Big changes are coming to The Alley in Seymour, including a new building to house the church’s hot meal site and a new place for the congregation to worship.
Pastor Rick Wilson recently announced The Alley Kitchen, which feeds up to 100 people, including many children, daily from 4:30 to 6 p.m., will be moving from its current location at 416 E. Second St. to a vacant building downtown.
The Alley’s lease on the warehouse where it operates is expiring at the end of this year and won’t be renewed, Wilson said. The owner of the building has plans to expand a Guatemalan ministry there.
“We knew over a year ago now that we were going to lose our lease here,” he said. “So we had tried and tried and tried to find something. It seemed like every time something looked like it could work, the door was just slammed. It got real discouraging.”
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So Wilson decided to back away from the problem and let the Lord provide.
“If we obey His call, then He will provide everything we need for that call to be realized and for that mission to be accomplished,” Wilson said. “So I told the board, ‘Let’s take our hands off.’”
It wasn’t soon after that God showed the way, Wilson said.
The new location for The Alley Kitchen at 228 S. Chestnut St. once housed Ken’s Shoe Repair and is owned by Bill Gray of Seymour. Gray has donated the building and is helping the church renovate the interior.
“With God’s blessing and support from this community, we will continue to serve over 20,000 meals a year,” Wilson said.
This isn’t the first time Gray has stepped up to support The Alley. In 2014, he made a donation through his business, Integrity Mortgage Group in Seymour, of a new van to provide transportation to children to The Alley Kitchen to eat.
Gray also serves as a volunteer with Kairos Prison Ministry.
“He has just been a blessing to me personally and to our ministry,” Wilson said.
Gray said he didn’t want to see The Alley Kitchen close because it didn’t have a place to move.
“I have the heart and the ability and the opportunity to do this because I see the need,” he said. “We can’t stop feeding the hungry, and I don’t want to see kids go hungry.”
He also isn’t looking for a pat on the back or any recognition for the donation.
“It has been sitting empty for a reason,” he said. “This is an opportunity to put it to a Godly use.”
Sara Ellis, manager of The Alley Kitchen, said she is ready for the meal site to be more visible in the community.
“We will not be hidden in an alley anymore,” she said. “We are beyond grateful that our community has decided that our kitchen is important enough to stay open.”
Although some neighbors may be concerned about the move, Ellis said she believes they will come around to understanding and supporting the outreach service.
“I’m excited to watch Seymour open their eyes and their hearts to the poor, broken and addicted,” she said.
Ellis said she believes the move will have a positive impact on the community.
She herself has been clean from drugs and out of jail for three years and credits her success to her young daughter and The Alley.
“I love my job there, and I love the people,” she said. “Working in the kitchen helps me more than I can explain. It fixed something in my soul and made my relationship with Jesus Christ stronger than I ever dreamt it could be. I see the potential in every person who comes in hungry to eat.”
Also, as a result of The Alley’s lease expiring, the church has been looking for a new place to conduct its Friday night worship services. Another congregation in Seymour has reached out and offered use of its facility.
Cornerstone Community Church at 1088 Sarasota Drive will be the new meeting place for The Alley.
“They have allowed us to use one of their big rooms on Friday nights to have our church services,” Wilson said. “They have a wonderful attitude that it’s not their building. It’s God’s.”
The Alley has received financial and other support from Cornerstone and Seymour Christian Church over the years.
“Over the last three years, they’ve (Seymour Christian Church) given us over $40,000,” he said. “They’ve helped keep us going.”
Even with all of the changes coming this year and next year when Wilson and his family move to Panama City Beach, Florida, to start a second Alley ministry, Wilson said he knows things will be fine.
“I think the ministry will continue to flourish,” he said. “We’re growing. We’re expanding. And I love to think that when I’m dead and gone, this ministry will continue to flourish, and that’s because of the people.”