Ministry Highlight: Living Hope Community Outreach Center
“If your church ceased to exist, would your community miss you?”
Extending the Kingdom of God through church planting and missional living.
Dothan Vineyard Senior Pastor Lyle Peluso has deep roots in overseas missions work. During an outreach in India several years ago, the Lord spoke to him as he was distributing food, clothing and prayer to those in need.
“Go home and do this,” the Lord said clearly.
An image of an old southern home with a wrap-around veranda flooded his mind, and he knew God was showing him a real house in Dothan that would become a community outreach center.
Once home in his small southern Alabama town where he’d been pastoring since 1995, Lyle started driving around looking for the house with the porch. After weeks of unsuccessful searching, one day he took a short-cut to the post office through a rough area of town, and there it was — a century-old home for lease, with a large welcoming wrap-around porch, and a parking area right next door!
Real Hope, Real People, Real God
Lyle procured the lease and opened Living Hope Community Outreach Center with no significant financial backing yet confident in God’s leading and provision. “We want to be right where the action is,” Lyle says, and Living Hope is just that.
For six years now, Living Hope has been serving the underprivileged of downtown Dothan. Named 2018 Service Agency of the Year by the Association of Service Agencies, Living Hope is manned and funded by the entire community, serving about 100-150 people weekly.
“Real Hope, Real People, Real God” is the center’s missional tagline. What does that look like? Visitors living under the poverty level have weekly access to a range of free items and services:
- Food pantry
- Clothing for all ages
- Household goods
- Hygiene items
- GED classes
- Resume work
- Computer access
- Hope Tree at Christmas (similar to Angel Tree)
- Dress for Success program
Single moms choosing between paying the electric bill or the grocery bill are able to feed their children from the food pantry. Homeless and displaced individuals pursue a GED and employment opportunities after a homemade lunch. Recently released inmates fulfill their community service hours and begin reentering society in a safe place. The elderly and ill are prayed over and kept company.
A Community of Volunteers
Coordinator Michelle Michel is the only paid employee of the center. Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, Michelle knows what it’s like to have nothing, and embodies the heart and soul of the center’s mission. “There’s more than the services we provide,” Lyle says of Michelle’s work. “There’s something bigger behind this – the heart.”
Beyond Michelle, the center depends entirely upon volunteers and community involvement for its funding and operation. The Dothan Vineyard plays a central part in running the center, but the congregation could not maintain the center on their own. Many businesses, individuals, and churches donate their time, skills, goods and money to the center. The volunteer base is as diverse as those the center serves.
A minimum of three volunteers are needed each time the doors are open to interact with visitors, with more hands needed for organization and upkeep of the facility. From sorting clothes and stocking shelves to mowing the lawn repairing the aging house, the needs are great, and continue to be met by church members and beyond.
Area restaurants and coffee shops donate leftovers. Local businesses hold food drives to benefit Living Hope. A local microbrewery even hosted a “Living Hope Night” allotting a percent of the profits to Living Hope, and told Lyle about it when they dropped off the donation! Over the years they’ve seen an ebb and flow of giving from businesses, other churches, individuals, out-of-state Vineyard churches. The provision comes from expected and unexpected sources, and God has a way of keeping the doors open.
Lyle smiles every time he talks about the old yellow house on Lena Street and the southern green veranda that’s become a central gathering place for the neighborhood. “The children who grew up in the house love it – they say their parents would be so happy to know the house is being used in this way.”
The neighborhood is deeply grateful for Living Hope and all it provides. Yes, if the Dothan Vineyard’s outreach center ceased to exist, the community would miss it very much.
To learn more about Living Hope Community Outreach Center, visit their website here.
To learn more about the Dothan Vineyard in Dothan, AL, visit their website here.