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Tim Wagner and his mother, Leslee, gather plates of cookies to serve during a soup kitchen meal on Jan. 12, 2011, at Guidance Ministries. (Truth Photo By Jay Seawell, File) (AP)

Volunteer John Peebles serves food to Kenneth Beathea during dinner at Guidance Ministries in Elkhart on May 9, 2012. (Truth Photo By Delayna Earley, File) (AP)
Local outreach expands into second building, with help from Elkhart Community Foundation
Posted on Oct. 23, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Oct. 23, 2013 at 1:57 p.m.

ELKHART — The money’s been raised, and now a local outreach starts the work of expanding into a second building.

Guidance Ministries in Elkhart received a $25,000 matching grant from the Elkhart County Community Foundation in January. Lori King, director of Guidance, said the $25,000 has been matched through donations and fundraising, and work on the house next door will begin soon.

The purpose of having two buildings, she said, is to create more classroom space for the many classes that Guidance offers, focusing on helping people find jobs, manage their finances, use computers and more.

“The house has a living room and three bedrooms,” King said on Tuesday, Oct. 22. “That would make four classrooms, five when you consider the kitchen.”

Currently, the Guidance building has two small classrooms. Those rooms don’t provide the space needed for the classes available now, much less for the new classes that King hopes to offer through partnerships with other local agencies.

Guidance classes are faith-based, but they teach practical skills, King said.

“The No. 1 deficiency that I see (in people who come in to Guidance) is the need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” King said. “But they’re not going to say, ‘Tell me about Jesus.’ You need to take care of their practical needs first.”

The main need, King said, is simple — people don’t have food.

She continued, “Here, where I’m located, in ‘the hood’ as they say, there’s a huge need for food.”

“Mothers are scared — they don’t have the food to feed to their kids,” King said. “They are in survival mode.”

To meet that need, Guidance runs God’s Kitchen, a hot meals program. That meal service was expanded in 2001, when King said the building underwent a major renovation to make more space for the meal program and to meet health and building codes.

After meeting physical needs like a lack of food, Guidance’s next goal is to help people sustain themselves, King said. That comes mostly through helping them find jobs. King said that many people have asked recently for a computer class.

“Nowadays applying for a job is all online,” King said. “And computers have their own lingo — ‘hardware,’ and ‘icon.’ You’ve got to teach people the lingo before they can even navigate a computer. This is hindering people from finding jobs.”

With the community foundation grant and other money raised to match the grant, King has purchased laptops for a new computer lab in the new building.

The house next door, which Guidance has owned for about a year and a half, will hopefully be ready to house classes by spring 2014, King said. Much of the work needed is cosmetic, and King said she’d like to have volunteers from the community help with getting the house ready.

As more classroom space is added and more classes are available, King also noted that she would like more volunteers to work with youth.

Children come to the building now to work on their homework, King said, but there’s no official homework help or mentoring program in place. King also joked that she’d like to have “table manners” classes for the youth she sees.

She added, on a more serious note, that the children in the neighborhood really need adults to just talk with them and teach them some values that they may not be learning about anywhere else.

Guidance Ministries is located at 216 N. Second St. in Elkhart. The organization’s phone number is 574-296-7192.