What started as an inner-city children’s ministry has blossomed and been transformed into a thriving ministry meeting the needs of families throughout Winston-Salem by meeting people, and loving them, right where they are. Meet City Lights Ministry, founded in 2014 by Pastor Melanie Bell and her family.
“We started with VBS-style Bible lessons in inner-city neighborhoods,” said Melanie. “I was a youth pastor, and this was an outreach project we did with my youth group. But over time, as we built relationships with these families, we recognized additional needs for food and clothing. So, we began a mobile food pantry and clothes closet.”
“Our mobile services allowed us to go into the neighborhoods, making things easier for families who simply couldn’t work, balance childcare, and get to a food pantry in person. Transportation was a challenge, so we wanted to ease that burden by directly taking their needs to their neighborhoods. Many of our families are working part-time to support their children. With the limited hours of many food pantries, this was our way of being the light of Jesus in the city.”
Still, even after adding the mobile food pantry and clothes closet, Melanie recognized another need. “Many of the children we served didn’t have beds to sleep in. Originally, we looked for bed donations, and while we were grateful for the beds we received, we consistently maintained a waiting list of 150+ children who needed a bed. After a while, though, we thought—how hard can it be to build a bed?”
City Lights Ministry added a “build” workshop to our 10,000 square-foot warehouse and began building beds from 2 x 4s. Since 2018, they have been able to supply over 700 children with a bed to sleep on. “It’s been so rewarding,” said Melanie. “A good night’s sleep is important to everyone—and especially children! While we still have a waiting list, there are usually only about 20 names on the list at a time.”
“We still accept donated twin-sized beds,” said Melanie, “But the majority of our beds are made in-house. We deliver 15–20 beds per week, and of course, we continue to have our mobile food pantry and clothes closet, too.”
Currently, City Lights Ministry serves 12 inner-city neighborhoods and continues to grow. “We are also very excited to offer Bright Start—an early-learning program for four-year-olds,” said Melanie. “Bright Start meets two times per week and is free. We meet on North Patterson Avenue, and we help get children ready for kindergarten.”
“Additionally,” Melanie continued, “we have a homeless ministry, after-school tutoring, and we have also launched a New Beginning program which is for recovering addicts. Those who are in recovery can work in our warehouse and help with our mobile services, and as part of their participation in our program, we offer them free substance-abuse counseling.”
Finally, City Lights is also offering a program called Mission 2:10, which is based on Ephesians 2:10 (“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”). Melanie shared, “This is a summer youth camp designed to train those who are ready to put their faith into action.”
City Lights Ministry invites those who need their service, as well as those who want to volunteer or donate, to visit their website, www.CityLightsMinistry.org. “We are always eager to have help with building beds or food and clothing drives to support the mobile portion of the ministry. Of course, we also appreciate financial gifts of any kind.”
Learn more! Visit City Lights Ministry online or call 336.831.1003. Donations can also be texted by texting GIVE or DONATE to 336.565.7599. Online donations can be made on the website, or checks can be mailed to 1600 Williamson Street, Winston-Salem, NC 27107.
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