Foursquare credentialed minister Scott George celebrated the citywide opening of a free clinic last week (April 20) in Orlando. The People’s Clinic is the newest ministry under Destiny Foundation of Central Florida, the non-profit ministry he oversees in the 40,000-square-foot center that helps those in need in the greater Orlando area.
As a pastor at a large church in Orlando, it all started 7 years ago when Pastor Scott moved from the posh Winter Park area of Orlando to downtown. He was slapped in the face with a new reality: Homelessness. Poverty. Desperate need.
“We didn’t know how to respond,” he confesses. “We were just like, ‘God bless you, pray for you, hope things get better’ kind of a deal.”
But he quickly became too uncomfortable to simply offer condolences and continue to ignore the astonishing need in his home city. He went to work to raise capital to open a food bank as part of the church. His own brother was moved to offer him $10,000 in assistance, and the 6,000-square-foot food bank opened 10 days before Sept. 11, 2001.
“We were thrust quickly into the arena-we know it was divine,” Pastor Scott says, remembering how tourism tanked in Orlando and thousands lost their jobs due to 9/11. “Suddenly hundreds of people were lining up to get help, and it’s grown ever since.”
The food pantry eventually turned into the large-scale ministry it is today, helping 10,000 families a month in all areas of their lives. The Compassion Outreach Center provides social crisis care for families, such as job placement, lawyers and four full-time staff that help people navigate the system. Tools such as computers, phones and fax machines make it possible for people to find jobs, care and help.
With the recent recession, Pastor Scott said that he has seen donors turn into clients. “A couple of years ago, people were driving Suburbans, flipping homes and were fine. Now the economy tanked and these people have no idea how the system works. They’ve never been in the system. We walk them through unemployment, Social Security, how to get food. Every morning I drive in to work, there is a line for that program alone.”
The People’s Clinic
The grand opening for the new People’s Clinic in mid-April saw Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, lawyer/major donor John Morgan, and all major central Florida newscasts, including the Orlando Sentinel welcoming the ministry with open arms.
The clinic, which is especially geared to help kids, employs a full-time doctor, two registered nurses and a psychologist, with people in need lining up every day. Both care and prescriptions are fully covered, with the clinic open four days a week, two nights a week and every other Saturday.
The clinic came to be out of a generous $500,000 donation from local well-known lawyer John Morgan, and should provide them funding for the first three years. With future fundraising efforts, Pastor Scott hopes to expand to several doctors, as the clinic is already being utilized heavily. “Just last night we saw 40 families,” he notes.
The next undertaking for Destiny Foundation is to open a big daytime center for homeless children and women, dubbed Hope Central. In hopes of landing a grant, Pastor Scott is due to make a presentation to the Central Florida Regional Commission on Homelessness, which includes Orlando-area business giants such as the president of Disney and Mayor Dyer.
Hope Central will provide a place for women and their children to shower, eat, see a social worker, get medical attention-and turn the women’s lives around so they can get back on their feet.
“We are considered a homeless prevention program by the government,” says Pastor Scott. “The city, the county, the government are coming to us, a faith-based ministry, to help.”
Listen to This
Pastor Scott often speaks to churches looking to start outward-focused ministries in order to help those in need. Understandably, churches might look at his large-scale facility and feel overwhelmed and under-equipped to assist anyone in need.
Pastor Scott’s advice? Listen.
Instead of arriving on the scene with preconceived ideas, Pastor Scott said he “came and listened and let them tell me what their needs are. Once we define the needs, then we can begin to fill them. Maybe in another area it’s not food and medical, maybe it’s parenting assistance or whatever. Just take time to listen to what people are needing, and they will be attracted to what you are doing.”
He also notes that churches can’t get frustrated with what they don’t have. “That’s just excuses. When we first started our clinic a year and a half ago, we used plastic church tables as exam tables, curtains hung on PVC pipes and volunteer doctors. Take what you have, and put it in God’s hands. Be faithful with what you have, and He’ll give you more.”
Those interested in more information on Destiny Foundation of Central Florida, or how to donate or volunteer, can visit www.battlepoverty.org.