By Jennifer Garofalo
EAST MILLSBORO, Pa. — The Rev. Paula Millsaps said she had dreamed – literally – of finding a place like the former Central Elementary School in East Millsboro.
“When I found the school I cried so hard as I walked through it. It was the place I was dreaming about,” said Millsaps, a Wilmington, N.C., native.
Since she purchased the building in May 2018, Millsaps, through her nonprofit, Joel 2 Missions, has worked to transform the former school into a place to help hurting women and children who are looking for a way out of abusive situations.
“I felt like God guided me here,” said Millsaps, who relocated to the area after speaking at a church in Belle Vernon.
A survivor of abuse two times over, she founded Joel 2 Missions, Inc., which is based locally in Donora, to provide a variety of services to survivors, like mentoring, pastoral counseling, life coaching and prayer ministry. The organization’s name is derived from a Bible verse, Joel 2:24.
“The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.”
The process of bringing the dream to life has been slow and the center cannot fully open until a sprinkler system is installed, Millsaps said.
She’s awaiting blueprints for it, and a general contractor has donated his services for installation, but she needs funds to buy the materials to get that done.
The organization hasn’t applied for grants to support the project, and Millsaps said that’s by design. She has faith the center will be completed through the generosity of community support.
- IF YOU WANT TO HELP: Financial donations can be made to Joel 2 Missions via a link on its Facebook page, through the website or by sending a donation to Joel 2 Missions, P.O. Box 385, Donora, Pa. 15033. Those who have questions or want to donate time can call 910-599-0991 or 724-503-8131.
“We really feel the light of the Lord, that this is supposed to be a community project. It’s really like an embassy of heaven where the churches and the people come together,” Millsaps said.
Over the past two years she said she’s been proven right: one business did roof repairs on the former school at no cost; another donated some of the needed mattresses. Countless donations of clothing and other supplies have also been received, she said.
Fifteen family suites have already been set up in former classrooms, with living room, bedroom and dining areas. Those will be able to house about 80 people, she said.
“That’s 80 lives changed, and not changed for right now, changed for the rest of their lives,” Millsaps said. “And it’s not just changing that one life, it’s changing that life and every life they come into contact with until the end of their days.”
There is yet room, she said, for 15 more suites to house additional families.
But as they continue to get the building ready to accept mothers and children, Millsaps said the Joel 2 Missions team has been providing counseling services to those in need.
She estimated 400 people have received services this year, with appointments booked through February.
And although the center is not fully open, several women have gone through the program, designed to focus on more than just emergency housing. It also encompasses counseling, healing, career development and paying those things forward to others in need.
“It’s really about healing from the inside out – if we can heal the person, that person can have a healing impact on the community. If we can heal the family unit, that family unit can have an impact on the community,” Millsaps said.
Typically, Joel 2 Missions would host fundraisers to help meet financial goals; however, like many other nonprofits, they found themselves unable to do anything in-person this year.
Millsaps also trusts that it will pick up.
“We’re standing in faith and waiting for the Lord to provide. Even though that’s a slower process, it’s been really beautiful to see how it’s worked out.”
Jennifer Garofalo is the managing editor of the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story is being simultaneously published. Readers may email her at [email protected]