Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Faith Works 1-4-14

Faith Works 1-4-14

Jeff Gill


Street ministry in Pottersville, 2014



A new year dawns in Pottersville. We're sending you this fundraising appeal because you've been a supporter of our work in the past, and we hope you can aid us during the year ahead.


Our ministry center is still upstairs overlooking the heart of the old business district. We have a worship & gathering space at the top of the stairs from the street, and a number of private offices for confidential counseling appointments. One goal we have is to work with our landlord (Potter Enterprises) to install an elevator, but this accessibility asset will cost thousands more than we have on hand.


Ironically, if we can put together funding for this step, it will be installed where the old vault currently sits, its door permanently open . . . no one knows anymore what the combination is, and we have had it riveted open for safety. That area is reinforced below, though, which makes it the best spot to put a lift that can allow mobility-restricted individuals to be served in our space.


The Pottersville Community Association (PCA) continues to work on projects for the revitalization of our downtown, and we collaborate on these efforts while keeping our focus on direct service and ministries of compassion, care, and presence.


For the congregations in the Greater Bedford region who contribute to our programming here in the city, we can share a few of the stories where we are making a difference in Jesus' name. Violet is one of the residents of the senior housing complex located where the Gaiety Theatre and Tap Room once stood. She was born and raised here, traveling to the East Coast when she was younger and making a number of attempts to get into show business.


"I made plenty of mistakes, and there was always someone around to encourage me to make one more," Violet says. "When the Pottersville Mission opened its doors to me as a homeless old woman, it was like I was coming back to the home I never knew."


Tilly & Eustace are brother & sister, a pair who have been each other's caregivers since their parents died before World War II. They say about Pottersville Senior Housing "we have just gone from one barely habitable rental to another through our years, and this is the first safe, warm place we've called home since we were children." Friends of the pair say they are both over 100.


There are many who recall the heyday of Pottersville, when neon lights and parked cars ornamented the blocks all around. But most of those who remember those days also recall a darker side, with houses of prostitution on the blocks behind the business district, and pawn shops tucked in between the bars and dance halls.


Those years saw much activity, financial and otherwise, but little of the money stayed in town. And once trends in entertainment and economics began to undermine the profitability of movie houses and floor shows, the hollowing out of the business district happened with startling rapidity, leaving behind long stretches of vacant storefronts and only patchily occupied upstairs apartments.


The last blow seemed to be, ten years ago, when the First National Bank of Pottersville was bought out and closed by MegaCorpBanq, leaving depositors without a staffed branch closer than Bedford Heights (although there are ATMs on either end of neighborhood). And it is true that payday loan and car title cheap money, high interest rackets are dotted on either side where the town's main bank once operated.


But that vacancy has created our biggest new opportunity, and one we are very excited about. The old bank building, with its marble and wrought-iron stateliness, has attracted a ministry partnership of three area churches that are going to open it up as a vocational training center, in association with the county technology and education program, with a coffee shop as the centerpiece.


Where once the teller's cages received deposits, baristas will serve cappuchinos and lattes; back in the old president's office, students will learn the skills needed to serve customers and cook up sweet treats.


We continue to celebrate worship each Wednesday and Saturday night, and are still appreciating the rent-free arrangement with the county that allows us to use the old library building for the Tuesday & Thursday food pantry. Please keep our ministry of presence and proclamation in your prayers, and together, we know that just one person determined to make a difference can have an impact far beyond what they know, or can know!


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; yes, he's still watching Christmas movies. Tell him where you would like to make a difference at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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