BRANSON, Mo. – Thursday marked the first day for Jesus Was Homeless in its new home in Branson.
The 17-thousand square foot former theater is five-times larger than the organization’s old facility. Volunteers were able to take advantage of the extra space and larger kitchen Thursday, as they packed some 1300 meals for people living in extended stay hotels and motels.
“In the old space, we would have been very comfortable,” says founder Bryan Stallings with a laugh. “[We] would have gotten to know each other very well because we would have been cramped.”
Stallings says while Jesus Was Homeless still has roughly $350,000 left to raise for the $2-million renovation of the building, it is far enough along for a “soft opening.”
“We had a great turnout of volunteers, so I think they’re excited about it,” he says. “So this kind of sets the precedent going forward.”
“We want to see people thrive and flourish in Branson, and not struggle on the street corners,” Stallings says.
The meal delivery program is one of the staples the non-profit is known for, but new services like a tele-medicine room, thrift store and adult literacy classes should help further the organization’s mission.
But maybe the new room with the most promise is the currently empty computer lab. It will be the headquarters for the “Jobs for Life” program, which focuses on finding full-time employment and housing for those who are struggling.
“You can have a mentor help you apply online, help you with your resume,” says Stallings.
“I needed to update that information in my head and in my heart,” says volunteer Debbie Harding, “so I could get it across to people when applying for a job.”
Harding is one of the “Jobs for Life” success stories. In addition to being an eight-year volunteer, she is now a member of the Jesus Was Homeless board.
“We’re not just giving [people] stuff,” she says. “We’re going to have availability for them to come in and work for clothing that they might need.”
“[They’ll] actually have a section of business clothes,” says Stallings, pointing a corner of what will be the thrift store. “You can choose from for your first interview.”
Stallings says while there is plenty of work left, he believes the “soft opening” is a sign of things to come.
“I’m excited about the future,” he says, “and how this campus will impact generations to come.”
Jesus Was Homeless plans on having its grand opening in September.