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Instability to Independence via the Lighthouse Model: A fresh look at serving our community
Finny Mathew is an experienced President with a demonstrated history of working in the packaging and containers industry. A strong business development professional is skilled in Sales, Sales Management, Team Building, Public Speaking, Management, Renewable energy, green technology, Corporate and business management. He had now focused his skills for creating and growing a cause-based charity, the Lighthouse.
About the Lighthouse
LIGHTHOUSE COMMUNITY CENTER
Lighthouse Community Center is to serve all persons in crisis with basic necessities, support, encouragement, and remedial services that lead to self-sustaining and dignified lives.
LIGHTHOUSE HEALTH SERVICES
Lighthouse Community Health Services offers an array of comprehensive in-person and virtual treatment to all individuals who may be struggling with their mental health.
LIGHTHOUSE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
Helping low-income individuals and families build wealth through the ownership of safe, and lasting affordable housing in a “Beloved Community” featuring wrap-around supportive services.
More Information at https://www.thelhcc.org
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Hugh: Welcome to this episode of The Nonprofit exchange. We are in 7.5 years of talking with very capable people doing important work in many walks of life. People representing many faiths, many communities, many belief systems, but they are unified with their philanthropic output, their love for humankind, and wanting to help others.
Today, we have a special group of friends who are here where I live in Lynchburg, Virginia. We have interviewed people all over the world, but there are amazing things happening in the neighborhoods where we live. I encourage you to look around and learn to collaborate. Our team today, Finny, Terrick, and Martha, are just special people who have been faithful to a vision and have made things happen. I want to hear about their journey so you can be encouraged in whatever enterprise you are leading. Finny Mathew, I am going to start with you and let you introduce your team. Welcome. Tell people a little bit about who Finny is and let the other team members do the same.
Finny Mathew: Thank you for inviting us to participate in this beautiful forum. We are excited. My name is Finny Mathew, co-founder of the Lighthouse Community Center. We founded this organization in 2004 by the Grace of God with the mission to make a difference in our community, reaching out to people in need, and how we could make an impact to showing the true love of God, not by preaching alone but in action. I’ve been blessed with a wonderful blessing of having two amazing people who have the same vision and mission to serve. God put us together in a united effort, and we have been able to do a lot of things. I would like to introduce Martha Brown who joined us in 2008, and Terrick joined us in 2010 or 2011.
Terrick Moyer: The first time I came was in 2011.
Finny: Here we are. God aligned us together with a heart to serve our community. We have so much today to share with you all of what God is doing through us. I am going to pass the torch to Martha first.
Martha Brown: Thank you again. My name is Martha Brown. I am very grateful to be able to speak with everybody and introduce what The Lighthouse is. We hope that your takeaway today is that what we’re doing is very practical and simple. But most importantly it’s intentional. As the gospel has commanded us to be intentional and provide an opportunity to be hospitable, invite conversation, and be a good listener, it’s amazing what you can hear if you just put out an open hand and an opportunity for conversation. As we are given an opportunity to be friends with individuals in the community who were very marginalized, who were living in extreme poverty, who were not getting services they even knew were available for them, if we were willing to come alongside them and sometimes act as a drill sergeant, sometimes a cheerleader, sometimes a social worker, sometimes an advisor, sometimes just a navigator and throwing them a lifeline, then we were able to identify noticeable holes in the gospel. All we’re trying to do is find ways to fill those holes.
Some organizations had their hands tied, and they were not able to meet those needs as the gospel commanded us. We will not judge them for what they can and cannot do, but if we have been exposed to the need and commissioned, “What are you going to do about it?” we went ahead and picked up that opportunity to see if we can harvest that field. I’ll tell you what: the harvest is rich. There are so many souls that need a hand that is welcoming, that will deliver them into the hand of the savior. It starts out very simply, very tangibly, but the rewards are incredibly enriching, especially when you know you have met someone you will now know for eternity.
As far as the services go, we have to be open-minded and willing to shift those services depending on the needs of that time, like how right now, we have COVID. What we have learned over the last year is a lot of the services we could provide two years ago were suspended when we couldn’t be a shelter anymore. As we were noticing, and you yourself probably saw, if COVID wasn’t killing people, isolation was. More than anything, we needed to find a way to take that ministry to the streets. and we did. Through that, we learned a new beat. With that, I will introduce Terrick. He can talk a little bit more about the birth of some of the new services we have been able to prioritize and light a flame to.
