Christian Service Center

by: FOR Orlando

The goal of Christian Service Center is to prevent homelessness, combat poverty, cultivate self-sufficiency, restore hope and glorify God through the faithful provision of services that directly address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of families and individuals who are struggling in Central Florida. For over 45 years, the Center has provided aid for our hurting neighbors with various programs designed to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, regardless of race, religion, age, or gender. Read the conversations below to learn more about Christian Service Center.

Client and Volunteer,
Christian Service Center 

Like a lot of people, I moved down to Orlando back in ‘98. I was living in upstate New York. Winter was wearing me down. Two to three feet of snow, temperature down in the teens. Enough of that. I like Florida and don’t wanna leave, except for the hurricanes!  

I started working at the Peabody Orlando hotel as soon as I got here. I have been working in hotels since I was 16 years old. I liked it there. Had the same boss for twenty years.  

October 1st, 2019, changed my life. I was on that Lynx bus that crashed and flipped over on I-4. Had my cowboy hat on and a bright shirt. Hurt my lower back so bad that I haven’t been able to work no more. You know, I never had a driver’s license. Always rode the bus or walked. Now, I’m livin’ over at the Orlando Union Rescue Mission, but the Christian Service Center has helped me get on the Housing Program. I’m waiting to hear if they found a place for me.

I volunteer here at Christian Service Center, you know. I get to make the coffee for breakfast and then help in the food pantry. I tell everyone who’s in the same boat I’m in, go to the Christian Service Center cause they help you a lot. I have a case manager here. Get my mail here. We have bible study every morning. Oh, and I was out at First Orlando last night for Celebrate Recovery! They gave me this blue chip for “the sky’s the limit.”

Senior Prevention Case Manager, Christian Service Center 

I moved to Florida in 2003 from New Jersey. Looking online for a job, I saw an opening at the Christian Service Center so I sent in my resume, and I started here part-time. One month later it became a full-time job. It’s like family here. You just walk in and you feel the love. People that I work with here are like brothers and sisters.

It’s like the Lord works in different ways here. My job is to receive and process applications that come into Christian Service Center.  I receive applications, and email people back to let them know what documents they need. Once they have everything, they come into the office to see me. And they are so appreciative because I help them with rent and utilities. I love it when they say, “You don’t know what you’ve done for me” and then they come and hug you.

I’ve seen the difference between working for a nonprofit and working for corporate. There’s so much compassion here. We put families first.  There was a family, a single mom with two children who relocated from Puerto Rico because of Hurricane Maria. She was a teacher in Puerto Rico but had to get her license to teach here. She fell into a season where she wasn’t able to provide food to her kids or pay her utilities. She came here asking for food. I interviewed her and we were able to help her with her utilities. A week later, something in my heart prompted me to call her, and she said that her food stamps hadn’t arrived yet. I said, “You know what. Don’t worry, I’ll drop off some food.” So, I dropped off some food and some clothes. She hugged me and the kids said, “Thank you”. To this day she keeps in touch with me. She even offered to help me when I had to take my mom out of the nursing home and move her in with me. That’s the thing I love about what I do here at Christian Service Center.

Client, Christian Service Center 

My name is Michael and I’m 62 years old. I’ve actually been helping the homeless for the past 15 years. I went to the Second Harvest Food Bank cooking school for 16 weeks, five days a week, 8am to 5pm. At different times I’ve run the kitchen for the Orlando Rescue Mission. For two years at two different times, I’ve run the kitchen for the Salvation Army. I worked in their Men’s Shelter too.

I’ve had two strokes in the past couple of years. I’ve had to deal with esophageal cancer though I’m in remission. Then, I had a stroke about 2 1/2 months ago. I just got out of the hospital yesterday. Right now I’m stuck being homeless because I’ve been 2 ½ months without a job. I had an apartment but I had to let that go of that because of all the time I spent in the hospital. It’s been a real turnaround for me from being on one side of the fence…helping the homeless…and now I’m on the other side, being homeless. I’m not overly spiritual but I know I was put here for a reason. There’s a reason I’m here. I never thought I’d be in this situation but if I can help one person, it’s worth it.

What they do here at the Christian Service Center, I’ve watched these folks since they first started and they’re doing a great job. They can help the homeless with anything they need: providing meals, food stamps, housing, and all of that.

Kitchen Chef, Christian Service Center

My wife started working at the Christian Service Center before I did. We had just moved up from Sarasota. I used to volunteer in the kitchen down in Sarasota at Salvation Army. I guess I’ve cooked everywhere I’ve went! I was born for kitchen work.

Anyhow, I got interested in what kind of work my wife was doing here. My first job here was just filling in where they needed me in the kitchen. That gave me the opportunity to see how everything was run. Now, I’m the Kitchen Chef. That was a golden magic moment four years ago.

When I first started there were a total of 97 people altogether that we fed for the day. Now we feed a maximum of 160 for breakfast and 300 maximum for lunch. That’s a blessing.

My day starts at 2:00am and goes till 1:00pm. I work 10-hour shifts, breakfast, and lunch. Someone else takes care of dinners.

The people are why I work here. I interact with the majority of them. I try to figure out what put them in the predicament they’re in and how can they figure out what can get them out of it. For many of them, it’s an economy thing. The Christian Service Center is where God wanted me to be. This is where I was meant to be planted. I’m just blessed and happy for being here.  

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