Love’s Open Doors Ministry
Feeding the community
Sun Village, Calif.—For more than 20 years, Olene Cleveland has been feeding hungry Antelope Valley residents out of her Sun Village home. On 90th Street East and Avenue S., families, children, homeless, clotheless, and the hungry have their immediate needs fulfilled with food from local and not-so-local pantries and businesses. Community members and occasionally local businesses also donate clothing.
“I’ve always been into helping people,” Cleveland said. “Even as a little girl, I had a calling from God to help people. I work full time for him.”
The 81-year-old, also known as “Mama,” funds the ministry out of her own pockets which consists of social security checks, small community donations, and the few dollars people give in exchange for the free food and service.
She spends on average, $6,000 on food, supplies, gas, and truck rental to pick up food from pantries in Temecula, Mexico, and within the AV.
The ministry usually serves 3,000 people a week. But with the latest shortage at food storage centers, the numbers have declined to fewer than 2,000.
To keep her ministry going and food flowing throughout the week, a local Pizza Hut donates pizza twice a week, while Kentucky Fried Chicken sets aside chicken Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and Orowheat gives bread every Tuesday.
Food and clothing are available absolutely free to the public and those in need, but as supplies continue to dwindle, Cleveland is anxious to gain the support of the community and corporate sponsors.
“This is a ministry here, but I don’t get any help,” the ministry leader commented. “I can’t get any help. I do this by the grace of God and by my faith in the father.”
For 20 years, she has asked for financial help to keep her ministry doors open to make sure people are fed, and bills are paid, but as the years go by and the economy struggles, Cleveland’s ministry suffers. The Sun Village resident says she needs financial help. To raise awareness of her mission, she buys ads in local papers and solicits local churches, but that yields no response, just more hungry people and empty freezers.
“I need financial help,” Cleveland said. “Clothes, refrigerators, and stuff is good, but somebody out there has to have some money to help me.”
Not only does she give food, she also houses a few homeless families in her own home, and they give back to the ministry as much as they can.
Her volunteer staff, made up of about 20 people who are needy, retired, and good-hearted folks, enjoy helping out with their time, driving, serving, cleaning, and sponsorship searches. Although some are going through financial difficulties of their own, the volunteers say being a part of the ministry is rewarding and serves as a constant reminder of how life could be for them.
Wiley Robinson is 74 years old and has been volunteering with the ministry since 1998. He says the experience is a humbling one.
“I tell you, at my age, it’s something to do. It’s better than sitting around with nothing to do. This way I can help others,” Robinson smiled. “It feels good to serve people. It gives me a chance to see how other people are living. If I feel I’m living bad, I see how other people are doing.”
Other workers, who have been with the ministry, have seen the success and strain over the years.
“I was a periodicals librarian at L.A. City College. Everyday I would pass here, and I was nosey one Halloween, when I saw a mountain of pumpkins in the front,” said Magdalene Lawrence, who has served since 2006. After finding out Cleveland was serving the community, Lawrence was immediately drawn to the cause. “I told her I wanted to volunteer. I started off as a doughnut packer and worked my way up to bagels.”
In her years of service, Lawrence has seen people live in conditions she says are unheard of in America. She knows the need is dire, and sees that with the shortage, the need far surpasses the supply.
“If we all gave a little of ourselves, we would not have a need,” she said.
Despite the difficulties Love’s Open Doors is having, “Mama” feels she is doing God’s work and only God can shut her down.
For more information call, (661) 944-5348.