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In Buffalo, and Toronto, Inspiration is its own Force of Nature

Inspiration is its own force of nature, an energy source that can push almost anyone beyond their perceived capabilities, such as a blind man climbing Mount Everest, or a high school dropout becoming the CEO of a major corporation. Inspiration can come from a child battling cancer, a wounded warrior learning to walk again after being told that he or she never would, a writer submitting a manuscript hundreds of times before finally being picked up by a publisher. Inspiration can also come from the faith of an ordinary man committed to helping the homeless, and those less fortunate than ourselves.

Minister Eric Johns and his wife, Pastor Michelle Johns have been points of inspiration in our community for almost two decades via their work at The Buffalo Dream Center (their quest to help the homeless and poverty stricken).  There are upwards of 6000 homeless persons in WNY, and each year Pastor Johns and his family take time to hit the streets of Buffalo in search of some of those people. Incredibly, the family sets out for an entire week, living among the destitute, to bring awareness and assistance to the plight of the poor.

Pastor Johns also seeks to enlist others who are in service to their communities through their acts of faith and ministry, to join him in the fight against homelessness.  Most recently, he has inspired Pastor Deon Malloy of the Center of Hope International Church in Toronto, Canada, to live as a homeless person, to bring awareness and help to the 5200 people living on the streets of Toronto.

“Pastor Deon and I have been friends for a long time,” remarked Pastor Johns, “…ever since he was a student of mine in Bible College. I knew he would be the perfect guy to get out and minister on the streets of Toronto.”

Eric Johns was Deon Malloy’s instructor at the Bible College in St. Catherine’s, World Impact Bible Institute. Malloy spent twenty-four hours on the street, unable to get into a homeless shelter. “I found myself walking around looking for a place to sleep. In the end, I landed at Nathan Phillips Square, City Hall and found a bench. I felt anxiety and very vulnerable during that time. But, even so, it was a good experience,” commented Malloy. As a young Youth Pastor, Malloy would come to Buffalo and bring a team of young people to help support The Buffalo Dream Center.

Johns feel strongly that Pastor Deon’s compassion for people is his number one quality; and hopes that more servants of faith will join the mission to aid the homeless. “One day I envision pastors in cities around the country going out into the streets to be among the homeless, all of us, during the same week to help shine a light on this great need,” remarked Johns.

Pastor Eric Johns

For nineteen years, Pastor Eric Johns has spent time living on the streets to raise money to help bring some Christmas joy to many poor and low-income families in our community. Additionally, he helps to provide the homeless with a warm Christmas dinner, as he raises awareness on the plight of the homeless. The Center of Hope in Toronto holds a similar Christmas dinner as well, for the homeless, which serves nearly 500 meals at a location they call “crack corner” or Moss Park in Toronto. There are a few homeless shelters near the park, because of its reputation as an area of high drug use.

This writer joined Pastor Johns on the streets for a few seasons. It was both enlightening and horrifying understanding the reality of what it means to have nothing, and no safe place to resort to when most in need. One minute seemed like an hour. Pastor Deon on his first day living as a homeless person had the same experience.

This is the season of giving and caring – a time of year when many individuals volunteer to help the needy and offer hope, inspiration and promise for the future. If you would like to help, please contact the Buffalo Dream Center, Boxes of Love by calling 716-854-1001. For more information visit www.buffalodreamcenter.org or contact Center for Hope in Toronto at www.centerofhope.ca. Phone: 647-969-4673.

Written by Mark Lazzara

Mark Lazzara

I have a passion for helping my fellow Western New Yorkers and advance the great things that are going on in this region. Buffalo Rising is a great booster and it’s a blast writing and contributing to BR about positive happenings in our neck of the woods. I appreciate the help I’ve received over the years from organizations and people who share my passion and supported me in efforts that put thousands of people to work and resulted in a community give back of more than $115M to Buffalo’s neediest during my days at the helm of AmeriCorps.

I’m especially grateful for the opportunities that enabled me to help cities devastated by Hurricane Katrina and rebuild more than 700 family homes that were destroyed. Back at home, I was able to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience as a coordinator for ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition where we were able to repair, beautify and upgrade homes for an entire neighborhood on Buffalo’s Westside. Other projects close to my heart include a collaboration with Sail Buffalo to build the Cazenovia Boating Center at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, and my annual Christmas season time is spent at Buffalo’s treasure, the Broadway Market, playing Santa Clause.

In my other life, I am a workforce development, business, marketing, public relations and fundraising professional. Earned a M.S. Human Service Management from Buffalo State, and enjoy my family life that includes four amazing grandchildren!

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