By JOANNE FOX
SPENCER – Bill Kersting has been blessed in his profession as a social worker to have a warm and nurturing connection with two of “the most visible and endearing aspects” of the Diocese of Sioux City – Briar Cliff University and Catholic Charities.
“The sociology program of study at the Cliff opened my eyes to the needs of people all over the world,” he said. “Being a provider of services as an employee of Catholic Charities for more than one-third of my career enabled me to be of assistance to people in this diocese needing help, direction and guidance.”
That background set the foundation for Kersting to become part of the Dream Center in Spencer, a “one-stop shopping center” for those who need help.
Operating out of the century-old, five-floor, former Tagney Hotel on Grand Avenue, the Dream Center was founded in 2008 by local pastors and businessmen. It is a volunteer-driven, non-profit 501(c)3 organization that provides social services and outreach programs to all ages designed to meet physical, spiritual and long-term needs.
The Rev. Nicholas Hanges, pastor of DaySpring Assembly of God Church, has served as the Dream Center’s executive director since August 2016.
“Every month, we provide three tons of food and more than 3,000 articles of clothing to people in need through our His Hands Extended Program,” he said.
Pastor Hagnes continued, “Also, our Grand Avenue Free Medical Clinic serves the community by offering free basic medical and dental care. Doctors Darrel Forslund and Terry Shively, respectively, have been extremely generous in donating their time and talent to insure quality care to those in need.”
The center has an open-door policy, open six days a week, for specific programs and services. It houses a 2,600-square-foot youth outreach – The Underground – in the basement floor which offers a safe place for local youth, Kersting explained.
“We are also in the process of renovating rooms to accommodate emergency and transitional housing needs in the region,” he said. “This is in collaboration with ATLAS (Attaining Truth, Love And Self-control) of Spencer, CAASA (Council on Abuse And Sexual Assault), Spencer Hospital and the consortium of counties working to enhance regional mental health services.”
Kersting, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church, pointed out all of these services are free of charge to anyone in need.
“The Dream Center is ‘catholic’ in that it serves the needs of all who come seeking help,” he said. “It does not label or distinguish one religious preference or socioeconomic status over another.”
Kersting credited God with putting him in the right place at the right time to be a part of the center as a board member, as well as fellow Sacred Heart parishioner and editor of the Spencer Daily Reporter, Randy Cauthron.
“Each Tuesday, at 7 a.m., I see my friend Randy for what is known as Coffee with the Editor,” Kersting said. “A dozen or so folks from Spencer and the surrounding communities meet at the Dream Center and talk over the issues of the day.”
Although Cauthron encourages input on City Council proceedings, recent weather events or “who has passed away,” Kersting reported much of the chatter is directed to addressing the needs of those less fortunate.
“As fellow board members of the Dream Center, Randy and I share the belief in the need for this ministry and see daily the people who are welcomed and assisted,” Kersting said. “The Gospels and other Scripture readings we hear at Mass come alive in the mission of the Dream Center.”
As with most non-profit agencies, the task facing the Dream Center is getting a sufficient number of committed supporters who can lend financial support to this venture, stated Pastor Hanges.
“Our greatest challenge – aside from raising our yearly operating costs – is the repair and reconstruction of our dilapidated roof,” he said. “The roof project would cost around $76,000 and is a tremendous need in order for us to remain in a position to continue serving the people in our community.”
Cauthron, who is chairman of the board, echoed those sentiments.
“When you’re a non-profit with no state or federal assistance, you rely heavily on donated resources both financially and in terms of labor pool,” he said. “We have been truly blessed all these years to have a dedicated team of volunteers overseeing the operations of the building and its many programs, and we have been equally blessed by a community of givers who have helped us keep the doors open to offer the services to people well beyond the borders of Spencer and Clay County. We see people from as far north as Minnesota and throughout northwest Iowa.”
Prayer is also necessary, Kersting emphasized.
“We need people of faith to pray daily for these needs,” he said. “It is through the prayer we offer to God that we become more aware of the needs his people continue to have.”
“We just want to be the hands and feet of Christ, meeting those who come to us where they are at,” Cauthron added. “And what’s more important, we want them to see Christ’s love in action.”
Those interested in supporting this organization may contact Pastor Hanges at (712) 580-4732.