Diana – Redemption and Hope

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“Let me start with the exciting part.”  These were the first words Diana spoke on the day we met when asked about her journey and how it intersected with Wear Gloves.  She was so eager to tell me about how God brought her to the Dignity Center. She radiated with joy when speaking about the family she has found here on campus. Confidently, she gives all glory to God for the freedom and restoration she’s obtained over the past year.

Diana’s story did not begin with freedom though; rather with brokenness and bondage.  The abuse and trauma she experienced at a young age led her to search for ways to forget all she endured. Raised without her parents and in unstable conditions, her path through most of her younger years was not one paved in the confidence and hope that she now lives in every day. For most of her life she used substances to mask the hurt and emptiness she had inside.

Prior to coming to the Dignity Center, 13 months ago, she was in Jacksonville.  Her addiction paired with a sense of isolation had led her to feel hopeless and in her attempt to permanently end the feeling of loss and pain; there is where she ultimately found her new life and redemption.  At her lowest point and feeling completely alone, it was a phone call from an old friend that sparked a glimmer of hope. The phone call led her to Ocala and the Unity house and very shortly after Wear Gloves.

Over the past year, Diana has found that focus and faith are the key to maintaining her hope.  She doesn’t hold on to her past any longer. She has found freedom in her surrender to the path God has set for her. With full confidence and excitement, she said, “The calling is here.” The feeling of finding family was immediate.  “God brought me here.  How do I know? Mrs. Wendy knows sign language.  I am 90% deaf and I have always had a desire to learn sign language and be an interpreter.”  Diana has been hearing impaired since childhood when repetitive ear infections caused damage that could not be reversed. If that alone was not enough to know this is where God wanted her, when asked, “Why do you stay?”, she replied, “Being a part of a family, I’ve never had that before.” She never knew the feeling of belonging. Belonging with others who love and care for you until she walked on campus here.  
She went on to say that she doesn’t believe God gives a gift without a struggle, but He will take your struggle and align it and use it for repurposing and replenishing to fulfill the calling He has for you.

Her life has not been heartbreak free since coming here, losing her brother to his addiction this past October and having other relationships unreconciled.  Diana’s faith in the process and how God is restoring her gives her hope despite the ups or downs life may throw her way. She knows regardless God is there to catch the lows, “He’ll use all things for good and His glory.”
Her most recent highlights include; her fiancé, her involvement in the ministry of Church in the Garden, having 4 wheels to transport her and starting school in January. She’ll be obtaining her official sign language interpreter certification and eventually, she hopes to work at the courthouse interpreting for the hearing impaired.  She has some experience as a special education teacher and wonders if God will align her path back to education.  For now, she is giving thanks back to God for everything he has blessed her with and for sending her here. Reflectively she said, “Mr. Ken and this company giving me hope….”, as she paused you could feel her gratitude. “Now I just try to give back whenever I can”, she stated with a firm belief that when she does that the Lord takes care of the rest.

Though her trauma and pain almost cut her story short, God’s redeeming grace was far from closing the book on what lies ahead for Dianna. The true character of her heart has too much hope and faith to lay idle.  God has big plans and Dianna intends to follow wherever He leads her next.

Tiffany TuckerDiana – Redemption and Hope
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Meet Carol – Support Through the Grind

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Carol has been working at Wear Gloves for 4 years.  Since the days of coming and working 2 1/2 hours a week for a Publix gift card, Carol has seen growth not just in herself but throughout the facility that she’s grown to call home.  Carol has worked at just about every opportunity here at the Dignity Center throughout the years.  Even making pallet signs, which she recalls was something she would have never expected to do.  Currently, Carol is a grinder at Dignity Roasters.  She can be found there 3 days a week grinding and bagging subscription orders.  When the coffee shop is slower, she assembles parts for the warehouse.
Carol had just celebrated 4 years of sobriety a few days before the day I met her.  She recalled the days and life before she made her decision to interview at Wear Gloves.  The days of being homeless, living in her car.  “The reason I was homeless, I was an alcoholic,” said Carol. She attended Church in the Garden long before she made the step of coming to the Dignity Center.  She remembers the day she finally came for an interview and started working, “It was like a totally different world.  Out on the streets you have your drugs and alcohol.  I was never in the drug scene.  It was scary out there…but coming here…I could feel that…”, as Carol briefly paused to place the correct word, “aura.” She continued with, “It was safe, the outside world was out there.”

