A bed, a meal, a homeOld school becomes a Place of Grace

By: By Gavin Stone - Staff Writer
Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Pastor Gary Richardson looks at the stack of beds that will be used when the 13 current Place of Grace residents move into the old band room in the former Rohanen Middle School. Richardson said he didn’t yet know how many total beds the building would hold.
Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Pastor Gary Richardson looks at the stack of beds that will be used when the 13 current Place of Grace residents move into the old band room in the former Rohanen Middle School. Richardson said he didn't yet know how many total beds the building would hold.
Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Rohanen Middle School will become the Place of Grace once New Life Christian Ministries moves in, in the coming months.
Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Rohanen Middle School will become the Place of Grace once New Life Christian Ministries moves in, in the coming months.

ROCKINGHAM — With workers removing debris, adding walls and sprinklers to future living space, and getting the kitchen up to snuff, Rohanen Middle School soon will find new life as part of the Place of Grace campus: a homeless shelter, soup kitchen, addiction-services and community center, and church.

The location is perfect, Pastor Gary Richardson said Wednesday. The property comes with a fence and a gate — “not that we need it,” even though the surrounding area boasts a high crime rate.

Two stores sell alcohol across the street from the current location of Place of Grace Rescue Mission on Airport Road, Richardson said, but no Place of Grace residents have succumbed to temptation.

“We’re here to love our community and support our community,” he said. “These doors are always open and I’m always available.”

During a walk-through, Richardson pointed out work in progress and tasks to be done.

The only structural repairs will be installing sprinklers in the former classrooms and gymnasium, and performing minor electrical upgrades, he said. Bathrooms also will have to be brought up to code.

Workers will add several sets of dividing walls to separate families taking shelter there from the other areas of the building, and the former teachers’ lounge will be converted into showers.

The former seventh- and eighth-grade hallways will become areas for women, children and families, with the classrooms serving as living quarters. The ninth-grade hallway will become living quarters for men.

Church services will be held in the large room visitors see when they enter through the main doors.

The addiction services, called Refuge Recovery and Celebrating Recovery, will be held in classrooms around the corner.

The planned soup kitchen will be in a separate building.

Carole Venable, chair of the governing board of the Richmond County Mental Health Society, said the board had not yet decided what its obligations to the Place of Grace soup kitchen would be. She expects a vote within the coming weeks, she said.

A large amount of school debris remains to be cleaned out. Teachers dropped by Wednesday to see what they could salvage and will continue to do so the remainder of this week.

At least initially, Richardson said, the 13 men now living at the Place of Grace mission on Airport Road will stay in the old band room at Rohanen.

The rescue mission will change its name to the “Richmond County Rescue Mission.”

Richardson said he would move rescue mission residents “as soon as possible,” which is a similar time line for all of the other facets of the move.

The new campus will be open to the community, too, Richardson said — not just those who need help.

The building has a fully functioning cafeteria and courtyard, which he said would be used for live music and other community events. An event already has been scheduled for this Saturday: a Street Ministry service at 5:30 p.m., with live music and a sermon.

Richardson, CEO of New Life Christian Ministries of the Carolinas, acquired the Rohanen Middle School property July 10 after the Richmond County Board of Commissioners approved a trade in which New Life would give its 26.25-acre property on Airport Road to the county in exchange for Rohanen’s 11.36 acres.

The school property had been uninhabited for a little more than a year.

Pastor Ernie Walters, who will run the Refuge Ministry, said the new facility would let the church expand in order to run separate meetings for people in different stages of recovery so that no one would have to start from square one with each meeting.

“The more often our door is open, the better it is for them,” Walters said. “It will enable us to be more comprehensive.”

A recovering addict himself, Richardson reflected Wednesday on what had brought him to this point.

On Jan. 8, 1999, he said, he had just left a crack house he had been in for three days and had decided to take his own life by driving full speed into an oak tree off the highway.

He accelerated his vehicle to 90 miles per hour and could see the tree he planned to hit when, he said, God spoke to him, and kept him on the road.

“That’s when this all started,” he said. “God saved me for this.

“Everybody that walks through that door (will be) me.”

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Pastor Gary Richardson looks at the stack of beds that will be used when the 13 current Place of Grace residents move into the old band room in the former Rohanen Middle School. Richardson said he didn’t yet know how many total beds the building would hold.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_mats.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal Pastor Gary Richardson looks at the stack of beds that will be used when the 13 current Place of Grace residents move into the old band room in the former Rohanen Middle School. Richardson said he didn’t yet know how many total beds the building would hold.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal
Pastor Gary Richardson looks at the stack of beds that will be used when the 13 current Place of Grace residents move into the old band room in the former Rohanen Middle School. Richardson said he didn’t yet know how many total beds the building would hold.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_matsbw.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal
Pastor Gary Richardson looks at the stack of beds that will be used when the 13 current Place of Grace residents move into the old band room in the former Rohanen Middle School. Richardson said he didn’t yet know how many total beds the building would hold.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal Rohanen Middle School will become the Place of Grace once New Life Christian Ministries moves in, in the coming months.
https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_rohanen.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal Rohanen Middle School will become the Place of Grace once New Life Christian Ministries moves in, in the coming months.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Rohanen Middle School will become the Place of Grace once New Life Christian Ministries moves in, in the coming months.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_rohanenbw.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

Rohanen Middle School will become the Place of Grace once New Life Christian Ministries moves in, in the coming months.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

This is the room in which church services will be held. Tape on the floor shows where a stage will be erected.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_room.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

This is the room in which church services will be held. Tape on the floor shows where a stage will be erected.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

This is the room in which church services will be held. Tape on the floor shows where a stage will be erected.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_room1bw.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

This is the room in which church services will be held. Tape on the floor shows where a stage will be erected.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Former classrooms will be made into living quarters for the homeless once sprinkler systems have been added. Men will live along one hallway, and women, children and families, in two others.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_room2.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

Former classrooms will be made into living quarters for the homeless once sprinkler systems have been added. Men will live along one hallway, and women, children and families, in two others.

Gavin Stone | Daily Journal

Former classrooms will be made into living quarters for the homeless once sprinkler systems have been added. Men will live along one hallway, and women, children and families, in two others.

https://www.yourdailyjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_room2bw.jpgGavin Stone | Daily Journal

Former classrooms will be made into living quarters for the homeless once sprinkler systems have been added. Men will live along one hallway, and women, children and families, in two others.

By Gavin Stone

Staff Writer

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]

Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or [email protected]