Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles from 2011, click here.


By Anita Austin

In route to the Center for Women and Children, a Wheeler Mission ministry, I found myself feeling uneasy driving in an unfamiliar area, alone, but I did have tools. I had a safe car, electronic navigation, and the gift of a good sense of direction.

Mild anxiety increased as the real estate values declined. Questions formulated in the back of my mind as I drove. Is the GPS reliable? Do I have the correct address?  Unfortunately, today I made a wrong turn and I was headed in the wrong direction.

I wanted to reverse this error as quickly as possible, I did not want to be late and I did not want to be lost in this neighborhood. I turned around in the parking lot of a store which appeared to be closed this morning. It was an adult video store and the sign read “25 Cents for a Booth Preview”. I looked at the other stores nearby they were all adult video stores as well. I hoped to reach my destination soon.

Kirsten Johnson, Grace volunteer leader for the Wheeler project.


Upon arriving, I parked my car on East Michigan Street in downtown Indianapolis. The neighborhood consisted of dilapidated homes and abandoned buildings with broken windows. The bright sunshine softened the grayscale tones of the surrounding neighborhood.  I noticed three women grouped near a large 10 story building. It was the Wheeler shelter. One of these women was pregnant with a young toddler. I felt sad that this young family did not have a home.

Of the volunteers I arrived first. The door was unlocked so I could enter. In search of the Grace volunteer leader I was directed towards the kitchen where a 20 year old resident helped me find Kirsten Johnson.

Shortly, more than 30 men, women and youth from Grace Community Church arrived to serve. The members of Grace were greeted by Kirsten. She briefed the group; they would help prepare for lunch and serve dessert.  After lunch the group would help the women and children bead bracelets, decorate cookies and design a cross depicting things they were thankful for. This team served the women and children with compassion and caring.

A Story of Addiction

Later, I made my way back to the kitchen, and introduced myself to the young woman who helped me find Kirsten. She shared that she was living at the shelter and is enrolled in the in the Higher Ground Program. She explained that High Ground is for women with addictions.  I explained that I was there to observe and write about my experience, and she was willing to share her story.

A cross of hope.

I learned about her family, she was an honor student studying biology and zoology in her private high school. She participated in church youth programs. When she was 18 years old a friend shared a drug with her and she quickly became addicted to heroin. A few weeks ago she was given the option to participate in this program or face prosecution for check forgery. Before arriving at the center she was sleeping in a car or, if she was lucky, on someone’s sofa for the night.

This is her third rehabilitation experience.


Before the Weekend of Service I did not know Wheeler Mission Ministries offered a shelter to women and children in Indianapolis. A group of concerned women started a center called the Caring Center in the early 1990’s, which then merged with Wheeler Ministries in 2001 and was later renamed the Center for Women & Children (CWC).

Women with or without children are welcomed at the center. Three meals a day are made available to both the guests at the shelter and women living on the street. The CWC offers many programs which address the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental aspects of a woman’s life.

Assistance is also offered for substance abuse, job placement, childcare and educational advancement. The facility was impressive. The kitchen and cafeteria were clean and organized. The library was recently renovated in rich tones and beautiful furnishings.

Colleen Gore, the director of the Center, is filled with passion and love for her work on behalf of the women and children at the shelter. The staff exuded a presence of hope and love. The residents were clearly grateful for the opportunity to participate with the team making bracelets and decorating cookies.

Pizza pick-up for Wheeler.

Am I Willing?

Kirsten shared about her volunteer experience at the center with her young son. She has volunteered at the shelter for three years, and has befriended a former guest of the shelter who is a mother of three children. She has a minimum wage job and manages to retain an apartment on her salary. Within the first month of independence, however, this young mother received a three hundred dollar water bill. The water was scheduled to be turned off but Kirsten intervened, in a display of selfless support for this family.

Many of these women have limited tools or resources to maintain an independent life. Kirsten’s example of commitment to her friend and the women in the shelter challenges my own level of involvement. I give money and canned food. I often talk about injustice and acknowledge wrongs in the world.  Am I doing enough to reach out to others?

Am I really willing to sacrifice?

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About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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  1. Keith Carlson said... 


    November 11th, 2011 at 3:25 pm  

    Anita, thanks for your honest and candid story.

  2. Jim.M said... 


    November 12th, 2011 at 12:02 am  

    Wow…bold transparent and on the money. Anita you tell from the heart how intimidating and yet transforming it is to begin to chase after the things that break Gods heart. Great story!

  3. Barry Rodriguez said... 


    November 14th, 2011 at 3:23 pm  

    Isn’t it awesome when the service of others inspires us to act? I love that Kirsten’s dedication to her calling is giving you the courage to step up in your own life! Thank you so much for sharing those thoughts. :)

  4. Breanna Sipple said... 


    November 16th, 2011 at 12:07 pm  

    Glad to hear of so many reaching out into their community and about Wheeler Mission. I hope the relationships that were made during that week can continue and go deeper!

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