A second meeting at the old Salem Baptist Church building on Hill Road in Halls was much calmer than the Nov. 6 meeting, but it covered much of the same ground. At the core remains community distrust of Angelic Ministries, the building’s new owners, amid rumors that the mission will use the building to house a drug rehabilitation center or halfway house.
Nov. 30, Angelic Ministries board members shared a meal in the church building’s fellowship hall with about 15 neighbors and community members, seeking input on possible uses for the building. Those attending the meeting were invited to apply for an advisory council position with Angelic Ministries, a special committee designed to guide the mission’s board of directors with regard to the building.
The Rev. Tony Earl once again reassured the group that Angelic Ministries will not place a drug rehabilitation program or halfway house on the property. He said the board’s first vision for the church was to use it to house men in the first 90 days of Angelic’s “life retraining” program, a place for the men to sleep and be supervised during a time when the program’s drop-out rate is high. But that plan is completely off the table now, Earl said.
One attendee addressed a parcel of the church property that is zoned commercial and suggested that the ministry re-zone it to residential/agricultural.
“I think it would put a lot of fears to ease,” he said. “The community doesn’t trust you. What are you going to do to win their trust?”
Earl said that the board’s current vision for the parcel is for a community garden and farmers market.
Attendees gave the board several suggestions for the building, including:
- Adult day care center/respite care
- Afterschool programs if transportation is provided
- Adult education for literacy and GED
- Drug prevention programs
- Music and dance lessons
- Low-cost wedding venue
- English language learning programs
- Short-term housing for youth groups on mission trips
“There’s 38,000 square feet in this building that could be used for any of these ministries,” Earl said.
He added that although participants in the life re-training program will not be housed at the church building, they have been and will be working at the site.
“I don’t want us to operate out of fear,” said Earl, adding that men in the program routinely work in people’s houses with no problems.
Church neighbor Susie LaRue, who attended the meeting with her husband Hubert, said men from Angelic Ministries came to collect furniture the family donated to the mission after her mother passed away.
“The were very nice and polite,” she said.
Attendees were invited to fill out a needs assessment, and Earl said the board will go “door to door” to get input from other community members.
Earl said the board will arrange more small meetings. He will also seek advisory council applications from representatives of local schools, churches and businesses.