Mel G.

Lover of Music & Nature. Foodie. Fascination with Systems. Working for the Lord.

I’m Proud of You

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Imagine you are at the end of your rope and barely hanging on. Life has not been fair to you and you’ve lived it whichever way you thought you needed to, to survive. You’ve come to realize that something needs to change, and that something is within you. It’s not a glamorous process. It’s the furthest thing from easy. The harshness of the world continues to expose your every flaw, every weakness, despite your best efforts to recover. You are on display as the lowest of the low, a representation to the world of what not to become – and you have absolutely no control over this. You only have control over your very next move, the next choice you will make for your own wellness, because, without this step, you will never begin to regain the approval of the world. Even still, you may never be able to. The odds are stacked against you, you are completely alone, and even though you want healing, that old life keeps calling you back.

Now imagine, in the midst of your struggle, that another human being takes a moment out of the whiz and whirl of his day to acknowledge your humanity. You tell him your story, your journey from near death to now 2 days sober and still trying. This stranger listens with intent, and even though he doesn’t know you, he says, “I’m proud of you.” While the rest of the world wants nothing to do with you, this one man sees you for who you truly are.

Jonathan Defino, pastor of New Life Fellowship and a board member of Wear Gloves, Inc., is one of those strangers who chose to listen. And this story is a true one, of a man at the end of his rope and of another delivering a message of hope. After an awkward silence, that man responded to Jonathan with tears in his eyes, “It’s been a long time since anyone has said that.” And that is just one of the many reasons Jonathan has stayed involved with the Wear Gloves ministry since inception. Here’s a little more of his story and his answer to #WhyWearGloves

M: So how did you get hooked up with the Kebrdles and the Wear Gloves, Inc. ministry?

J: I’ve known the Kebrdles for about 15 years. We came to know each other through many years of teaching Sunday School together. I remember Ken and Wendy feeling called by God to be ready to follow Him wherever He wanted them to go, to be mobile; and so they left. Their faith was and still is inspiring to me. When they returned to Ocala, we reconnected and began taking what they learned, over the course of their travels around the U.S., to the streets here. We started meeting up and having coffee with the homeless down at Tuscawilla Park. That’s pretty much how things got started.

M: Can you recall the moment when it “clicked” for you as to why serving through Wear Gloves was important?

J: Absolutely. So, when Ken and Wendy came back to Ocala, they began offering a class called, ‘Dignity Serves’, to churches citywide. I took that class 3 times and on the third go around, it started to sink in. But the pinnacle moment was when I was serving coffee at Tuscawilla and had the opportunity to speak with Daniel. He was 2 days sober and I told him that I was proud of him. His reaction was not what I expected at all and it clicked for me at that moment that this is an unbelievably real human being who doesn’t need my help – he just needs to know that he is loved by God & loved by me. For the most part, people are accepted by God where they are at.

It clicked for me at that moment that this is an unbelievably real human being who doesn’t need my help – he just needs to know that he is loved by God & loved by me.

M: Wow. So, what has life looked like for you since getting involved with Wear Gloves and have gained new perspective on poverty & homelessness?

J: A lot of my story is about giving up my pride and learning what it is to truly help someone else. From when I first began work in ministry to when I was led to become a pastor, each step along the way has been a process of exposing my longing for acceptance and approval, laying that before God, and trusting Him. I’ve watched Ken and Wendy walk in this kind of faith and trust in God, and being a part of their journey has been eye-opening for me.

We all long for people to see us for who we are and to be accepted where we are at. Personally, I’ve been able to see that anytime I’m trying to DO something for someone else, I’m trying to become their god. And when we are constantly trying to “help” others, we may actually just be enabling them to do the very thing they hate about themselves. My friend Daniel didn’t use to live on the streets. He used to get drunk and fall asleep on the street and people just assumed he was homeless and would give him money. Eventually, because of his addictions to drugs and alcohol, he lost his job and became homeless. Because people just gave him money, he never felt a need to do anything different with his life. Giving him money didn’t help him recover from his addictions, didn’t give him any sense of dignity, and didn’t solve the issue of homelessness.

We all long for people to see us for who we are and to be accepted where we are at…when we are constantly trying to “help” others, we may actually just be enabling them to do the very thing they hate about themselves.

M: There is so much insight there and I know you have so much more that you could share with us about your life, experience, and what you’ve learned along the way. With that being said, if someone were to ask you why you serve with Wear Gloves, what would you say?

J: I serve with Wear Gloves because I’m passionate about the Gospel. Knowing God is like meeting the coolest person in the world and wanting to introduce everyone to him. It’s in the dark places, where there is little to no hope, where the light of the Gospel shines the brightest. We want people to know that God loves them. We want people to know that we’re proud of them.

