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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