By Jennifer Johnson
It all began with a few sandwiches back in 2002.
“My wife and I became convicted about whether we really loved poor people,” says Dallas Stamper. “We decided to make sandwiches and give them away to a few people on the beach. We ended up connecting with four homeless men and talking to them for three hours—which surprised them, I think, because they were used to people giving them food and then hurrying away. We asked if we could meet them again the next week, and that was the beginning of People In Need. The second week there were eight people, then 12, then 60.”
Stamper now serves as executive director of the People In Need, or “PIN,” ministry, leading staff and volunteers to provide medical care, addiction recovery support, housing opportunities, and more to the homeless and needy in Virginia Beach. Every Saturday morning the ministry offers a huge breakfast in the fellowship hall of a local church; on Sunday afternoons there’s a hot lunch as well as a medical clinic, a worship service, and distribution of clothing and hygiene supplies; and on Thursday nights PIN provides dinner followed by a Bible study.
One hundred volunteers keep PIN’s various programs running, including several formerly homeless people.
Stamper is especially excited about the ministry’s newest initiative in job training.
“So often people look at those who are homeless or in need and think, Why don’t you just get a job?” he says. “But sometimes people can’t find work because they are a sex offender or they’ve committed a violent felony. I believe people can become new creations in Christ and can be transformed from their past, but that doesn’t mean their record goes away.”
The new program will include three phases, including a biblical understanding of work and “soft skills” like interacting well with others; specific job skills like completing a GED or working on personal competencies with a mentor; and an internship where the participant can practice what he or she has learned and, hopefully, secure a long-term job.
“I left a management position at General Electric to start this ministry, which was really a step of faith for both me and my wife,” Stamper says. “I never intended to be in ministry. I didn’t go to seminary. I’m unqualified to do what I’m doing, but it just means I lean on God more—and it means all of us can play a role.”