Rev. Kenneth Glasgow
Driving by a big white tent on West Powell Street one could easily mistake it as a place to buy Christmas trees.
Instead, it is a place that holds the holiday spirit of loving and giving throughout the year. It's the headquarters for The Ordinary People Society, otherwise known as T.O.P.S.
The group was established by the Rev. Kenneth Glasgow a couple of years ago and has since grown exponentially. It's unique in that it's a church without walls - literally. And it reaches out mostly to those who live in the low-income areas of downtown Dothan.
"The basis of the whole organization is Matthew 25:33-46, 'I was hungry and you didn't feed me, thirsty and you didn't give me water to drink, naked and you didn't clothes, ' so that's why we have all these clothes out here," Glasgow said enthusiastically, pointing to a pile of free clothes under the tent. " And Jesus said,'When you have done this to the least of thee you have done it to me.' So this is where God gave me the vision."
T.O.P.S. also established a program where they take leftovers donated from local restaurants and feed them to the hungry at night. The health department had to give them a special permit to be able to do this.
He estimates that they have served anywhere from 22,000 to 36,000 meals in the past two years. They dream of making a soup kitchen that can also serve as a transistion shelter. Now they are looking for donations to help fund the project and local churches to assist with the manpower.
"It's just ordinary people helping ordinary people," he said. "You know, doing extrodinary things by the power and spirit of God."
The group offers a mentoring program that helps at-risk children and teenagers. And a support system for those who have just gotten out of prison to help them find their way. Every other Thursday at 6 p.m. they have a "togetherhood" that is made up of various ministries in the area who walk the streets and preach to the people.
Recently a Christmas tree was put up with names of children who come from single-parent homes and who's parents are incarcerated. It also has names of elderly in the area who have needs. People can drive up, take a name and fill the needs of the individual. Then, on Christmas Eve, the people of T.O.P.S. and the sponsors will go around to share the gifts and time together.
Glasgow understands the downfalls of life. He openly talks about a time when he sold drugs, stole from others, and landed himself in prison for 10 years. Behind bars another prisoner took him under his wing and told him about God and the Bible. On May 23, 2001, he was released from prison and, as he puts it, has "been on fire with the ministry ever since."
Believing in the adage, "it takes one to know one," Glasgow went to the streets to tell people about his transformation and how they too could be lifted out of desperation and loneliness.
"I feel like who better could help those who are in the rut that they are in than those of us who have been there ourselves," he said. "Because we can identify with them and we can talk to them in their own language to help them."
J. Mallard joined the team during the summer. He said that it's a special place where great things are happening.
"The rewarding feeling that you have at night, thinking, 'Oh man, I made a difference in somebody's life. I fed somebody who wouldn't have anything to eat,' that's really what it's all about," he said.
Eagle staff writer Corrina Sisk-Casson
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