Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Dream Center

For Sunday, appropriately enough, my charity of the day is a local faith-based organization called The Dream Center. The group, affiliated with the Assemblies of God church, was established in 1996 when two pastors (a father and a son) purchased the abandoned Queen of Angels Hospital compound in a crime-ridden Los Angeles neighborhood. From an initial congregation of about a dozen, their ministry of service to addicts, immigrants, and the homeless began to attract attention, to where they now have a congregation in the thousands (now served at the historic Angelus Temple), host a couple hundred in a rehab center in the former hospital, host a couple hundred missionaries, operate numerous missions across the city, and have been credited by (former) Mayor Riordan of Los Angeles with a significant drop in violent crime in the LAPD Rampart Division where they are located. Their services include the rehab center, food trucks, homeless outreach, youth outreach (targeting potential gang members), and an "Adopt-a-Block" program, where the Center sends volunteers regularly to over 50 adopted blocks in the inner city to help - cleaning up, painting, babysitting, electrical and plumbing work, or whatever else is needed.

Their most recent service -- and their first to reach outside of Los Angeles -- was to host a couple hundred people who evacuated from New Orleans. The Dream Center has stepped up to hosting up to 300 hurricane evacuees with free room, board, clothing, $100/week in spending, and access to transportation, job fairs, computers, telephones, and entertainment events such as Dodger games. The Dream Center has become the unofficial headquarters for evacuees in LA, with government officials setting up tables to administer benefits and companies attending an onsite job fair. (It should be noted that there was some media attention on a few of the evacuees who were complaining about their treatment, but these complaints were investigated and found to be baseless. The complainers may have been acting out of trauma from their experience, or they may just be the sort who complain no matter what.)

Financial statements for the organization are not available on the web, but I will email them and see what I can find out. According to an LA Times story on the church, they had been struggling to make their operating budget prior to Katrina, and just "stepped out on faith" to extend help to the hurricane evacuees, praying that donations would follow. (This was the same strategy that worked for them when they first bought the abandoned hospital.) Their good works have caught a lot of attention, and they report that there has been a steady stream of people stopping by to donate money and goods. Some of the most extraordinary charitable efforts are initiated by stepping out on faith.

This seems like a great organization in general, and a good oppportunity for a donation, as well as volunteer opportunities. (The Dream Center's website says they can make use of volunteers even if you just have a few hours to spare.) I don't know quite enough about them yet to make a significant donation, but they look very promising and I intend to find out more. Participating in a volunteer activity of theirs would be one good way to get to know them better. If you live in the Los Angeles area, I'd invite you to consider looking into The Dream Center yourself.

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