Living a life of love

Mountain Haven Ministries provides local assistance to families in need
By Anne Baker | Nov 12, 2013
Photo by: Donated photo Shelley Costello-Porter and Patrick Porter load food and other items into their vehicle for delivery.

Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Housing the homeless.

Two years ago, Patrick Porter and his wife, Shelley Costello-Porter, left professional careers in Orlando, Florida, packed everything they owned into their SUV and came to Haywood County to do just that.

“We felt led to Waynesville,” Shelley said. “We had no idea what we’d be doing when we got here, but we wanted to show people that ‘love’ is an action word.”

Now, the couple operates Mountain Haven Ministries, a 501 c3 nonprofit organization that provides assistance to children and families in poverty by donating food, utilities, clothing and educational resources. The nondenominational ministry has also worked with survivors of domestic violence, helping them stay safe.

“These people are hurting,” Shelley said. “They have needs that, to them, are life or death. It’s not enough to us to feed someone one time — we want to love them continually.”

Patrick and Shelley live by the simple principle of not turning away from their fellow humans, meaning their services are spontaneous and immediate depending on how severe the need is and what resources their ministry has available. And, when the organization receives a call, their first response is to help — and to not ask questions.

“There is no criteria; we will meet any need. We’re not here to judge what people do with their money,” said Patrick. “As Christians, we believe that people need to see God’s love through human vessels.”

Because Mountain Haven Ministries exists to support those in Haywood County who have needs, the Patrick and Shelley hope to partner with interested individuals, businesses and other nonprofits in the community so that even more can be accomplished. The couple funds the ministry completely out of pocket with what they make as caregivers for a local family; but as the calls for help increase, they need support from those around them.

Cash donations, of course, allow the couple to stock their MANNA-approved food bank; purchase fuel, blankets or heaters for those who have no way to stay warm in the colder months; help with housing costs; and pay for transportation costs as they deliver items to people’s homes. And Patrick and Shelley have also come up with another way for those who might be strapped for cash to become involved: by giving the ministry used ink and toner cartridges, cell phones and other small electronics so they can be recycled for cash. It’s an easy way to help, and the couple will even pick up the items themselves.

Mountain Haven Ministries also needs food items, and things like tuna, peanut butter, snacks, pasta and spaghetti sauce can go a long way. The organization is currently feeding more than 50 families on a regular basis, and hot meals are also provided weekly. Maintaining the food bank is especially important to the ministry in light of the recent cuts in food assistance benefits; an estimated 2,300 people in Haywood County receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

“We expect there will be an increase in a need for charitable food because of the billions of dollars cut from the food stamp program,” said Nadia Dean, vice-president of the organization. “It is just going to push some people over the edge.”

Dean, who is also a local author, encourages those interested in helping to offer whatever they feel they can give — the ministry will put it to use.

Patrick and Shelley also operate a digital puppet show for children, and they are willing to bring their show to churches or other facilities free of charge. Any love gift for the performance will go directly into their ministry.

For more information about the nonprofit, visit www.mountainhavenministries.org. The organization also has a Facebook page, “Mountain Haven Ministries.” Those who need help can reach Patrick and Shelley directly at 407-0034.

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