FOOD MINISTRY STORIES

Martin and Malaysia

A family member shared info with Martin and Malaysia about the WNDC. When they first visited Mobile Food Monday at Village West, they were in awe of how dedicated the volunteers were. The food donations we were able to provide helped them make ends meet between paychecks. Now they attend Mobile Food Tuesday as well and bring their children to Community Night on Wednesdays. They are grateful for the new family they have found in the WNDC and believe God was in the details. Martin, Malaysia, Terossa and Martin III.

NORMA

Norma has been coming to Fresh Fridays since we began the ministry four years ago. She now attends and serves at one of our mobile locations, St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church.

We measure three metrics in our food programs: pounds of food recovered, the number of individuals coming to our food sites, and the family members that the individuals are able to feed with the donations they received. We track these metrics through our community members who attend ministries signing in each time they come and using a calibrated food scale to measure poundage of food each day. Since accruing all five of our food donation partners, we have been able to increase from distributing 500 pounds of food once per week to an average of 2000 pounds weekly. Since the inception of our food program from 2015 to 2019 in a fully mobile ministry model, we have increased our individuals impacted by approximately 378%. We have increased from feeding 281 people per month to 1062 people monthly. If we continue to increase at the rate of distribution and individuals served, three years from now we project to be impacting more than 4,000 people per month through over 8000 pounds of recovered, fresh food.

Mr. Jackson

Mr. Jackson was born and raised in West Nashville. He’s one of our most welcoming spirits at Mobile Food Tuesday and has been there since the beginning. Every week when the food truck rolls up to the corner of 40th and Albion he tells the staff to move out of the way and helps unload the grocery haul for the day. Grocery store partnerships through Second Harvest allow us to provide our communities with fresh produce, meats, and whole-grain food products that they otherwise do not have access to on a regular basis. Did you know that based on certain factors such as reliable transportation, degree of poverty, and prevalence of single-parent homes in one of our communities, residents have a zero percent chance of obtaining nutritious food on a regular basis? Help us fight against chronic hunger and the prevalence of food deserts by choosing to be part of the dream.

“According to a report by the Food Research Action Center, one in four Americans worries about having enough money to put food on the table to feed his or her family. Food insecurity is a likely predictor of chronic health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and mental health concerns.”

BRENDA (pictured left)

*Did you know that the latest statistics reveal that over 100,000 individuals in Davidson County are considered food insecure?

If you’ve been around the West Nashville Dream Center food programs for any length of time, you’ve probably met Mrs. Brenda! She rotates to Mobile Food Tuesdays, Mobile Food Monday and Fresh Friday. She is a survivor of domestic abuse and is in recovery from substance addiction. When you meet Mrs. Brenda all you see is the joy radiating from her smile. She told one of our staff members that for the first time in her life she was excited to be part of a community and could not wait for the new WNDC building to open so that she could call it her church home. The WNDC became a place of healing for Mrs. Brenda and opened her eyes to the possibility of faith after many years of being absent from the church community. Stories like hers are the dream we seek through our food ministry.

Protect and Empower through Community

“When I was first assigned to the community engagement initiative area, I had limited experience interacting with the community on a personal level. My previous experience was limited to responding to calls for service, which had little to no effect on building lasting relationships. I heard of the West Nashville Dream Center from multiple officers, and they had told me about the good they were doing in the community. When we approached the WNDC about the community engagement initiative, they welcomed us with open arms. They opened their doors to our team and allowed us to engage and participate in community gatherings and food giveaways. This enabled us to talk and interact with the residents that we serve in an informal and personal setting. We continue to build upon the relationships made through the WNDC. They help us gain a foothold in the 40/Clifton community, and I do not doubt that our mission would have been immeasurably more difficult without their assistance.” Officer Albert Wilson – West C Flex Team /Community Engagement

We offer weekly meals and Community Nights for our neighbors and younger friends to enjoy. Our partnership with the local police precinct has also improved the perception of law enforcement in the community, and crime rates are down 25% due to the West Nashville Precinct Community Engagement initiative. Police officers show up at our events with one goal: to protect, support and invest in our families.

Ava and Kelton spent their summer break with us as interns through the Turner Fellowship program at Franklin Road Academy. These two students are rising seniors at FRA, both athletes, and leaders in their class.

Each student worked at every ministry we offer and attended special events as well as group serving activities.

We love to provide opportunities for teenagers to lead and learn through hands-on ministry. Take a minute to read some of their blog posts about their experiences with the West Nash DC!

AVA

KELTON

The names you will never know

https://www.newschannel5.com/news/national/five-teens-charged-in-fatal-shooting-of-nashville-singer

What do you think of when you see this headline?

For me, my heart breaks for this young man and his family. I think about what they must be feeling right now…the anger, the hurt and the confusion. I can’t imagine being in their shoes.  

