Buoyed by a father-son team of caring Christians, the father a pastor in Phoenix, Arizona, and a son following in his father’s footsteps of ministry, an outreach meant to help fill the needs of homeless and impoverished people in the core of Los Angeles, California went from a dream to a reality.
Now, aided by the direction of a local pastor and his wife, along with the purchase of a former motorcycle dealership building, the Dream Center is about to become real for DeSoto County, as well.
Lee Smith is the pastor of the west campus of Life Fellowship Church, located in Walls, and his wife Audrey is its campus coordinator. Together, they have recently taken on the duties of directors for the Dream Center, a ministry to be housed in the former Harley Davidson dealership building in Horn Lake.
There are Dream Centers across the country, but presently nothing to address specific needs of people in DeSoto County, until now. The couple detailed the origins of the Dream Center and what it will do for the county during a recent meeting with the Rotary Club of Olive Branch.
“The Dream Center was simply started by a father and son team, Tommy Barnett and his son Matthew,” Lee Smith explained. “Tommy was pastoring one of the largest churches in Phoenix, Arizona, and his son was following in his father’s footsteps. They started going to conferences in California from Phoenix and several times they decided just to drive around the LA area. What they found literally broke their heart.”
Smith went on to say The Dream Center came about by stepping out and meeting needs in the community and that began to grow to the point where they purchased an old hospital building for $3.9 million. Smith said there are now more than 100 centers across the world.
Audrey Smith said what the Barnetts found in Los Angeles in poverty, hunger and such is also true in DeSoto County.
“Everything that’s going on there is here,” she said. “We’re a faith-based, church organization that finds and fills the needs of hurting people. Whatever that means, whatever it takes, that’s what we want to do.”
One area the Dream Center will help in is addressing issues through a partnership with the nonprofit organization DeSoto Grace.
“Our mission is to connect working people to a community of support by serving as a resource center, focused on finding solutions to hunger, lack of education, and healthcare through community outreach programs,” Audrey Smith said. “With DeSoto Grace, we have seen tremendous success with test scores. We feel like if we can get a handle with these kids, then we are improving their test scores, their confidence, and in other areas.”
Smith said Kimberly Remak has been hired as the Dream Center’s medical director, as it plans to offer medical care to those in need through Trinity HealthCare.
“We’re going to provide full family health care for the working uninsured and underinsured,” said Smith. “We will staff it with nurse practitioners, nurses and doctors that will volunteer their time to meet the needs of our people.”
Smith added the Dream Center has also planned to work with the HeartLand Hands food program in a food and clothing ministry.
“We’re not quite sure how we’re going to flesh out all of it, but we want to work with the families that we were already ministering to with DeSoto Grace and anyone else that we see who may have a need,” Smith said. “There are a lot of backpack ministries across the county, so we want to get with DeSoto County Schools to find out what schools are not being served. One thing we don’t want to do is to take over somebody else’s ministry.”
Beyond specific personal needs, Smith added the Dream Center will also offer an “oil change ministry” for single mom to help in their automotive care.
“You may know that a lot of times, a single mom may have a car break down, or whatever, and she can’t get to work, which means you don’t get paid and that means no money for food for children and such,” Smith said. She added that the ministry would be offered on a Saturday morning for free oil changes and basic car care.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.