Children and teenagers in High Springs may soon have to search for a new after-school activity.
Witnesses of Christ Ministry High Springs at 55 N. Main Street in downtown is searching for a new location after discovering that the building the ministry currently rents is for sale.
The ministry, which is celebrating its sixth year this month, will not be able to continue helping the High Springs community without the funds to relocate.
Pastor Sammy Nelson, Jr., the founder of the ministry, said the property could sell at any moment leaving them with nowhere to go. The owner offered a different space next door, but it is smaller than what they need.
Nelson estimates that he will need $25,000 in order to move to the new location he found, a property on Route 441 that was once an antique shop.
About $5,000 of that will go toward startup operating costs. The ministry is classified as a business, so the utilities fees are higher than that of a private residence.
“Unfortunately it takes money to even do ministry,” Nelson said. “To help people it takes money.”
However, he said the property is ideal for the ministry’s needs. The building is several hundred feet larger than the current space and has three bathrooms, a fence, outside lighting, a basketball court and a full kitchen.
Nelson and his volunteers help anyone who comes in to the best of their abilities, including single parents who need a safe place for their children to play while they are at work and students who need tutoring or a place to hang out after school.
“If you have a teenager that doesn’t play school sports after school, what’s there for them to do in this town?” Nelson said.
He said that a lot of recreational programs still require money, something that many families in High Springs don’t have.
“In this town, you either have money or you don’t,” he said. “There’s no in-betweens.”
Nelson’s program, Kids on Main Street, gives the students somewhere to go so they stay out of trouble.
Nelson also stands on the streets of High Springs and Fort White, passing food out to anyone who needs it. He gets donations from food banks and companies that are able to help.
“The trade-off is when you help people and see the expression on people’s faces,” he said.
Volunteer Shelly Smith, her husband and their seven children moved to High Springs with nothing. They moved around several times, staying with family members and friends who offered help. Smith’s sister introduced her to the ministry, and she started bringing her children there for homework help after school. Shelly’s friend donated to the ministry and liked to volunteer.
“I said, ‘When I get a home and we get on our feet, this is where I want to be. I want to do what they’re doing. I want to help them,’” Smith said.
The ministry provided furniture for the Smith family when they moved into their home.
“They filled my refrigerator, they gave us beds, TV, entertainment—everything you would imagine a house would have,” she said.
The ministry has not just helped people find homes. Nelson also helps people find jobs. Some of them now work next door at Great Outdoors Restaurant.
Rick Ordaye, a manager at the restaurant, loves what the ministry is doing.
“I think they’re great over there,” he said.
Ordaye said the restaurant hires a lot of people that Nelson and his volunteers recommend.
Nelson wants to help everyone who comes in the door find opportunities to work.
“Just because a person is homeless or jobless today don’t mean they have to be that way tomorrow,” Nelson said.
These opportunities could disappear if the ministry loses its building. Nelson wants people to come together to help them help others.
“It takes money,” he said. “I just need some folks to have a compassionate heart and believe in what we’re doing.”