A local church is planning to build a new facility to help serve the hungry, homeless and those in spiritual need.
The Alley — Matthew 25 Street Ministries, a non-traditional congregation started by Brother Rick Wilson in 2010, has just more than two years before the lease is up on the warehouse from where it currently operates at 416 E. Second St. in Seymour.
Wilson said the owner of that building has decided not to renew their lease because of plans to expand a Guatemalan ministry there.
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“There’s absolutely no hard feelings on either side,” he said. “They’re wanting to do what we’re wanting to do.”
The situation they face is one with which Wilson and those who have been a part of The Alley since it started are familiar. Before moving to the warehouse, the church rented a downtown storefront on West Second Street.
“We have faced this situation twice now,” Wilson said of needing a new home for the church. “I really just don’t want to face it again.”
Besides its weekly Friday night services, which attract 150 to 200 people, The Alley also serves as the location for Celebrate Recovery meetings for those in the community fighting addictions and a daily hot meal site called The Alley Kitchen, which sees 50 to 100 people coming in each day to eat.
The church also provides free transportation to and from the meal site for children with its Feeding Kids Ministry bus and does community outreach work through the annual Thousand Ten project.
“There’s too many people that depend on what we are doing,” Wilson said.
Up until this point, he has been against the idea of building a new facility for The Alley, because of the costs involved.
“But then I got to thinking, really the only responsible thing to do at this point would be to put us in a place where even when I’m gone, this ministry will carry on,” he said.
Wilson and The Alley’s board of directors and congregation are now planning for their future and hope to help even more people in need by building The Alley Humanity Center.
“We want to build a facility, not an elaborate facility, but a functional one,” he said.
The dream is to find property on the south side of Seymour where the need is the greatest, he added.
“We would love to be in the Oak Street area,” he said. “There are 750 trailers in Village Green and there’s all those apartments around there.”
Besides Oak Street, Wilson said there are other poverty-stricken neighborhoods on the south side, including Lynn, Laurel and Brown streets, which The Alley serves now.
“We think we could serve them better by being closer,” he said. “We want to be in an area where you can’t miss us.”
He also believes The Alley Kitchen would be more utilized if it were located in that area.
“We would still have The Alley Street Kitchen open and want to expand that,” he said. “I think if we move to that area, we would serve more people.”
The kitchen is on track to serve more than 25,000 meals this year, he added.
Wilson has lots of plans and ideas for the new facility and said he is excited about getting the community involved. He introduced the plan to the church during Friday night’s service.
The Alley Humanity Center, when built, will include a 400 to 500 seat auditorium for church services, meetings and concerts that would double as a multi-purpose room with basketball goals and an area to serve children with after-school programs, tutoring, music lessons and sporting activities.
There will be a food pantry, along with the hot meal site and a clothing center.
Also, Wilson said he is planning to put in bunk houses for men and women who find themselves homeless for whatever reason.
“Right now we can’t adequately serve the homeless and transitional people,” he said. “People who have lost their home or been kicked out of their apartment, whatever the need is.”
The humanity center also would have showers and a laundry facility.
“People need a place to come do a couple of loads of laundry,” he said. “Folks who are poor can’t afford to go to the laundromat regularly and often don’t have a washer and dryer that works at home. That’s another need we would like to be able to meet.”
It might sound like lofty goals, but Wilson said he doesn’t believe God would give him the ideas without also providing for the outcome.
“This is all divine providence. I don’t believe anything happens by accident,” Wilson said. “I believe that our calling has expanded and this was the way it was supposed to happen.”
To reach and help even more people in the community, the church is also planning to expand its Thousand Ten Project from once a year to monthly.
“We’re going to be training and certifying street ministers to put teams together to go out on a regular basis,” he said. “We really want to serve more people and we need a facility that we can do that.”
With all of the needs, Wilson said the time has come to build a facility in order to expand The Alley’s service to more people.
“I would have never stepped out and even thought about doing this if I hadn’t been forced to,” he said.
So far the community has been supportive of The Alley, and Wilson said he hopes that will continue.
The church is funded entirely through donations from businesses, organizations, industries, other churches and individuals in the community.
“We are so grateful for that,” he said.
Before the new facility can be built, Wilson said all of the money has to be raised first so the church isn’t bogged down by a mortgage. Currently, The Alley pays rent, which would be eliminated with the new facility.
“We feel that the only responsible way to do this is to raise the funds between now and then and put up a prefabricated steel building that would look nice, but more importantly, function to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “We don’t want to have to spend tons of money to serve people.”
Wilson doesn’t have an estimate of how much money they will have to raise, but hopes to be able to possibly secure a donation of land, materials and labor. After acquiring property, he said an architect will be hired to draw the blueprints for the new facility to give them an exact amount of how much money needs to be raised to built it.
“We want to get the word out that first we need property and then we want to put a call out to the community to help us finance this and make it happen,” he said. “We need to expand our base of support and are looking for those that want to get involved, that see the need and want to make a difference in the community.”
The church is establishing a building fund for the next two years at River Valley Financial Bank so the money can be raised to pay for the facility before it’s built.
“We want our energy to be on not how are we going to pay for this, but on how we are going to serve the people that need to be served,” he said.
Although the church is focused on helping the poor, Wilson said he doesn’t live with the illusion that it can eliminate the problem.
“We’re never going to be able to wipe out poverty,” he said. “But that was Jesus’ primary focus, to serve the poor and to continue that tradition, we should be doing the same thing as a church. That should be our primary focus.”
For more information, to make a donation or to get involved with The Alley, call Rick Wilson at 812-498-9806.
All donations are tax deductible. Checks can be made out to The Alley and designated for the building fund.