Several decades ago a young man named Don Bakely was convinced to leave his home state of New Jersey for a place he had never even heard of - Kansas City, KS.
He was asked to start something special - which he did, and then some.
There's something about a hot meal that can put a smile on a person's face.
At Cross-Lines Community Outreach - where, for more than 45 years, staff and volunteers have helped people in KCK who are down on their luck – a hot meal is provided daily.
"You can't get a job when you've been sleeping in mud all night. They get cleaned up, then they can walk into a place and ask for a job and feel like they could do it if they could get the job," Bakely said.
Reverend Bakely knows a little about the poor. He grew up in New Jersey living in poverty. Frequently in trouble with the law as a boy, Bakely turned his life around by joining the ministry to work with young gang members.
"I saw me in so many of them," he said. "I had been sentenced to a year of reform school when I was 14."
Bakely devoted his life to helping the poor.
When he arrived in KCK in the mid-60s, he was inspired by what several local churches were doing.
"There is enormous strength in those churches. They're little beat up old churches, but there is enormous strength," Bakely said.
Their strength, he said, was in how congregations worked together to help the poor and that was his genesis to begin Cross-Lines. The community outreach program works to coordinate churches and businesses with the goal of finding effective ways to combat poverty.
The key, Bakely said, is working with the poor, not on the poor.
Cross-Lines became so successful at working with the poor that Bakely began getting invited to other cities to teach people how to copy what was working so well in KCK.
A quick glance at a map shows the number of cities the reverend has visited is in the hundreds.
Bakely served as the executive director of Cross-Lines for more than 25 years. He's retired now, but still volunteers at the organization because he said he misses working with the people who've helped make Cross-Lines what it is today.
"We always have the best people to work for us… people who care about what they're doing," he said.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.