However – and I say this with complete respect to the victim and his family – my eyes immediately drifted to the five children. Yes, children. Children who somehow got to a place in their life where they felt that this was an option, at the tender ages of 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. The news is calling them runaways and I can’t help but wonder… Why did they run away? What were they running to? Why didn’t they have a home?

Once the news broke on Friday, our staff and volunteers began checking in with the police waiting to find out if we knew any of the kids involved. We don’t–which sadly only gives a small amount of relief because, after all, our mission is to protect and empower people living in distress and we didn’t reach these FIVE babies whose lives have now taken a path that could ruin them forever.

And know this, a 12 year old that willingly participates in the killing of another human being is someone living in distress. These are real kids with real problems and real trauma unlike anything you or I might have experienced in our lifetime. These are young children with real blood running through their veins and we ache for what could have been for their futures. If only we could have reached them. It is because of incidences like this that we know we are meant to continue our work for this community.

In the coming weeks we will find out more information about these children and, slowly but surely, their personal stories will leak online. For us at the West Nashville Dream Center, we will continue to protect and empower the ones we do know so that things like this stop happening. And before you feel too much despair, pain, and fear over this, let’s remember that there are organizations out here working to protect one child at a time. The Metro Nashville Police are working tirelessly with organizations in the community to get kids off the streets. The Oasis Center is at it every single day to build up our youth and give them ways to cope with mental health stressors. Countless unsung heroes that we call teachers and school administrators are working on it inside and out of the classroom. Preston Taylor Ministries is educating children to give them options for their futures and a way to end their current cycle of life. Social workers are committing their entire lives to tracking children down and not allowing them to fall through the cracks. There are churches like Church of the City and Cross Point Church dedicating themselves to supporting foster kids and mentoring at risk teens at the Teen Dream Center, respectively. Caring Hearts Mexico is keeping orphans from dying in the streets. Heroes for Hope is supporting organizations both here and abroad. Bridges to Belmont is helping at-risk students go to college. The list goes on and on; more than I can count. The love and hope for this community is evident in these and many more groups.

Every one of these organizations and entities are doing their best to keeping children from being just another headline. There are thousands of volunteers supporting these organizations and many others. But mostly there are kids whose names you will never know because they are living the lives they were meant to live, quietly finding the resources and doing the hard work of becoming their best selves.

I challenge you, instead of reading the articles that break our hearts and falling into a trap of discouragement and fear, to choose an organization of which to give your time, your resources, your platform and your heart.  In honor of Kyle Yorlets, let’s work together to stop the next heart breaking headline.

If you want more information on how you can be a part of what the WNDC is doing in this community or any of the organizations mentioned above, please contact me at tj@westnashdc.com. I can help you get connected and meet some kids we work with whose names you would never know otherwise.

TJ Fletcher
Executive Director

Natalie’s Story

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“I came to a church service one Sunday for the first time by myself. When I sat down, a little boy came and climbed into my lap. His mom eventually came over and sat with us as well.

I was blown away at the genuine love and family atmosphere I experienced. Instantly I knew I had to get more involved. I was able to mentor one of the younger girls for a little while, and soon started volunteering at Community Night. Community Night is something that I look forward to that gives me life every week. The children I get to serve are like family. Their love is genuine. There is no judgment. I truly feel like we are all equal, welcome and celebrating life amidst our struggles, even though our struggles look a little different. Regardless of what is going on in my life, I can smile, play, eat and love these kids and be loved by them. It reminds me what life is about.

My time at the WNDC has inspired me to know that I have something to share and that those I meet, regardless of circumstance or walk of life, have something to share with
me. The WNDC families are strong, and they don’t give up. I am inspired by the staff, and how they fight for me and for our families in West Nashville. No challenge is too big for them. The WNDC is truly the most real place I have seen in Nashville. “

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Natalie is just one of the 132 volunteers it takes to run the WNDC on a weekly basis. Natalie has recently helped us connect with our Hispanic neighbors because of her Spanish-speaking background.

 

Deidre’s Story

“I learned about the West Nashville Dream Center five years ago from volunteers repeatedly knocking on my door inviting us to programs, and I eventually let my kids attend. They told me all the fun things they did and the way they worshiped God, so I eventually attended myself. Everyone learned who I was quickly and it made me feel welcomed because people called me by my name! I wanted to know more about WNDC when I learned they met seven days a week doing different events, activities, dinners, and just enjoying each other’s company all while learning about Jesus and each other! My favorite part is the Mom’s group. I was skeptical at first because I’m a secretive person, and I thought I wouldn’t fit in. I became comfortable enough to open up and express myself. Life is a BIG journey, and now I have a group of people to tag along with me. I felt like I was a part of the dream when I learned that my opinion actually mattered. They want to hear what we think, how we feel and get our ideas as well. They believe in me. They support the woman I’m becoming. I had a dream and a vision to start my own business, and they made it become a reality. 

