Setting Goals for 2021
It’s the time where we all bid 2020 goodbye and begin reminding ourselves to write “2021” on things for the next 12 months. Ministry Village leadership continuously looks for opportunities to grow and improve its ministry programs, to reach more people and shine more of God’s light on our community. The start of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on upcoming goals. Executive Director Jeremy Portmann and MVO Board of Directors Chairman Dr. Stephen Newsome believe that 2021 will be a year for “making what is good great.” Here are some of MVO’s goals for each ministry in 2021.
2020 was a difficult year for the Charis House program. Most of the Charis House clients enter the program through a court order. The Covid-19 pandemic put a halt to much of the court system throughout 2020, meaning that courts were simply not reviewing cases that could send women to the program. Several women had been interviewed and accepted by the Charis House, but have been awaiting their court dates for 6 months or more to receive their assignment. The result has been a much lower than normal occupancy in each of the 3 Charis House phases. Among all 3 houses, CH can serve as many as 26 women at any one time; however, throughout much of 2020, only 10 women were in the program. Ms. Vanessa Bettis, Director of Women’s Recovery Ministries, is working with her contacts in the legal system, as well as ministers throughout the region, to ensure that women who need and qualify for this program can find their way. The goal is to bring the Charis House program to maximum capacity by the end of 2021.
Most Excellent Way was one of the hardest hit programs due to the pandemic. As in-person meetings and facilities were closed, MEW meetings were brought to an abrupt halt. Leaders reached out to attendees in an attempt to provide support that was desperately needed. As in-person meetings resumed, many previous attendees had relapsed through the difficult days of isolation and uncertainty, and others hesitated attending as health concerns continued. Director Scott Heald is proactively working to make attendees feel safe by providing large meeting spaces with plenty of room for social distancing, providing masks, and encouraging everyone to come back for the face-to-face support they so desperately need. MVO’s Jail Ministry was paused for much of 2020, as Escambia and Santa Rosa County jail facilities were closed to outside visitors. Scott prays that as 2021 proceeds, those doors will reopen for ministry, and he will be able to reach those incarcerated individuals who have asked for spiritual support.
Anybody who witnessed the rollercoaster that was schooling during 2020 can probably imagine how happy the ELC staff is to have that year in the rearview mirror. However, the pandemic has not gone away, and concerns for student and teacher health and hygiene continue into 2021. ELC Director Kristi Zagar has led the ELC through a topsy-turvy year full of quarantines and hurricane closures, and she is praying for a more calm, predictable year in 2021. “I feel like our biggest accomplishment for 2020 is just getting through it together,” said Kristi. “It brought our staff and our ELC families closer. God blessed us with amazing teachers who love God and each of our students. I think 2020 will make us better at walking in blind faith.” As many of the ELC’s classrooms approach capacity, Kristi will focus on increasing enrollment in the VPK program. VPK enrollment is down statewide since so many parents have chosen to keep their children out of a school environment during the Covid pandemic. As life returns to a more normal pace, Kristi expects VPK enrollment to begin to increase.
Despite closing for 6 weeks at the start of the 2020 pandemic, and closing again for several days due to damage and power loss from Hurricane Sally, the Bargain Center had a successful first year in its new location on 9 Mile Road. Julie Paden, Manager of the Bargain Center, expects that 2021 will be a strong year for the retail arm that provides funding for the programs of Ministry Village, though she does have some concerns. “We have limited storage space in our building, so that restricts us to some degree with our donations – especially furniture.” explained Julie. “We are looking at options for affordable off-site storage units that would give us the flexibility to accept donations on a larger scale (such as complete condominium furniture donations) which will lead us to greater sale opportunities. Furniture and appliances are some of our best-selling items, and it has been challenging to find the space necessary for them. But we have lots of ideas and I know we will work through the challenges.”
Tender Hearts Caring Hands was perhaps the busiest MVO program of 2020. At one point, the THCH food pantry was one of the only food pantries operating in Escambia County. In coordination with Olive Baptist Church, THCH not only distributed its normal family and transient food bags, but also helped organize several large-scale community-wide food distributions to help meet the needs of struggling Northwest Florida families. By the end of 2020, THCH had returned to mostly normal operations. Interviews for financial assistance have resumed, and the food pantry moved from its drive-thru style service at the pandemic peak to an outdoor walk-up service. Requests for food remained heavy throughout the end of 2020. Kathleen Schuster, Director of Tender Hearts Caring Hands, expects there will be an increased ongoing need for the first part of 2021, as many of our neighbors continue to struggle with income.
