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SATURDAY, APRIL 28, 2007
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Basil Hawkins gets his hair cut by volunteer Fredrick Bentford in the Dream Center, a ministry outreach of Calvary Assembly Church of God, on Eighth Street Southwest. Volunteers supply free haircuts, groceries, clothing, lunch and more in a neighborly environment.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
Basil Hawkins gets his hair cut by volunteer Fredrick Bentford in the Dream Center, a ministry outreach of Calvary Assembly Church of God, on Eighth Street Southwest. Volunteers supply free haircuts, groceries, clothing, lunch and more in a neighborly environment.

The Dream team
Adopt-A-Block cleanup, haircuts, food and more through Decatur Dream Center

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com 340-2468

Willie Daniels leaned his head as a barber ran an electric shaver to precisely shape a style. The haircut had the 17-year-old smiling shyly, especially when an onlooker teased him about getting his goatee cut.

Willie said Fredrick Bentford gives good haircuts, but no, the goatee would stay.

This barber stand wasn't a typical setup in a shopping district.

Bentford was a volunteer, and the teenager was one of 80 or so "guests" at the Decatur Dream Center on April 21.

Operating at a former church on Eighth Street Southwest, helpers like Bentford serve every other Saturday in an ongoing ministry backed by Calvary Assembly of God Church. They supply free haircuts, groceries, clothing, lunch and more in a neighborly environment.

Bentford, a member of another church, said he got involved to help "sow into the community."

His barber chair was a popular spot, and so was that of volunteer beautician Selina Gibson. Taking her turn in Gibson's chair, Agetha Dotson said the haircut plus the groceries and fellowship meant a lot to her.

"You wouldn't think a bag of groceries is much, but everything adds up," she said.

Dotson said she sees friends at the Dream Center and brings one lady with her on first and third Saturdays.

The Dream Center isn't out to draw attention to itself or to Calvary Assembly but to make a difference, said Executive Director Danny Gibson.

He said the center's mission is to restore dignity to people and to help them realize their dreams.

Door-to-door

The center started its second season of Adopt-A-Block outreach April 21. For two hours, volunteers from Calvary and the Dream Center went door-to-door to 90 homes in a seven-block area north of West Decatur Elementary School, Gibson said.

The helpers picked up trash, talked to residents and did yard work for those who can't do it themselves, Gibson said. When the visitors find a need, they try to meet it, he said. For instance, they saw broken steps at the house of an elderly couple and will return to fix them, Gibson said. He mowed two lawns, he said, one for an elderly person and the other at a vacant house.

Back at the center, ministry continued to all corners. People registered, ate plate lunches, talked and waited their turns for different ministries. Gibson stood at a mike to give a brief devotional and to guide the guests.

"It's a lot of fun. There's no way to explain it until you come and do it," Gibson said of the outreach programs. "You go back week after week and you build friendships."

Katrina survivor

One family has both received and given. Wayne Pelham said Hurricane Katrina drove them from the Purvis, Miss., home where they'd settled after Hurricane Charley made them refugees from Port Charlotte, Fla.

Katrina winds made their house shift on its block foundation, Pelham said. He said they lost almost everything and started over in Decatur because it was near his wife's hometown, Moulton. He works as a tree trimmer for Alabama Outdoor Services, he said.

When Adopt-A-Block volunteers showed up last year in his neighborhood, they helped the family, Pelham said.

"And now they help us out," said Tina Gibson, who ministers with her husband, Danny.

She said Pelham does almost everything from bagging groceries to praying. Danny Gibson said Pelham "got saved" and now is a block leader for Adopt-A-Block.

'We lost it'

Volunteer Darlene Meadows was coordinating haircuts and visiting with guests during the Saturday program.

"Sometimes you get to pray with people and get to bless them on the spot," she said.

Tina Gibson said one older woman told of letting beauty shop visits go to save money for her medication. At the Dream Center she got her first haircut in two years.

"When she turned around and her husband looked at her, he said, 'You are so beautiful.' We all just lost it," Tina Gibson said.

Grocery bags

The food distribution she was overseeing included ham, beans, rice, oats, cereal, bread, canned vegetables, cookies and other items.

The Dream Center gets bakery donations from stores and other food from food banks and a ministry in Indiana, she said. Seventy to 80 bags usually go out on Saturdays, one per family, said Tina Gibson.

In another room, those who signed up for clothing were getting help. Children ate hot dogs and played in the fenced playground.

Danny Gibson said the building was the former home of First Assembly of God Church. The congregation gave the building to Calvary after its membership dwindled, he said. The center has roots in Calvary's ministry at Sunset Acres years ago and a church food pantry.

On Calvary's staff for 10 years, he formerly directed a young adult training program, Master's Commission.

Help during week

The Dream Center's ministry extends to weekday programs, including a women's recovery program and English as a second language and adult education classes.

Danny Gibson said he would love for other churches to get involved and for the ministry to spread across Decatur.

"It's not a Calvary Assembly thing. It's the kingdom of God, a kingdom thing," he said.

The Dream Center needs support, including donations of food and children's treats, said the director.

"You see the smiles on people's faces when they leave. It's so good to make them happy and to be Jesus with skin on," said volunteer Tiffany Holland.

Play to help

A swing of your golf club can help at-risk, economically deprived and addicted people — and possibly win you a new truck or a Harley Davidson motorcycle.

A golf tournament to benefit the Decatur Dream Center will be May 12 at Cedar Ridge Golf Course. Joe Sartain Ford and Lynn Layton Chevrolet are offering new trucks for holes in one on numbers four and 10, respectively. The first place team will win $100 for each player. Other winning teams will get cash prizes.

Dream Center director Danny Gibson said the ministry serves more than 400 local residents each month.

The cost to play the four-man scramble tournament is $275 per team. The fee includes green fees, a cart and a meal voucher. Hole and team sponsorships are $350.

Starting times will be at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. The rain date is May 19. Call 350-0615.

- Melanie Smith

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