Hugh: A little more about Martha before you pass it. Who is Martha? What makes you tick?
Martha: I’m very much like the meaning of my name. I worship when I work. My middle name is Ruth. Go figure. I won’t leave my people. I blame my parents for choosing a name who very much defines my character and who I am today.
I met Finny in 2008 through a mutual friend who was adamant for three straight years that the Lord told him we’d be working together for the kingdom. Three stubborn years later, we finally agreed to meet. In this building is where we decided we would make ourselves available working together and serving together. Through that, one person turned into two, into three, into four, never being overwhelmed. Finny has some incredible gifts of networking and building relationships and envisioning some robust operations. I’m much more on the administrative side, where I have to water all of those ideas and prune them and find ways to direct them. He makes a good president, and I make a good executive director. Those are the roles we do balance off of each other.
Hugh: Did she say she was the clean-up specialist?
Terrick: Yes, she is.
Finny: Pretty much.
Hugh: I interrupted Terrick. Golden Tones Terrick. Go for it.
Terrick: Thanks, Mr. Ballou, for having us all. It’s a privilege to be able to speak about The Lighthouse. As you can tell, Martha is always enthusiastic about The Lighthouse. Even when she is supposed to be talking about herself, it’s going to focus on The Lighthouse anyway.
A little bit about me. I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania in a little town of 91 people called Presto. If you look on the map, you probably won’t find it because it’s not listed on most maps. I grew up with seven siblings with a single mother after she and my father divorced. That is where I learned community. That was the beginnings of how you would learn how to share everything that you had: food, clothes, a bedroom, friends, even birthdays. I had a brother who was born two weeks away from my birthday, so we had to share birthday cakes. Everything was shared.
But when I came here to Liberty in the early ‘80s, I was studying psychology. I came back in the ‘90s and got a Master’s in counseling. I left from here to go down to St. Petersburg, Florida to study for a Ph. D in Higher Education Administration because my goal was to work at a college or university. After the first year in my doctoral program, I got divorced. God kept prompting me to come back to Lynchburg. I had been here twice before and had no intention on coming back because I didn’t like it the first two times. But it was persistent, just like I needed to come back here for something. I didn’t know why.
After three years of fighting with God from 2008-2011, I came back and God emblazoned a verse in my mind, Proverb 11:11, “By the blessings of the upright, this city is exalted.” When I pondered on that verse and I really looked at what it meant for me, there was a vision for me of the corner of Ninth Street and Main Street here in Lynchburg, which was ironic because I knew the area. When I came up here, that was where my office ended up being, near City Hall in 915 Main Street in the Galleria. I was the last office in the Galleria before you got into City Hall. I got a chance to meet a lot of people who impacted the city on a much greater level than I ever could. But it was through forging those relationships and having my mindset that was birthed in my hometown in a large family, that sense of community. If Lynchburg was going to be made better, it would be made better by that verse Proverb 11:11, “By the blessings of the upright, this city is exalted.” When I came back, I saw God strategically placing Christians in key positions throughout the city. Many of them began to express and verbalize the same ideas that we had been talking about for years. When we found those partners, we worked together to accomplish some of the things that Lighthouse has been able to accomplish the past few years.
That’s what’s been fun. It’s having an idea that you think is just an idea. But when you come together with other people who are being inspired by God to do the same thing, it allows you to really use the gifts that God has given you plus all of the experiences you have. As I said, I grew up in a large family, but I also went to the military and worked in seven different churches and worked mostly in residential programs. Right now, we’re getting ready to embark on a huge housing initiative. It’s exciting because that’s right up my alley. It incorporates all the things we’ve learned. We’re just using the gifts God has given us, but we’re doing it in a collaborative fashion. Whenever you put more people with the same idea on the same path, boy you’re going to get good results. That’s what we see happening here.
Hugh: That’s a good manifestation of our brand: the synergy of the common vision. That’s perfect. I lived in St. Pete. I came here from St. Pete via Atlanta and Huntsville, Alabama. I spent 26 years in St. Pete. You founded Lighthouse in 2004. That’s the year I met Leigh Anne Taylor. My life changed, and your life changed.
