Local church determined to nurture community

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, October 17, 2018

River’s Edge Fellowship received a calling, and not even the fire marshal can convince them to give up. Instead of abandoning their plans to set up a homeless shelter, they simply moved it somewhere else.

Darren Smith, head of the River’s Edge Dream Shelter and member of River’s Edge, said the decision came to him after a pastor prayed over him during a trip to Florida last year.

After that, Smith said he felt a “calling” to open the shelter in his church.

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“When I got back home, two other people came up to me and said they felt the same calling,” Smith said.

The group decided to renovate the church’s 3,000-square-foot basement to house the shelter, and they began fundraising for two months for the project.

“It takes a minimum of $3,000 a month just to pay for operating costs,” Smith said.

After all the renovations were done, however, the fire marshal deemed the location “unsafe,” and the church therefore had to find a different location. They eventually settled on renovating the right wing of the church instead, and the River’s Edge Dream Center officially opened in January 2018.

Smith said the primary goal of the center is to establish relationships with the people using it.

“We become friends with them first,” he said. “These are often people who have hit rock-bottom, and they have low self-esteem. It is about trust.”

In addition to providing food and shelter from the elements, the shelter also works to help people escape their situations by teaching them various life skills, such as plumbing and electrical, so they can go out and find jobs.

“We are a house of hope,” Smith said.

Roughly 16 volunteers work the shelter, with at least two serving at any point in their 24-hour operations.

Smith said they work to provide an opportunity for people to get back on their feet, providing rehab services for those struggling with drugs or alcohol.

“The world likes to use people as stepping stones,” he said. “We like to be stepping stones for others. We truly love people.”

Smith said the growth of the shelter over the past year has been overwhelming.

“The need is great here,” he said.

Smith said his life was changed working at the center, and said it was hard to describe.

“This is the poorest I have been and the happiest I have been,” he said.