Wearing distinctive green shirts and operating lawn care equipment, the employees of Good Soil Industries are growing more than lush lawns. They are also growing new stories. Bethany Christian Reformed Church in Bellflower, Calif., is supporting this ministry to bring dignity and jobs to people with low incomes.
The ministry grew out of a breakfast for people without homes when someone asked, “What if, in addition to showing up for a pancake breakfast, our neighbors could show up for a day of work?”
That began a journey to create a social enterprise that would help people work their way out of poverty. Participants receive life coaching and training in job acquisition and retention, goal setting and accountability, and financial planning. They also gain a transitional (3- to 6-month) job opportunity through Good Soil Industries Landscape Services, which provides maintenance for commercial and residential properties as well as yard clean-ups and local moves.
According to Good Soil Industries’ website, 90 percent of program participants have graduated from the program and found steady, full-time employment. Employee Brian Wood said, “Good Soils has given me lots of experience in dealing with people, and not only people, but the public, coworkers, every aspect.”
Now in its eighth year, the ministry has grown from its humble beginnings with donated equipment that included a 1989 Chevy van that once left its door in the middle of an intersection. They now have two vans and eight employees who run routes five days a week. Program director Jason Barnette said, “We’re still in the middle of our humble beginnings, and there are still moments when the doors seem to come off, but the past reminds me that God has an adventure for us, and he has been good.”
Bethany CRC supports this ministry through their work with Kingdom Causes, a faith-based community development center that has teamed up with local churches to focus on at-risk neighborhoods, homelessness prevention and rehousing, and workforce development for individuals with barriers to employment. For one beneficiary of the program, it has meant gaining full custody of his daughter. John Hart Oliver said, “Not only do I get to raise my daughter, but I got a sense of worth in this world. I know God put me in this position for a reason.”