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Agape Center opens its new facility

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By John Barnhart

     The Agape Center, in Moneta, is now serving clients from its new home on Promised Land Road. The first clients walked through its doors on Jan. 29.

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    According to Sue Lipscomb, Agape’s director, Agape had outgrown its previous home, a rented property. The new place, a former dress factory, offers double the space, and its all on one floor.    Agape’s previous location was on two floors, with the top floor only accessible by an exterior wooden stairway. The stairs were tough on some clients and tough on some of Agape’s volunteers. This was especially so in bad weather.
    “It was difficult,” Lipscomb said.
    Now, the Center has 22,000 square feet of space, all on one floor, and they own it. Furthermore, the Center has a good bit of land, which could provide space for future expansion.
    The Agape Center ministers to people in need, providing food, clothing, furniture and spiritual guidance.
    “This month alone we will put together 500 orders for families,” Lipscomb said.
    According to Lipscomb, 99 percent of the food they provide comes from Feed America Southwest Virginia, a food bank located in Salem.
    In addition to the food pantry, the Center also has separate rooms for furniture, housewares and clothing.
    What makes Agape unique is its mentoring program.
    “Each one who comes in is assigned their own mentor,” Lipscomb said.
    Clients and mentors see each other every 30 days, which allows them to build relationships. This service allows Center volunteers to learn how better to serve a client’s needs, which can include referring them to other services that can help. Lipscomb said that in one recent case the Center was able to help a man who had the opportunity to go to work if he had a car. Volunteers were able to put him in touch with somebody who was able to help.
    Mentors also pray with clients and encourage them to find a church, helping them find a place of worship that’s close to them. Lipscomb said the clients like having somebody who will listen to them and pray with them. The new facility has seven rooms where clients can meet with their mentors in privacy.
    The new facility has a front desk, that was built by Don Frase in his own workshop with the Fruit of the Spirit (from Galatians 5:22-23)  written on its side. It also has a donated granite countertop. The clothing room has racks set up as in a store. Clients get 10 items of clothing for each family member. There is also a small library and a play area for children.
    The facility has plenty of room for other functions that Agape carries out. There is a conference room as well as a large room where volunteers sort clothing donations by season and whether the items are for men, women or children.
    The Agape Center originally began nine years ago, as a ministry of Radford Baptist Church. The name comes from the Greek word ἀγάπη, which is translated “love” in the 13th chapter of I Corinthians. The ministry grew rapidly and became too large for one church to sponsor. Now it is an independent 501 (c) 3 non-profit supported by five churches — Radford Baptist Church, EastLake Community Church, Dwelling Place, Covenant Fellowship  and Staunton Baptist Church. Agape has 150 volunteers who serve 1,300 people every month.
    All of the work is done by volunteers.
    “There are no paid staff here,” said Lipscomb.
    Now that the Agape Center is operating out of its new facility, there is more work to do. Volunteers still need to finish the renovation work, which will include building a tea room and gift shop for clients, as funds come in. They also need to build a shelter at the food pick-up door and expand the parking lot.
    Agape Center is open to clients on Tuesdays, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from noon until 5 p.m.  The Center is also open on the first and third Saturday of each month from 9 a. m. until noon. People seeking help must call (540) 296-0600 for an appointment. Calls to this number are picked up by an answering service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Lipscomb said that Agape Center volunteers get back with those who call.
    Agape Center looks for both monetary donations and donations in kind. Monetary donations can be mailed to: Agape Center, P. O. Box 573, Moneta, Virginia, 24121. Donations are also accepted through Agape Center’s Web site at AgapeCenterSML.org.