The Mission

By: Michael Cassidy

BSW Intern, Warner University

The Mission is a parachurch ministry located at 180 E Central Ave, Winter Haven, FL 33880. The mission of The Mission is to share Christ, meet needs, build relationships and restore purpose. They really do this, too. The executive pastor of this ministry is Pastor David Berry. David Berry became the executive pastor after Thomas Beauregard handed down the mantle and he has been carrying out the original vision of The Mission ever since.

I spent my time there helping distribute the food to the people coming in. The Holy Spirit was leaving impressions on my heart the entire time I was there. When I walked in I was greeted by the other workers and volunteers in The Mission’s kitchen. It was a very friendly environment with a hint of seriousness about food handling and the distribution of goods. They walked me through how much to serve and the proper sanitation techniques, but with the experience I gained from my time at Meals on Wheels I was no beginner. For the first portion of time Pastor David was not at The Mission, but as the day unfolded he arrived and was very happy to see the volunteers that were there, myself included. We had met one time prior to my volunteering there so when he saw me a flash of familiarity had crossed his face. He gave me a handshake and thanked me for volunteering.

When the people started coming through the lines I could feel their struggle in the atmosphere. Some people you could tell have been living in emotional and financial poverty for so long that they had lost hope. They seemed as if they had been trying so hard that there was apathetic feeling toward improvement. The Mission is a place for these people to come and rest from their daily routine and have a place to socialize and build relationships. In their mission statement The Mission says that they want to restore purpose, and the purpose that I could see being restored in them is a care for one another. We all know the power that love has in this world and The Mission is offering a Christian love to restore the broken in Winter Haven.

The mission of The Mission is clear; restore the broken through The Mission to restore a sense of mission to their hearts so that they can carry out the mission of The Mission that received their mission from the mission giver, Jesus Christ.

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NAZ Thrift Shop

By: Michael Cassidy

NAZ Thrift Shop is a thrift store that opened a couple of weeks ago during January. It is located at 236 Ave D SW, Winter Haven, FL 33880. I have spent a large portion of time with them and I have realized that they really have a Heart for Winter Haven. Chris Caldwell, the manager of the store, Is a picker at heart and he finds deals and items unique to the average home shopping experience. This store was conceived by The Church of The Nazarene with the desire to offer the best deals on used clothes and furniture to help the people in the lower-income brackets of Winter Haven.

I spent my time there assisting them with developing a presence in the online sales community and placing items throughout the store. Essentially all I did was lead them to the right links, they were more than willing to do the rest. We also rearranged the store so that it would be more appealing to the customer’s eyes upon walking in. Whether it works or not only time will tell.

Though there was an excitement and wonder to being in the store it was even more exciting to see them developing their presence online. You can now find them on Facebook, Craigslist, and Ebay. They also have their own website now and they have set up an account with Amazon Advantage to sell their used books that people donate to the store. When all of this is added together, NAZ Thrift shop is doing everything they need to do to ensure their success!

Honestly though, this place is pretty sNAZzy!

PEP (Public Education Partnership)

By: Michael Cassidy

The Public Education Partnership, otherwise known as PEP, is maintained by Audrey Nettlow and Dr.James.  It was founded in 2011 with the creating a non-profit organization whose mission is to support Winter Haven’s public schools. PEP is a volunteer driven not-for-profit organization supporting quality and collaborative programs for Winter Haven’s public schools, teachers and students.

Things usually get rolling at PEP around four o’clock in the afternoon when the buses pull up and unload the children. The children come in fresh after school with a lot of energy. The leaders and volunteers at PEP cultivate this energy and direct it towards outside recreational activities, homework and reading time, and creative activities. This is done by setting up different stations around the PEP facility. The students spend about thirty minutes at each station and by the end of their time at PEP some of their post-school day energy is used up.

I got to spend my day assisting in the homework section at PEP. The children that I was blessed with the opportunity to assist were in first and second grade. The only classroom and learning setting I have been immersed in the for past couple of years has been my college classrooms and it was a humbling experience to help children that were beginning to learn to read. They sounded out each letter and really gave it all their effort when given the right amount of validation and support. The people at PEP treat them with heartfelt care and compassion. There was only one problem I encountered while volunteering at PEP. It was with Common Core. I’ve usually come defend of Common Core learning when in conversation about it, but I experienced first hand one of the downfalls of such a learning system. I was assisting a young boy with his math homework; he was subtracting hundreds. As I helped him he was more concerned with finding the right strategy or method to solve the problem than actually understanding the methods behind solving it. I remember asking him about something he called re-grouping, and then he continued to do that specific technique for every following problem as if they were all the same, but each problem is different and I perceived that he had trouble understanding. It seems to just be a reflection of stereotyping and classism, butPEP is a volunteer driven non-profit organization supporting quality and collaborative programs for Winter Haven’s public schools, teachers and students. it there could legitimately be problems with the way we are teaching elementary school children to learn.

Lets bring creativity back by putting a little more PEP in our kid’s steps.

Steps to a brighter, more fulfilling, future.

Meals On Wheels

By: Michael Cassidy

Meals on Wheels is located at 620 6th St NW, Winter Haven, FL. The Meals on Wheels program was founded in 1972 by Reverend James W. Kendall with the mission to provide hot, nutritionally balanced meals and a daily contact to the homebound residents of the Polk County area.

And this is exactly what they do.

I went to meals on wheels to volunteer on Friday, January 29. When there I got to prepare meals for the drivers who delivered them, and I even got to do a ride along with a new friend Chris Collany. I started the day off with reading an informational packet on food safety and sanitation. This served the purpose of informing my lecture-style mind on how to properly handle the meals while delivering or doing the prep work. Preparing the meals in the kitchen was insightful to the efficiency of meals on wheels. It was a very clean environment with proper sanitation techniques and the people preparing the meals are friendly and dedicated. As I stood in the line of pseudo-lunch ladies and passed along the meals it challenged my athletic physique and drive to pass along the meals at the speed and quality in which they did. I was a rookie in a long line of experienced servers to say the least. After I had finished with these graceful lunch packing maniacs I took a short break before they allowed me to go for the ride along with Chris. They probably let me take a short break because they recognized that underneath my classy plaid shirt was a fountain of sweat ascribed by something American elementary schools have become familiar with, survival of the fittest. When Chris Collany arrived to Meals on Wheels I was just finishing my final cup of coffee, so I was ready for the ride. Chris has a heart for the people he delivers meals to equivalent to the size of the Grinch’s heart post-Cindy Lou Who, which basically mean he has the heart of ten men. As awkward as having a heart that massive may be when wearing t-shirts, it works pretty well when delivering meals to people who need them. While riding around with him he shared personal wisdom as well as stories about the people he delivered the meals to. He has been delivering meals for about a year for meals on wheels and says that they stay true to their mission. After two hours of testosterone filled bro-bonding and delivering meals we made our way back to Meals on Wheels. It was finally time to call it a day and meals on wheels definitely lived up to their reputation and more.

The wheels on the meals go round and round my friends, the wheels on the meals go round….

and round…