When Carol entered recovery and found housing at the Unity House, a local recovery house here in town, she never thought about how she would pay her rent.  Ken and Wendy, seeing the need, increased her hours in order to allow her enough work to pay her rent and phone bill.  “I didn’t know what I wanted to do for work, but I wanted something different.”
With everything Carol has done around the campus, meeting new and safe people stands out the most to her.  When Dignity Roasters opened, she was trained to grind coffee and had the opportunity to earn her restaurant certification.  We continued discussing the nature and environment found at the Dignity Center.  She credits the support and safety she feels here for her success in her recovery, and the ability to continue striving. In a thoughtful manner Carol said, “They are just so kind and I was never really surrounded by someone who believed in me.”  She spoke multiple times about the environment and encouragement she gets every day she shows up for work.  “When your boss introduces you and says, ‘here’s the superstar’, that is just everything.”

Carol is still figuring out her next steps, possibly getting her own place here in Ocala or maybe up north if she finds the courage to brave the cold again.  However for now, she is focusing on getting her health back and being able to help others.  She breathes lighter when she is on campus and doing her part to serve.  She enjoys the work she’s blessed to do.  She offers up assistance to others in need when she can, even when she doesn’t feel qualified.  The gentle spirits and guidance she finds here boosts her confidence.  For Carol, knowing there is always someone around that cares about you is key.  She admits it’s unsettling to think where her life may have been without this place. She reminisced about the times she would come solely to be in a welcoming and loving environment. Even if there was no work to do, just coming and being here. She hopes to continue offering that same kindness, feeling of safety and hope to anyone else in need of it.
As we finished up, Carol headed back inside to hit play on her “oldies music” and get to work grinding and bagging those delightful brown Dignity Roasters bags that keep us moving through our days.

Tiffany TuckerMeet Carol – Support Through the Grind
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Meet Florita

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Florita’s 55th birthday is tomorrow, July 14th. She has just finished up her shift picking up litter with the Wear Gloves crew and she’s about to head home to spend time with her grandkids…which, you figure out is her favorite thing to do within five minutes of meeting her.

Florita started working for Wear Gloves in March of 2020. When the pandemic stopped operations, Wear Gloves continued to help her. “He sent me a couple cards for food and he let me work it off when I came back.”

In the past, Florita has struggled to find steady work because of her background with drugs, which she says was “pretty bad.” Things got worse for Florita when she and her husband split, and he had been the sole provider. The breakup “threw me for a loop.” But then she found Wear Gloves. 

Her daughter worked for Wear Gloves before finding full-time work at a local gas station. Now, Florita is part of the Wear Gloves team. “…As long as you do work and come to work faithfully, you got you a spot. He’s heaven-sent to me” (talking about Ken).

Florita works Monday through Friday and Wear Gloves and having her car is a big part of her independence. Wear Gloves helps pays for her car insurance and gas, and then she has a few dollars left over for food. The day I talked to Florita, she was between places to live and was staying on a friend’s couch, but that didn’t dampen her attitude. She shared: “at least I got a job and I got my car.” 

When asked what she thought about her co-workers on the litter team, she spoke very highly of them. “It’s like family. We help each other. That’s what I think.” When asked how she stays sober, she said: 

“One day at a time. You have Miss Sandy here. If you ever fall short, she’ll pray with you. She’s a strong prayer warrior. Very strong. A lot of the people around here are with AA. I’ll be 55 tomorrow…I done wallowed in dirt long enough. Thank God. It’s a struggle, but when you have your independence, it helps. You ain’t really hurting for nothing. It pays my car insurance. I’m not on the streets, I’m not on drugs. I just eat and go home. And on the weekends, I play with my grandkids! Right now, I’m happy. Without this, I wouldn’t have my independence. That car takes me everywhere I go.”

Even though Florita doesn’t have a lot, she has been inspired by her work at Wear Gloves to give to others. She was the first person to take an Operation Christmas Child Box from the Wear Gloves office to be filled with gifts for a child in need. When asked why, she said: “They done helped me so much. It don’t take much to help a little bit. Some quarters here, some quarters there. Like I got some crayons I put in there so far. I got a little teddy bear that my granddaughter had won. She told me, ‘put it in there.’” So she’s making it a family affair. She shared: “My granddaughters want to help me fill it up. We’re all going to put one thing in a piece. I just thought it was something to give back to.”

What does Florita want others in need to know about Wear Gloves? “I would give it a try…especially if it’s hard and they’re trying to find a job. You don’t have to worry too much about somebody telling you no, as long as you can dial a phone or text a phone and you’re reliable. You gotta be reliable.”

Written by: Lori Cotton

Lori CottonMeet Florita
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Meet Melissa – People need to know

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“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion”. – Proverbs 28:1

This is the verse that set Melissa on course to defeating a 15-year battle with addiction.  After years of losing, it was a timely message from her daughter that cleared the fog just long enough for her to realize she had to break the cycle.  This time would be different.  This time “I was doing it for myself”. 