I started my race alone, but the WNDC is walking towards victory right beside me! 

Deidre

 

Deidre started a professional cleaning business in 2017, has paid off a significant amount of debt this year and is working toward her dream of owning a home

THIS IS THE DREAM.

Your Year-End gifts help EMPOWER mom’s like Deidre. We are five years strong and look forward to what year 6, 2019, has in store for our ministries with your generosity.
Click on the link below to give today.

GIVE NOW

Lexi’s Story

“My name is Alexis McCray, and I have 3 children: Ayden, Alaina, and Ayanna. We don’t have any blood family here in Tennessee, so having any kind of support is very scarce. God always seems to show up when we really need it though. I learned about the West Nashville Dream Center this past summer. They were doing a summer camp for the kids, so I sent my two older children, and we have been IN LOVE with this group of people ever since!

Then I started going to the Dream Center Moms group a month later at a summer pool party and instantly I felt LOVED and that I BELONGED there amongst these VIRTUOUS women.

I had some hesitations about getting involved. I have trust issues, so I don’t like telling my business around large crowds of people. I also don’t have a car currently. I hate asking for rides, but the WNDC is so helpful and ensures I have a ride to the ministries that I want to attend. I’m also learning to open up more about myself and my journey.

My favorite memory is when TJ took us to the Habitat for Humanity Open House– it gave me such inspiration and willpower to want even more for my kids. Then, when the Uprise Foundation came to speak, it fed my fire even more. That’s another reason I’m praying so hard for certain things like a car and daycare for my children– because TJ and so many at the WNDC care about my family. I want to show them my appreciation and do the best in those programs for myself, my children, and my Dream Center friends.”

Lexi has been part of the dream since we went mobile in June. She never stepped foot in the building at 4007 Delaware Ave, but has been welcomed into the WNDC family by staff and volunteers showing up at her apartment complex. Lexi is one of the reasons why we continue to serve the community. 

 

Messy Faith

Have you ever heard that verse in Jeremiah (29:11) that people quote when you’re in distress? It says something about how God has plans to prosper you and not harm you and have no fear he will rescue you? I have always struggled with verses that turn into inspirational quotes. Sure that’s nice and all but what was happening before that? Why did he have to be reminded that God would be with him? Because honestly most days that is not where my faith is at. My faith in God, myself, my marriage, my friendships. So I hear a portion of scripture like that, and I feel shame. Shame that I don’t believe enough. Shame I am not whom I need to be in the position I am in at the West Nashville Dream Center.

Let’s go back a bit. Do you know what happened before all this? Well, it’s actually kind of amazing, and it’s what I refer to as ugly mess gut-wrenching faith that you have to hang on to by a tiny thread to make it, which I actually believe is real faith. If we compare our faith to the end result that it got someone, we will never live up to the expectation or ever qualify to receive that kind of faith.

So what was God saying here? He was telling them to HOLD ON. They were in exile! They had no home and were forced to live in a land that wasn’t theirs. Also, the part that always strikes me is he didn’t just want them to sit and wait for him to make them prosper, he told them to take root, plant gardens, have sons and daughters and help the land he exiled them to flourish.

Since the WNDC has gone fully mobile after the loss of our building, one of the most common things people ask us is ‘why did you stay?’ Well, the clearest explanation we have is that none of us felt like our time was done here in this neighborhood. There are still people in desperate need of hope, and we can offer that so why would we abandon them? Is it easy? Nope. It’s probably the hardest season of ministry any of us have experience. However, we are prospering, we are growing, we are creating new relationships, and we feel like even in the hardest season of ministry we are seeing God increase our influence, our reach, and our resources.

One day soon I hope our story is that we have a fantastic property where we can see hundreds of people a week be fed, cared for and empowered. I hope that we can look back and say “Wow look at God!” I hope that we can own property debt free and use all our resources to serve people. However, I hope we never forget it wasn’t that simple. I hope we always remember that even while we were waiting for God still chose to let us prosper and asked us to keep building even if we didn’t know what was next. I hope we never forget all the sleepless nights we wondered if this could work or if we would fail. I wish I remember standing up in front of people and telling them we lost our building but it was going to be ok, but barely believing myself. I hope I remember all the exhausting days when we were short staffed.

I don’t believe for one minute God requires us to have the kind of faith you hear about at the end of a story before the story has even started. I think he wants us to be faithful first with what we know he has asked us to do. One tired scared hesitant foot in front of the other and kept on moving forward. I believe faith is the gift we get at the end of the season. It’s like seeing the harvest in your first garden. You plant seeds thinking “no clue what I am doing, and it prob won’t grow but let’s try and then it does… so what happens the next season? You believe! Because you have seen.

