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Hometown News


  Code enforcement violations brought attention to ministry...




Manager - Gary Colett ( front ), Associate Volunteer Danny ( back ) 

By Jamye Durrance

Staff writer

NEW SMYRNA BEACH - Dawn Clark sits behind the desk inside her modest store, surrounded by frog statues and plush stuffed frogs.

Only a few feet away, a customer stands at the back of the tiny store, moving hanger after hanger to the right, glancing quickly at the used clothes draping on them.

After a few minutes, someone drives up to the store, looking to drop off boxes of clothes as a donation.

It's a busy day at the Forever Relying on God, or FROG, Ministry on West Canal Street in New Smyrna Beach.

Ms. Clark, 47, runs the ministry that provides free clothing and other items to people in need.

Right now things are going well.

But, it's been a long road filled with restraining orders and city code violations to make it to this point.

"Everything's leveled off now," Ms. Clark said.

The journey began in 2007 when Ms. Clark said God told her that her calling was to help the community.

"He wanted me to work with the community but I wasn't sure in what capacity," she said. So, Ms. Clark worked at various churches and soon found her calling was helping people in need without asking for any money in return.

The philanthropy started in 2007 with Ms. Clark and her husband, Chip Clark, 53, giving away donated clothes out of the back of her car.

Realizing that they needed more space, Ms. Clark pursued a building on West Canal Street that she had been eyeing for awhile.

The owner lets Ms. Clark use the building rent-free.

With the building, Ms. Clark was able to expand her charity to daily operations rather than just on weekends.

But, with the bigger space came a bigger visibility and Ms. Clark was soon finding that some of the clientele was looking to disturb the peace rather than help promote it.

"I know this area invites trouble," she said. "But, I knew this was the place to be."

Ms. Clark said she has been personally attacked by people in the area who weren't seeking help but rather confrontation and has five restraining orders issued.

But, she said everything has since been more copasetic with the people she helps.

"I have relationships with the clients that come here," she said.

That relationship includes helping clients find work or get in contact with a counselor or agency who can provide more help.

Sometimes, even just being a friendly ear makes all the difference.

"It can get really emotional," Ms. Clark said. "There's that feeling of calmness when you step onto the property."

Soon after opening, the outpouring of donations from the community meant many of the clothes and other items Ms. Clark was giving away couldn't fit in her tiny building. Tents and umbrellas were set up outside to provide a larger area for volunteers to sort donations.

But, the city received complaints and code enforcement paid the ministry a visit, and said the tents couldn't withstand high winds.

Ms. Clark said she understands the reason why the city had to step in and has since complied by taking the tents down except for special weekend dinners and has moved everything out of the public's view.

Volunteers also put up a fence and did some landscaping around the building.

"(The changes) have done a lot," Ms. Clark said.

Expanding the ministry isn't something Ms. Clark is really interested in.

"I wouldn't change a thing," she said. "I don't want it any bigger. I couldn't maintain a larger area."

But, even with plenty of donations coming in, Ms. Clark, her husband and Gary Collett, her store manager, said they need help with maintaining the ministry.

"Everything is out of our pocket," Ms. Clark said. "We do it with a lot of faith."

She said it costs about $3,000 a month to run the facility and they always accept monetary help. Additionally, they need more storage space and storage containers.

Ms. Clark is currently using scissors to cut the grass so a lawnmower would also be a big help, she said.

"Every little thing helps," she said. "There's just so much need (out there)."

For further information about donations, please visit the F.R.O.G. Ministries Web site  or  Contact them at Mission (386) 3957-3822 also try (386) 256-0012  Dawns Cell (386) 314-6831 

All monetary donations are tax deductable