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Ministry moves into Charlotte, foreseeing ‘limitless’ possibility

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

A Christian ministry from Wadesboro is expanding its efforts to help troubled neighborhoods and impoverished residents by shifting its focus to include Charlotte’s struggling communities.

Harvest Ministries Outreach Center, which was founded in 1999, operates a homeless shelter, indoor basketball court, food pantry and more in Wadesboro in Anson County. But in the past three years, the nonprofit organization “felt a tug, and our hearts were pulled toward Charlotte,” said Steve Adams, pastor of the ministry.

In June 2013, the organization started holding Sunday service at Winterfield Elementary School on Winterfield Place in Charlotte twice a month. It also visits urban neighborhoods in Charlotte each week, hosting mini-block parties, handing out toys, purchasing groceries for neighbors and even organizing community basketball tournaments in such neighborhoods as Randolph Hills, Grier Heights and the nearby Villa Court Apartments.

The organization, which relies heavily on individual donors, plans outreach events according to its mantra, “Find a need and fill it. Find a hurt and heal it,” Adams said.

“It’s been great to help the neighborhoods,” Adams said. “We’re all about helping folks who have fallen through the cracks and the children who just need a little help.”

Ronnie Floyd, 40, of Wadesboro was first helped through Harvest Ministries Outreach Center in February 2012. He said he was transformed because “they accepted me for where I was at.” By March 2012, Floyd said, he had been saved, and in August 2013 he was baptized for the first time.

Now he regularly volunteers his time in such Charlotte neighborhoods as Grier Heights and Villa Court.

“We go to the places in Charlotte that most people won’t even go into because they’re so bad,” he said. “These people have fallen through the cracks of life, and they think people don’t love them. We invite them to church so God can come into their life and get them saved.”

Jahvon Banks, 23, said he was a “kid who needed some guidance, trying to find his way in a drug-infested area off Albemarle Road” in Charlotte when he decided to move to Wadesboro to be closer to his family at age 19, he said. Soon, he found the shelter at Harvest Ministries Outreach Center.

Citing family tensions, Banks decided to move to the shelter.

“I came in, and they accepted me for me, problems and all,” he said. “The possibilities are limitless with them. They see beyond my past and what I’ve done in my past.”

Now four years later – and through the help of Harvest Ministries – Banks said he has a GED and is researching colleges. He also runs a community recording studio.

Now Banks is giving back to other troubled youths. He still lives in Wadesboro and leads free youth basketball tournaments in troubled neighborhoods and serves as a mentor to younger males.

“Sometimes it’s hard to find your way when you’ve had a troubled life,” he said. “Harvest Ministries changed my outlook. I learned to reach and serve people and change people’s lives instead of ruin them and influence them in the worst ways.”

Banks said he was particularly proud that at least 40 youths showed up recently to participate in a basketball tournament he organized in Charlotte at Winterfield Elementary School.

Banks said the key to reaching people is establishing long-standing relationships.

“It can’t just be an overnight, fly-by thing,” he said. “You’ve got to be dedicated to being a mentor. We let them know that life isn’t always easy, but we’re a place where we accept your problems and issues and we walk through them with you.”

In the long term, Adams said, he hopes to expand the outreach program to include more mentor relationships and even life-skills training, such as how to get a job and how to balance a checkbook.

“We want to meet their needs, both practically and spiritually,” Adams said. “It’s vital to not just do a handout but a hand up and teach them how to get up and stay up.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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