I grew up with a single mother and four siblings. Hardship was no stranger. Sometimes, we had no place to call home, and as a kid, I thought my circumstances meant I should dream small.
God gracefully proved me wrong. In 2010, He gave me an ambition that destroyed the box I once dreamed in: a dream to eradicate poverty through community outreach and free acts of service. God showed me what once disqualified me in some places now qualifies me in others. He brought me out of poverty so I could tell others, “You can make it.”
In 2012, I put my dream on a vision board, then spent the next few years in pastoral roles. By 2019, my desire for outreach was too strong to ignore. I stepped out in faith and started the East Valley Dream Center alongside my brother.
We started by handing out sandwiches at parks known for homelessness, but learned that if we truly wanted to help people, we had to build relationships with them. Instead of handing out sandwiches, we started grilling and watching movies in the park, attracting families living the life my brother and I once did. Still, God was calling me deeper.
I decided we’d set up near an apartment complex filled with families in need. Soon after, I learned it was project housing; we partnered with the city and began serving all their sites.
Unfortunately, the pandemic stopped everything, including our momentum. To show families that we still cared, we would fill a bag with household items from the Dollar Tree and leave it at their doorstep, beginning the MyBag program. Upon realizing how many families needed essentials, we built an app where they could request specific items. We now deliver 150 bags per week.
But there’s a deeper purpose behind giving away free items. What begins as a knock turns into a resource of hope. The hand-out is a gateway to a hand-up. Since 2019, we’ve established sports, youth, and behavioral health programs for kids that don’t have access to them. We also teach finance classes.
I want families to know we see them; God sees them. We aren’t here to merely bandage their needs but help them build their way out of poverty.