It Started with Steve and Linda Smith
Steve Smith (Acknowledgement)
On a cool Sunday morning in January 2007 following church service in Clermont, Florida, my wife, Linda, and I met a man who would transform our lives forever.
Linda and I had recently retired from our corporate executive jobs, and moved to Clermont from Columbus, Ohio. We wondered what God had planned for us going forward.
This encounter in this particular Sunday answered our question.
After church service, a couple invited us to join them for breakfast and get to know each other. At the restaurant door sat a man on a bench who asked if we knew of a church he could walk to. He had no car. Although our church wasn’t within walking distance, we offered a ride to take him, then pick him up after the service to take him home.
I have no idea why we did this, as this was highly unusual for me.
A Startling Discovery
After I picked him up after church, we took him to lunch. He was new in town and seeking a job. He told us that his father died a few years prior and he tried managing the company but failed. He had moved to Clermont seeking a new beginning.
After lunch, I was taking him home and was startled when I stopped my car in front of some woods. He told me that was where he lived…in the woods.
Since it was going to go below freezing that evening, I told him that I would call our pastor seeking a safe and warm place to stay until he secured employment. Another surprise for me…. there was only one small home far from Clermont providing housing for many men and women. They let him stay there and the next day I took him to find work.
Change, but not enough
He secured employment with a friend from church, and I took him home that evening. I promised to take him to and from work daily, until I found a place for him to live, nearer to Clermont.
I met the other people living in the small home, and offered to also help them find work and better housing. Linda and I started searching on the internet for agencies who could help. We figured many others would be losing their job, their home, and their hope in years ahead.
Another surprise…. there were no agencies helping this population in Clermont. The drive to Orlando where agencies could possibly help was too far away.
I had to do something
Consequently, after much prayer, we committed our lives to help the homeless get back on their feet and we asked several caring Christians to help us form a non-profit. Thus, we launched New Beginnings of Central Florida on June 17, 2007, with a retired pastor, counselor, job trainer, social worker, accountant, and an attorney. They all volunteered their time.
Jesus says that we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and house the poor. Linda and I began to understand what that verse really means. We promised to raise funds for housing and wages for the staff serving this ministry.
What has happened since
God has been amazing as He has since provided the funds to acquire:
- 2 large homes that can accommodate 26 at any one time for those wanting to turn their life around
- 8 affordable housing units available for families, seniors, veterans, single men and moms with children
- 35 paid caring staff members
- over 1,000 volunteers serving annually
- 3 large thrift stores throughout central Florida that give away tens of thousands of dollars worth of clothing and household items yearly
- 3 drop-in centers where we help the homeless, hungry and poor of Central Florida
- 3 pantries to help people who are hungry and in need of a hand up
In 2016, the State of Florida awarded New Beginnings $19 million to build 96 affordable rental units that are desperately needed in Clermont.
Our mission is to empower people in need to live a responsible life, and we accomplish this by teaching one to fish rather than by just handing out fish.
We feel very blessed that God led us to breakfast on a chilly January morning after church service. We know that He has many more blessings for New Beginnings.
We are very grateful for the many caring people in our community who care for those who are hungry, need clothing and are sick and homeless; without God’s leading, and these caring servants following Him, there wouldn’t be a New Beginnings!
A BIG Thank You to Linda and Steve Smith who saw a need and led the way to provide our homeless food, shelter and the strength and resources to become contributing members of the community.