Let’s put a context around this. Lynchburg, Virginia, before the Civil War, was the second wealthiest city in the country. When I moved here three years ago, it probably still has the highest poverty in the Commonwealth of Virginia. My zip code -01 is higher than the rest of the city as a whole. There are pockets. You’re working in a community that has a lot of needs in many areas.
Out of every 100 people who have an idea, three people actually do something about it. Law of averages. One of those will succeed. You’re down to that rarefied space that you really had an idea and did it. Finny, you forged ahead with the idea and have put a team together. I have seen the team grow since I’ve been here. What was the vision about? Can you articulate what the vision for Lighthouse was and is? Has it morphed, or is it pretty much the same?
Finny: The Lighthouse’s vision has always been to see how I could touch people’s lives. That is pretty broad. You cannot be very specific in one way. You’re dealing with people. When you’re working with people, there is a lot of baggage that comes with people. We need to see how to build a situation, how to walk people to a situation, how to explain and find a final aspect of where we can take someone. That whole vision of let’s focus on people where they’re at, not to judge them for what they’ve done. These were some of the things we all grew up with in the church. We were taught not to associate with certain people, not to do any of those things. We had to come out of that mold of what we were taught to say, “Wait a second. I’m not going to follow what I taught, but I’m going to follow what God called me to do,” which is love my neighbor, love my enemy. The true love of God has to be expressed in our actions, not just on a pulpit. It’s easy to preach on a pulpit every Sunday, but if we’re not able to practice what we preach, we’re not doing what God is calling us to do.
I grew up in a church. My dad was a pastor. I come from a Pentecostal background. You are going to hear it if you do the wrong things. The true love of God, which I got to learn from my father, even though he was in the Pentecostal denomination, I saw a totally different person when it came down to working with people, inviting people to my home in Brooklyn, where I grew up, and seeing people who are addicts. He would bring them into the home and literally let them stay in our apartment, where we already had seven people in two bedrooms. He would invite them in and let them sleep over because they were drunk. Man, why is my dad bringing such people to the house? Now I understand later on in my life this is how you truly love someone. Don’t judge them for where they’re at; love them for where God can take them to. I learned this at a young age growing up. I had a dad who showed in action, not just on the pulpit. He was there doing what God has called him to do.
It’s a beautiful, amazing story one day I could share with you all. It’s a long story. To cut it short, I came from India at the age of 10 as an immigrant. I grew up in Brooklyn. My dad came in 1972 to start a Pentecostal church in Brooklyn. I saw how God was working through him, reaching out and touching people’s lives. I saw him dedicated, giving his life and serving every single day. Everybody who knows me can tell you I am a duplication of my father, 100%. Even my aunt says that. Why? Because to me, serving God is about a dedication to serving. It means you give everything that you have. Everything of you has to be given. Only then can God take you and use you the way He wants to use you.
That is the dedication I made when I came to Lynchburg in 2000. But it took me until 2008 to get myself together because I was still searching and thinking I had it all figured out. We all go through the process of knowing exactly what to do until you surrender it. I had to surrender my life into the hand of God and say, “Lord, send me and use me for my glory.” Ever since that dedication took place, he connected people. He brought people together. I knew at the end of the day that this was not a Finny thing, it was a God thing. When God pushes people together, nobody can stop it. You can throw a monkey wrench, but it will backfire on them. It never happens. It only makes us stronger in what we do. It’s been a great blessing.
Ofcourse you all know about our unity in community concept. It’s about bringing people together, working together, uniting the body of Christ, giving a vision and mission to serve rather than keeping it all to my ministry, my thing, my church is doing this. No. This is all about of us coming together, throwing our resources into the pot, and making a huge impact in our community.
That is where the Lighthouse comes in. We don’t have a beautiful $1 million budget, but we have hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of resources of people. They are priceless. You cannot pay for people like Terrick or Martha. There is no price on people who have dedicated their life to God and are willing to serve 24/7. You can’t buy people like that. This is not a job to us. This is a passion and a vision of serving God. To me, this is what drives us. That’s what drives me every single day. I say, “Another day I can see and love and touch and do what God is calling us to do.” I get to work with a couple of amazing people that you see here. Behind us there are so many others who are working tirelessly, daily, in serving this community. We are thankful for this opportunity.