Melissa is one of the team members on liter crew here at Wear Gloves.  Monday through Wednesday, she helps clean up the city parks here in Ocala. On Thursdays, she can also be found picking up a shift in the warehouse working the Closetmaid orders.  As she shared her journey with me and how it led her to the Dignity Center, I couldn’t help but feel the pride of her 6-month sobriety and the gratitude she has for the resources found here.  “They saved my life.  They really did.”, as she continued through teary eyes, “I wish more people knew this was here”.  

Melissa recognized that though she fights her addiction every day, and has a great support system in her family, the structure and support she receives from Wear Gloves is vital for a recovering addict.  “Every addict is just one bad day away from using again”, Melissa said with a sense of realism.

She continued to share, with a humble excitement, all of her successes over the last 6 1/2 months.  She’s been able to get her driver’s license reinstated, begin mending the relationship with her children, see her grandchild and most recently, buy a car.  “They helped me get my life back.  They supported me.  They are helping me maintain what I couldn’t do by myself.”   Melissa openly discussed how her biggest struggle is within herself.  However, she was nothing but optimistic about her future and the new foundation she’s building with the help of her extended family here at Wear Gloves. 

Though we spent the majority of our time reflecting on the highs and lows of the path which led her to the present day, there was an undeniable plea resonating for more people to know about this place.  At one point, we stopped the conversation so I could clarify the “who”.  Who needs to know about this place?  She responded, “people like me”, quickly followed by “anywhere with rehab or places where people are coming out of jail”.  In Melissa’s experience, there aren’t many resources like Wear Gloves out there.  Places that will help NOW.  Places that won’t judge you for your past, but will look you in the eyes and see the you that is here NOW, ready to change, ready to work. 

She told me about the day she came in to fill out her application and the relief there was in not seeing the typical questions about her past.  Meeting with Mrs. Sandy, who does all the intake interviews for the Dignity Center, the dread was lifted when she realized her only requirement was a willingness to work and a goal.  Obviously, the past is still there, but it didn’t disqualify her before she even had an opportunity.  “I was ready, and I needed it, and if more people knew this opportunity was here and that you were able to actually do it without someone handing you cash, that’s what people like me need to know.”  

It is within her to handle the responsibility.  I could tell from our talk she has great strength.  “I have the will to maintain my sobriety, but they are making sure of that by not handing me cash”. She’s confident she’s on her way there, but for now, it’s the support she needs.  

We ended our conversation with all smiles and a walk to see her new car and meet Mrs. Sandy.  Melissa isn’t fleeing any longer. She’s showing up every day.  Working.  Growing.  Getting stronger and becoming bold like a lion.

Tiffany TuckerMeet Melissa – People need to know
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Meet Client Gabriel – Blessed to be a Blessing

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On the day Gabriel was celebrating 11 months of sobriety, he finished his morning shift on the trash crew and sat for an interview outside the Wear Gloves’ warehouse. Gabriel shared that he’s not originally from Ocala. He came here three years ago to help a friend but ended up getting arrested and is now on probation. He’s living in a local halfway house called Unity Place and has found himself surrounded by a tight-knit community for which he is incredibly grateful. “God has seen fit to open up doors to me that have been a blessing…as well as this place here.” 

Recently, Gabriel had a minor stroke. Because of this, finding work has become difficult. “After this pandemic hit, I thought all doors were shut.  I’m 54 years old and I’m starting to realize I’m not invincible anymore.” Now he works at Wear Gloves to pay his rent at Unity Place. 

On the day we spoke, he had been there a month. About Wear Gloves, he said:  “This place has been a blessing. I can’t say enough about Ken. I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason, and I’m on a path right now that I wouldn’t give up for anything. Not just my sobriety, but it’s just the way life is going for me right now. It’s peaceful. You know, I don’t have no worries. I pay my rent. I pay my phone bill. I have food. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my stomach…I’m happy.”

Gabriel works with the trash crew, a job he enjoys. It allows him to interact with some of the homeless in Ocala. While he has a roof over his head now, Gabriel has been homeless in the past, and he can relate to some of the people he meets on the streets. “I’ve been where I was talked down to or cursed at. I don’t believe anybody, whether they’re homeless or not, should be talked to differently. You know what I mean? We’re all human beings. And whether we’re homeless or we have a million dollars, we should all be treated the same. It doesn’t really matter. And, of course, a lot of people aren’t fortunate. And some of them are maybe happy they way they are.” 

