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We Rise

Kevin Mills has been a shelter manager at Open Door Ministries for over 11 years.  Like many of Open Door’s staff, he has a wealth of experience and knowledge to pass along to the men in the shelter.  Kevin has over 30 years of corporate management experience.  He found himself homeless in 2009 after an apartment fire, and like many of our guests, gave back to Open Door by volunteering.  He’s been connected ever since.  Kevin uses his background in finance to help the men with basic life skills—budgeting, credit, and saving money.  He says he’d rather “teach them to fish so that they can eat for a lifetime.”  Kevin works with young men who come from jail or rehab, and asks them three questions: “What have you done, where are you, and where do you want to go?”   He calls himself a tough love guy— “a hug and a kind word go a long way.”  Kevin says he often gives a speech when the guys walk through the door—that Open Door represents a clean slate.  When they tell him they’ve hit rock bottom, Kevin says “Great–you can only go up from here.  Where do you want to start?”  He says with consistent tough love and support, as he earns their trust, they make great strides.  He even gives them his personal cell number.   He recognizes that for many, they just made a bad decision along the way.  They’ve come from the worst possible experiences, straight off the street, and yet they manage to start over.  Kevin says many want to know how they can pay him back, and he tells them “just pay it forward.”    He notes,  “We rise—like the Phoenix out of the ashes—we rise.”

“If you love me, feed my sheep”

Linda Quick was out of work back in 2003 when former board member, Eileen Douglass, told her about Open Door Ministries.  Linda is a long-standing member of Temple Memorial Baptist Church, and has always been very involved in ministry there.  Linda has a heart for serving others.  So, she joined the staff of Open Door Ministries 17 years ago in November.

Linda likes to say that “You never feed without a message.”  And that’s exactly what she has done for all these years in the Father’s Table.  She has seen so many faces —both volunteers and guests alike.  Linda is quick to note that “I could be in their seat next week.”  She is also motivated by the scripture in which Christ says, “If you love me, feed my sheep.”  Linda has been faithful to this calling and says her love for the guests at the shelter motivates her. 

The reality of the hardship in the community hits home often.  On one instance a 14-year old brought two young children, one a baby, to the Father’s Table.  The rule stated that children under 18 years of age could not come without an adult.  It turns out that the 14-year old was the “adult,” trying to find food for the baby who was hungry.  This young person had walked all the way to the shelter.  Linda was greatly moved by this story because “hunger is real.”  She says they go through enough on the outside, and when they come to the Father’s Table, she just wants to show love.  In fact, she emphasizes that “love is colorblind.”

Sometimes Linda must be firm.  There are definite rules in place, such as no profanity.  Respect is always demonstrated.  She noted that the police have never been called while she’s been serving at Open Door.  Linda simply treats others the way she wants to be treated.

The relationships Linda builds last.  She noted that “They get better, and still stop by and report good things.  They tell me ‘You encouraged me when I wanted to give up.’”  She has watched children grow up over the years. 

Linda’s loves to share how God provides.  Once when the power went out, the only thing to be served was sandwiches, and the Father’s Table ran out of bread.  There was a knock on the door, and someone “happened” to be delivering bread. Linda wasn’t surprised—she expects God to show up, and is happy to share his goodness with a smile and a warm heart as she continues to serve in the Father’s Table year after year.

From Prison to Purpose

My name is Ronald Johnson. I was recently released from incarceration on June 1st, 2020. I served a lengthy prison term for various crimes ranging from robbery to assaultive behaviors. My criminal liability spans 2/3 of my life. This made acclimating into mainstream society very difficult to achieve. I consistently felt like the “elephant in the room” around my family. I was spiritually and emotionally bankrupt when I was released back into society. On top of that, my perception of myself was very strewed, leading to morbid and toxic depression. But what ultimately became my life-line, my source of hope, was Open Door Ministries and the staff there. 

Not only was I provided the necessities to gain a solid footing, but I was provided the greatest asset going forward—daily selfless direction by the staff at Open Door. I was given the chance to grow into my new life with their support and encouragement, which helped me see myself differently. This caused me to stop beating myself up for who I had allowed myself to become, someone that was not truly me. I am a friend, a father, and a valuable man in society. 

Today I am not who I was–one placed in a life of crime and self-induced self-destruction. I had not had the opportunity to feel that my growth was possible. Now I know that all I had to do was allow others the chance to help me. And help me they did! They provided me with medical assistance, counseling, and put me in contact with service agencies I needed to get even more help, so that I could rebuild my life.

