Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mean Streets Nothing New for Pastor

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Mean Streets Nothing New for Pastor

Article excerpt

It seemed like a simple question.

I asked Garland Scott, senior pastor at a ministry that is being renovated near Eighth and Main streets in Historic Springfield, his age.

It took him a few seconds to remember. After all, he had been lying about it for nearly a decade.

"Let's see. I was born in '64, so that makes me, what, 36," Scott said. "I have trouble remembering that sometimes. You get into gangs quicker if you lie about your age . . . if you lie about everything."

The lapse is an aftershock of his former life. When Scott was 12, he joined a gang in New York City after being severely beaten during a riot.

"I swore that I would never get beaten up like that again," Scott said.

He spent the next seven years of his life training other gang members in the ways of mayhem. But when he turned 20, the threats on his life became overwhelming, so he left New York City.

He came south and eventually got a job as a truck driver in Baldwin, then worked for the postal service in Jacksonville. He also got religion and began ministering.

But while Scott might have a bit of trouble remembering his age, he has never forgotten the streets.

In fact, his past is even helping him assist other hard-core street people through City Center, a holistic ministry on Eighth Street between Main and Laura.

"Under the gang principle, we recruited members and made them feel like a family. We took care of their whole family," Scott said. "Here, we don't want to just get you to come to church. We want to help you take care of yourself."

The building used to be known as the Lions Den. It used to call out to drug dealers, prostitutes and any other lost souls in Springfield from a scroll emblazoned with biblical verse.

Now, that's all gone, and through the generosity of one man who eventually donated the building, and a businessman friend of Scott's who is underwriting its restoration, he hopes to turn it into more than just another storefront ministry.

By that, Scott means being open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It means teaching struggling people life skills like how to create household budgets, write checks and how to wash, dress and feed young children. …

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