Central Dallas Ministries began as a modest food pantry nearly 20 years ago. During that time CDM has developed into a multi-faceted agency as it recognized needs and organized to serve the community. Monday, several Skillman members joined a few folks from a couple of other churches for a tour of their programs, followed by discussion over lunch.
Our tour began with the Emergency Food and Resource Center, which has grown into the single largest distributor of food to the poor in Dallas County. They distribute over 20,000 lbs. of food each week, and are staffed mainly be volunteers who are or have been clients. In 2006 they served 48,000 visitors - mostly poor working people whose circumstances created a temporary need for assistance to get through the month. The resource center also is a referral center, helping people access other resources to address their needs or improve their situation.
Next we visited the Legal Action Works (L.A.W.) Center, which has served over 1,800 low-income people since opening in 1999 and closed over 1,200 cases. L.A.W. has four full time attorneys and three legal assistants representing Dallas County residents who cannot afford traditional legal services. L.A.W. charges based on one's ability to pay and does not charge those making less than 150% of the Federal Poverty Level. Using that standard, about 80% of L.A.W.'s work is performed free of charge.
The next stop on our tour was Community Health Services, which includes primary care medical services, dental services, a Class D pharmacy, and community-based care coordination, through the strength of collaborative partnerships with Baylor Health Care System, Inc., Texas Tech School of Pharmacy, Parkland Health and Hospital System, the Dallas County Medical Society and several other community organizations, churches, and non-profits.
Other programs include Diabetes Education; WorkPaths(Employment Training); Nurture, Knowledge and Nutrition(summer lunch program); Children's Education and After School Care; TRAC Foster Care Transition Services; Ransom Technology Learning Center; Community Life Center at Roseland Homes; The Institute for Faith Health Research; Project Access; and the Urban Engagement Book Club. All of these developed in response to specific needs within the community.
Central Dallas Ministries does a marvelous job of ministering to people where they are and where they hurt, but even more impressive to me is the way that they engage the people they serve and foster partnerships with them to serve others. True grass roots evangelism - not geared to getting people in pews, but to transforming lives.
I was recently in a discussion where the statement was made that Central Dallas Ministries does not resemble our fellowship much anymore. Although I understood the comment to be critical of CDM, I think that instead it is an indictment of our fellowship. Perhaps if we were less concerned with preserving church as we know it - holding fast to the harbor during the storm - we would have more of an impact in the world around us.