Church’s lease ending, putting free meals in jeopardy


Time is ticking for a Seymour church to find a new place to continue its mission to serve the community’s hungry, poor, addicted and others with spiritual needs.

The Alley’s lease at 416 E. Second St. officially expires Dec. 31, and the church’s board of directors is actively pursuing and seeking leads on potential locations to house the ministry.

The church has received a reprieve from its building owners — a Guatemalan ministry — who are extending the lease until the end of January, said board President Matt Fleetwood. After that, it will be on a month-to-month basis, he added.

But Fleetwood and other church officials know the extension is only postponing the inevitable and just buys them a little more time to find a new home.

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On top of facing not having a facility for the church and Alley Street Kitchen, which is the only site in the community that serves a free, hot meal daily to the hungry, The Alley also is without a head pastor.

The church has been relying on guests, including the Rev. Mitchell McIntyre from Brownstown Christian Church, to preach and lead worship Friday nights since the resignation of Pastor Stevie Lockman in October. Lockman was hired in May after the retirement of church founder Pastor Rick Wilson.

“We’ve been blessed with people stepping up and helping us out,” Fleetwood said.

Even through the hard times, Fleetwood remains positive God will provide the solutions The Alley needs.

“We’re going to be fine,” he said. “I think God’s testing our faith. He hasn’t told us where we’re going to go yet, but we have some great leads.”

Working behind the scenes to provide support is Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman, who said he doesn’t want to see the church close because too many people rely on it.

Although the city cannot provide financial assistance to The Alley, Luedeman said it can connect the church leaders with local building owners that might be willing to help provide a new facility.

“They’ve created a mission here and are serving an unserved population,” Luedeman said. “They’re taking care of a group of people that maybe don’t feel comfortable going to church, but here, they’re still hearing about the Word of God.”

The church isn’t looking for anything fancy, just something practical, Fleetwood said. The Alley’s first location in 2010 was in a downtown storefront. It’s current location is a warehouse.

It’s not where the church operates that is important but that its doors are open to all people, Fleetwood said.

A central neighborhood location where people can walk to, however, would be a benefit for those without transportation.

“We want anybody to feel welcome. No matter what their background, it doesn’t matter. What their troubles were before, we’re not a judgmental church,” Fleetwood said. “We’re a Christian-based organization, a nonprofit, and we reach out to help the community.”

The Alley Street Kitchen, which opened in March 2014, is one example of how the church serves others, Fleetwood said.

On Thanksgiving Day, more than 130 people sat down together at the church to enjoy a turkey and ham meal with all of the trimmings. It was more than just the food they came for, though, said kitchen manager Sara Bowling.

It was the fellowship, too, so that they didn’t have to be alone, she said.

Bowling is experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress about the lease being up but also overwhelming sadness, too, she said.

“But I’m trying to be hopeful,” she said. “I do feel like God has a plan, and I do not believe he wants this to end.”

The church is having a special Christmas celebration Friday with a meal from 4:30 to 6 p.m., worship at 7 p.m. and a party afterward. Santa will be visiting to hand out toys to children. There will be no meal served Monday due to hot meals being available through the annual Jackson County Christmas Feast.

The Alley also is having a candlelight Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Tina Pearson of Seymour started going to The Alley Street Kitchen to eat and now volunteers there.

“The Alley is special to me because I have worked for years there, and I love helping people out and help those who need help,” she said. “I love all the workers, and I have made lots of friends there.”

The kitchen serves an average of 70 people a day, Monday through Friday, including children.

“In the winter, our numbers go down, so we might have 50 or 60, but in the summer, we usually have 80 to 100 every day,” Bowling said.

Food is donated from local businesses, including The Pines and Pizza Palace, and the church receives monetary and food donations from the public, too. Besides the kitchen, The Alley also operates a food pantry with support from Midwest Food Bank in Indianapolis.

Amber Ingalsbe of Seymour said she wouldn’t be where she is today if it weren’t for The Alley. She has been clean and sober for three years, eight months and two days.

“When I was in active addiction, (The Alley) was a place where I could go where I wasn’t judged,” she said. “The people there helped me get clean. It is also there where I found my way back to God. Now, I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Jennifer Shapiro said The Alley welcomed her with open arms when she first moved to Seymour.

She had just gotten clean from a drug addiction and said having a safe place to go and to volunteer helped keep her mind busy. She also attended Celebrate Recovery meetings at the church and now helps others going through addiction.

“Our Friday night service is full of great praise music and the Word of God,” she said. “The Alley and the people in it are home and family. There is no other church like it.”

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