By TESA CULLI-GLASS
MT. VERNON —
Mt. Vernon Prayer Breakfast keynote speaker Rob Dyer wrote his own newspaper headline story Friday.
“Yesterday at the Mt. Vernon Prayer Breakfast, Christians of Mt. Vernon came together and did an amazing thing,” Dyer said he wanted to be able to read. “By the end of the breakfast, Christians from various churches, businesses and organizations committed to cover all of the volunteer and food needs at their joint community ministry to the homeless.”
And, half of his prediction came true. By the end of the Mt. Vernon Prayer Breakfast on Friday, those attending had committed to providing for all the food needs for those who will be helped at the Lifeboat Alliance homeless shelter.
Dyer and his daughter Ally, were the keynote speakers at the 15th Annual Mt. Vernon Prayer Breakfast. Ally Dyer spoke before her father, instilling the message that anyone — even an 11-year-old girl — can make a difference in the world. Ally is responsible for putting on two major fundraising events for the shelter and raising more than $6,000 at each event. The $6,000 raised was matched by an anonymous donor, making the contribution $12,000 in two years.
“God blessed me with an opportunity to help others,” Ally said. “No one expected a 10-year-old to do something so big. I like to be unique. Kids always do things bigger than what others expect.”
Ally spoke of tagging along at meetings with her father, who is the president of the Lifeboat Alliance.
“At first I didn’t understand,” Ally said. “It was just a bunch of meetings and sitting around talking about stuff. But two years ago, I changed my thinking. ... I sat in my bedroom and he told me what they were trying to do. ... Homeless people need so much, and we have so much. I wanted to help, but I didn’t want to set up a lemonade stand. I wanted to do a real fundraiser and I wanted to do it with kids.”
What Ally did was single-handedly organize a talent show for kids and beat the bushes to get donations from various businesses and individuals.
“I remember when we had the conversation in her bedroom,” Rob Dyer said. “She said she wanted to raise money, and I thought, ‘time to set up some lemonade stands.’ I even said that to her, and she said no. She did all the work to make the fundraisers happen. It wasn’t me. She did it.”
Ally also shared a poem she wrote that can be read backwards, titled “This is Reality.”
Forwards, the poem reads, “An 11-year-old girl like me can’t do big things with God. I refuse to believe that kids have power in this world. An 11-year-old girl is helpless and useless to society. There is no way a kid like myself is important in this world. Working together doesn’t solve anything. It is a complete lie that charity work is needed. God only helps those who help themselves. Nowhere in the Bible does it say homelessness and other sufferings are our problem. People should accept independence from God as a good thing. It is ridiculous to seek some help from churches. Our community leaders can get things wrong when they involve God. Christians together can do very few things to make this world better. One person can do little even as a kid. The world is hopeless. We can’t begin to think that with God the world and everyone in it is special and deserves to be loved. The world is needy and as kids and adults alike there is nothing we can do to help.”
Then Ally challenged people to reverse their thinking.
“The world is needy and as kids and adults alike the world and everyone in it is special and deserves to be loved. With God we can’t begin to think that the world is hopeless. Even as a kid one person can do little things to make this world better. Christians together can do very few things wrong when they involve God. Our community leaders can get some help from churches. It is ridiculous to seek independence from God as a good thing. People should accept homelessness and other sufferings as our problem. Nowhere in the Bible does it say God only helps those who help themselves. Charity work is needed. It is a complete lie that working together doesn’t solve anything. A kid like myself is important in this world. There is no way an 11-year-old girl is helpless and useless to society. Kids have power in this world. I refuse to believe that an 11-year-old girl like me can’t do big things with God.”
Rob Dyer recalled how the Lifeboat Alliance came into being.
“This is not one church leading the charge and others coming along,” Dyer said. “This is Christians working together and active right now.”
Dyer said there are real needs for the shelter, specifically three — $200,000 per year to operate; 31 dinners each month and 372 volunteer shifts of 4.5 hours each.
“I’m not talking about the money today,” Dyer said. “I know we have about 450 people here today, approximately. ... I think we can do amazing things in this room. ... In this room right now, we have the capability to cover all the needs of the homeless shelter.”
Dyer then challenged each table to commit to providing at least one meal per month for the shelter and to volunteer hours to helping at the shelter. He provided commitment cards for every table and provided time for each table to discuss their commitments and turn the cards back in.
When all was said and done, 44 meals per month were committed as well as 149 volunteer hours, Dyer reported.
“With 44 meals per month committed, that will allow us, if someone has trouble providing their commitment or we need reserves, I’m now pretty confident we will have the meals covered when the shelter opens in October,” Dyer said. “We now have 149 volunteer shifts covered each month, and that means that during the regular part of the day, we have commitments for 2 1/2 volunteers each day. Our goal is to have six and we are now half way there. That is huge progress. It’s a great day to be a Christian and the father of Ally Dyer.”