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PNP: Sharing Dignity, Hope And God’s Love

Back-to-School Backpack Event. Jane Shutt (far right) at a Back-to-School Backpack Event in 2022. Pineville Neighbors Place: Sharing Dignity, Hope And God’s Love.
Back-to-School Backpack Event. Jane Shutt (far right) at a Back-to-School Backpack Event in 2022. Pineville Neighbors Place: Sharing Dignity, Hope And God’s Love.

March 4, 2016 was a day that changed Jane Shutt’s life. She was at her desk at Pineville United Methodist Church where she worked as administrative assistant. The office was closed and she taking advantage of the quiet to catch up on some work, when the doorbell rang. It was a homeless gentleman named Thomas,* a familiar face, someone she’d known for about a year. He was living out of a storage unit at the time and Jane hadn’t seen him in several months.

Pineville United Methodist Church is a part of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference.

“He said, ‘Mama Jane, it’s my birthday and you’re my family. I don’t have anyone else to spend my birthday with.’”

So Jane and her husband Mark celebrated Thomas’s birthday at the church, with lunch, a cupcake and the company of found family. When we think of Holy Communion, we often think of Hawaiian bread or wafers with grape juice but maybe sometimes it looks like a birthday cupcake.

PNP CoFounders Mary Jo, Kathryn and Jane. 
PNP CoFounders Mary Jo, Kathryn and Jane.

“I’ve told this story a hundred times and I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it. Afterwards, I texted my best friends [and Pineville Neighbors Place cofounders] Kathryn and Mary Jo. I really felt God move in my soul that we needed to do something and now.”

In August 2016, Pineville Neighbors Place was born. By 2018, Pineville Neighbors Place provided $33,000 of financial assistance for rent and utilities that year, by connecting Pineville neighbors to resources through partner agency Crisis Assistance Ministry near Uptown.

Flash forward to the present and that number has grown exponentially to almost $550,000 in 2022. To manage the volume of need in our community, Pineville Neighbors Place has grown to four staff members, including a bilingual administrative assistant, a social worker and church member Susan Rose in IT.

“Pineville Neighbors Place is one of the best examples of God’s incarnate ministry in the world,” says Rev. Dr. Mark Curtis, senior pastor of Pineville United Methodist Church. “As a result of the relationship between Thomas, Jane, and God, a seed was planted. That mustard seed, nurtured in prayer, giant leaps of faith, thousands of volunteer hours, has become a source of hope to thousands more men, women and children, a witness to the power of faith in Jesus, and an ongoing fulfillment on the prayer, ‘on Earth, as it is in heaven.’”

Shop With A Cop at PNP event. 
Shop with a Cop at PNP event.

Pineville Neighbors Place focuses on preventing homelessness in zip code 28134 (which encompasses the town of Pineville) and the families of Pineville and Sterling Elementary Schools. Their priority is helping those who are just one flat tire or one missed paycheck away from homelessness to stay in their homes, through financial assistance, food pantries, budgeting classes, community advocacy, crisis response and more.

The community response has been overwhelming for Jane. “To see the way this community comes together in supporting ALL of our neighbors is just the best. People really care and they want to do it right here in their own community.”

With so many accomplishments to her credit, what matters most to Jane is the love that Pineville Neighbors Place shares.

“People feel the love, they feel like somebody cares. They can call us in the worst of times and feel like someone hears them and sees them and wants to do something to help them. We have given people respect, dignity, hope and love.”

Jane’s next adventure will be retirement and moving to Charlottesville, Virginia with her husband Mark to be closer to their children. At the end of April, Jane will pass the reins of Pineville Neighbors Place to Staci McBride, the new executive director. The work that God began in and through Jane continues. Pineville Neighbors Place will be in great hands.

“These are my people and I know that Staci will love them, too. We’re really excited about what this new chapter will hold.”

excerpt from a story by Melissa McGill, Director of Communications, Western North Carolina Annual Conference

*names have been changed for privacy.

This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.

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