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Church in the Dunbar community has new mission with grand opening

Posted at 7:27 AM, May 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-08 07:27:25-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Hundreds attended the first service and celebration for the grand opening of Mount Olive African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church's new location on Veronica S Shoemaker Blvd.

Many people expressed how pivotal how the church has been to the Dunbar community for the past 134 years. But now the church is serving with a new building and a new purpose while honoring its historic ties to the community.

Fox 4's Briana Brownlee was in the crowd and as someone who grew up AME, she explained the history dating back decades. Historically the AME church was the first to give Blacks their own place to worship after breaking off in 1787 from St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia because of restrictions in seating.

Now many years later the tradition is remaining strong not only around the world but right in the heart of Dunbar.

“We continue to press on knowing that with God all things are possible," said Pastor James Givens of Mount Olive.

Pastor Givens has been with the church for the past 13 years and is extremely grateful on the Sunday of the church's new location's grand opening. Saying after 20 long years in the making the church which served Dunbar for more than a century has a new building with a renewed sense of purpose—literally taking the community's trash and turning it into treasure as the campus was built on top of a junkyard.

"In the black community, there were a lot of junk yards," said Levon Simms, a trustee for the church.

Simms grew up at the Mount Olive church and says his biggest feeling is "pride" especially after the long journey to get the church built. The journey was filled with setbacks stemming back 20 years as leaders worked to get funding
permits in place.

However, on the day of the grand opening, the new building was jammed packed.

"Our purpose is to feed the hungry, clothed the naked, and provide shelter and educate," said Pastor Givens.

And keeping that purpose the church is taking on a new challenge and mission.

"We began to talk about the needs, of this community. And we found out that in this community there are many folk not just young folk who are being sold and traded through human trafficking," said Pastor Givens.

Pastor Givens working along with Human Trafficking Activist Ramona Miller, the duo is working to help human trafficking victims in Southwest Florida. Previously Muller had to find help outside of the community to help survivors
to escape but now with the partnership of the church, they are hoping to keep survivors closer to home.

Pastor Givens said they have already started the ministry by stuffing backpacks with hygiene products
vouchers and clothes for survivors who escaped... but they are working to go deeper.

"We want it to make it a haven for those persons," said Pastor Givens. "We want them to know and be reminded of the fact that they are somebody special."

Pastor Givens added that the new building is serving the youth as well. The campus has game rooms and a basketball court and hoping to get a gym in the near future to make Mount Olive a safe Haven for the community not just on Sundays.