AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Love Centered Ministries does such a wonderful job in the Greater Augusta area, especially in Harrisburg. They feed those who otherwise might go without. They meet their needs and help them get on a better path in life. Find out how you can help them help others this holiday season and all year through.

Brad Means: Lakesha Armstrong is the Chief Operating Officer of I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministry, AKA Love centered Ministries. Lakesha, number one, thanks for the work that y’all do. And number two, thanks for being here today, I appreciate it.

Lakesha Armstrong: Yes.

Brad Means: So I think about your operation and I think to myself, oh, it’s a church. Is it a church?

Lakesha Armstrong: We are a ministry.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Lakesha Armstrong: And we do have a purpose that stems from the teachings of Jesus Christ. We have scripture that really hits home for me and my husband and that is, “Love others as you love yourself.” So when this vision came about, it’s because we just wanted to show the love of God.

Brad Means: And so that doesn’t mean that, you know, if someone is reluctant to seek help from you, Christianity is not a huge part of it, right? I mean help is available to all people but I wanted to point out that it is a Christ-centered ministry, but all are welcome.

Lakesha Armstrong: All are welcome.

Brad Means: Sure.

Lakesha Armstrong: Very much so. We believe in inclusivity.

Brad Means: How do people get access to your services? Can I just walk up to your location in Harrisburg, knock on the door and say, “I’m down and out. Help me.”?

Lakesha Armstrong: We do have operating hours. We’re open from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and yes, you can walk up to the door and there’s someone there to greet you. And we have a list of things that we offer. And if you need any of those things, if anyone need any of those things, we direct ’em in the right way to go inside the building. But also, we have a listing on Google. You can Google I am My Brother’s Keeper Ministry and it’ll give you directions straight to the building. We have a phone number you can call. We have a website. So, yes, many ways to reach us.

Brad Means: You’re right, the website is very good. I was checking it out the other night as we prepared for this interview and it’s well laid out. What does your typical client look like? Is it people who cross all socioeconomic lines? Is it folks only from Harrisburg? Kind of describe that person who comes to your door.

Lakesha Armstrong: So, I feel like it’s not just Harrisburg. We have people that come from different areas. Although we are centered in Harrisburg and we do serve many of the citizens in that area that are not homeless, but some people just wind up on bad circumstances from other towns and other cities that’s been there. And most of the time, we’re dealing with mental illness. And it’s complex with, you know, not having money, not being able to have a job, and of course, substance abuse.

Brad Means: Do you have folks there who you can turn to, whether it’s DFCS or anybody who you can reach out to and say, “Look, we can help this person, but some of their needs go beyond what we can meet here.” Are those folks a phone call away?

Lakesha Armstrong: I do find myself networking, trying to build a stronger resource for the people where we’re not able to meet their needs there. We offer holistic counseling, we do all we can to help. But when it comes to DFCS or having someone professional, professional mental health crisis, we have phone numbers, but we are still trying to build a stronger resource list for that.

Brad Means: I know the classes are a big part of what Love Centered Ministries does. What do y’all do in there? What are you teaching or talking about?

Lakesha Armstrong: So, we talk about variety of things, but because of the pandemic, we kind of slowed up on our classes.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Lakesha Armstrong: That’s unfortunate. And also, not having the staff to really run the classes, but–

Brad Means: Yeah, you’re not alone.

Lakesha Armstrong: Yes.

Brad Means: You’re not alone. A lot of people are feeling it.

Lakesha Armstrong: Yes.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Lakesha Armstrong: And so, the classes we have done in the past has been healthy eating classes. We had a doctor, Dr. Forgay, he used to come there and teach healthy eating and teach people how to read the labels. We have done job fairs there. We have taught about starting your own business. We have had teenage parenting classes. Just girl empowerment classes. Just a variety of different classes. But Bible studies, definitely.

Brad Means: Yeah, always Bible study there. You know, we do a lot of stories on channel six about Harrisburg being a food desert, and that folks there, you know, maybe wouldn’t be so hungry or be in the situation that they’re in if they had a grocery store close by. Do you still hear that down there? Is that still a big concern for residents?

Lakesha Armstrong: I’m not really hearing the residents or the people that we serve complain about the store access. We do know it is not a walkable place to go to get fresh produce.

Brad Means: There’s not.

Lakesha Armstrong: But we have community leaders that’s trying to fill in that gap. I believe it’s Augusta Grown Home?

