Archive for Sunday, December 1, 2002

Volunteer helps homeless return to self-sufficiency

December 1, 2002

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— Dee Manning's cell number spreads quickly among the homeless. They learn to spot her black sport Dodge Dakota SUV - loaded with jackets, blankets and bag lunches. She's giving back to the "Good Lord" to whom she committed her life two years ago at Central Christian Church in northeast Wichita.

Now the church is matching her work with plans to expand the homeless ministry called "His Helping Hands" with a multimillion-dollar project.

The church was given an 18-acre property in north Wichita and a five-acre property in southeast Wichita where a distribution center, offices and recovery facility for alcohol and drug abusers will be built. The outreach could begin as early as next fall.

Church leaders say Manning's example has inspired them to enhance their homeless outreach.

"We know there are many people in this community who are suffering from unemployment and the downturn in the economy," said the Rev. Joe Wright of Central Christian. "The scriptural command, 'To whom much has been given, much is required,' is motivating our hearts."

Manning's motivation grew after reading "A Call to Die" by David Nasser, who spoke at Central Christian about sacrificial living for God.

It's at the heart of her 40-plus hours a week of volunteering.

"This is about my walk with God," she said. "This is not a ministry. This is obedience to God. The Bible tells us we are to do this for the poor, widows and orphans."

Manning, 50, knows the daily schedules of many homeless. She finds them at the library, under bridges, in lines waiting for a bed at local shelters or a meal at a local agency.

She often gives out food and clothing, but she's discovered another critical need: birth certificates, drivers licenses and identification cards.

Without them, the homeless can't get jobs. Many lost them in their travels, had them stolen or revoked because of criminal punishment.

So she's the go-between, doing meticulous paperwork, often out of her SUV.

An accordion file stores government forms, temporary bus passes and driver-instruction manuals. It also contains job applications that she hunted down through newspaper classifieds, agency listings and "help wanted" signs.

She provides envelopes, postage and notary public. She picks up the homeless and takes them to the drivers license office. She pays fees and makes calls to courts in cases where fines went unpaid and are holding up the paperwork.

Many of those expenses come out of her pocket, including the two tanks of gas for her SUV or an occasional lunch when someone missed a meal from a local agency.

The homeless call Manning "Miss Dee" or "Sister Dee." Her compassion, she says, isn't naive. The Holy Spirit and her experience in the business world help her separate the jokers from the genuine.

Charles Brown, a 51-year-old homeless man originally from Illinois, met her at a shelter two years ago.

Now he's a member at Central Christian. Manning got him a temporary job as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army this Christmas season. It's his first job in a year, he said, and a start toward independent living. His golf shirt, khakis and sneakers came from a clothing bank.

His dream now is to drive a cab or a semi-tractor trailer, jobs that would end his 12-year homeless streak. He has to study the drivers' manual first, pass the test and then go job hunting.

Manning promises to teach him driving in the church parking lot. It's been nearly a decade since he's driven a car.

"I wish I had about 10 percent of her strength," Brown said. "But I know where she gets it from."

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