The MVO Tender Hearts team is hopeful that 2021 will provide the opportunity for something new – a shower trailer to help their homeless clients. “We’ve seen these mobile shower trailers in other cities, and they provide such an important – and desperately needed – service for the homeless,” said Jeremy Portmann. “What we are hoping for is a trailer that we could move and make available by schedule in different areas of town. It would provide those who are homeless with a place to reclaim their dignity and their feeling of worth, simply by giving them a place to clean up every few days. We will be looking into our purchasing options and praying that the Lord helps all the pieces fall into place for the funding.”
“The uncertainty of 2020 taught us about perseverance and encouraged us to rely heavily on God to meet our needs as a ministry,” said Jeremy Portmann. “We continue to face some uncertainty in 2021 with COVID, but we are focusing on making our programs stronger, and making sure that the work we do in the community is reaching as far and as wide as we can.”
If you would like to be a part of the work that Ministry Village at Olive does in our community, contact us. There are many ways you can support our ministries, and we would love to have you join us as we shine God’s light throughout the Gulf Coast.
The mission of Ministry Village at Olive is to put the words of Jesus into action throughout our community – “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV) If you are looking for a place to demonstrate kindness to others for the glory of God, give us a call. For more information on Ministry Village at Olive, Inc. and its work in the community, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MinistryVillage, on Twitter @MinistryVillage, visit their website, MinistryVillage.org, or call (850) 473-4466.
Tender Hearts Caring Hands is MVO’s benevolence program, providing family food bags as well as financial assistance including rent and utilities to those who qualify. THCH is also a lifeline to a large number of homeless men and women in the area who depend greatly on the hygiene bags and ready-to-eat food items THCH provides. The THCH Food Pantry is open for those in need, Monday through Friday, 10AM to 12PM at the Ministry Village at Olive office (1716 E. Olive Road, behind Olive Baptist Church). The Tender Hearts Caring Hands Food Pantry accepts donations Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 2PM. Donations of nonperishable food items and travel-size hygiene are accepted. Financial donations are also appreciated and go toward purchasing the items THCH distributes each day. Contact Kathie at (850)475-1118 or by email at KSchuster@ministryvillage.org.
Most Excellent Way meetings are held each week at the Olive Baptist Church Main Campus (Tuesdays and Fridays from 7pm to 8:30pm). Meetings are open to anyone struggling with addictive behavior, as well as the family members and loved ones of those struggling. Volunteers interested in working with MEW can provide encouragement, a listening ear, and prayerful support to those who attend our meetings. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering with MEW, or if you are interested in participating in a Friends and Family support group through MEW, contact Scott Heald at SHeald@ministryvillage.org or by phone at 850-475-1112.
The Charis House is a non-profit Christian-based residential substance abuse recovery program for females. The program is designed in 3 phases, each offering stages of recovery that provide the necessary tools for a practical transition into a new lifestyle free of addiction. The faith-based recovery program addresses the client’s personal relationship with God as the foundation for healing and wholeness. It requires a willingness to change and adhere to a controlled, strict and disciplined environment, allowing life-changing experiences to occur. There is no fee to apply. To learn more about the Charis House, click here or contact Vanessa Bettis at 850-475-116 or VBettis@MinistryVillage.org.
The Ministry Village Bargain Center is located 92 E. Nine Mile Road, just east of Palafox, near the railroad tracks. Hours are Monday – Saturday, 9AM to 5PM. For more information about the Ministry Village Bargain Center, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MinistryVillageBargainCenter or on Instagram @MinistryVillageBargains. Donations are accepted Monday through Saturday, 9 AM to 4 PM. Look for the double garage doors on the west side of the building and ring the bell. If you have large furniture, call the Bargain Center (850-916-9222) during regular store hours to schedule the Bargain Center’s truck for pickup, or visit http://www.resupplyme.org to schedule a pickup.
Situated on the campus of Olive Baptist Church, the Ministry Village Early Learning Center (ELC) is conveniently located near the corner of Davis Highway and Olive Road. Each of the 11 classrooms within the nearly 9,500 square-foot building was designed to accommodate the specific needs of a particular age and stage of development. The Ministry Village Early Learning Center is licensed under the Department of Children and Families (DCF License #C01ES0341) and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI #648587) and is an approved provider for Florida’s free 4-year-old Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK). Follow the ELC on Facebook or visit their website at MinistryVillageELC.org for more information.