Dream Center Pastor/Director Smith says changes beginning to take place

Published 9:22 am Friday, December 6, 2019

It’s meal time, and clients make their way through the food line at Rivers Edge Fellowship Assembly of God Church’s Dream Center at 1200 19-E Bypass, Elizabethton.

Darrin Smith, Director and Pastor of the Rivers Edge Fellowship Assembly of God Church Dream Center, says changes for the ministry are in the works.

“Rumor has it that we’re shutting down, but we’re not shutting down, we’re restructuring,” according to Smith, who said those rumors are totally premature. “We own a house beside the church. We’d like to move it over there the first of next year, 2020, February, March, April.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We’re starting to work on that, so we’re not taking any overnight stays right now, but those we have we’re going to keep, but no more for now. Right now, we have 13 and, as they leave we’re not going to replace them because we have some work to do on remodeling, etc.”

The approximate maximum capacity with the restructured properties will be about 12, according to Smith, who said at one time maximum capacity was about 25. “In this wing, we had bunk beds set up, so it was rough,” he remarked.

“At one time, the ministry was serving about 2,000 meals each month, but the current figure is approximately 1,500 meals per month. It’s come down a little bit since we cut back on our people. We still have people come in for lunch and dinner. We call it our soup kitchen. Our goal is to feed everybody who is hungry, regardless.

“When we started, we had 16 volunteers out of the church, and a couple of people outside the church,” Smith said. “It kind of dwindled down to where the fewer people we had, the fewer people we needed, obviously.”

The ministry began in February 2018, according to Smith. “We were working on doing something to help the homeless and when I was in Florida I heard a word from God,” Smith recalled. “He said now is the time to start helping these people.

“As far as staying in the shelter, we’ve had a little over 170 people stay here,” Smith estimated. “And we’ve had 159 confess Christ as their Lord and Savior out of that.”

Food and shelter are only two of the ministries provided by Rivers Edge, according to Smith. Seventy-four percent of those served by the ministry so far this year have been assisted with obtaining housing. Those who don’t have driver’s licenses or jobs are given assistance in receiving those resources.

Approximately $4,000 is needed each month to operate the Dream Center. “The electric bill is tremendous,” Smith said. “The electric bill is around $1,400 a month in the high months. It has come down a little bit. The water bill is $300 to $400 a month.”

The ministry operates a thrift store on Highway 91, which helps offset the operational costs. The community can assist the ministry by donating merchandise at the store. “We also give receipts for the merchandise that’s donated for a tax write-off,” according to Smith, who said sales from the store have increased over the last three months. “It’s really been doing well,” Smith remarked. “The more people hear about it, the more they bring us.”

The thrift store is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Lots of clothing can be found at the store. “Clothes come in handy, because when we get people here at the shelter we can call the thrift store and see if they have clothes in the sizes we need,” Smith remarked. In addition to the large amount of clothing donated to the thrift store, other items available for purchase include appliances and automotive, household supplies and furniture.

“Everything in the world comes through the store, we are so blessed,” said Smith. “You’d be amazed at what people give.”

Donations of merchandise to be sold in the thrift store may be donated at the store. Monetary contributions may be given directly to the church. Donations of both merchandise and money are tax deductible, and receipts can be given for both.

Smith says he tells the church that the Dream Center is a mission field. “There’s no difference in this and working with Third World people who have no food, no clothes, nothing,” he stated. “These people have nothing when they come in.”

Smith sums up the ministries of the Dream Center. “We feed the people. We clothe the people. And when time permits, we allow them to wash their clothes and have showers for them.”

Smith says his wife, Karla, also helps with the ministry. “I couldn’t do it without my wife,” he said. “She’s the one who keeps me going.”

Food for the Dream Center’s clients comes from various sources, according to Smith. “We get food from several different places,” he remarked. “Some of the churches collect food once a month. Certain individuals bring us food, and certain stores will bring us things that they might have left over from certain events. Our main place is Second Harvest Food Bank for 19 cents a pound, and you can’t beat that. And we get USDA food from them.” The budget for each meal is less than $1 per person, according to Smith.

Three meals are served each day, according to Smith, who notes that not many people show up for breakfast. According to figures from the end of July, about 20-30 people were being served lunch every day, with 30-40 people being served dinner. About 60 people per day are being served meals at the center, Smith said. Smith says efforts are made to keep the per-meal cost to less than $1 for each meal.

The center’s six-month program offers a variety of life skill classes. “Our cooks now are from the shelter,” Smith said. “They learned how to cook. We’re teaching how to cook, we’re doing housekeeping, keeping things in order, clean and tidy. If you’ve lost your children, in order to get those children back, your place is going to have to be clean and tidy because DCS will take them back if it’s not clean.

“We try to teach them how to save money. Hopefully, in three months, if they’re getting an income, they’ll have enough money for the first month’s rent, lights and water. That will help them to get a place.”

Smith explains that there really is a dream behind the Dream Center. “We own the field beside the church,” he said. “We’ve got a house, the field and another house. Our dream was to build a huge two-story complex, half for the women, half for the men, a sanctuary, a basketball court in the middle, where they could exercise and have service, a commercial washer-dryer setup, brick the front and make it nice and pretty outside, maybe a fountain to get people’s attention. That’s our dream. It just depends on how much funds comes in, if that ever happens.”

Even after the ministry moves next door to the church, clients will still be asked to attend the church services. “All we ask is that they just come,” Smith said. “I have found out over my 53 years of life, I can’t get anywhere unless God’s in the center of it.”

Worship services are held at the church on Sunday morning and Sunday evening, and a service is held for the Dream Center on Tuesday evening. A Wednesday evening service is also held at the church. A prayer service (for everyone) is held on Thursday evenings. Clients are asked to attend the Sunday and Wednesday services, but are not required to attend the prayer service.

Rivers Edge Fellowship Assembly of God Church and Dream Center are located at 1200 19-E Bypass, Elizabethton. The Rivers Edge Thrift Store is located at 555 Highway 91, Elizabethton. The Rev. Ricky Jones is the church’s pastor. For more information, call the church at 423-543-4901, key option 2 or e-mail mobiledsmith@gmail.com