Hugh: It’s a calling, not a job. I want to unpack this community piece. You also are a businessman, correct?
Finny: Correct. I personally invented a technology in 2007/2008, which has taken us to where- Before the product ever got into the market. This is what a lot of people have a hard time doing, is to dedicate what God has given you to the kingdom. We dedicated 51% of our earnings to be put back into the ministry. With that understanding, Martha also joined that team. By the grace of God, we want to give glory to God. We put more than 70-90% of what we make back into the ministry because we knew sowing that seed was important. Touching one life and one transformation of one person’s life to the kingdom is priceless. That was our main focus. We stuck to that concept. By the grace of God, we were able to pay our bills. We were happy with that. We didn’t need a yacht or Bugatti. We’re not looking for those riches of this Earth. We are blessed with what we need, and we are happy with that.
That’s what I tell people: learn to be satisfied with what you have, instead of focusing on what God is calling us to do. We are only here for a short time. Make the best out of the time God gives you. Every minute counts. Every day counts. Don’t waste it. Don’t lose it by thinking and doing the wrong things. Stay focused. Stay direct on the vision and the mission. That is to love people. The mission is to love people how God loved us. That’s it.
Hugh: You’ve got a calling. You’ve talked about being good stewards of resources that aren’t ours. We’re stewards of everything we’ve got. The connectivity. Let’s talk about what a lot of business leaders/nonprofit leaders don’t know how to do, or if they do, they don’t do it very well. That is to build a collaboration amongst other organizations regardless of their faith background, regardless of their institutional background. It might be education. It might be government. It might be business. Talk about your vision for unity in the community and how that has morphed over the years and how that has been beneficial to the common goals of all those organizations.
Finny: To me, at the end of the day, unity in our community is what really got all of our community leaders, our business organizations, our nonprofits, including many of the local churches who participated. They actually got to see how we could actually work together. It’s not about if you are a certain denomination, if you are a Muslim or a Jew. It does not matter who you are. What matters is how we can work together and serve the people. We take that equation not if you believe this way or that way. It’s not a religious outreach; it’s a humanitarian outreach. God has created everyone equally. There is no Jew or Gentile; everyone is the same in the eyes of God. We take that approach when we go out and serve. Our organization is a global entity that has been working for more than 25 years. Our local organization here has great reach only because of those networks and connections we bring together. We work it in ways so that everyone is given the opportunity to do their part. No one is asking anyone to do something aside from what they are capable of doing. We ask, “What can you do?”
I always share this story of it’s not that we don’t have, it’s that nobody is giving directions to what we need to do. Jesus said, “There are 5,000 people sitting here hungry.” They don’t know what to do. Someone had to ask, “Does anyone have any food here?” One boy came out of the whole 5,000 and said, “I have five loaves and fish.” Someone had to ask that question. Until someone asked, someone is not going to come out and share. We as a community, someone had to step up to the plate, and someone had to initiate the question. Someone had to ask, there has to be an ask. We took on that ask request and said, “Does anyone have anything we can use for the community?” By the grace of God, over the last five years, every first Saturday of the month, we have created a humongous amount of network of connections in our community of people who truly care to do something.
I am going to word that very carefully because there are people out there who want to do things but say, “No, we have to keep it in our own thing.” There’s nothing wrong with that. You want to do your church thing? You want to do your organizational thing? That’s fine. Imagine if we all collaborated to work on something major.
For example, we are about to embark on a housing initiative right here in our community for families who are living in the low-income bracket. 26% of people in our city are living under poverty. We have over 3,000 people on the waitlist looking for a place to go. They can’t even get an apartment. That is the saddest situation we have right here in our community. What are we doing about it? We are building five homes by this organization or ten homes by another organization every year. What does that do to actually deal with the real problem? Absolutely nothing. Of course we love the fact that someone is doing it. We understood going in that this requires something more than building another ten houses. This requires building the next 2,500 homes over the next five years so that we can fully make a dent in the issues our community is dealing with.
