Pastor Chris Dito and the congregation at Parkview Assembly of God in Newark, Delaware, have a history of caring for their community — from food distribution to backpacks filled with supplies for kids returning to school and plenty of events in between. The church has a strong outward focus.
In September, the compassion for and focus on their community advanced to a new level when Dito and the congregation provided the start-up funds and much of the volunteer labor to open the Delaware Regional Dream Center.
“The church is always involved in outreach,” Dito says, citing numerous events the church has been able to bless its community through. “We adopt housing complexes, do outreaches to them, and have done prayer walks around them, but in 2019 we got the opportunity to start networking with schools.”
Dito says that having had the opportunity to build relationships with local schools’ principals proved to be an invaluable link when the pandemic struck, as the church — and now the dream center — has been able to load and give away thousands of boxes of hope.
A box of hope consists of a variety of perishable (meats and fresh vegetables) and non-perishable food items. Every box also has a Bible, a salvation tract, an invitation to church, and material to allow people to begin a relationship with Christ. Shoes and clothing are other items that the center has provided for kids and families in need.
As the dream center is a separate entity from the church, the church hired Jeremiah Maina as the executive director for the center.
Maina, who has been serving at Parkview AG as the men’s leader and more recently on the board, is from Kenya, East Africa. He arrived in the U.S. about 16 years ago and his passion for those in need has been developed through the hardships God has brought him through.
“I know God has called me to serve the community,” Maina says. “I have been in a place where I didn’t have food on my table, where I only had one pair of shoes for a whole year. I know the pain of lack. I understand when families don’t have anyone to turn to except the body of Christ and to God.”
However, it is through those very experiences, Maina recognizes, that God shaped and carved his life, as he notes how much it meant to him when he and his family received food, clothing, or a job.
“God prepared me for this opportunity,” he says. “I can be a blessing and champion for people who do not have.”
Dito says that the dream center is far from reaching its full potential, but they are already considering moving its location to a larger facility located across the street from the church.
“So far we’ve given away 11,000 Boxes of Hope, 1,000 fully loaded backpacks, and we just ordered a 10-foot by 16-foot refrigerator as we have a new partnership with a food bank that will allow us to provide more perishable food items.”
The center has also recently placed an order for a food truck so that staff and volunteers can go to schools during different sporting events and programs to serve kids and families a meal.
“What gives me the greatest joy,” Maina states, “is to see the body of Christ being in the community — going outside the four walls of church, letting people know Jesus loves them, they’re praying for them, and that we’re here for you. You need something? Here.”
Not only do Dito and Maina receive a lot of positive and appreciative feedback from those the center serves, but they have also come to recognize that the volunteers from the community and from within the church experience a blessing that comes from meeting together, praying together, and serving together as they minister to the community.
“The dream center is making a tremendous impact on the community,” Dito confirms. “Later this year, we’re also going to start offering programming for kids, ESL classes, Celebrate Recovery classes, resume building, and things of that nature.”
However, both Dito and Maina agree, that what the church and the dream center are really all about is showing people the goodness of God and allowing them to see the love of Christ actively on display.