Page 27 - October2012BrowardGoodNews

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LOCAL
Anne Bosworth
TIU-Florida Staff Writer
Good News
It’s about community. It’s
about housing. It’s aboutHOPE. It’s
about what people like Eddie
Copeland are doing in the South
Florida community.
Eddie and his wife Sarah
recentlymoved to South Florida so
that Eddie could become a full-
time graduate student at Trinity
International University - Florida,
as well as a full-time employee at
HOPESouthFlorida (formerlyThe
Shepherd’s Way). Eddie became
the program manager of HSF’s
emergency
overflow
shelter
program; ironically called “Faith-In-
Action,” as Eddie had a strong
desire to put the gospel into
practice. He says of his efforts, “All I
knew is that I wanted to work with
churches to see faithput into action
in service to ‘the least of these.’ I had
no idea that would mean working
with homeless families.” From this
point of interest and concern, God
expanded
Eddie’s
passion.
God helped Eddie to understand
his own life as one that had been
privileged and blessed abundantly.
Eddie’swork among SouthFlorida’s
homeless population, and his
education at TIU-Florida, made it
possible for him to begin seeing his
life differently. During his formative
years, Eddie’s ministry efforts
tended to be more like service
projects—good deeds checked off
of a goodChristian’s to-do list. Now,
Eddie explains, “As Imatured inmy
faith I realized that the grace of the
gospel was not just themeans ofmy
salvation, but the motivation to
love and serve others the way the
Lord has loved and served me
through theCross—through Jesus.”
Through this love and service
Christians demonstrate to the
watching world the fullness of
Christ’s kingdom to that is coming.
Eddie’s work at HOPE South
Florida has been particularly
rewarding. With a main office
located in the heart of downtown
Fort Lauderdale, the organization
provides housing and support
services to homeless individuals
and families. HOPE South Florida
is the first stop for over 95% of
homeless families who receive
shelter in our community. The
organization is a Christian-based
501(c)(3) non-profit organization,
operating since 1995, that has
provided
emergency
shelter,
housing assistance, and support
services to thousands of homeless
families and individuals. HOPE
South Florida utilizes scattered site
housing, operates a family shelter in
Fort Lauderdale, andworkswith53
church partners.
One of Eddie’s favorite HOPE
South Florida efforts is The Little
Christmas House—an initiative
that encourages children, families,
schools and businesses to get
involved in changing the lives of
homeless families in South Florida.
Eddie’s heart for these families is
evident when he says, “With over
200 families on the waiting list for
shelter in Broward County, I can
only hope that The Little
Christmas House project will help
raise awareness and provide a
practical, tangible solution to our
community’s homeless family
crisis.” The Little Christmas House
initiative brings together faith, hope
and practice. It brings together
both the organization’s vision of
“hope for the hopeless and homes
for the homeless,” and itsmissionof
“providing hope for the homeless
and hurting through services and
partnerships with the Christian
community.”
Now in its third year, The
Little Christmas House—a small,
charming little cardboard house
with an opening for cash and
coins—has raised over $50,000 for
HOPE South Florida’s emergency
shelter
and
crisis
housing
programs. Churches, individuals,
schools and businesses around
South
Florida
commit
to
supporting the project and
displaying the collection boxes
each Christmas season when
people tend to focus more on
generosity and helping others.
“While most of us are checking
people off our shopping lists,” Eddie
says, “hundreds of children find
themselves homeless; the latest X-
box game is the furthest thing from
their minds.” Having a safe,
permanent home shouldn’t have to
be a child’s primary Christmas
dream, but too often it is.
The Little Christmas House
project is a simple and easy way to
make that dream a reality, because
the number one way to decrease
homelessness is to increase the
amount of crisis housing available
in the community. Eddie’s passion
is evident when he says, “You never
forget the face of a familywhen you
tell them that they no longer have
to sleep in their car or on the street.
It’s something that will stick with
you forever. For a moment, it’s the
hope of heaven realized here on
earth.” Sharing in the provision of
that hope is so easy. Schools,
businesses,
churches,
youth
groups— anyone who has spare
change hiding in their couch
cushions—can help! One hundred
percent of the money raised by
HOPE South Florida through this
project goes directly into creating
and sustaining crisis housing and
shelter for homeless children and
families.
Yet there ismore that needs to
be done in the years to come. The
vision for The Little Christmas
House project over the next 10
years would obviously be for more
and more churches, schools,
businesses and individuals to
impact the community by
displaying a Little Christmas
House, filling it up, and dropping it
off at the HOPE South Florida
office. However, Eddie’s vision is
greater. He says, “I’d love for the
project to underwrite the entire
budget of our emergency shelter
program, Faith-In-Action. There
would be something special about
knowing that every full gas tank,
paid FPL bill, pillow case and
toothbrush provided to homeless
families in South Florida came
through the hearts of people who
decided to turn their spare change
into housing.” God’s heart for the
homeless is a blessing for those
who give generously and those
who receive shelter as a result.
Over 200 families are served
annually through HOPE South
Florida’s Little Christmas House
efforts, but it would all be
impossible without the dedication
of faithful people who give and
serve.
Eddie, and the staff of HOPE
South Florida, are encouraged by
the ways in which their vision for
the future is becoming evident in
the present. “After years of
planning, and much prayer,” Eddie
shares with palpable joy, “Holy
Cross Hospital has partnered with
HOPE South Florida to open up a
wellness center for the individuals,
children, and families served
through our programs. This
wellness center will provide health
screenings and immunizations, as
well as a teaching kitchen to
educate our families on how to
cook sensibly while going through
a housing transition.” Furthermore,
one of HOPE South Florida’s
partners, Rio Vista Community
Church, has just purchased a four
unit apartment complex called,
“The Rio House.” The complex
provides four additional units for
HSF’s emergency shelter, “The
ShepherdsWay.”
Two years ago, Eddie and his
wife, Sara, introduced The Little
Christmas House to the Trinity
International University-Florida
campus. The University is excited
to participate again this year. The
project kicks off right after
Thanksgiving and runs through
the end of December. Eddie, Sara,
and the staff at TIU-Florida will be
among the first to say howeasy it is
to get involved. Eddie says, “All you
need to do is get a house, fill it up,
and drop it off; it’s that simple. All
we need to know is how many
houses and brochures you’d like.
The rest is up to you as you go
hunting through your drawers and
couch cushions for change!”
More information about The Little
Christmas House can be found at
thelittlechristmashouse.org and
about HOPE South Florida at
hopesouthflorida.org.
>
The Little Christmas House
27
November 2012
Good News - Broward Edition