Through collaborative partnerships we were able to build with United Way and all these other local agencies that support business organizations, they said they wanted to be a part of it. They wanted to help in any way they could. We are working and talking with them. There are major business organizations who have their ears open to what we are doing. I know it’s a matter of us presenting it to them, and they will understand the impact their organization can make. I invited the churches in our city who have the financial whereabouts to jump in and say, “We want to be part of this.” This is an open invitation from the Unity in our Community concept. We invite everyone. This is not our thing. This is a community thing. This is a united thing. This is something we ask the community to go out and make an impact if we truly want to and truly want to follow God’s calling in our life. If you don’t have that, you’re not going to do that. I promise you. You are going to hear what I’m saying and say, “This ain’t for me.” I get that. A lot of people are like you. If you have in your heart to serve God truly, this is for you. You are going to find a way to make an impact in your community by collaborative partnerships, joining resources, working as one in Christ. We use Christ as our model, the Book of Acts as our model because there was no leaves among them when they worked together in unity.
Our vision is to stick to the book, stick to the principle that has always been laid out. The Lighthouse is not a new model. It only existed in the Book of Acts. We are taking the playbook from there, “Oh, that’s what we did. That’s how they did it.” Why don’t we just follow the model that was given to us 2,000 years ago? And it worked. There was no need among them. My God, why did we walk away from that? I don’t know. Why did we do our own thing? I don’t know. That’s the devil getting into the details and messing up our direction. Thank you, Lord, for leading us back to where you want to go.
Hugh: We actually need the angel in the details. *Sponsored by Wordsprint*
Martha, you brought up COVID. 13 months ago was very different than it is today. March a year ago, the door slammed. A lot of organizations were hardly making it, and some haven’t made it, both in nonprofits and business. Part of leadership is being able to find opportunities regardless of the situations. How have you adapted your model to the current situation?
Martha: We were a day shelter. We had an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch. We had devotions every day. We were trying to bring in training classes and structures, something that would make somebody that would come here during the day have a productive day. Opportunities for them to meet people, be engaged purposefully, and have a place they could unburden and talk. When we were told we had to close our doors, and our space for all of those events had to be silenced, we had to find a way to still be available.
We didn’t want to give up the food service because we knew that now more than ever, we needed to find a way to provide food to people. We couldn’t do the buffet anymore. We initially started with simple to-go trays. We realized the majority of our guests were either coming on foot, bicycle. Public transportation had all but ceased, so you couldn’t rely on the buses. We were watching people carpool and asking for plates of food for other families, other friends. They were leaving with stacks of large Styrofoam clam-shaped to-go trays. The delivery was sloppy and disappointing. We had to come up with a more dignified way to be able to serve food that wasn’t going to be spoiled or cold by the time it got to the hand of the person who was going to be eating it.
The first thing we did was completely revamp the way we did our food service. We threw away used up what we had left in inventory of those Styrofoam to-go trays. We found a very nice purposeful, hard 20-ounce double container that fits perfectly inside those dormitory sized refrigerators, which is what most people get when living in houses. The big Styrofoam to-go trays don’t fit in those. These trays are microwaveable, freezer safe. We decided to go to meal prepping. As we were getting food from all the restaurants, we would deliberately prepare a nice already-cooked meal, making it almost like a TV dinner. We would date it and label it. We could quickly heat it up if we wanted to. Two minutes in the microwave, and they could have a hot, ready-made meal to go that is going to be packaged nicely. It is going to stay warm. They could eat a little bit, put the top back on it, and eat it later.
That redefined how far our reach could go. It went from doing noon-day meal service to eight food sharing partners that come to the Lighthouse throughout the week. They take our food that we prepared and go out and deliver it as far as Halifax County. We are able to reach over 300 people a day now just by changing the way food could be transported and not get spoiled.
Martha: We have less than 10 people who come and knock on our door asking for food because they know who our food partners are. It’s easier and more efficient for them to go to some of those food partners. As soon as you see these meal trays, “Oh, you have Lighthouse food.” We have been able to say we haven’t shut our doors, but we have found a creative approach to say, “Look, you live in this community. Can we work with you? Can we share our food? Our kitchen is your kitchen. Our food pantry is your food pantry. We don’t want this food to go to waste. We are trying to find the best way to be the best steward of what’s been given to us. If you would be our partner, come and get what you need, package it up. We have coolers. We have whatever you need to transport it. You knock on those doors and give it to your friends, your new friends, their new friends. Do a wellness check. Let us know if there is anything else you could do for them that we could help you in as a support role.”
