A Light in Lake County

Christian Care Center (CCC) in Leesburg, Florida, welcomes underprivileged families and individuals to be fed and clothed not only with physical goods, but with the love of Christ. As a multidenominational nonprofit, CCC meets people in need right where they are, making room for many at the on-campus Samaritan Inn.

The inn is the subject of the 2022 film No Vacancy (Kingstone Studios) based on CCC’s efforts to purchase a run-down motel as a shelter for homeless families. The film, starring T.C. Stallings (War Room; Courageous), Sean Young (Blade Runner) and Dean Cain (Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; God’s Not Dead), follows the fight to open a true Jacob’s Well—a place of respite and recovery—for Lake County families getting back on their feet.

Today, the Samaritan Inn is Lake County’s only transitional housing program that accepts entire families. It’s one of only three in central Florida that allows adult men to live with their families while they work toward self-sufficiency.

As impactful as No Vacancy was, beneath that one inspiring story lie hundreds, if not thousands, of others like it. Through its eight ministries, CCC has deeply impacted families, individuals, churches and organizations not only across America, but around the world. 

Uniting the Community 

Situated on six acres in the heart of Leesburg, CCC provides housing, rehabilitation, food security, skills training and essential care to those who need it most. It was first established by First Baptist Leesburg in 1985, but has since become its own 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

In addition to Samaritan Inn, CCC’s ministries include: 

* Benevolence Center, the largest food pantry in Lake County and third largest in central Florida. This program ensures families receive clothing, household items and weekly food for free. The center serves about 2,400 people per month and 65 families per day; it gives away roughly 160,000 pounds of food per day. Last year, it gave out about 1.8 million pounds of food in total. 

* Children’s Shelter, a facility licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families.

* Community Medical Care Center, a nonprofit clinic that provides both medical and dental care to qualified individuals in need.

* Fresh Start Job Program, a ministry that assists individuals in their job searches, as well as providing GED preparation training. 

* Men’s Residence, an addiction rehabilitation center that provides mentorship, counseling and teaching.

* Pregnancy & Family Care Center, which provides pregnancy and parenting support to women and their families. 

* Women’s Care Center, a facility for women struggling with addiction and difficulties in their lives. The program is rooted in Bible study, counseling, mentorship and life skills training. 

CCC doesn’t just operate as an arm of one church. Instead, it partners with churches and cause-oriented organizations across Lake County. Its commitment to bringing every aspect of the surrounding community together has inspired not only entities across America, but churches and organizations around the world. 

Room to Grow

Serving underprivileged men, women and children with dignity and respect has always been a cornerstone of CCC’s ethos. As the ministry has grown, its campus has also evolved. In 2021, CCC’s team made the decision to upgrade its Benevolence Center to better match its values.

“The building itself didn’t quite match the atmosphere of giving our very best,” says Bill Jones, executive director of the CCC and international missions pastor at First Baptist Leesburg. “This was a great way for us to continue to pour into [the community] and give our very best in every area.”

Previously, CCC operated its Benevolence Center out of a 100-year-old train station. It had been gradually assembled over the years until an adjoining acre came up for sale. CCC purchased it, along with the three buildings occupying it. This would not only provide CCC with more facility space, but more parking to accommodate the many people visiting them each week.

One building was demolished, but the remaining 1950s relics needed refurbishing. My team at PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio and I stepped in to value-engineer a solution that would not only fit the nonprofit’s available budget but would also help them to serve Lake County’s underprivileged families with even greater dignity in the future. 

Serving More Than Ever

My team engaged with CCC and First Baptist Leesburg back in 2018 to create a master plan for both campuses. We were thrilled to return in 2021 to help them bring their vision for the Benevolence Center to life.

As a first step, we worked to connect the two buildings on the new property, streamlining the flow of foot traffic from one building to the next. These changes also made future growth possible.

Through graphic design, theming and fresh paint, we were able to transform the space into a facility that better communicates the care and service CCC provides. 

“It was a blighted area on a main corridor through the middle of our town,” says Jones. “We were able to refurbish it inside and out so it looks like a new building and adds value to our community.”

They now had more space to serve more families and individuals than ever before.

CCC opted to add a large walk-in freezer outside in order to save indoor space. The inside consists of a waiting area, four counseling rooms, a grocery facility and a clothing area where families can shop for free while staff pack their groceries. When their visit is complete, CCC volunteers help them load their vehicles, encouraging as they close out their time together.

The endeavor to transform the Benevolence Center through simple, affordable means is a testament to the tremendous impact churches and cause-oriented organizations can make without a large budget.

“The theming inside shows [the people] how we value them, how we love them, how God loves them,” Jones says. “The environment inside wraps around everything else we have to show them love, integrity and how valuable they are.” 

Making a Global Impact

CCC is having a tremendous effect for the kingdom, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Churches and civic groups across the country and around the world come to CCC to observe how its ministries operate so well in tandem.

“They want to observe the synergy of all eight outreaches working together,” Jones says. “I’m able to [facilitate] local and international missions, and to even take those local mission outreaches and do trainings around the world.”

CCC’s mission partners, as well as the organizations that want to learn from their operations, connect for training and encouragement. According to Jones, CCC teaches its partners to find the physical felt needs in each community, then start meeting them.

Through meeting felt needs first, Jones says they have the “opportunity to meet spiritual needs at the same time.”

The end goal isn’t to teach other organizations how to look exactly like CCC. Instead, it’s to identify and create ways to end suffering that are unique to each particular locality. From America’s heartland to churches in Asia, each location has its own set of needs to be met.

In a season when many individuals and families are hurting economically, these felt needs will continue to show themselves. And with each opportunity to help comes the chance to meet a spiritual need. With every vacancy Samaritan Inn fills—and every load of groceries CCC gives away—the opportunities to show God’s love multiply.

Learn more about the Christian Care Center at ChristianCareCenter.org, First Baptist Leesburg at FirstLeesburg.org, and Kingstone Studios at KingstoneStudios.com.

Mel McGowan
Mel McGowanhttps://plainjoestudios.com/

Mel McGowan is an Outreach Magazine contributing editor and the co-founder and chief creative principal of PlainJoe Studios, a multidisciplinary design firm focused on storytelling from branding to building. He also is the author of Design Intervention: Revolutionizing Sacred Space (PlainJoe Studios) and serves as an adjunct professor at California Baptist University’s College of Architecture, Visual Arts and Design.