“Oh my goodness, this community has just been absolutely incredible,” Gail Gustafson, executive director of the Dream Center said, through tears, as a small group toured the shell of a massive building located on Oil Well Road. It’s hidden behind a small hill, and in between trees: exactly what the people who will soon be living there need for their healing.
“‘Incredible’ isn’t even a good word because it’s better than that,” Gustafson continued, “I mean, they have stepped up, and stepped in, and given, and been a part of, and encouraged us, and prayed for us. And some of them, when the dream started seven years ago, they were with it, and they have not stopped believing.”
That dream is a several-thousand square foot facility dedicated to housing up to 125 women and children experiencing homelessness. They spent several years talking with clients and understanding what the space should include.
There is a banquet hall that can seat upwards of 150 people, and women will have a dedicated “boutique” to shop for clothes and other essentials. The bedrooms have donated bathtubs and closets without doors, since many women have past trauma involving closets. The team even included a children’s playroom and a space for the women to work on their art– noting the Dream Center raised their first $1 million through these sales.
The building is expected to be completed in May, 2023, so before drywall was installed, Gustafson asked members of the board of directors to write messages on the wooden door frames and wall studs.
The messages include phrases and Bible verses like, “I hope this home gives you peace.” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” among others.
“You can be a new creature. You can change your life. You have hope where there’s hopelessness. You know, that’s what the Dream Center is. Rebuilding lives, restoring hope, renewing dreams, you know, and it’s not just my dream. It’s their dreams,” Gustafson said.
Currently, the Dream Center has an office, and several houses spread throughout Jackson. Because of the tight space, they can only house a couple dozen women. And, their wait list is growing by the day.
“They just need a hand up. They’re not looking for a handout. They’re looking for a hand up – something to change their lives,” Gustafson said, “And it’s very difficult to say, hey, ‘I have absolutely nobody in my life that wants to take me in.’ That’s one of the most humbling things that you have to do in life. It takes a lot of humility to admit that and come to the Dream Center, and we want them to feel welcome. We want them to feel loved. And most of all, we want them to know Jesus Christ and change their life.”
While walking down one of the long hallways, Gustafson and her team imagined the little boys and girls running up and down the halls, and the laughter and healing that will take place within. Because of the room they will have, women will be able to collaborate and lean on each other to face challenges and new beginnings.
“You ask him in the interview, ‘What do you want to be? If you could be anything? What would you want to be?’ And they will break down and cry because nobody’s ever asked him that. They’ve never thought about that. They’re just in survival mode.
“And here at the Dream Center, they can have their dreams come true. They can go back to college. They can get their GED. They can find careers – three time felons working in law offices,or working for other nonprofits, teaching Sunday school at their church. You know, it’s just mind blowing. It’s mind blowing.”
The Dream Center takes donations through dreamcenterjackson.com and their Amazon wish list. They are still fundraising for furnishings and other items to be included in the building.
Julia Ewoldt, firstname.lastname@example.org