TMF grant helps bring the spirit of Matthew 25 alive in Clovis, New Mexico
The old Memorial Hospital in Clovis, New Mexico had been an eyesore for decades. Closed in 1978, the facility was abandoned, and became a dilapidated landmark in a neighborhood that had fallen on hard times. In 2001, pastor and author Dr. Tony Evans was in Clovis for a citywide revival. As Sid Strebeck, the co-chairman of the revival and current TMF board member, and Dr. Evans drove through the neighborhood on the way to the revival, Dr. Evans asked about the boarded-up building. That evening, he challenged the 3,500 people in attendance to convert the abandoned hospital into a Christian resource center to serve "the least of these.”
That was the first step in the long and continuing journey of the Matt 25 Hope Center.
The revival committee stayed organized, but it took two years to put enough trust in God to purchase the old facility for $1.00, especially considering the building had a $650,000 asbestos abatement problem, with no funds to repair. I became obvious, however, that God wanted this to happen, so the committee moved forward with a new board of directors and a new mission.
"I have never been involved in a project where God made an insurmountable task so simple, describes Strebeck. "Every time we've had a need, God has provided, and anyone who drives by or walks inside can see God's hand everywhere! Countless lives have been, and will continue to be, blessed beyond our wildest imaginations!"
Dr. Evans’ challenge resonated with the community. The following year, a group of clergy and lay leaders from various churches and other organizations throughout the community got together to determine how they could transform the old hospital building so it could once again serve the people of Clovis. After organizaing the board in 2003, the group met with the city and started negotiations on how to transfer ownership and responsibility for the building.
That’s when the real work started. The mission was daunting, to be sure. But those involved in the process realized they had a gift in their midst, even if it came in the form of an abandoned, dilapidated building. They recognized the value of that gift, and the tremendous potential it offered. They had to find a way to bring that potential to life to be a resource for the entire community.
The board recruited youth groups from across Clovis to help clean out the building. It was not easy work. There was 25 years of refuse that had been left behind, as well as all the debris that had been dragged in by squatters over the years. It was a slow and dirty process, but that didn’t stop groups from showing up every week to help. Volunteers from more than 30 different local churches gave their time and effort.
In April of 2006, the Matt 25 Hope Center opened its doors, even though the only habitable parts of the building were a few rooms on the first floor, where the center housed the Bread of Life food pantry and clothing donation center. In the evenings, Bible classes were held in the same rooms.
The Board hired Steve Reshetar to take over as Executive Director in August, 2006. Reshetar had developed successful ministries in Anchorage, Alaska, and felt the calling to serve this agricultural community in eastern New Mexico.
“I was very intrigued by both the challenges and the opportunities presented by Matt 25,” says Reshetar. “Here was this enormous old building. I wondered what we could do to make it an essential part of the community, and serve the many local people who would benefit from a place like Matt 25.”
While Matt 25 is already in operation, more than 30% of the facility is still uninhabitable, with extensive construction and HVAC renovations required in the remaining space. When Reshetar sought quotes for the cost or repair, estimates ranged from hundreds of thousands of dollars to more than $1 million.
Since this was money Matt 25 clearly didn’t have, Reshetar decided to improvise. He turned to TMF, and applied for and received a grant for a total of $35,000.
“That single grant has enabled us to hire a facilities manager,” explains Reshetar. “This is a guy who’s specialized in rehabilitation. He’s already assembled teams from different churches, with specific jobs and tasks, based on their skills and experience. Over time, we will be able to renovate all the remaining sections of the original building for a fraction of what it would have cost using traditional crews.”
The new facility manager’s timing couldn’t be better. With two wings of the original facility in various stages of rehabilitation, Matt 25 is home to 14 different ministries and non-profit organizations, including Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Meals on Wheels. The center also provides offices for a group working with victims of domestic violence, a suicide prevention program, and a faith-based support service for a nearby halfway house.
Matt 25 is also in the process of developing a certified child advocacy center that can provide one-stop services for abused or neglected children, including offices for New Mexico Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), ARISE Sexual Assault Services, a forensics unit designed for treating children, Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), and family court services.
While many of these agencies operated in Clovis, they were spread all over the city making it difficult for families involved. The facilities at Matt 25 will provide a single location where families can more easily access the services they so desperately need.
Today, there is a single facility, in the center of town, where all are welcome, and the spirit of the Bible passage, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me,” is embraced, celebrated and practiced every day.