Mark Your Calender!

This Saturday on October 20th the Lakeland Dream Center is partnering with Victory Church to help meet the needs in the community. They are calling this event “Street Blitz.” The Dream Center is estimating between 300-500 volunteers to come out and help serve in a variety of ways:

  • Distributing Food, Clothing, and Furniture
  • Remodeling our future Resource Outreach Center
  • Helping clean local lots
  • Sharing information about programs available at Dream Center of Lakeland
  • Facilitating Free Car Washes
  • Giving Away Energy Conservation Kits
  • Much more!

Schedule of Events:

  • 8:35AM – Shuttle Bus 1 Departs Victory Church (West Lot)
  • 8:50AM – Shuttle Bus 2 Departs Victory Church (West Lot)
  • 9:00AM –  Kick-Off Rally & Assigning Outreach Teams
  • 9:30AM – Outreach Teams Begin Designated Projects
  • 11:15AM – Clean-up & Return to Dream Center Gym
  • 11:30AM – Celebration Rally
  • 12:00PM – Dismissal
  • 12:00PM – Shuttle Bus 1
  • 12:15PM – Shuttle Bus 2

What is your favorite nonprofit?

Do you have a favorite nonprofit organization? What is it? Post a link in the comment box if so.

A Captivated Heart

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” This quote by Albert Schweiter, philosopher, physician, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, holds great truth for all people.

“By the People for the People” blog has relayed to its readers what service opportunities are available in the Polk County region of Florida. Including various organizations such as the Dream Center, Lighthouse Ministries, and Parker Street Ministries, which strive to provide services that better their local community.

“Lakeland reminds me of a town that’s a tale of two cities. You have the enjoyment of Lakeside village and the swans on the lake. But you have another side of town where you see dilapidated houses and hopelessness. This is the Lakeland that God has called me too,” said Pastor Mike Cooper, the Executive Director of the Lakeland Dream Center.

Through this article, I will relate my first hand experiences of volunteering in order to give a unique perspective to you, the reader. The goal is to answer all questions that may arise when deciding where and how to volunteer. Questions such as, “How do I start?”, or perhaps, “Where can I be the most effective?” I hope to cover an array of issues that are practical and helpful for readers who are eager to make a lasting impact on the world they live in.

My name is Joshua Minerella, I am a sophomore at Southeastern University and the single most important lesson I have learned through volunteering is that true service is investing your time, emotions, and resources, while expecting nothing in return.

Upon arrival to Southeastern in Lakeland, FL I began to search for a place to volunteer. The first step that I took in order to get involved was simply sending emails to various nonprofits. Any person who is interested in community service should express their interest in a particular organization via telephone, email, or even stop by the headquarters. A clear indicator of an organization that is worth investing your time into is an organization that is eager to bring new people in and share their vision.

After contacting Steven Hill, who is now the Director at the Dream Center of Lakeland, I was immediately plugged into a program. The Dream Center had an established vision and allowed me to be a part of it. Initially, my role was to support the leaders and assist in any way possible. Rather than being concerned about ego or personal desire, it is necessary to become captivated with a cause greater than yourself.

Matthew Barnett, founder of LA Dream Center recently had stated at a conference at Victory Church in Lakeland FL, “Our community is not looking for people to understand, they are looking for people to show up.”

Over a year passed and I was still an active volunteer at the Dream Center. Through consistency and a willingness to help others I became a larger part of the collective vision. I was mentored and trained to a point where I am now able to mentor and train others myself. An organization that cares about the people they serve, cares about their volunteers because they too are being served.

I am currently involved in many aspects of the Dream Center. Most recently, I led students in the renovation of a newly acquired building to further the mission of the Dream Center. The goals for this building are to create more storage, a food bank and a life skills center, where people can learn practical trades such as carpentry. “The Dream Center is a training ground for all people,” says Pastor Mike Cooper.

The connections that I have made through the Dream Center are invaluable to my future not only in regards to a career, but more importantly my personal character. Through volunteering at the Dream Center I have been mentored by people with years of experience in various professions, networked, learned to observe, learned to lead and learned to serve. These lessons are what mold a person’s character.

