Brad Dinkins doesn’t know what it’s like to be homeless. He never had to search through a Dumpster for something to eat; never had to wrap himself in newspapers to get through a cold night.
Born into a well-to-do family that prospered through ownership of 49 convenience stores, Dinkins now works as a real estate developer. Yet, despite his comfortable life, Dinkins has chosen to rub elbows with the hurting, the homeless and the heavy-hearted.
The founder of the Helping Hands Foundation, Dinkins, with the aid of other concerned citizens, has provided housing for 23 people in two houses and a 10-unit furnished apartment building in Ocala.
In addition to helping with medical and dental needs, food, clothing, transportation and Christian counseling, the ministry recently opened a thrift store that provides jobs for the jobless and funding to alleviate overhead expenses at the housing facilities.
Dinkins said he was motivated to help people in desperate situations after a random encounter with a homeless man, for whom he helped find shelter.
“God has put these people on my heart,” said Dinkins. “I’ve got a passion to help them. I met Willie and got him a place to stay, and then all of a sudden the floodgates were opened and I got this passion to help them. I went into the Bible and began to study to see if this was something God wanted me to do, and that that emotion was coming from him and not from me.
“It’s heartwarming to see people that were homeless have a place to stay, but even more important is to see them be able to overcome their problems and grow to becoming a productive and a happy person that can now help other people as well.”
The thrift store not only provides low-cost items for people in need, it has opened job opportunities to many of the folks in the Helping Hands programs.
“That’s what we’re seeing,” said Dinkins. “They’re getting their life together and getting a job.”
A walk through the glass door at the 4,900-square-foot shop in Silver Springs Shores reveals racks of like-new clothing, neatly arranged household items, an assortment of good used furniture and a row of new beds with 15-year manufacturer’s warranties.
The shop has five paid staff workers and several volunteers.