He has encouraged others to make their way to Wear Gloves: “We’ve told plenty of people about Wear Gloves. We have handed out cards. You gotta make that step. You gotta make that decision if you want to change your life. No one can do it for you.” He emphasized that Ken and Wendy hold people accountable: “If he doesn’t see that you’re making an effort, he’s not going to put you on the schedule. You gotta make a commitment for yourself and not anybody else. You gotta want to change at some point in time.”

When asked if working for Wear Gloves is different from a typical job, he replied: “It’s more spiritual. It’s love. These people actually love you, unconditionally. They’re willing to help you. In this day and age, that’s hard to find. I’ve heard a little bit of their story. It’s phenomenal. And then to turn around and give this to people. They’re willing to help people out…the homeless or whoever may need it.” 

When asked about his own plans for the future, Gabriel shared that he dreams about going back to college for counseling or social work. He has a heart to help others, and he seems quite determined to do that in every way he can. He credits the community at Unity Place and working at Wear Gloves for giving him the foundation from which he can not only help himself, but also find a way to help others.

Lori CottonMeet Client Gabriel – Blessed to be a Blessing
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Meet Client Tommy – Ready For Change

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I talked to Tommy on a very special day for him: he was about to move out of the woods and into an apartment. He credits Wear Gloves for changing his circumstances…and his life.

“I’m on a litter crew Monday through Thursday, and then Friday I work at the warehouse. I inspect parts or deliver parts to everybody. I started off in a litter crew and I guess it’s been almost a year now. They had come to me earlier and wanted me to come and join them, but I wasn’t ready. I was still caught up in all the soup kitchen and the Salvation Army. I was caught in that vicious circle.”

When he was asked, “What made the difference? How did you walk through the doors, ready?” he said:  “It happened one day at the Church in the Garden when they had it over at the soup kitchen. Sandy come up to me and said, ‘you ought to come over and check out our program.’ I said ok. So, I came over Tuesday and got an interview, and the next day I started working.”

He didn’t know Sandy (who does the intake interviewing at Wear Gloves) before that day, but he had seen her around. He had known Ken and Wendy for 10-12 years when Sandy approached him. Regarding Ken and Wendy, Tommy said, “They’re real good people and they help out a lot. Ken and Wendy had asked me before but I wasn’t ready.” It was the personal invitation at the exact right time from Sandy made the difference for Tommy.

Tommy received a back injury at age seventeen and has struggled to find and keep jobs since. “It has been a struggle because nobody would hire me because of the steel rods in my back. The minute I say I had back surgery and steel rods in my back, they say: ‘we’ll call you.’ After doing that for a while, I got frustrated. I was down-and-out, trying to get disability, kept on getting turned down.” He still has not been approved for disability.

But things are looking up for Tommy: “Ken and Wendy will be helping me pay for the rent now. Before, it was just my cell phone and a little money for batteries…and all the things you need to live out there in the woods…food…”

When asked what others should know about Wear Gloves, Tommy said: “Come and give it a shot. If it’s not for them, it’s not for them. But they helped me get off the streets. I would tell anybody that’s on the streets to come give it a try. But…you have to be ready. You have to want to change your life. I guess I got to a point where I was tired of living in the woods and hanging out with all the riff-raff. I just couldn’t see myself doing that no more.”

When Tommy started working at Wear Gloves, his goal was to get out of the woods. Now it’s time to pick a new goal. He’s not a big planner and takes things day by day. He does, however, know that he plans to keep working for Wear Gloves. “They’re great people. If you give them a chance, they will help you out. The offer is out there…all they have to do is take it. I know what they done for me. They helped me a lot. They’re super people.”

Lori CottonMeet Client Tommy – Ready For Change
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Meet Client Sabrina – A Story of Hope

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Client Name: Sabrina

Position:  Litter Crew Supervisor

Written by:  Lori Cotton

Every morning, Sabrina can be found around Ocala with her work crew in the Wear Gloves truck wearing her fluorescent yellow Wear Gloves vest. She radiates energy and kindness. Her job is cleaning up, but she also sees herself as an ambassador for Wear Gloves, and she takes that role very seriously. It’s hard to say which part is more important…picking up trash or being a light for everyone around her. Sabrina works at Wear Gloves 20 hours a week and uses the income to pay her child support and make payments on her court fines, enabling her to have a driver’s license.

