WHILE IT IS THE JOB of a minister to be both inspiring and compassionate, Pastor Sam Gallucci of the Harbor Community Church in Ventura was undoubtedly standing in line for an extra big helping of these qualities when God was passing them out.
The effusive Gallucci is now helping to pass out food, clean clothing and friendship to the area's homeless population. And it is impossible not to get caught up in the enthusiasm of this tireless spokesman for the efforts of his 65-member congregation.
As Gallucci explains it, "We started this by going out in the parks and the river bottom and asking folks, 'What do you need?' " As it turns out, it was "101 different things."
The church provides two meals a day, showers, laundry and help with social services to around 50 to 80 people daily. They serve 100-140 meals a day and have helped more than 500 people over the past year. "We've stopped 12 from taking their lives and 40 we've helped get work," Gallucci said. "Over 90 have gone through detox."Others have received assistance getting their GEDs and acquiring identification.
"It's a miracle of God that a church so small can do so much," Gallucci said.
But while the church is doing great work, the parishioners realize that once their daytime efforts are finished, the recipients of their generosity are back out on the streets at night. "We'll just love on them for awhile and then we won't see them for a long time," Gallucci lamented.
AND THAT'S where miracle number two comes in. "God provided us just a perfect situation," the pastor said. The owners of the City Center Motel in Downtown Ventura, near to much of the city's homeless population, entered into a lease agreement with the church to turn the aging facility into a center for 30 homeless families.
Gallucci made an appeal to other churches in the area to help and so far 15 have made a firm commitment to sponsor one of the motel's 30 rooms. A one-time donation of $5,700 helps to renovate a room; a $500 monthly donation sponsors the family living in it. The church is seeking another $500,000 to add a kitchen, laundry area and meeting facility to the project.
There is also an immediate need of $64,000 for architectural and permit fees for the project, Gallucci said.
And while there is currently a shortage of funds to complete the project there is certainly no shortage of enthusiasm around town for the Kingdom Center and the congregation's current efforts at their Preble Avenue church. Homeless advocate Sherry Cash certainly sings their praises. Something as simple as a shower and a change of clothes can
make all the difference, she said. "As soon as people start getting clean, things
The homeless population has just exploded in the last year, Gallucci said. An estimated 623 are homeless in Ventura, according to the area's latest counts. The county count stands at 2,193.
The Harbor's congregation also works toward transitioning these folks back into society. The need is so great, the pastor said. "The homeless have lost their ability to believe in anything. They're treated like they're different. I call it a new level of segregation. It's an economic segregation. It could be any of us.
"So many people say it's the city's problem," Galucci said. "It's all of our problem and we all need to step up to help."
For a list of the Kingdom Center's current needs, download a wishlist:kingdom wish list.doc
For more on the project, go here.