Thanksgiving week, for almost a quarter of a century, finds Rev. Eric Johns, pastor of the Buffalo Dream Center living and/or working among the homeless. Along with his team, Johns can be found staying on the streets, sleeping under bridges, in parks, in shelters, and outside in freezing temperatures. They will eat in soup kitchens and spend their days with the poor.
Every year the Western NY community rallies around Johns’ homeless trek, by funding the Dream Center’s “Boxes of Love.” This year’s goal will be serving over 5,000 children for Christmas, bringing the entire total of the over two-decade holiday giveaways to 100,000 children.
“Boxes of Love grow every year,” says Pastor Johns. “The pandemic has especially hit some families hard. We are set to help more families than ever. In all my years as a Pastor, I have never seen so much need in our community.”
Since the pandemic, there is another milestone for the Dream Center – one million lbs. of groceries delivered to over 75,000 of the needy. The family that received the one-millionth pound of food is a family that severely struggled during the time of the pandemic. Deborah Nance’s family and her children have struggled during covid.
“The Buffalo Dream Center changes lives,” said Nance. “Through the help of the Dream Center they assisted my family with necessities that at one point were tough to obtain. And for that, I will always be grateful.”
Besides food, the family’s daughter had concerns about her education, until the Dream Center provided tutors. After the intervention, her grades increased dramatically. The Johnses also helped with getting Deborah’s family much-needed beds, Christmas toys, gifts and helped with transportation. Deborah’s daughter struggled with depression, and she was socially uncomfortable, until she received a mentor from the Dream Center’s ‘Teen Life.’
Pastor Eric and his family have bonded with Deborah’s family. “The Johns family has done an amazing job raising their children and they know how to show love!” exclaimed Deborah. “They could not have raised or asked for better children and they couldn’t ask for better parents.”
This author can testify, the Johns children are outstanding community servants – they are dedicated to the causes that they serve.
“We are honored to have helped this family and so many others,” said Pastor Eric. “Covid created an environment of overwhelming pain. It is a blessing and humbling to be able to be a part of serving those who are in need. I am excited and hopeful to partner with the generous people of Western New York to raise money for Boxes of Love while living on the streets with the homeless.”
“When the pandemic started, the need increased, and we knew we had to ramp up our efforts,” said Alexander Johns, who serves with Mission Ignite/AmeriCorps at the Dream Center. “Looking back on all the early mornings and all the late nights, it’s all worth it when you see the smiles of the families we serve.”
“Seeing the growth in our Mobile Food Pantry in the last 20 months is mind-blowing! When I see the momentous statistic of 1,000,000 pounds of food we’ve been able to give away, I think more about the individuals that we’ve helped,” said Dream Center’s Volunteer Manager, Emilie McClinton. “Not only were able to give (needy families) food, we were also able to share the love of Jesus with them.”
Pastor Eric and his team’s Five Days With The Homeless draws attention to those less fortunate during the holiday season, while raising awareness about Boxes of Love (a Christmas campaign to give food to more than 3,000 families). The campaign will also distribute wrapped Christmas gifts to 5,000 needful children.
Boxes of Love began twenty-three years ago and has become one of the largest holiday charities in the area. Last year nearly one thousand volunteers participated throughout December as they wrapped gifts, packed food, and distributed everything throughout Western New York.
If you would like to support the Buffalo Dream Center, see them feed more families, and give needy children gifts and toys this holiday season, please go to www.buffalodreamcenter.org or email email@example.com.
Have a great Holiday Season!
Lead image: Jackson & Thomas Rutherford, Pastor Eric Johns, Alexander, and Nathaniel Johns