Making a Difference: The Buffalo Dream Center

December 8, 2023

Over the years, Mission: Ignite has had the opportunity to collaborate with some truly incredible organizations! Today, we would like to highlight one such partner: the Buffalo Dream Center. A church plant first established in 1994, the Dream Center creates a distinct identity by focusing on community support. Pastor Eric Johns describes the church’s mission as one that revolves around the inner-city population. “We have all the things that a church would do, but we also have a huge emphasis, probably more than most churches, on outreach into the community. We reach out to children and families living in poverty, refugees, immigrants, and the homeless.”

One of the pillars of the Dream Center’s community support is their mobile food pantry. With the only mobile food pantry in Buffalo, the Dream Center has worked with the Food Bank of Western New York to drive through neighborhoods across the city. This provides food pantry access to those who lacked the transport or ability to visit a fixed location. “We began it in a Dodge Caravan and took out the seats,” says Rev. Johns. “It was started by two people, my wife and a10-year-old boy in our church, and it just grew.”

The effectiveness of a food pantry on wheels became particularly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Johns, about 85% of all food pantries in Erie County are run by senior citizens and as a result of the outbreak became health risks. “Most pantries were closed during Covid. For us, people didn’t have to come into a building, so we started going into neighborhoods where food pantries had shut down.” As a result, the mobile food pantry is now one of the Dream Center’s biggest ministries.

Partnering with Mission: Ignite is another way the Dream Center has been able to provide for those in need. Johns celebrates the Tech 360 program as a natural fit for the Dream Center. “We’ve really enjoyed being a part of Mission: Ignite. It’s a great way for us to connect to the community. There are people in the food line who still thank us for computers and training.” The relationship between the Dream Center and Mission: Ignite has resulted in more learning opportunities for disadvantaged people in Buffalo.

Thanks to the Dream Center’s continued success, Rev. Johns has plans for the church’s future and new ways they can continue to support the community. “If your organization is growing, you always have a vision for more things,” he says. “We’re expanding our outreach to refugees and immigrants. There are a lot of organizations in Buffalo, but one thing I’ve discovered is that everybody has things they do better. One plan in the new year is to connect people at our food pantry sites with other services that can help them as well. We’re going to make more of an effort to bring in some more organizations and step up that game.”

Partnering with the Buffalo Dream Center has been an excellent experience, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds!

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