Sugartree Ministries director: We’re willing to listen to community concerns


By Gary Huffenberger - ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com



Sugartree Ministries Director Lee Sandlin stands in front of the relocated gazebos at Sugartree Ministries. The new spot is less visible from Main Street in Wilmington.

Sugartree Ministries Director Lee Sandlin stands in front of the relocated gazebos at Sugartree Ministries. The new spot is less visible from Main Street in Wilmington.


Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

WILMINGTON — Recovery meetings and church services are held, and hot meals and groceries provided, indoors. Now, in a community-partnering project by Sugartree Ministries, good things are happening on the outside too, said the director.

Phase 1 of the four-phase project is already done: The gazebos and picnic tables at the building front have been relocated to a side area in the back; and a new rolling gate has been installed and will be locked every night after staff leaves at closing time.

Phase 2 will involve clearing the plat in front, with the only thing left intact being the garden box. After the dying trees come down and the concrete is removed, Clinton County Habitat for Humanity has pledged to paint and reface the building’s front and paint the side.

In Phase 3, faux wrought-iron fencing (a black aluminum fence) will be placed around the front.

And Sugartree Ministries Director Lee Sandlin said he’s especially excited about Phase 4 — an “urban garden” will be planted, with the help of Wilmington College community gardens manager Cassi DeHart.

“Our folks can work there a little bit and pick some food to help supply the kitchen,” Sandlin remarked.

The work being done outside is in part a beautification project, but its origin stems from concerns that some residents had about people hanging around the gazebos and tables alongside Main Street.

“I hope people do view this as an olive branch reached out to the community to say that we are willing to partner as a part of this community, and listen to the concerns that citizens have. As long as we are allowed to minister the gospel and love who we love and to serve everyone who walks through our doors, we’re willing to compromise on some other issues,” said Sandlin.

He added that no one in business or city or county leadership who’s interacted with Sugartree on the concerns, “has ever asked us to compromise who we are as Christ followers.”

Sandlin also said, “I will never be ashamed of any human being. Everybody deserves basic human rights of food, water, shelter and Jesus, right?”

He emphasized the project makes Sugartree Ministries a better community partner, and at the same time the external changes do not alter what Sugartree does.

The entire project is funded by clergy, local businesses and local individuals, he said.

Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.

Sugartree Ministries Director Lee Sandlin stands in front of the relocated gazebos at Sugartree Ministries. The new spot is less visible from Main Street in Wilmington.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/01/web1_gazebos.jpgSugartree Ministries Director Lee Sandlin stands in front of the relocated gazebos at Sugartree Ministries. The new spot is less visible from Main Street in Wilmington. Gary Huffenberger | News Journal

By Gary Huffenberger

ghuffenberger@wnewsj.com