Minister: No half-way house planned for church property in Alcorn County

By Hank Wiesner/Southern Sentinel

RIPLEY – A Ripley minister interested in buying 18 acres of property owned by Jesus Name Community Church in the northwestern corner of Alcorn County denied late last week that he plans to put a half-way house on the property.

Billy Echols, who is Associate Minister at Christ Victory Missionary Baptist Church in Ripley, said Friday he’s seeking funding to put a facility on Alcorn County Road 772 that would help those in need in many important ways.

He re-iterated that the organization would not be a half-way house.

The organization, which would be called Crossroads Outreach, Inc., would serve battered women and abused children, along with others who are in the process of getting back on their feet.

Working with the Red Cross, the facility would be a temporary shelter for those who have been burned out of their homes. It would also serve as a temporary residence for those who have lost their jobs and are facing homelessness.

Echols said he hopes to be able to offer educational benefits at the facility as well, including GED classes. He also hopes to be able to offer drug and alcohol awareness education classes.

The facility would be affiliated with Christ Victory Missionary Baptist Church; “that will be our mother church,” he said. He would be Crossroads Outreach founder and CEO.

Jesus Name has several facilities on two pieces of property on C.R. 772, including a sanctuary building, dorms, a gym and an arena. Those facilities are used for church activities and for a summer camp. It is also as a state-approved emergency shelter in the event of disasters like the May 2010 tornadoes and flooding.

Echols said the facility would not be set up for long-term residency. Those needing it could stay “perhaps a month or two,” he said.

“We are all God’s children, and I want to help people in the community by outreach any way I can,” according to Echols, who used to work in a homeless shelter in Memphis. He also ministers to Tippah County Jail inmates.

He said he is seeking grants and donations to buy the land and develop the facility, and said donations would be tax deductable. He said he’s in the process of putting together a board of directors for the facility, but nothing’s been finalized.

Echols said he contacted Jesus Name Community Church Associate Pastor Cory Porterfield and asked to look at the property and purchase it if possible. Echols has only made one visit.

The possibility that a halfway house could locate in the northwestern corner of Alcorn County has raised concerns among property owners in the community off County Road 772.

Porterfield said last month the church would not want to do anything to hurt the welfare of the community.

“We love our community,” Porterfield said on Wednesday, April 4. “I’ve never lived anywhere else. Our church is on a mission to help every soul we can. We’ve been blessed because we went after the people no one wanted who are now contributing to the community.”

Like his own father, Pastor Gary Porterfield, Cory Porterfield said many of the church’s members have been down and outside society, people that no one wanted to associate with. Their desire is to give others like them – people who have gone through addiction and other difficulties – a chance.

Cory Porterfield said the church has grown over 24 years from its founding nine members – which included his family – to more than a hundred. Their continued growth prompted them to purchase additional property near U.S. Highway 72 and build a new sanctuary, which they have occupied about six months.

“We took the old property and put it in real estate, though we still use it several times a week,” he said. “We really weren’t expecting a lot, but it didn’t make sense to keep both properties.”

There was no intent to create an uproar in the community, he said.

“We don’t want to hurt anybody but want to help everybody and fulfill the work of God,” Cory Porterfield said.

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