Man with a vision is transforming lives.
By Jim Bucher
What is it about a great idea? The Wright brothers had one and the world flew.
Charles Kettering was weary from turning the bulky crank to start a car and we benefited with the electric starter. John Patterson dreamed of a better business climate, keeping sales associates honest, and the cash register was born.
Jeff Sorrell had a vision and a calling from above resulting in the Life Enrichment Center.
Now some would say, Buch, we know the former mentions, but not the latter. Well, you will now because it’s an amazing story and proves one person can make a difference.
“In 1999 I had been working for the Ohio Division of SuperValu Foods for 15 years as an inventory control specialist. My wife, Valerie, and I took a business trip out to Los Angeles and while there we toured the Dream Center. It’s a huge ministry located in an old hospital and covers an entire city block. Traveling back to the airport on the shuttle bus I really felt like the Lord spoke to my heart and said, ‘We need something like that back in Dayton,’” Sorrell says.
Sorrell approached his pastor Doug Roe at Vineyard Christian Fellowship about what he experienced and ‘could it happen here?’ Doug said Jeff’s idea of a multiministry would be a perfect fit along with the church’s mission and asked him to join the staff.
So, with a lot of prayer, he quit his job in 2000 and began overseeing the outreach programs and began some new ones.
“We eventually moved into an old building on Irwin Street in Dayton and started doing outreach ministry to the underserved. In 2002 we incorporated as a nonprofit and officially became the Life Enrichment Center under the auspices of the Vineyard. We became a stand-alone nonprofit in 2005 governed by a board of trustees. I also resigned my position with the Vineyard in 2005 and became the full-time executive director of the LEC,” Sorrell says.
Now the Life Enrichment Center is located in a 57,000-square-foot facility at 425 N. Findlay St. in the old Durion building. Sorrell says it was built for his vision.
“My background is in construction and warehousing and there is nothing to suggest that I should be the executive director of anything. I have a high school diploma as well as a felony conviction for selling drugs back in the late ’70s. I am amazed every day that God’s mercy allows me to do what I do despite my past,” he says.
Like the local aforementioned inventors and philanthropists there was a learning curve.
“I had zero experience running a nonprofit and I had to learn by trial and error. The other issue was running everything with an all-volunteer staff. The typical lack of funding was and is still an issue sometimes. I am not going to lie—I have said to my wife many times in the past years ‘Tell me again why I quit my job at SuperValu?’ Looking back, if I would have continued at SuperValu I would have had 32 years in and could have retired by now. I suppose that I should remember that I have God’s retirement plan now,” he says.
Now jump to 2017. A ministry that at first handed out groceries to the less fortunate has blossomed.
“The LEC is well respected in the community and we have relationships with many, many organizations. We work cross sector and we have learned how to play well in the sandbox with others. We also have 11 other organizations housed in our building that we consider our partners,” Sorrell says.
The Life Enrichment Center opens the gate at 7:45 a.m. and clients are waiting most days to get in. They stop by the registration desk to get their card scanned letting the volunteer staff, which numbers 60, what services they will be using that day. Breakfast starts at 9 a.m. and afterward they can choose to be involved in some kind of class or go to the fitness center, get a shower or haircut, or visit the clothing room, computer lab or resources/referrals. And, of course, a free bag of groceries is offered.
“The Life Enrichment Center is transforming to meet current demands. While the need for meals and groceries has remained fairly steady we are striving to meet other needs in the community,” Sorrell says.
One of the more pressing issues is the heroin epidemic gripping our community. Sorrell tells me the ZIP code around the facility ranks as No. 1 in heroin overdoses.
“My first reaction was that it sounded like enabling people to stay in bad behavior. I was concerned as to what the reaction would be from our supporters. I had to educate myself as to what it is really all about which is harm reduction. It is about stopping the spread of hepatitis C and HIV. It is about health and wellness and recovery. After seeking counsel from trusted advisers and much prayer I agreed to host the program,” Sorrell says.
So far, the Life Enrichment Center has referred 25 percent of those who come for treatment.
“I was surprised by the diversity of people who come to the program. They are young and old, male and female from every walk of life. Heroin addicts are not just those in ‘shooting galleries’ running up drugs. They are your next-door neighbor, fast-food workers, doctors, nurses and attorneys, husbands, wives, sons, daughters and even grandpas and grandmas. They are people trapped in their addiction who deserve our mercy and grace. Only by God’s grace am I not in their ranks,” Sorrell says.
One man and one vision with help and guidance from above. I think the Wrights, Kettering and Patterson would be proud.
Cheers and keep up the good fight.