Brad Means: Yeah, Augusta Locally Grown.

Lakesha Armstrong: Yes, thank you for helping me out with that.

Brad Means: No, no, they’re good.

Lakesha Armstrong: And so, and then donations come for fresh produce to be there. So we are trying to fill in a gap with collaborative efforts.

Brad Means: There’s so much love for Harrisburg and so much pride in Harrisburg. Wouldn’t you agree?

Lakesha Armstrong: I do.

Brad Means: Yeah. I mean, it’s off the charts. A question is, do you foresee a comeback? You know, back in the day, Harrisburg was rocking. When you had the textile mills going and everything in that part of Augusta was thriving. Can you see the pendulum kind of swinging and Harrisburg coming back?

Lakesha Armstrong: I do. I’m not a native, but being there, and I definitely feel the passion for Harrisburg. And within our walls we definitely are teaching about taking care of your community. And we do have people that come in and really care about how the community is shifting. Some worry that it’s gonna shift them out of there. They’ve been living there and they’re older and you know they don’t have the resources to really move. But we are trying to be a part of the change and to be supportive to whatever change is gonna happen in Harrisburg.

Brad Means: What made you do this? What gave you the heart to say, you know what, I’m not just gonna be a nine to five clock puncher? I’m gonna get out in the community and make a difference. Was it when you were little?

Lakesha Armstrong: Well, honestly, it is, again the word of God.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Lakesha Armstrong: The Lord, the Bible says, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commands.” And that is the way we follow through on it. Love thy neighbor as love yourself. I know if I was in a situation where, you know, I’m homeless or going through a bad time, or even having a mental issue, a mental illness, I would want someone to be there for me and then do it with a loving heart. And yes, in my past I have had a situations where the community had to help me. So yes, it’s even been personal. Not just ’cause the scripture said, which I feel like that’s important, but you know, just to make it more personal. I mean, I’m really passionate about being there for anyone.

Brad Means: Well that’s gotta give you instant credibility with a client. If you share your story with them, does it help y’all make a connection right off the bat?

Lakesha Armstrong: Definitely. It’s more relatable. Like, you and I was talking, we chilling together, right? Right?

Brad Means: Right, exactly. That’s what we’re trying to do.

Lakesha Armstrong: So when we’re relatable, we are able to open up a little bit more and I find that that’s what people are able to do. And then when you are in a consistent relationship and you’re consistently showing them that no matter you’re ups and downs and your different attitudes for the day, I’m still here for you and I’m still gonna consistently love you, it allows us to be able to really deal with the complexities of whatever they may need to do to change the way they think, change the way they act.

Brad Means: What can we do to help? And don’t be ashamed to say, you know, mail me a check. Seriously, how can we help you? Honestly, ’cause a lot of people are looking for other ways to donate their money sometimes at the end of the year. Mix things up a little bit. How can we give you the support that you need? And can people who have a heart to do so volunteer and help y’all? Tell me about that.

Lakesha Armstrong: So first of all, volunteers are always welcome and that’s one of the main things that Pastor Derek Armstrong teach the clients that come there, as we help you give back. So we get a lot of volunteers that’s from the community, but we do need more professionals that have the skill sets to deal with the issues that we’re dealing with. And then like our biggest need, we are limited in funding. And our building fund definitely needs some support. And our men’s ministry, we’re having great support for the women and children, but we just did a coat drive because many of the men that visit us don’t have coats. And thank God the community came together and we were able to give away about 130 coats.

Brad Means: Awesome.

Lakesha Armstrong: And so we’re really excited about that. But I still see it was more men in Bible study Tuesday than were women. And I’ve been to church a lot. Most of the time it’s women that’s filling up the church. So they are coming to hear the word of God but they also have other needs that we’re not able to provide and we definitely need help.

Brad Means: Well hopefully our community will do that. Please, before we go, is it Francis?

Lakesha Armstrong: Yes.

Brad Means: Okay, Francis, who also works with you at Love Centered Ministries, I must give her a shout out.

Lakesha Armstrong: Thank you.

Brad Means: We had some seating limitations, otherwise Francis would be on TV with you, but I have to at least give her a shout out, right?

Lakesha Armstrong: Yes, I appreciate you doing that.

Brad Means: Absolutely, we love Francis. Lakesha Armstrong, thank you for what you do. And the entire team there at Love Center Ministries, we’re grateful to you.

Lakesha Armstrong: All right, thank you. Brad Means: Absolutely.