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Everyday Heroes

Delia Mobley: Living simply so that others can simply live

September 05, 2018

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It all started with some borrowed teaching space.

Delia Mobley is a former teacher who has given her time, her resources and her heart to care for the homeless in Bulloch County. She taught Kindermusik at one time, and after selling her studio, began teaching in a borrowed Sunday school classroom at a local church. While there, she witnessed mothers coming in with their children — women who were desperately trying to care for their children with limited resources, and sometimes, no resources at all.

She says she often arrived early at the church, and could tell by the smell in the lobby that someone had made the unlocked area their home for the previous night.

“That just started working on my heart,” she says, with tears in her eyes.

Mobley is no stranger to volunteering, having served on and with various boards and clubs in town.

“I was always the fundraising chair. Nobody liked to see me coming, because I was always wanting money,” she said, laughing.

Mobley’s husband, Chip, had told her she needed to slow down a bit, but she had been seeking an opportunity in which they both could become involved. She had decided to pull back from some of her activities, when along came Max Manack, a member at the couple’s church, First United Methodist in Statesboro. He requested a lunch meeting with them, and asked them to put together an exploratory committee to see if there was a need for a homeless shelter in Bulloch County.

“I had decided I was going to say no, because my husband had told me I needed to start saying no more often. When (Max) asked us if we would form that committee, I kept my mouth shut. My husband was the one that immediately said, ‘We’ll do it,’” she said.    

What they found was that there are people in Bulloch County who are homeless, and who welcome a hand up, not a hand-out.

Mobley began speaking in churches, asking for support for the project. She sought to help the homeless before plans for the shelter were put on paper.

“It was hard to sell something that you could not see. I would go around to churches, and I quit counting the number of times I would speak and say, ‘This is going to happen, this is what we’re going to do.’ Finally I got someone to draw a rendering of the building that we wanted, and I would take it around and say, ‘This is going to be the mission.’ They could make the connection there,” she said.

“The mission” has become Open Hearts Community Mission, which officially opened its doors last year. Mobley said from that first meeting to the day they opened the doors, it was a long seven years and a lot of hard work. The mission can house and support men, women and children. The building is paid for, and they have never had any grants or loans, and most of the materials and labor to get it built was donated. David Bobo stepped up, Mobley said, and built it free of charge.

Open Hearts is a mission and a ministry, Mobley said.

“We take people in to get them back on their feet. It’s not a revolving door where you can just come and spend a night,” she added.

People who stay at Open Hearts are required to seek employment, and there are rules that residents must adhere to. Though the building can house 30 people, the average number of people housed there is around 18.

“We built this building for growth. We never saw 30 people at one time that were homeless in Bulloch County. We weren’t inundated by homelessness, but the need was there. We wanted to do something about it,” Mobley said.

During the past year, since the mission opened, eight people have successfully moved on to support themselves and live on their own.

“I think that’s a pretty good success rate,” Mobley said.

Mobley is the chairman of the board at the mission, and says her experience there has taught her so much.

“I’ve had to learn to be patient, humble. When we don’t suffer and we have things given to us, we don’t know what it’s like to walk in those shoes. I’ve been in the sheds and I’ve seen where people slept, and I’ve seen the filthy cars that they’ve slept in. It’s made me more appreciative of my hardworking parents and of having a support group. Some people just don’t have anybody,” she said.

Mobley says she has always been a simple person, and has never been a big spender. But her experience with the people who come to the mission has made her think more about how and when she spends her money on things she may or may not need.

“I look at spending money a whole different way,” she said. “When I see a dress that’s maybe $150, I think about how many meals that would fix for somebody, or how many nights that would be in a hotel for somebody. It really made me think about how much less I could live with. I want to live simply so that others can simply live.”

Mobley has come to believe that those who have lived less fortunate lives than most have dreams, too.

“It makes me realize that there are poor people who have dreams just like we do. They need to be given a chance. Where I may not have given them a second look when I was younger, you just don’t think about the things that people go through until you’re actually side by side with them,” she said.

Mobley becomes emotional when she talks about those who have stayed at Open Hearts. She remembers fondly the very first residents — a woman in her 70s and her 30-year-old daughter. The women had been sleeping in their car for three months, and came to the mission for help. They were far from ready to open the doors, but Mobley said they couldn’t turn the women away.

So despite the construction dust and stickers still on all the dishes, they welcomed the women in to stay on July 3, 2017.

The next day, when Mobley and other leaders at the shelter arrived, the women had cleaned the shelter top to bottom and organized the pantry. They had even removed the stickers from the dishes.

 The children impact Mobley as well.

“I always hate to see the children go. It’s so neat to see the little coloring pages on the refrigerator that they bring home from school,” she said.

She also remembers fondly a gentleman who stayed at the mission for quite some time, who had suffered several strokes and was disabled.

“The mission just wasn’t the same when he left. He gave the mission a personality. He was the door greeter, and he looked out for the children here. He was the daddy to everybody here,” she said, smiling. “We’ve had some of the most wonderful people in here that would take up for you in a heartbeat, and would not hurt you. A lot of people, I guess, think homeless people are hardened criminals, and that’s not what we see. Pretty much we’ve seen people who’ve just had a hard life.”

One of the most difficult challenges for the mission is fundraising. The Chocolate Run is held each year, and is a significant fundraiser for Open Hearts, with more than 800 runners participating in the last event. But even so, Mobley says funds are always a big concern.

“We’re always looking for donations, church groups that will put us in their annual missions budget. I know we consider going out of the country a mission, but we have a mission field right here. Any church that wants to become involved, we welcome that,” she said. “We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus for these people. Just loving people and showing them the way is what we do.”

Mobley is convinced that when faced with helping their neighbors, Bulloch County residents step up.

“I know that Bulloch County is a very giving community. If you need money raised, it’s going to get raised. It’s always been that way as long as I can remember. I’ve heard people say, ‘I’m just shocked that there’s so much compassion in this community.’ Well I’m not. I’ve seen it. Our community has a big heart,” she said.

Ask anyone who knows her and they’ll tell you that Mobley’s heart is just as big.

“If you had asked me 15 years ago if I would be involved in this, I would have said we don’t need a homeless shelter,” she said. “I’ve always wanted a testimony, and I didn’t have one. I really prayed that God would send me the right project to work on. It’s been the greatest blessing. I didn’t realize what a ministry it would be to me. In ministering to others, I didn’t realize how it would change my life.”



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