Last Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, I was given a tour of the Life Enrichment Center (LEC), which included 200+ people being served hot meals, volunteers putting together bags of groceries to be distributed later, a hair salon, places to get a set of clean clothes and a warm shower, and a fitness center complete with personal trainers. And there were rooms for bible study, sewing, craft, prayers, ESL, GRD, and computer classes. Outside, there was a Child Safety Village and a bicycle repair shop. All these were free and staffed by 60+ volunteers.
I had been here before about 8 months ago and was impressed with the comprehensiveness of this ministry and this revisit reaffirmed that. But this time, at the end of the tour, I was taken to a room beautifully furnished as a full service café. Eight months ago, this was an empty room. The president and executive director of the center and I were exploring creating an entrepreneurial ministry that could move the LEC toward greater sustainability. Subsequently, we had conference calls to further explore this idea. I was honored to be part of the creation and realization of this social business called the Findlay Street Café, now open for business Tuesday-Thursday for lunch.
- Our aim is to serve quality, affordable food in an atmosphere that promotes personal connections.
- Café donations support the Life Enrichment Center’s free community meals and programs.
The Findlay Street Café strives to be a place of
- Excellence in food and service
- Community, where conversations begin and relationships grow
- Sustenance for patrons, the Life Enrichment Center, and the community
I ate there Tuesday and Thursday and was seated at the community table. Carefully trained volunteer waiters took our orders in a both professional and friendly manner. The Findlay Street burger was amazing! Through lunch, different individuals joined us and left us and then new patrons were seated with us. Conversations were lively and of course, we were exploring more new ideas for this kind of missional and sustainable ministries at the LEC and in Dayton. As of the end of the second operation, the donations from the lunch patrons were more than enough the cover the additional paid staff time to run the café!
During the week, I gave short Holy Currencies presentations to the staff, board, volunteers of the LEC and leaders from other not-for-profit organizations. The discussions were lively and full of potential in making the café even more a place where people with diverse experiences can connect – building up the currencies of relationship and truth.
The opening of the café opened up a floodgate of ideas that have the potential to transform the linear-charity model of ministry to a circular rejuvenating model that can multiply and self-sustain after the initial “investment.” The addition of social businesses can provide training grounds for their “clients” utilizing the currencies that they bring, such as their time and their talents. In other words, in addition to receiving help, they can give back by doing something productive while learning new life and professional skills. I am excited about the future sustainability of the Life Enrichment Center and I intend to continue to resource this already amazing ministry in the future, and am looking toward launching more sustainable entrepreneurial ministries that will consistently rejuvenate and recirculate resources for the people in Dayton.
The Life Enrichment Center is a faith-based, nonprofit organization providing life-building, life sustaining services for the under-served in the greater Dayton community. Our goal is to optimize physical, spiritual and emotional health: because everyone has value.
For more entrepreneurial and sustainable ideas for ministries, come to our Summer Institute in the Seattle Area, August 19-23. We still have spaces open. Register at our website: www.kscopeinstitute.org.
Reflection Questions for Proper 13 (Year C)
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world
2013 Opportunities to Study with The Sustainist:
Register at: www.kscopeinstitute.org