Located in rural Citrus County, Florida, (approximately 90 mi. north of Tampa), The Path has been in operation since 2001 and sheltered over 1,000 homeless or displaced men, women and children. Most were from Citrus County.
Through the joint efforts of community churches, scores of volunteers, private donors, donations and local grants, The Path of Citrus County initially provided one house dedicated to the needs of homeless men, one house dedicated to the needs of homeless women and their children, an administrative office, a play area and sanctuary garden. A second (adjacent) shelter house for men was acquired in August 2008. In 2010, a fourth adjacent house was added. The Path added this house to shelter families or single parents with several children and high-school age children.
In 2012, a fifth house was acquired for expanded administration. This facility will be utilized for Client Services, general meetings, volunteer orientation, case management and other operations functions.
Clients are sheltered in four adjacent houses in Beverly Hills, Florida. Each has capacity for 6 beds (two houses for six men each, one house for six women, one house for emergency sheltering for individuals and families with several children, bed capacity of 6)). Each house includes personal space, laundry, kitchen/dining area, bathrooms, and common area. The Path can accommodate single parents (male or female parent) and their children. Other facilities include storage, wood shop, and a multi-purpose building for onsite programs.
A leased property in the Inverness area (Citrus County) includes a house that can accommodate Path shelter graduates or interns and a Resident Advisor. This property also includes a green house, wood shop and other buildings for growing fish, refrigerated storage, and other environmentally-friendly farming activities. The facility is ideally suited and equipped to teach trades in woodwork or agriculturally-related skills.
The Path also operates two bargain stores for added sustainability, supervised work for clients, fulfillment of court-ordered community service hours, employment or job-retraining, and to provide benefits to our community. The original bargain store, now located in Lecanto, Florida, has been in operation for more than 10 years and sells new or gently used-furniture, appliances, household furnishings and other items.
Introducing The Path of Marion County
A hot meal is often the first step to hope and a new life. In October, 2010 The Path of Marion County was launched, under the 501-c-3 umbrella of the Citrus County rescue mission, initially to partner with local organizations to feed the hungry. We need your help to partner with local churches or feeding programs to provide the dining halls so that we can all help our hungry neighbors by serving a hot meal, not only during the holidays but throughout the year. A warm, nutritious meal is often the first step toward a new life.
In December, 2010 a second bargain store-Path Bargains-was opened in Dunnellon. This store began as a clothing thrift store, and expanded to sell gently used antique furniture, refinished wood furniture and hand-crafted solid wood furniture made by Path clients at The Path's Wood Shop.
During the fall of 2011, The Path and Brother's Keeper Soup Kitchen in Ocala worked together to serve Thanksgiving meals.
The long-term goal is to establish a rescue mission and similar programs in the Ocala area.
The Path's Farm Project
The Path's Farm Project grows seasonal, vegetables using natural, environment-friendly methods and no pesticides. With the original goal of supplementing the shelter food supply with fresh vegetables to address malnutrition often found among the homeless and people in recovery, the farm has expanded from backyard garden in 2002 to a 15-acre farm on loaned land presently. This farm provides a supervised work program for our rescue mission and community benefits through our Farm Co-op. Yields are estimated at over 20,000 lb of produce.
This 15- acre farm serves as a supervised work program for the homeless or displaced clients at The Path to grow the food. We expanded on this foundation to build strategic networks and community interest. Originally we intended to share our natural farming methods as a more long-term community solution to the ongoing food relief for working poor families, disabled, unemployed and the elderly. Soon, the individuals and groups involved in these efforts also began to express interest in learning to grow vegetables naturally as a way to pursue healthier lifestyles and supplement household food budgets.
In addition to supplying fresh healthy food and a work program for Path shelter clients, surplus has been available consistently enough to distribute to staff members for supplementing household food budgets, and community feeding programs to provide food relief. The abundance has also earned some revenue with sales to a few small businesses.
Crop yields improved significantly with the addition to staff of a full-time farmer, better equipment and improved farming methods, such as starting seedlings in trays and using worm castings, "river muck" and other readily-available natural resources to enrich the soil. For added sustainability, a Farm Co-op was launched in the fall of 2010 as a further health bonus to the community.
Farm operations have improved to the extent that Executive Director DuWayne Sipper can teach others how to grow food suitable to our climate and seasons using available, cost-effective natural resources. Our farm continues to provide seasonal varieties of healthy fruits and vegetables to The Path shelter, food distribution groups and small businesses. Path clients and volunteers contribute ideas and participate in most farming activities: tilling, planting and transplanting seedlings, harvesting, operating or repairing farm equipment, rigging irrigation, team leadership, and most distribution activities, including weekly preparation of food baskets for co-op members.
But The Path wanted to do more: Why not get more local food out to the rest of the county, create jobs for people who are homeless or unemployed, and teach people simple ways to grow their own food to encourage community self-reliance?
Recognizing a growing concern around better health, nutrition and rising demand for locally-grown food, The Path introduced a farm co-op program in the fall of 2010. The purpose was to extend the benefits of healthy food to our community, plus generate revenue for this project's long-term sustainability. The co-op is an extension of The Path's work program, and utilizes input and team leadership from Path clients who not only work the farm, but organize harvest and delivery of the co-op member baskets to a local produce stand serving as the pick-up location. This small business partners with The Path to help sell our vegetables. Presently, there are two six-month membership periods per year-fall/winter and spring/summer. Each period supports 60-70 memberships.
For more information about The Path's Farm project, visit www.thepathcommunity.org. Sign up for free membership to learn more about our naturally-grown vegetables, farming methods, farm co-op program, and more!