There are people who have never had an opportunity to feel what it looks like to serve somebody and see the manifestation that happens when the holy spirit touches them. Suddenly they realize, “I do know how to be a missionary in my own backyard. I am not afraid to talk to my neighbors anymore.” Just because I don’t have access to it doesn’t mean God hasn’t given me somebody I can network with, who can support my endeavor to go out there and do what God has called me to do. That’s how No Needs Among Them exists. It just has this beautiful reciprocal approach. That is one way we were able to redefine our food service and actually made it better.
Hugh: Love it. Let’s turn to our educated psychologist over here. Being broke is a temporary condition. Being poor is a mindset. We got to feed people. People need a place to live. There are other aspects of what people need to be more self-sufficient. What are some of those ways that you support people, Terrick?
Terrick: We do just what you said: support them. What we found out about seven or eight years ago, is the biggest percentage of the homeless population was either in an active addiction with alcohol or drugs, people who had been formerly incarcerated, or were experiencing some mental health disorder or condition that either wasn’t diagnosed or not being treated. When those people would go to other places, they wouldn’t be received, whether it was in churches or other nonprofits who were trying to serve them, mainly because they didn’t understand them. Church is probably the last place you want to go if you have a mental health disorder or if you’re a felon, and certainly if your addiction is active, no one is going to want you around there either. Those folks were wandering around with no place to go. They were these wandering souls with no home.
What we found out is just like when Jesus touched a leper and made him feel human again, when we started to support these folks, some of them, once we helped them, they wanted a hug. I remember the first time hugging someone who smelled like urine and body odor. I realized I could go wash that off. They couldn’t. It allowed me to say, “I could just suck it up and take this because this person is trying to reconnect with humanity again.” Just to feel like a human being again. Once we started to do that, Hugh, we were amazed at how quickly they grew wings and just took off.
We just opened up our first home January 2018. Since then, we have had over 40 men who have stayed in our homes. We’re always excited when one of them calls us up and says, “I got promoted to a supervisor at work.” We’re excited about that because they are now in a position where they are hiring other people when three years ago they were homeless and unemployed themselves. Now we have some great representation in the community through the guys we have helped. They in turn are very indebted to the Lighthouse and grateful for what we did for them. When they have an opportunity to give back, they take advantage of it. I would say we supported them just by supporting them, just by being that network of support that most people need. It’s one of the attributes of highly successful and effective people. They have someone in their life who pushed them to maximize their potential, who believed in them, who loved them unconditionally. With that kind of foundation, human beings have unlimited potential. We like tapping into it.
Hugh: That is a touching story and a powerful story. That makes everything worth any suffering that you had to go through to get where you are, to see that kind of turnaround. Will you entertain questions or comments from the audience?
Hugh: I know that Finny is bashful, but we will let it happen. We have Jeffrey Fulgham who used to live in Lynchburg, but he moved to Richmond. He had a strong career here with Patrick Henry and D-Day Memorial. And J.E. Rash who founded in our neighboring community of Bedford one of many organizations, Legacy International. Let’s talk about Legacy. I know there is some commonality. Mr. Rash, do you have a comment or question for this team or some support for what they’re doing?
J.E. Rash: Welcome. I am grateful to hear you. Congratulations on the good work you’re doing. We do share a great deal of principles in what we’re doing. What concerns me always is the true interfaith aspect of the work because I think if we address the universal human values that cut across religious identities and racial and cultural identities, then we are talking to the heart and soul of people. When we tell a story from a Christian point of view or Judaic point of view or Islamic point of view, it’s the same story where God, Allah, Truth asks the question, “Who is going to care for what I’m creating?” All the souls in our story, all the souls who are ready to be born, say, “We will.” There is a warning that says, “No, this is a heavy deal that you’re agreeing to. This is not an easy thing.”
