to fluctuate in a strange way. On the days Javen came to the Dream Center, his behavior card was always green, for good behavior. On the days he didn’t, his card was red, for poor behavior. Upon noticing this change, Nicole began to spend more time at the Dream Center. She was welcomed in with the same open arms that embraced her son, and she grew to be not just a part of the Dream Center family, but a friend to the team.

When Nicole, Javen, Lilly, Anna, Brielle, and Shakayla first walked into the Dream Center, we saw a dedicated parent, whose concern was only ever for her beautiful, smart kids, and not for herself. Now when they walk in the doors, we still see those beautiful, smart kids, but we also see a mother who has truly blossomed. Through the friendships she has found here and the Circles program she has participated in here, Nicole has rediscovered her worth. Nicole has recognized that in order for her kids to be priority, she must also make herself a priority, to be the best she can be for her kids. Nicole has set several different goals for herself over the course of the 16-week Circles Program, both big and small. Recently, she got hired for an incredible job that will help her take care of her family in a game-changing way. She also enrolled in classes at Missouri State University, pursuing a degree in criminology. Nicole dreams of helping other women like her, and we know that she will change so many lives when this dream becomes a reality. We are incredibly proud of and thankful for this family, and we are so excited to keep celebrating these victories with our friend Nicole and her sweet kids. Families like this are why we do what we do, and they are truly the heartbeat of this organization. To hear Nicole tell you her story, watch this video.

Note: Circles is a national organization that provides education to families on how to get out of poverty permanently. The classes include subjects like setting goals, saving money/budgeting, parenting, and forming healthy relationships. We are grateful to have a chapter of the organization held at the Springfield Dream Center.