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ROPE Center in Hudson offers homeless more than just shelter

HUDSON

Pastor Jim Campbell is a robust yet gentle man with white hair and light blue eyes. He often gets teary when speaking about all the people he helps, but he won't take credit for it.

"It's bigger than me," he said.

Last week, the 63-year-old pastor of the Prayer House opened the ROPE Center on Rhodes Road off U.S. 19, a transitional housing facility for people down on their luck. Already 10 people have moved in. Campbell hopes to eventually accept 24 people.

He doesn't want people to have to say they live in a shelter, so the facility is run more like a camp based on religious values. Men and women sleep in separate "dorms." Everyone has jobs to do, and if they don't do at least eight hours of chores a week, they can't stay.

"I'm trying to make it as honorable of a place as I can so the people there can have some pride with where they're at," he said.

The facility is in a mobile home on three-quarters of an acre. The lot next door is for storing boats, recreational vehicles and trailers, and will bring in some income to help support the center. For now, though, they depend on donations.

Campbell and his wife, Sue, run background checks on the residents to make sure there are no sex offenders or felons. They have a zero-tolerance policy: no weapons, no drinking, no drugs, and smoking is allowed only outside.

The people they take in are "not your general stand-on-the-corner-give-me-money-for-beer kind of people," Campbell said. "These are people just like you and me and one day their life went south and they found themselves homeless."

• • •

Jim Campbell is a contractor who, quite literally, helps build churches and ministries with his own hands. He helps with ministries for pregnant teens and volunteers at the Angelus House, a facility for severely disabled children and young adults. As pastor for the past eight years at the Prayer House, he reaches out to the poor of Port Richey.

But the cause closest to his heart is homelessness.

"I just think everyone needs to do something sometime in their lives for somebody," he said. He shakes his head, talking about how people shouldn't have to be in a situation like this in America. That people need to start helping each other out more.

"When I get talking about it I get choked up," he said, pausing to wipe his eyes.

Campbell was raised in a small mountain town in Kentucky, the oldest of 10 children. He was a very "poor fellow," and life was tough. He was the kid everyone would beat up.

But, he said, "God raised me up and I want to share it." He found Christianity when he was 12 and has been a pastor for most of his life.

"When I got called to the ministry," he said, "I thought God must be pretty low in the barrel."

But he's proved that's not the case. Last month, he received the Paul Harris Fellow Award from the Rotary Club of New Port Richey. Knowing he was too humble to go to an event where he was being honored, they got him there under the auspices that a friend of his was getting an award. He joked later about trying to eat peas with a three-pronged fork and pushing them into his mashed potatoes to make it easier. When they called his name, Campbell was shocked.

Steve Henry, owner of RV World of Hudson, presented the award, which he says is the highest award the Rotary Club gives anyone. He's known Campbell for more than 15 years.

"He's a great person," Henry said. "He'll do anything in the world for you. He'll say, 'Where, when and what do you need?' That's the kind of guy he is."

• • •

Campbell said he serves all denominations, all religions.

"The Bible says love your neighbor," he said. "Your neighbor is everybody. That is the one thing that we need to remember."

He's involved in an inter-denominational Christian coalition called Somebody Cares Pasco, which brings people together to serve the community. He turned to another coalition member, Pastor Leonard Lord of Light of the World Tabernacle of Port Richey, as he started thinking about opening the ROPE Center.

"He's had a heart to help out the homeless," said Lord. "We prayed with him about it and he was able to help."

Campbell said the plans for the ROPE Center came together quickly.

"I said, 'God, this is bigger than me, I can't do this,' and within minutes plans were in place." The paperwork setting up the nonprofit and lining up the mortgage took only days to go through, he said, and the whole process seemed almost supernatural.

"It's something God put in place," he said.

Sitting on the back porch of the center, he speaks warmly of the people who have come to stay there, most of them finding it through word of mouth. He talks about his plans to continue fixing the place up, to add a second floor, and to eventually own the whole block.

He lists the things they need at the center: groceries, toys, clothing, beds, a van. People from the community have been making meals and bringing donations, but it's not enough. When he starts to have doubts, though, he prays openly and out loud.

On a recent July afternoon sitting outside the ROPE Center, the breeze blows gently as he speaks, and his faith is almost palpable.

"I think God is more real on this earth than we think he is," he said.

Fast facts

About the center

The ROPE Center is at 7409 Rhodes Road in Hudson. The center's acronym stands for Resources, Outreach, Prayer and Educational empowerment. For information, call (727) 919-4986.

About this story

"Faith in Motion" is a weekly feature about an individual or group doing something inspiring in the course of a spiritual journey. Story ideas are welcomed, via e-mail. Send them to Mindy.Rubenstein@me.com.

ROPE Center in Hudson offers homeless more than just shelter 07/10/09 [Last modified: Friday, July 10, 2009 9:56pm]
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