In the early 1990s, several pastors in Florence were struggling with the hours they spent assisting families needing help with basic needs (food, shelter, medical care and transportation) in addition to their other responsibilities.
They were also frustrated that some individuals were receiving help from multiple churches while others received no help at all. In some cases abuse was occurring; in most others the needs were too great for even several churches to address. Great concern existed that “welfare reform” would add to the growing demand for aid.
“…open wide your heart to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.”
– Deuteronomy 15:11
Discussions in the hospital parking lots led to meetings that led to the creation of a Board in 1995 made up of those ministers and concerned lay members from their churches. A director was hired who traveled to three well established cooperative ministries that provided substantial development guidelines in recognition of the fact that “there will always be more needs than money”. In addition to combining dollars and volunteers, each pastor could also contribute their “contacts” in the community to assist with the bureaucracy of multiple state and local community agencies (some narrowly focused/others overlapping in services). Their vision was to better utilize all resources (time, talents, monies, volunteers, etc.) in an effort to “give a hand up” to their neighbors in the most efficient yet respectful manner possible.
This respect for those already struggling included one accessible location, regular hours, compassionate trained volunteers and an ongoing commitment from the churches to serve.
A downtown church provided the location, most of the original 35 churches provided money and nearly 75 volunteers received intensive training prior to the opening in August 1996. The importance of empathy versus sympathy carried them through the overwhelming requests. Volunteers made financial pledges without knowledge of the bank balance, yet God always provided. More importantly, everyone involved experienced the miracles that mustard-seed faith can produce.
The name Lighthouse came about when Rev. Chad Davis visited a lighthouse in San Francisco. The guide explained the walk would be “down the stairs” because the only way the light was helpful was to be on the “level where the ships needed guidance” not high above. Lighthouse Ministries still strives “to be a source of light in times of darkness” to those in need.