Spreading the Dream

Post Game Prayer

Often when people think of community service they associate it with words such as boring, tedious, or even punishment. For Nick Tedeschi, he associates community service with words like hope, love, kindness, and selflessness.  When performing community service the person inflicting change is many times the one changed the most. This was a realization that occurred for Tedeschi soon after getting involved with the Dream Center of Lakeland.

Open Gym

Community service can be defined as a service that is performed for the benefit of the public or its institutions. Service that benefits a community can be done in various ways such as personal initiative, meaning own your own or through an established nonprofit organization. A nonprofit organization (NPO) is an organization that distributes its excess revenues back into the organization, rather than to owners or shareholders in order to better serve and fulfill their goals.

In Lakeland, Florida, there are numerous nonprofit organizations,

each which provide unique services for the community. The Dream Center of Lakeland is a Christ centered NPO. There services include tutoring, mentoring, athletics, food distribution and general cleaning/maintenance that are requested by people in the community. The program has only two paid employees, Pastor Mike Cooper and Steven Hill. Though they are in charge of the administrative aspects, the program is able to thrive due to dedicated volunteers.

“I have been a part of the basketball program at the Dream Center for over  a year now. The fact that I continue to show up week after week definitely earns the kids trust,” said Tedeschi, 21, senior, head basketball coach and mentor at the Dream Center.

Southeastern Volunteer

The Dream Center is located between Fifth Street and Kettles Avenue. This particular part of Lakeland is geared towards low-income residents, which includes hundreds of children and teens. The Dream Center of Lakeland’s primary objective is to get these children out of the street and into a fun environment that is also integrated with faith.

According to Pastor Cooper, the organization is making new strides and reaching out to more people. Cooper also especially appreciates the great deal of hours that local volunteers invest into the Dream Center.

“Without them this program would not function, I am very grateful for all of them,” said Cooper in reference to the volunteers that help advance the Dream Centers mission.

Hill, a fulltime employee at the Dream Center, has witnessed first hand the impact that the Dream Center has had on the community. Hill watched a Saturday morning food distribution turn into a full day of evangelism, activities for children, door-to-door food distribution, and basic property upkeep for people in the community. A program that only had four volunteers on a good day now is carried out by literally hundreds.

Nick Tedeschi Pregame Devotions

“When we first started [Dream Center of Lakeland] there was a lot of tension and skepticism by people in the neighborhood,” said Hill. “We had to prove our worth to the community. Amazingly, there has been a huge level of change in receptiveness. The fact that we get so many volunteers on a consistent basis, especially from Southeastern University, also really helps.”

Dream Center’s are located all throughout the country and there collective vision is to, “Encourage and train a community of resilient people whose lives have been redeemed by God’s love, who share that love with others to transform and restore broken lives to wholeness.”

The goal of both Hill and Cooper, along with the volunteers, is to meet the needs in the community, help the hurting, and take steps to solve the problems of low income neighborhoods.

“I love the vision that the Dream Center has. I want to help be a part of spreading the vision of the program all across the country,” said Tedeschi.

Being a part of an organization such as the Dream Center is a truly rewarding experience. Volunteers are able to spread hope to people that need it the most and witness the tremendous strides people are able to take with just a helping hand. If you are interested in being a part of the mission of the Dream Center email Steven Hill at shill@dreamcenterlakeland.org.


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