To me, what is called the Trust, this is a trust. The trust is what we always have to focus on. Otherwise, we always wind up talking about differences, why we can participate, why we can’t participate. The linguistics, the language that’s used. If we use the language of love and concern and compassion and mercy, I think we’re helping people to be humane human beings. As you told the story about the supervisor who called back, he called you back because you inspired him, because he cared about you. In that sense, if he chooses to follow your path, that’s great, but he has already been engaged in the essence of the truth. That’s where we are at Legacy.
Legacy is a 501(c)3 nonprofit secular organization. We also have a religious organization. It’s all values based. When I hear about the values and the mission of helping people to be more and more free, whether it’s love your neighbors, or you can’t change a community until you change yourself, we are all saying the same thing. That is the wonderful part of it. I know that many people can join in this work when it’s truly interfaith and it’s truly based on our concern as human beings for one another as human beings, not by any other label. That’s my comment.
The question is always what ways can we serve that work in ways that are true to our work and true to your work?
Hugh: Thank you for that. Do y’all want to respond?
Terrick: That is exactly what needs to happen any time we minster to someone. When Jesus told the story about the Good Samaritan, there was no religious dialogue, no political dialogue. There was just one man who needed help and another man who had the resources to help them. If you notice in that story it was the religious people who avoided helping, as far as we’re concerned, religion is sometimes a barrier to helping people. What we want to do is connect with other human beings regardless of what religion they are. We connect with them based on what their needs are. If they decide they want to follow our religion, that’s fine. My faith is in Jesus Christ. I will never back down from that, never water that down, never compromise that because that is what made me who I am. Not everyone is going to embrace that. I wouldn’t expect them to. But they can do what the Good Samaritan did and help a person who is in need. That defines who we are. We fed a lot of people here who were atheist, but we didn’t say, “We’re not going to feed you today because you’re an atheist.” We’ll feed anyone who is hungry because that’s what we’re called to do. That is what Christ not only did but expects us to do and has empowered us and gifted us to do.
We look at it in much the same way. We’re talking two different tracks. One is a track of helping people and meeting the needs of people. Another is our faith. If someone is interested in knowing how we were able to do what we do, then I can’t leave God out of it or Jesus Christ out of it as far as it pertains to me. If someone wants to know one track, they can just ask. If they want to be a recipient of the other track, all they have to do is come here with a need, and we will try to fill it.
Hugh: In your collaborations, do you have people of multiple faiths who are already working together in Lynchburg?
Terrick: We do.
Hugh: Mr. Rash, thank you as always for your good comments. I want to move on to some other things. You put in the preliminary questions which I’ve ignored to this point. We’ve done some really good stuff. That was just in case Hugh got stuck and didn’t know what to ask. The challenge that faces so many starting a 501(c)3 is we build this car, we learn to drive this car, but we have to put gas in it so it goes somewhere. Funding is always this stepchild of reality. How do we put that together? How do you fund this thing? Then I want to move to your future vision because you have some big things going on and I would love for you to share your future goals. We have already talked about some obstacles. Talk about funding. How do you put together a funding package for something this big?
Terrick: She does all the money. That’s a Martha answer.
Hugh: Martha, how do we do this?
Martha: For the most part, we’re working off of budgets less than $150,000 a year. As Finny said, the value is in the people. When we have been able to bring in volunteers, which is how we’ve been since the inception, we invite people who are willing to share their time, talents, and treasures to invest into other people. That keeps our operations very low.
As Finny said, we self-funded most of everything that we were able to build. Through that came very interested donors to say, “What do you mean you’re not taking 50% of my donations and lining your pockets to pay your bills?” We’re social entrepreneurs. That’s what connected us to the foundation of doing something different with this nonprofit. As long as we can get it for free, we’re going to give it for free. The only thing we’re asking is to help us keep our light on. If that means assistance with the cost to operate, that’s it. People were like, “I can afford $50 a month to buy your coffee that you’re brewing every day. I can afford another $25 a month to make sure you have plates or disposable items.”
As that grew, it came into, “All right, the restaurants, I’ll give you my leftovers at the end of the night so you don’t have to go to the grocery store and figure out how to cook and prepare.” Those could be big hemorrhages to your wallets if you’re not out there asking. You don’t know until you go. For us, we went to the food bank. We were eligible as a nonprofit to get what we needed from there. When we ran low, we weren’t afraid to ask, to say, “We’re tight this month. We need $2,000.” Because our operations were so small, we’re talking maximum $10,000 a month. That is what we’re looking at.