Do you have a story to share about how Wear Gloves, Inc. has made an impact on your life?

Share your story with us! When you share a photo on Instagram, or make any other post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. about your involvement or the impression this ministry has made on your life and those around you, add the hashtag #WhyWearGloves to your post. It’s just one small way we can connect and share in the joy of serving God together!

Melissa GibsonI’m Proud of You
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Meet Your Facilities Manager: Kenny Mcnamee

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Kenny Mcnamee is a man full of love and dedication to his family, friends, and the work given to him. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Kenny has been in Ocala with the Wear Gloves, Inc. team for almost 3 years now. He is a hard worker, willing and able to take on just about any job needed at the Dignity Center, from lawn maintenance to clean up to flooring. Not only that, but in his spare time he volunteers at Church in the Garden and has done so for many years: helping with set up, tear down, making the coffee, and participating in the service with scripture reading.

“I love Church in the Garden. It’s my church. I give back to them for what they do for us.”, Kenny says.

When he’s not working or volunteering, Kenny loves spending time with his lovely wife, Kimberly, and watching Grey’s Anatomy.

How has working for Wear Gloves at the Dignity Center impacted your life for the better?

It has changed my life. I used to hang out with negative-type people. When I started working with Ken & Wendy, I stopped hanging out with the negative people. I just know that Ken & Wendy, the people here, care for and love me… and stuff like that.

Have you learned any new skills?

Putting down flooring. Just put down my second floor. I’ve learned how to make signs, paint signs. Lots of painting. I’ve been painting the units here, getting them ready to rent out. I’ve also been able to pick up side jobs outside of the Dignity Center. Been working on a horse farm cutting grass, trimming bushes, pressure washing the barn roof, painting boards around the property. And I’ve been helping with a deck remodel.

You seem like quite a handyman! What kind of work did you do before?

I did roofing work for 25 years so I’m used to manual labor. I’m too old for the roofing now. Hurts.

What do you like most about working at the Dignity Center?

It’s an easy place to work. I like the people that work here. And I’m practically my own boss in the sense that Ken trusts me. He sees things that need to be done and knows that I’ll get them done.

Do you have a favorite job or new skill that you’ve learned?

I love to paint.

What hopes, dreams, and/or aspirations do you have?

I’d like to get my driver’s license. There have been people here who have helped me so much, getting me in touch with the right people to lift charges that I would never have been able to pay. I’m getting closer to getting my license back.

I also want to speak to the kids at the juvenile detention center and talk to them about how to stay out of trouble.

Can you tell me a little bit about your story and why talking to kids today is important to you?

Yeah, I started getting in trouble when I was 13. My dad died when I was 13. That had a lot to do with it. My mom was working two jobs and never home. I started hanging around my older sister’s friends, who were bad influences. My first time in prison was for 10 years up in Virginia. After moving down here, I went to prison again in 1994 and got out in 1998. I went 3 more times, last time being in 2010. After that I made a promise to God and to myself not to go back there again. And I haven’t. If I can change, other people can, too.

If you could send the world one message, what would it be?

Do the right thing. Obey your mom and dad. Or else.

Come by Church in the Garden on Saturday morning @ 9am to meet Kenny & Kimberly. Be sure to stick around for the service & breakfast fellowship to learn more about the ministry of Wear Gloves, Inc.

Melissa GibsonMeet Your Facilities Manager: Kenny Mcnamee
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Rooted in Love: Our Urban Garden Story

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As you pull into the parking lot of the Dignity Center, you can’t help but notice a lot of green among the gravel. That’s our urban garden. What once was a little plot at the back of the lot, sprouts amid weeds in an old retention basin, now is a fully-grown garden at the entrance of the plaza. So, you may be wondering why we started planting in the first place. Was it just to pretty-up the property? Give folks something to do? Make salads for our staff? Urban gardening/farming has become very popular in recent years, and everyone has their own reason for procuring the seed & soil. Here’s a look into our urban garden story…

A Leafy Green Vision

A few years ago, Ken & Wendy Kebrdle, founders of Wear Gloves, Inc., had a vision for ministering to the distressed and homeless in our community (read more about their story HERE). The overarching focus: how do we love God and love others? After a lot of careful planning and hard work, the Dignity Center was born, a place purposed in creating work for the needy with a vision to break the cycle of dependency. And what better way to fulfill the Wear Gloves ministry vision than to put on gloves and get to work on the hideous, eye-sore that sat awkwardly at the far end of the building: the retention basin.

In September of 2015, a newly-employed group of “homies” (Ken’s nickname for the distressed) chopped down trees and pulled weeds for weeks on end. It was a treacherous project as the crew cleaned up vagrant camps, needles, and loads of other trash. The clearing of the basin not only provided work for those in need, but it also opened the door for greater service opportunities. Ken & Wendy saw that the basin could potentially be turned into a garden that could be maintained by staff and meet other needs of the homeless community. So, they sought through prayer for a way to see that vision into fruition.

