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Shortly after the creation of Project-44 in January 2008, we started using the tagline, “What is… PROECT-44.ORG?” It appeared on t-shirts, communication pieces, and giveaway items. We still put a bumper sticker carrying the slogan on every automobile we give through our car ministry. The intent was, and still is, pretty simple: prompt people to ask the question so we can tell them our story.
Over the last 15 years, the answer to the question might have varied some based on the ongoing ministries we were engaged in. For example, we operate a car ministry, and at one time, we had a farm ministry. For a couple of years, we were a worship community and have offered faith-based counseling services throughout our history. And we have built a network of ministry partnerships with other organizations that share our vision of serving our community. But the consistent response to the question, regardless of the services we offer, can be summed up by our mission statement:
“Project-44 is an organization called to go beyond the walls of the church to help people in need, where they are.”
With that core purpose in mind, let us briefly describe our ongoing services as we enter our 15th year.
Car Ministry – We began as a car ministry in 2008, and it remains at the heart of Project-44. But, unfortunately, since our high water mark in 2017, when we provided reliable transportation to 52 families in need, the number of cars given has steadily declined. Changes in the Federal Tax Code that reduced the tax benefit of donating vehicles to charitable organizations have directly impacted the number of cars we receive each year. In addition, supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty have increased the value of used vehicles, so people are holding on to cars they might otherwise donate. Unlike the trend in cars received, requests for help have steadily increased each year. We treat every vehicle we receive as a blessing and an opportunity to help someone on our ever-growing waiting list.
Counseling – The importance of mental health care has never been greater. Some would characterize the state of mental health care in the United States as being in crisis. Unfortunately, there are those in our community who find access to quality care out of reach. Project-44 has offered counseling services to those who cannot afford them since our founding. Referred to as “Sanctuary,” we acknowledge our faith through the care we provide and emphasize our desire to provide a safe place to those who are feeling the burdens of life.
Food Distribution – Hunger, food insecurity and scarcity, access to adequate quality food – whatever description you wish – is a real problem in the United States. At the height of the pandemic, people who never imagined needing help found themselves in lines at local food pantries. With current economic conditions putting pressure on household budgets, the demand for assistance remains constant. Feeding the hungry is a Biblical tenet and a responsibility we take seriously. We partner with several local organizations and agencies to ensure families have consistent access to the food they need.
Liberia Trade School – Responding to a need seen firsthand, Project-44 founders Ben and Margret Fields set in motion a plan to build a vocational trade school in Liberia, Africa. This outreach opportunity is significant because it expands our reach to an impoverished country with many needs and represents the largest project we have ever taken on. Our efforts in Liberia will be a central focus for us this year, and we look forward to sharing our progress.
While these represent our ongoing funded and prioritized ministries, we know there will be other opportunities to serve in the year ahead. If we have learned anything in 15 years of service, we’ve learned that there are people in need all around us. Unfortunately, some are reluctant to ask for help, while others fall through the cracks in our social support network. Our mission is to be proactively in the community and not wait for someone in need to seek us out.
What is Project-44? We are a dedicated group living out the commands to love God and love one another. We are committed to the model of the early Church as described in the Book of Acts – the 44th book of the Bible and our namesake – where “they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”