Only this year have we found ourselves being recognized by the Department of Social services and this Commonwealth of Virginia. TANF has come to us and said, “We’ll give you a grant if you continue to do what you’re doing for the men because there are so many programs for women and children, but there is nothing in our community out there trying to transform and uplift the lives of men who are trying to rebuild their lives.”
Terrick: Who have dependent children.
Martha: Who have dependent children, who want to be a caregiver, whether it’s financial or reunification. “If you all continue to do this, we will get behind you.” They gave us a grant this year so we could provide those professional services. That’s what really birthed the Lighthouse Community Health Services. If we’re going to be a mental health caregiver and provide services, we want to do it for everyone. TANF said for those men who are unemployed and who are below the poverty level, who don’t have a means to support their children, they’ll take care of those bills if we just commit. We were ecstatic to see their interest and their support that is going to allow us to grow our mental health services even that much bigger.
Terrick: If I could just throw this in because it ties in with what Martha and Finny said, we look at that whole fishes and loaves idea. I’ve summed it up in a Bible study Martha alluded to when we would have Bible studies every day right before we would serve lunch. One of the things I told to the folks this one day is: God doesn’t want our abundance. What He wants is our obedience. When we’re obedient with the things that we have, whether it’s very limited resources, when you’re faithful in those little things, God many times will multiply those little things, like He did the fishes and loaves, like He did in the oil and grain with the widow of Zarephath, it was an opportunity for God to show what He can do. In the Book of Acts, people don’t look at their possessions as being their own. But they were willing to share it. It was the only time in the Bible where it says, “There was no needs among them.” That is what we liken ourselves to. We’re not out here saying, “If we ever get a lot of money, if we ever get a grant, if we ever get the support we need, then we’ll help people.” We look at it and say, “What do we have?” We take what we have and meet the needs we can. God has multiplied those to the tune of $2.5 million two years ago right before we got the grant. They were saying, “Wow. You guys are doing that much with that little?”
Hugh: Let’s talk about the future. Finny, you have these big-deal housing projects. You’ve been faithful with it. You’ve stayed with it. You’ve proven you can do a lot with a little. Now things are happening in a big way.
Finny: Yes, let me share that news with the community. 100% faith walk. We didn’t have a dollar in our bank account. But we stepped out in faith and signed two contracts. One is for 35 acres, and one is for 53 acres. Both of them, we are praying, “Now that we have signed the contracts, how are we going to buy them?” So people always say, “You better make sure you have everything in place before you step out.” That is the corporate structure way we are supposed to do things. Let me talk about faith and walking in true faith, trusting God for it, believing that He is the one who is directing you to do this. That is exactly where we’re at.
By the grace of God, we stepped in by faith, trusted God because we believe it was Him doing it. He brought to us the first investor for the first property. He wrote the check to buy that property. We are now on the second property that we need to close this coming month, May 5. We are raising $300,000. We truly believe the money is already there. Someone who is listening to this video today, they might be the one who needs to hear this. We are believing God is going to provide the way for us to close on this.
What does this do? That $300,000 seed will house more than 2,000 families in this city. You think about that for a second. God can take a $300,000 investment and turn that into housing families who are living in the low-income bracket. They will be able to have a place they can say is their own home. The $300,000 is the seed funding. The rest of the money is already being supported through other grants and ways of structuring how this is being done. You will need $100 million though? Yes, we do. That component is covered. We know how to get that. We just need the initial starting face. We have the first property already in the works, the 53 acres. Now we have the 35 acres that needs to be funded. We already raised $15,000 this past Saturday through donors who just stepped up and shared their seeds. People listening in this call can say, “Finny, I am going to trust you guys because you’ve been faithful.” This is how God works because we are walking out in faith and trusting God for this. We are believing He is going to make it happen, so come down and join with us and be part of what change is happening in our community.
Hugh: Amen to that. We have abundance. We just have to get out of the way sometimes and let it happen because it’s there. Martha, Terrick, Finny, thank you for being the guests today. Thank you. Blessings.
Finny/Martha/Terrick: Thank you!