Along Came Sandy

Suddenly, an angel appeared from heaven… not really, but close. Not too long after the basin was cleared and the Kebrdles began praying for help to grow a garden, Sandy Young Murphy walked through the door of the Dignity Center, eager to serve. And it just so happened that Sandy was an avid and experienced gardener. Now with prayers answered and Sandy joining forces with the Wear Gloves ministry team, the dream of an urban garden was coming to life.

“We were and still are so grateful that God sent Sandy our way.  We have seen Sandy take the ugly dirty retention pond full of trash and turn it into something productive and beautiful.  Seeing this provides a daily reminder that God takes us broken and ‘full-of-trash’ people and makes us beautiful!” – Wendy

          

A Beautiful Outgrowth

In time, the garden was blooming. It provided convenient, fresh edibles and Sandy had planted common medicinal herbs for our clients to pick for treating digestive issues, to use as deodorant, and even as bug repellent. The staff learned how to plant and maintain the garden, a new skill to many, and were able to reap the fruits of their labor. Just another way the ministry vision of breaking the cycle of dependency was being realized in small, humble ways.

All around, the Wear Gloves ministry at the Dignity Center was flourishing greatly and they were seeing that it was getting a bit crammed in their current unit space. They were building Adirondack chairs, crafting artwork for the home, sewing scarves, and growing a garden. With the work, the sales, and the donations from the community, came greater vision for growth and sustainability. Ken & Wendy began to research into roasting and selling coffee beans. Soon after, the ministry took flight at a new level. It was time to move to a larger space.

At the very other end of the plaza was that larger space the ministry would need. With the move, the team saw that it would be a little more difficult to keep an eye on the garden, which sat at the opposite end of the property. Sandy and the Kebrdles decided that it would be best to recreate the urban garden at the entrance of the parking lot, closest to the new location of the Dignity Center. This would take some extra cash and resources that they did not have, but they were not afraid to pray and to ask the community for help.

Sandy decided to make a post on Facebook about need to move the Wear Gloves urban garden and the lack of resources to meet this need. Shortly thereafter, an answer to prayer came. One of the small groups at Sandy’s church (Central Christian Church) saw that they would be able to work together to provide the much needed resources. In came nutrient-rich soil, wood, and seedlings. It was an even better start than Sandy had hoped for and a huge improvement from the nutrient-lacking retention basin she and the staff had been working out of. They would be able to grow a much larger garden and eventually expand, providing more work and more resources for the homeless and distressed to use for their health and personal care.

Garden Goodness

Today, the garden is blooming like crazy… crazy good. It is being maintained by Sandy and the staff at Wear Gloves. Sandy already has big plans to expand north of the property, growing more goodies along with a sunflower garden.

Among the plants you’ll see stones with words written on them: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness… the fruits of the spirit. Although the urban garden is not growing fruits (yet), it is inspiring the workers, volunteers, and the passerby to consider the work of the Lord in our lives. In humble reliance upon him, we receive gifts. We grow. And we are able show the world what life looks like when we make space for Christ to work in and through us: a life of faith produces the best fruit around. And a few cukes, too.

A little more about the WG Urban Garden: 
  • All of our produce is 100% Organic
  • We only grow veggies that don’t have to be cooked to be eaten: cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, green onion, etc.
  • We also grow medicinal herbs: parsley (for digestion), rosemary (natural deodorant), citronella (bug repellent)
Melissa GibsonRooted in Love: Our Urban Garden Story
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A Place Where Hope Grows

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It’s 7:30am, Saturday morning. An old, beat-up Subaru covered in stickers pulls up to the gate at the Interfaith food pantry. Out steps a bushy-bearded man, covered in tattoos. This is Jody, the pastor at Church in the Garden. He unlocks the gate while greeting those whom have wandered their way over, slowly filing in as the gate is opened for them.

A small crew of men and women begin to show up. Kenny and Johnny immediately get to work, pulling tables and chairs out from the church trailer, along with other supplies. Kimberly and Sandy begin to prepare communion, gather prayer request cards & pens to place on each table, and stack plates, cups, and utensils for breakfast fellowship. Mel lugs the large cooler of fresh-brewed coffee over to one of the tables, a necessity for the weary wanderers and these Saturday morning servants alike.

As the morning moves on, many others find their way through the gate. A few other vehicles pull in and people come forth, bearing casserole dishes filled with hot food, fresh fruit, and juice. And as the sunlight begins to peer through the branches of the old oak tree, the grounds across from the food pantry come to life with activity. Children begin to play, kicking around a soccer ball. Musicians take the stage and play a melody that invites the crowd into song. A meal is served and shared among everyone. For a moment, we catch a glimpse of what heaven might be like: the rich and poor, gathered together in rest, in worship, and in fellowship with each other.