Executive Director, TJ Fletcher

MOBILE MINISTRY BLESSINGS – KIARA

37705084_10213889712729255_4299362456293081088_n-1-1457003244-1532454735900.jpgKiara has been part of the dream for two months. We first met her at our June Dream Streets Saturday going door to door handing out food donations and inviting families to our Summer day camp, Summer is for Kids.

Kiara has been impacted by Dream Streets, Mobile Food Ministry, Summer is for Kids, and Dream Center Moms.

All of these ministries have been a part of her life since we went mobile.

Also, her son will be attending Cockrill Elementary this fall so he is a recipient of a school supply sponsorship! Find out more on how you can sponsor a child’s school supply list and backpack at Cockrill here.

Read more of Kiara’s story below.

Tell us about you and your family?

“I am a single mother of three small children, ages 10, 5, and 2. I have no family here in Nashville. I moved here from Paragould, Arkansas, a very small town. My reason for moving here is because my 2-year-old was diagnosed with kidney, lung, liver, and brain disease by the doctors in Arkansas but they wouldn’t send him to any specialists.”

Kiara came to Nashville because of Vanderbilt. She took matters into her own hands.

“I went in for testing of his kidneys, no disease. Just a right kidney that’s lodged in his pelvic. It never came up from that spot during his growth in my belly to it’s normal spot. Lung disease is asthma, but that’s all better! He had an upper respiratory infection every month, sometimes catching 2 of the worst 3 at the same time (RSV, pneumonia, flu). He’s only had 2 infectious this year. MRI and brain function done at Vanderbilt showed his brain was perfectly normal! Liver disease never found! He was even born with a collapsed lung, perfect now! I just give it all to God and my faith healed him! God is so real and so is Jesus. Vanderbilt has been a blessing to him.” IMG_4458.jpeg

How did you learn about the West Nashville Dream Center and what was your first impression?

“I learned about the West Nashville Dream Center through the door to door food giveaway, which led me to my first impression of, “Wow, these people are a blessing”.” IMG_7031

When did you want to know more about the center and the ministries?

“I wanted to know more after my family was invited to a school’s out block party, where I became knowledgeable about Dream Center Moms group.”

What were your hesitations about getting involved?

“I hesitated for a minute because I’m new to the city and I didn’t know how people were out here or how the churches were, due to my bad experiences at churches.”

What is your favorite memory here?

“My favorite memory is laughing with the moms at Jo’s house.”

What ministry has impacted you the most?

“The Dream Center Moms had the most impact.”

When did you feel like you were a part of the Dream Center family?

“I’ve always felt apart of the family from the moment I stepped into the Mom’s Group meeting.”

 

 

Why Jaquita Matters

We met Jaquita’s kids in the Summer of 2016 when they attended our Summer is For Kids day camp. They heard about the opportunity from our volunteers going door to door at TN Village Apartment complex and our pencil partner, Cockrill Elementary, where Aarion and Ariana attend school.

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Jaquita volunteering at Night to Shine in February.

We knew she had to be an exceptional woman because her kids were a light to us and we looked forward to picking them up in the Dream Center van.

She made sure we had her phone number and email address in case Momma needed to step in at any point. That day came when little Aarion punched Pastor Ryan in the nose. We can laugh about it now because our buddy was on steroids from a stay in the hospital from a severe asthma attack. I’m sure we’ve all had those days where we wish we could sock it to someone! Jaquita handled the situation with grace and sincere apologies. She never made excuses for his behavior. Now Aarion goes down in Dream Center history as the only kid to punch Pastor Ryan. We hope to keep it that way. 

Jaquita began attending our Sunday service with her kids after that Summer. We would invite her to stay for Dream Center Moms group and she would politely decline. But in the Summer of 2017, everything changed.

Jaquita was suffering from deep depression. Life felt so heavy and she tried to take her own life. Thank God she reached out for help, being vulnerable and calling us her church people. But we wanted to be her family.

TJ and Miranda dropped by one afternoon after that incident with food from our food ministry and gave Jaquita a chance to share where she was at and how we could help. From that day forward Jaquita began to rely on the safe, positive community we have to offer and now she is pretty much here anytime the doors are open with her kids, attending Dream Center Mom’s group or volunteering. 

Life didn’t magically take a 360 for her. She has been through some difficult things this fall trying to help one of her sons who was struggling and navigating the need to find a new job. But she has persevered and is continuing to seek healing through counseling connections we have and the beautiful relationships formed in the Dream Center Moms group.

Jaquita just entered a CNA program and has a new job that supports her schooling. Will you pray for Jaquita? We want to see her continue to thrive. Pray that her kids stay well. Pray that she has the strength to study. Pray for her to get good rest at night.

Jaquita certainly matters and we are proud to share her story.

Watch Jaquita’s Kids perform part of their original rap, “Welcome to the Dream.”