Westmont Magazine A Second Career Caring for the Needy
Paul Preddy ’56 received a major pay cut when he changed careers. A retired elementary school principal, he founded and directs the Neighborhood Care center in San Diego, Calif., earning a dollar a year at this outreach ministry of College Avenue Baptist Church. About 40 volunteers assist him and each serves one day a week.
Paul and others in the congregation decided they could do a better job of helping the poor and homeless than the social service agency that was using one of College Avenue’s buildings. After ending the lease arrangement, the church ripped out protective fencing and unlocked the doors and windows to create an open and welcoming atmosphere.
Paul spent months doing research, developing policies, and writing handbooks, expecting to run the center for only a short time. But nearly five years later, he’s still involved, and his wife wonders when he will “retire” again.
With smiles and free coffee and donuts, Paul and his volunteers warmly welcome the “neighbors” who stop by for assistance. “Friendship evangelism” helps the staff accomplish their mission: “to build relationships with people, to win them to Christ, and to enfold them in the life of this church or another where they will be given spiritual encouragement and teaching.”
Meeting physical needs is an important component of the ministry. A person in need can pick up a two-day supply of food and necessities as many as nine times a year. The staff is available to teach people how to shop effectively, apply for work, keep a job, and live responsibly. Obtaining birth certificates and other identification papers helps the “neighbors” seek employment with greater success. Using the showers in the church’s gym and picking out used clothing prepares the homeless for job interviews.
Paul majored in education at Westmont where he met his wife, Nancy Vriend Preddy ’57, who recently retired as a neonatal, labor, and delivery nurse. “Westmont definitely played a strong role in forming who I am today,” says Paul. “My relationships with professors and other students filled a real need in my life.”
Paul is pleased with the sense of community developing at the Center. After a brutal rape and murder in the area, suspicion fell on a client Paul knew. Homeless people at the center began investigating and providing information to the police, which led to an arrest. “The police were amazed at this cooperation and have treated the homeless more mercifully ever since,” Paul notes. “It’s encouraging to see the center have this kind of influence in people’s lives.”