A quote by Matthew Barnett that has completely changed my perspective on what it means to be a part of a cause greater than yourself reads, “If you want to be a bridge to the world, you have to allow yourself to be walked on.”

My full story involving personal growth through the Dream Center would be well over twenty pages. I have only highlighted points that have been particularly beneficial in my own life. I hope that through my personal experience you will be inspired to get involved in your own community, wherever that may be. My heart has been truly captivated by the vision and mission of the Dream Center locally in Lakeland and across the country.

What captivates your heart?

For more information about my journey or about how to get involved with a nonprofit contact me by clicking here. For further information about the mission of the Dream Center across the country check out these videos and links:

Joshua Minerella

Los Angeles Dream Center

Dream Center of Lakeland

The Word Became Flesh

Parker Street Sign

“The word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood.” These words are what drive Parker Street Ministries (PSM). Community service feels good. A person or group can take a few hours every couple of weeks to give back and feel helpful. However, for the people of Parker Street Ministries, service has become a lifestyle.

Unlike most non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations, the staff of PSM embraces a holistic approach by living in the community they serve. At first glance, this may not appear to be relevant, however, now consider that the Parker Street Neighborhood received 9,582 calls for assistance to the police in 2011. The PSM staff is not simply helping a neighborhood they have joined the community.

PSM Staff

Staff members and their families live in the community and are, therefore, part of their neighbor’s everyday lives. This creates a unique opportunity for the staff to speak directly about problems in the lives of fellow residents. A bond is formed through personal relationships, direct observation and common, often painful, experiences.

“Parker Street Ministries is committed to individual, family and community restoration, reconciliation and revitalization in Lakeland’s Parker Street community,” said Executive Director of PSM, Tim Mitchell.

Kids in the Community

Due to the fact that the PSM staff lives in the community that they serve, they have earned the respect and appreciation of the fellow residents. PSM offers a wide array of programs to benefit the community including academic enrichment, a Christmas store, and neighborhood revitalization. The goal of PSM is to meet the physical needs of the community in order to meet their spiritual needs. PSM is a Christian organization with the hope that all people will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord. However, a person does not need to share the same beliefs in order to receive assistance.

“In a place where police sirens and angry shouts are common, there is a new, loud voice that says, ‘you’re loved, you’re cared for, and we’re here.’” Those words, from neighborhood resident and Executive Director Mitchell display the compassion and mission of PSM.

A primary objective of PSM is to give renters the opportunity and ability to become homeowners. Homeowners are less transient and more financially stable. Allowing residents to have this opportunity is carried out in various ways by PSM.

Renovation Volunteers

Thomas Gaige, a full time employee of PSM, and neighborhood resident said, “One of the most exciting news items is that we now have the opportunity to renovate three homes we acquired in July as part of our neighborhood stabilization initiative. Once beautiful, they now need major rehabilitation.”

PSM works alongside Habitat for Humanity, the City of Lakeland, and other organizations to get local residents into a secure stable financial situation. PSM purchases abandoned and rundown homes in order to renovate them. After renovations, PSM can either sell the homes for a very reasonable price or rent it. This strategy stabilizes residents thereby reducing the high turnover rate in the community.

Local Volunteers

Larry, a resident of Parker Street, has gone to prison multiple times. He has experienced the difficulties and challenges of living as a forgotten son in a forgotten community. After many years of contact and communication with PSM, he accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of his life.

When asked what has changed in his life since becoming a Christian Larry said, “The building of a foundation through Christ really opens your eyes to who God is calling you to be. A man is someone who loves his family, someone who loves his kids, someone who loves his neighbors.”

Although the PSM staff lives in the neighborhood, they are always happy to have new people join their community. In 2011, over 800 volunteers contributed to the Parker Street community. If you are interested in getting involved with Parker Street Ministries click the links below:

PSM General Information

Execute Director Tim Mitchel

Volunteer Director