Minister is helping to transform Lightning district

Mon, 01/14/2008 - 9:28am
By: Ben Nelms

Minister is helping to transform Lightning district

It has been a personal and spiritual mission for Minister Danita Jones for a dozen years. That mission began in the Lightning district in Fairburn and transformed into In His G.R.E.A.T. Name Ministry that opened seven years ago. The ministry’s continuing goal is to revitalize the community and the lives of individual’s who reside far beyond its geographical boundaries.

The ministry is located on Dodd Street in the Lightning district. It was there where Jones said she was led to minister to the community, including the drug dealers that sometimes took exception to her efforts. Jones said that while challenges still exist today, some aspects of street life in the Lightning community has seen significant change in the past 12 years.

“We’ve seen great changes in Lightning,” Jones said with a smile. “Twelve years ago you couldn’t walk or drive down the street without being exposed to drugs. I knew the users and dealers needed to be transformed in their lifestyles. And I’ve seen that happen in some lives.

A prime focus of the ministry is TREE, an acronym for Teaching, Equipping, Revitalizing and Empowering. The ministry efforts engage multiple types of programs to address a wide range of participants. One of those, an after-school program for ages 5-18, centers on academics attainment and behavioral issues. The result of the effort, said Jones, was that the school system reported that grades came up and negative behaviors changed.

“It’s spiritual, it’s tutoring, and we just love on them,” Jones explained.

Other ministry programs include mentoring for teens, job placement preparation, social services for adults and seniors, a food and clothing pantry, the recently initiated in-house Sunday worship services and GED training set to begin in February. The center now uses 1,800 square feet in the 15,000 square-foot building on Dodd Street. Future expansion inside the building could lead to space for a larger food pantry and thrift store, 24-hour child care, a training center and 24-hour prayer chapel.

But there is another side of Jones’ work. It is the side for which she holds a special passion. It is a passion for women in crisis.

“They are my passion, whether it’s teenage mother’s or women mixed up with drugs,” Jones said. “And that passion includes club dancers and prostitutes.”

Jones said that her work with an initial group of 17 exotic dancers, though challenging from economic, social, even psychological, perspectives, paid off in the end with each of the women giving up the work.

“All of them came out of the clubs,” said Jones. “I told them if they stopped I’d promise that they’d have clothes for their kids by Christmas. I didn’t know where those clothes would come from, but New Hope Baptist Church in Fayette County made it happen. We don’t always know where help will come from. I’ll tell you this, love changes things. Love changes people.”

The ministry currently operates on a three-year Community Development Block Grant, which also pays a partial salary for Jones. The remaining staff of seven are all-volunteer. Other income sources have come through donations, New Hope Baptist and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist in Fairburn.

In His G.R.E.A.T. Name Ministry needs donations of any kind. All donations are tax deductible. The ministry can be reached at 770-964-8364 or at P.O. Box 1252 Fairburn, GA 30213.

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