I come from a childhood background that I feel no one on the planet would volunteer for. It literally was a house of horrors.  Loneliness and feeling unworthy of love were all I experienced.  Today I have a strong support base, full-time employment, and a renewed sense of self. I was given time to heal and to forgive myself for my past deeds and subsequent prison sentences. I feel I am a man of high character and integrity, who has learned to give himself a break. The encouragement from the Executive Director to the volunteers has been a blessing.

When you come from a 20+ year prison sentence like I did, you feel that the staff at institutions will be jaded by the ones who don’t make it. Open Door gave me the tools I needed to succeed. Along with their support, it has been an epic experience!

With my goal of working towards a functional life, I can keep myself balanced, and it encourages the selfless things that have been incorporated in my life by Open Door. I am grateful for this, as it makes me humble and encourages me to match all their support. I now take their suggestions they have offered and pay it forward to the next person.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned while here is that there’s a different choice from who I believed I was. Looking back, I see someone who was trapped in his own self-seeking behaviors, never giving real change a chance to happen. Looking forward, Open Door has restored my faith in people, and myself. My growth as an individual can be directly attributed to the staff here who encouraged me to realize that the face of a miracle looks just like me! And for that, and the little things along the way, I am grateful.

Angels Among Us

Angels Among Us

Every once in a great while you come across a member of the community who goes above and beyond in countless ways.  Open Door has been blessed over the years to have such a friend—who has given his time, his money, and used his connections to help numerous clients in need.

Through his business of selling health insurance, he grew involved in helping the less fortunate obtain health care.  Access to health care is difficult in the homeless population, and many go to the hospital for primary care.  In the past the Hope bus was a portable clinic available to this population. Once it was no longer available, our friend partnered with FaithHealth (now part of Wake Forest Baptist Health) to obtain nursing care for our guests at our Men’s Shelter. 

In February of 2019, he and our staff cleaned out two rooms in our Shelter.  He brought in supplies including gloves and over the counter medications, and began a weekly clinic staffed with nurses.  Later, in the fall of last year, our friend also set up Snelling vision screenings partnering with America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses.  Some of our guests needed further testing, which they received, and all who needed them received two pairs of eyeglasses.

That’s not all.  Our friend arranged for health care workers to come to Open Door to hold trainings for the staff.  Topics included the use of an AED, conflict de-escalation, and first aid.

Once he became acquainted with Open Door, our staff, and our facility, our friend also made sure other needs were met (unrelated to the health clinic) including a new water fountain in the Shelter, help purchasing a hot water tank, and an iPad for staff to use in case management.

When asked why he continues to do so much for Open Door, he responded humbly, “I guess it’s a Jesus thing.” God has placed an angel right in our midst.

(pictured is volunteer nurse Linda Newton interviewing a client in the Men’s Shelter)

Success is keeping the lights on

by Peter Bolduc, guest of Open Door Ministries

Success is a relative term used to describe everything from Bill Gates’ level of wealth, to everyday common man goals of keeping the lights on and the rent paid.  The decisions we make every day, every hour, are what define or destroy that success.  It was a string of those decisions that landed me in jail for eight months and ultimately to become homeless and a resident of the men’s shelter operated by Open Door Ministries. 

When I was released from jail, I exited with the clothes on my back, five dollars and a well- used Bible.  After walking around town, just happy to be in the sunshine and fresh air, I quickly realized that I had no plan and very few options.  Just as despair was beginning to take over, I remembered the jail chaplain had suggested that I should stop into ODM and perhaps they could help.  I walked in the door with my plastic grocery bag of belongings and was immediately greeted by Will.  By the grace of God there was an open bed and, swallowing my pride, I told him my background story which was filled with months of substance abuse and poor decisions.  Without an ounce of judgment, he showed me my bed and gave me a tour of the facility, while telling me a brief synopsis of the programs available.  He made it clear that as long as I was honest with him and just as important, myself, that he had a well -worn path to self-betterment. 

Flash forward 67 days (a stay made longer due to covid-19) I have a full time job and am searching for an apartment.  Equally as important as the job and housing assistance, ODM has provided me with substance abuse counseling and a stable, safe environment within which to get my life together. 

I have made poor decisions in the past that brought me to the bottom of the matrix of success.  With God’s grace and the tools provided by ODM and their staff I have attained a level of success not quite to Mr. Gates’ level, but certainly enough to be a productive, positive member of society and for that I am forever grateful.

Thank you all!