“I couldn’t find jobs. People in Marion County don’t necessarily hire felons. They say they hire felons but when you go, they don’t. My mom started working for Mr. Ken and she told me about it. And so I came. I honestly didn’t like it at first, because I’m not one person that can just sit there and do the piece work. Somebody stopped working so he asked me to do like the outside stuff. And he was like, ‘ohh you can WORK.’ I like to move around. So he had me working in the warehouse. And like when the pandemic happened, we had to stop. And then when they started up the 2nd crew, they had me do that, and then I became a driver and I love it. I drive the work truck. We go to Salvation Army, Tuscawilla and Jervey Gant every day. And then we have like three other little parks we go to every day.”

“I have been homeless  – a long time ago – 2010 – my kids were little. We had been on the street – I was on drugs bad then. I got arrested in 2010 for my trafficking charge, so yeah, it was around that time. We would have people pay for our rooms at the Friendship. We slept in empty apartments. My son…we would still make him look like presentable so like nobody would know that he was sleeping anywhere.” 

She expressed that her experiences help her relate to those who are living on the streets now. “Someone needs to show them some love. Someone showed me some love when I was in the streets, so you need to show other people love. So I’ll tell them, like I’ve been homeless, I’ve been on drugs, I’ve been in jail, I done been to prison, and they’ll look at me like, not you. You look like you’ve got it all together. I’m like, I don’t. I try to let them know if I can change, then y’all can change too. Like they just need someone to push them in the right direction.” Sabrina chose the word “push” carefully when she said this.

What pushed Sabrina? “Going to prison. I was arrested like 10 times…12 times…a lot. But when I went to prison and they told us that we were not allowed to talk for a whole week…like we were in a drug program, so they were harder on us. I chose to go to it because I knew I had a drug problem and I promised my kids that I would not come home the same way that I went in. Like, I promised them.” 

Sabrina has been working to start up a trucking business with her boyfriend. Why does she continue to work at Wear Gloves? Part of the reason is to make sure that she maintains independence from her boyfriend. Also, “this is because I love them. Like Mr. Ken has never said no to me, like…even during the pandemic, he made sure my child support was paid. He’s never said no, so like I don’t want to say no to them, and I really like this job. And I tell the homeless people sometimes that I feel like they help me more than I help them. Because, to see some of them, when they see you they light up. Or like one lady, she would be out there crying sometimes, and she would be like, just you coming smiling at us, showing us compassion, she’s like, that means a lot. I’m nice to them because I know they need someone to be good to them.”

The Wear Gloves work crew Sabrina is on has people from varied backgrounds, but they have formed a bond among themselves and support each other. “One lives in Unity House, and one lives in Hope house, they’re recovery houses. The other lady on my crew, she just needs a job. Sometimes it’s a little stressful, but they’re good people. One lady, she always has this tough demeanor, but today she was in there crying to us because she’s stressed out at the house she’s living at. She was like,  ‘I need to vent to y’all so I don’t go home and flip out on them.’ So I was like I don’t want to see you cry. She was saying she needs to set boundaries. So I was telling her they made me read ‘Boundaries’ when I was in prison. I told her maybe I need to get you that book for Christmas.” 

What does Sabrina want people in Ocala to know about Wear Gloves? “They’ll give anybody a chance and let you show them that you are….able to do this job. They don’t tell you no, like, no you can’t do this…no, you can’t get a job because you have this problem. They open their arms to anybody, like hey you can come work and we will give you a chance.”

Sabrina has recruited others to Wear Gloves. “One of the homeless men…they said they had been trying for like 10 years to get him here…and he finally came and got a job, and he worked for a couple of weeks and then he stopped. They were like, how’d you get him to come? When the man would come to work, I would bring him lunch. It’s the showing God work through me to get to him, you know?”

Sabrina’s experiences at Wear Gloves have changed the way she interacts with her community. “I was always a nice person, but to the extent that I am now, no. When we have on our work shirts or our vest and it has Wear Gloves on the back, we’re representing Mr. Ken and Ms. Wendy. Like, you don’t…you never know who someone is. I always tell the people who work with me, ‘what if God put this person in your midst to see what you would do? What if God’s just gonna see if you’ll give somebody some water cause they’re thirsty? What would you do?’ So, you can’t tell someone no, because we’re representing them.”

Sabrina plans to continue working at Wear Gloves. “I tell my work crew, Mr. Ken and Ms. Wendy can’t get rid of me. I really do love my job. It’s the people that you meet is what makes it good. Like us being at Wawa every day. So many people are so used to seeing us and they speak to us. People see us every day. They will say hey, or they’ll ask us about a job, so we keep the little flyers there. I always tell people, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9-1, get an interview. Some people – they have came. There’s some people, you just keep telling them, and then eventually they’re gonna be like, hey, I’m gonna go see what these people are about, because y’all are nice.”

Lori CottonMeet Client Sabrina – A Story of Hope
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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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