When pastor Chris Dito and the congregation at Parkview Assembly of God in Newark, Delaware, decided to move from church-initiated compassion outreaches to creating the Delaware Regional Dream Center in September 2020, they realized that someday they would likely need a larger facility.
“Within 10 months, we outgrew the facility,” says Dito, still somewhat shocked at the rapid growth. But God knew what was needed and provided a clear answer.
“They were building a new structure right across the street from us,” Dito says. “We were able to move from our 1,700-square-foot building to a 5,000-square-foot building by just going across the street!”
Dito says the new center, which they moved into in November 2021, has been subdivided to offer area residents a 2,000-square-foot pantry and a 3,000-square-foot community center that also hosts the church’s youth and college gatherings.
“We have secured grants to do capital improvements, including furniture for the building, a walk-in refrigerator/freezer, and a racking system,” Dito explains. “We are also in the final steps of creating a computer lab in the community center which will offer ESL classes, resume building, Microsoft Office training, and budgeting classes.”
In addition to being able to serve more people on a weekly basis through the new facilities, Dito says that the church has grown through the experience, both physically and spiritually, as people continue to volunteer their time to improve others’ lives.
“Every week we have between 50 and 75 volunteers coming in to sort, pack, and distribute goods — and it’s not just volunteers from our church,” Dito says. “We’re working with other churches and organizations to meet needs and reach our community for Christ.”
The Austin D. Baltz Elementary School is one of the communities that has benefited from the Dream Center. Amy P. O’Neill wrote Dito and the Parkview AG congregation expressing appreciation on behalf of the school — for school supplies, regular meal distribution, and consistent support for school events.
“Once our students return to school, we would like to help with a food drive or some other kind of activity to provide a token of thanks for all that you have done for our community already,” O’Neill wrote.
What’s significant about involving the community in the compassion effort is that the gospel is shared with those volunteering as well. And right now, Dito and the Dream Center staff are training and raising up four or five additional churches in the community — churches that are committed to take the gospel outside of the walls of the church — to do outreach and evangelism with Boxes of Hope.
Debbie Scott, 71, has been volunteering at the Dream Center for two years. Two days a week she volunteers at the Dream Center, sorting one day and helping with distribution on another. But on Mondays, she goes out to farms in New Jersey to glean bushels and bushels of fresh produce to distribute in the Boxes of Hope.
Dito says that this year the Dream Center is on pace to distribute up to 15,000 Boxes of Hope.
“We’re dealing with a tremendous amount of food insecurity in our community,” Dito says. “Each Box of Hope contains the staples people need, such as rice, beans, cereal, canned vegetables, tuna, mashed potatoes, and so on. Our clientele has increased because of the recession, but we’ve found that the more you pour out, the more God pours in — and His shovel is bigger than ours!”
Scott says that the impact of the Dream Center goes far beyond food.
“We’ve seen many people come to the Lord through the Dream Center,” she says. “There have been people healed through the prayer station . . . just last week a woman came back to tell us how her vision had improved so dramatically that even her doctor was amazed!”
Scott also notes that the people coming to the Dream Center receive the gift of love and acceptance every time they visit. However, she has received a gift as well.
“I’ve felt a call on my life to help, pray, and minister to people,” she says. “I’m so thankful God led me here! God spoke to my heart the first time I went to the Dream Center that this is where He wanted me. Since then, He has opened up every area of my life and I’m fulfilling His calling.”
As volunteers fill each Box of Hope with physical food, they also include spiritual food in the form of tracts, an invitation to church, a children’s book, a devotional and other materials to help answer questions and guide people to Christ.
Matt Morrison, the executive director of the Dream Center, says the literature being included in the boxes is better than ever. “We have enhanced the quality of the outreach materials as we have added additional resources in Spanish and bilingual,” he says.
However, one of the most versatile additions to the Dream Center’s services, enabling the ministry to take a message of love and compassion “on the road,” is a new food truck.
“Now when we go to apartment complexes or do school events, such as our backpack giveaway, we bring the food truck,” Dito says. “In this way, we connect with more people as we offer students and families free hamburgers, hot dogs, and tacos along with the student backpacks filled with school supplies. We also use the food truck with our afterschool basketball program.”
Dito, whose excitement radiates through every word as he talks about how God has used the Dream Center, pauses to take a moment to quietly reflect. “From such humble beginnings to where we are now, it’s been a journey of faith — the hand of the Lord has been blessing us so much.”
“It’s really starting to take off,” she says of the Dream Center’s ministries. “It seems every week God is opening up more doors.”
And that supposition is given a firm foundation when Dito adds in a hushed tone, “Now, don’t tell anyone, but I think we’re already outgrowing this facility!”