Run builds momentum for homeless-shelter quest

BELLE GLADE — Pastor Eric Payne applied his running shoes to 40 miles of pavement starting at 4 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, on State Road 80, to draw attention to his and his wife’s quest to establish a homeless shelter for the Glades region.

The two established a charity organization called Glades Family Services Inc. in February 2019 to help local people who are without a roof over their head to “navigate” through whatever troubles caused their situations and find ways to a better life. They want to provide a shelter and work toward affordable housing for all in an attempt to address what’s considered a crisis in the Glades.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Theresa Payne
BELLE GLADE — Pastor Payne was already running at first light Saturday, Nov. 30, eyes firmly fixed on the path to his goal.

Pastor Payne, who’s a personal trainer and has been an ordained minister for a decade, pastors the New Zion Assembly – The New Church out of their apartment for now, but his and wife Theresa’s bigger mission is to use their 501(c)(3) organization to create services for homeless individuals where none presently exist.

So Pastor Payne laced up his sneakers before sunrise Saturday and set out near Lakeside Hospital on State Road 80, headed east to the 20-Mile Bend Bridge (21.56 miles; it took them just under six hours).

Then he and Theresa turned around and came back up State Road 80 to nearby the hospital (18.72 miles, five hours, 12 minutes, for a total 40.08 miles). At the end of the day, his exhaustion sent him home, yet all that adrenalin pumping kept him from sleeping. But his eyes, even after the big weekend effort, remain on the path he’s taking.

“We are still keeping the faith,” he said Monday morning, “but we’ve actually gotten, I think, just a few hundred dollars. As a man of God, man of the cloth or clergy, whatever you want to call it, you see things as they really are. And if you are truly called, which we believe we are, then you see things and you still pursue your calling.”

The Rev. Payne said they already have found much encouragement through his congregation; brothers, sisters and friends from other churches; on Facebook and their website; on the GoFundMe page they established; and made allies in person. And they are determined to achieve their goal.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Theresa Payne
About six hours after starting, he turned around and ran back to Belle Glade, shown here at the SR 80/SR 715 intersection.

One young friend of the pastor’s, Kevin Brown, and a helper of his came along to take video of his run, with the intent of producing a documentary about his quest. They posted clips of the video on their social media outreach platforms, with some followers tagging well-known philanthropic talk-show hosts Steve Harvey and Ellen DeGeneres.

Several other people drove out to give him a prayer boost and some encouragement Saturday morning. Tammy Jackson-Moore of Guardians for the Glades and Jess Garcia Velasquez came out to cheer him on. Frederick Owe Barthell Jr. posted an interview on Facebook and lauded his crusade.

“Tammy Moore stopped by. She pulled over in the median and started beeping her horn and cheering me on. And that was awesome. And the other lady, from Christ Fellowship, drove out there and was waving, honking her horn and she got out and was passing me water and encouraging me and praying. So I’m grateful for that,” he said.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Kevin Brown
An aerial view of Rev. Payne running on SR 80, with wife Theresa following closely behind.

A reporter and camera crew from WPTV-Channel 5 in West Palm Beach showed up, too, at one point. Anchor Tania Rogers gave his cause 90 seconds of prime-time publicity on the evening news.

A supporter, Tammy Lynn, later posted on Facebook a description of one clip of Mr. Brown’s video: “Raising awareness of the homeless situation while also trying to raise funds for a homeless shelter in Belle Glade. There is a definite need if you know anyone in the position to be able to help. Contact Eric Payne. He has a location, he has a plan, he has a deadline. He needs help to make it happen.”

The Rev. and Mrs. Payne have a signed commitment from the owner of a two-story building at 572 S.W. Second St. in Belle Glade to sell Glades Family Services the property for some $206,000 if they can raise it by Jan. 1, 2020. The couple since have raised their fundraising goal to $250,000 and have an army of followers and believers in their cause trying to help in any way.

“We’re believing that through spreading the word, through faith, we will raise the money,” said the Rev. Payne.

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