     

It may not seem like much, but to the many who come to Church in the Garden, it is a place where hope grows. For those who faithfully come each early Saturday morning to serve and for those who come to rest. For those who come to worship and receive teaching from God’s word and for those who come for a hot meal and a little people watching. Church in the Garden is a place where one can drop the pretense, drop the shame, and experience something that this world many times runs short on: hope. It is a place where the love of God is encountered and expressed. A shared experience of giving, receiving, serving one another.

It is a place where dignity is restored, and not only for the wanderer, but for the many who come, crawling out of their warm beds that morning; a reminder that dignity is not found in our skills, our professions, not in what we own, but in relationship with the Lord. Although easy for us all to settle in a sense of pride and accomplishment based on the work of our hands alone, we are invited to see that God’s intention was not for our labor and property to be used as measures of our worth. In the garden, for a moment, it is this that we are invited to wonder about, among those who have nothing of their own. There is a sense of humility and honor that we all can experience at the foot of the old oak, at the foot of the cross of Christ.

Melissa GibsonA Place Where Hope Grows
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Meet Your Barista: Carol Boyer

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Carol has been working at the Dignity Center for about a year now and is one of the rockstar baristas at the Dignity Roasters Coffeehouse. She enjoys learning the coffee trade, painting her nails bright colors, & crocheting. She has a love for cats, dolphins, and is a fan of the Wild West (grew up riding horses)… and cowboys in tight-fitting jeans. Carol will be celebrating 1 year sobriety from alcohol this April and has an amazing story to share!

Wendy Kebrdle, founder of Wear Gloves, Inc. adds, “Carol is a faithful and dependable, hard worker. We have seen her physical and spiritual life blossom since we met her. We are honored to have her on the team.”

How has working for Wear Gloves, Inc. at the Dignity Center impacted your life for the better?

Besides learning new trades, it has helped with my spirituality. It has helped with working the AA program and with building self-confidence. I’ve learned to respect trade work and have developed new skills; which at 60 years old, just goes to show that you can do this stuff at any age. I’ve started to feel like a useful part of society, after being homeless for over a year. I’d still be homeless if it weren’t for Ken & Wendy giving me a chance. I’ve had the opportunity to meet influential people in this community and share my story with them and connect with people I never thought I would. The best part is that I feel like I’ve got a family. I have built friendships with the people here and I know that I have a shoulder to cry on when I need it. This place is my spiritual haven. Every time I have walked through those doors I’ve felt as if the world, the pain of my past, was fading away day after day. There was a time in life when I felt like I was a lone tree, unable to stand and grow, but being with the people at the Dignity Center and the community of AA, I’ve found myself in the middle of a forest. At every turn there are branches outstretched, lifting me up, helping me to stand tall. And now I have the privilege of extending help to others. The Dignity Center is a safe place where I know I am cared for. My true friends… family are here.

What are some of the new skills you’ve learned here?

Key stamping, painting, woodworking, soap & candle making. And,  of course, coffee! Learning the different grinding methods, roasts, brews, bagging… but the biggest thing I’ve learned is that there are no make mistakes.

No mistakes? What do you mean?

Everything is unique. What I do is unique to me. There aren’t really mistakes because each item is handmade, custom. So, the product I make may look completely different from someone else’s and that’s what makes it special. It’s unique to the way it was made by the individual – one of a kind.

What do you like most about working at the Dignity Center?

Being with the people. Like with Ed and I goofing off. I don’t have to impress anyone. I can be myself. And I like the coffee.

What is your favorite brew style?

French Press. I like the nutty taste.

What hopes, dreams, and/or aspirations do you have?

Right now my #1 priority is my sobriety. I don’t plan ahead. It’s one day at a time. I’d like to have my own place, stay here and work, help others. I’m not looking to make a lot of money, but I would like a comfy little place to call my own and share with my cats.

If you could send the world one message, what would it be?

Live life day by day. You can’t predict the future. This past year has changed my thinking. I remember one day a while back I was stopped at a traffic light, yelling at a panhandler to “GET A REAL JOB”. Six months later, I’m homeless living out of my car. That’s how quick it can happen.

And, one more thing. A true friend will never tell you, “I owe you”. True friends never feel like they need to pay each other back. They just do things for each other because they want to do good for one another.

 

Swing by the Dignity Roasters Coffeehouse to meet Carol and the rest of the team! Open Monday-Saturday, 8am-2pm!

Melissa GibsonMeet Your Barista: Carol Boyer
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