By Moriah Ward
The Adventist Center of Influence, an outreach of the Nevada-Utah Conference (NUC), has been serving the Reno/Sparks area for over four years. Like every type of ministry, the Center of Influence is always changing and searching for better ways to reach and serve the community. Delberth Castillo, NUC’s Adventist Community Service director, has been managing the Center since June; in August, Jocelyn Lujan joined the team to assist him.
Castillo has plans for every square inch of the Center’s property. What used to be a patch of dirt and weeds at the back of the property is now a small garden tended by volunteers. This summer the food from the garden has been going to the food pantry at the Center. Next year Castillo hopes to have enough produce to supply a produce stand at one of the many farmers markets in the Reno/Sparks area, thereby not only raising funds for the Center of Influence but also making invaluable contacts in the community.
When asked about the programs in which the Center of Influence is involved, Castillo said, “Wherever there’s a gap [in services being provided] we want to step in and fill that need. We’re not here to be competition with other community service programs. If we think of a program, we’ll reach out to the community to see if it already exists. If it does, we’ll try to help them; if not, we’ll start it.” The Center of Influence is currently hosting a variety of programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous, grief recovery, social awareness training, anxiety and depression recovery, and a thriving thrift store that is open daily.
Due to the increased unemployment rates that have accompanied COVID-19, the food pantry has become very busy. Previously, the food pantry was open once a month, but now, with the increased demand, it is open for two hours a day, four days a week. Currently there is not a food pantry in the area that is open in the evenings, making it difficult for some to take advantage of the service, so Castillo has plans to offer an evening pantry every week.
“Wherever there’s a gap [in services being provided] we want to step in and fill that need.”
The Center of Influence has partnered with the University of Nevada Reno to offer internships for students in their social work program. After college, Catherine de Leon plans to become a counselor, so she feels that helping with the mental health programs offered by the Center is a great fit for her. Another part of the interns’ job is to canvass the neighborhoods around the Center, finding out what needs are present as well as offering information on the programs already available.
Deanna Fuentes was one of the interns from UNR. Although her internship has ended, her passion for the work at the Center of Influence is still going strong. She continues to be a faithful volunteer at least twice a week. “This place has a great vibe!” says Fuentes. “I love coming here and working with Delberth and Jocelyn. Their energy and passion make me want to do more!”
Castillo says that the Center of Influence would not exist without its faithful volunteers—individuals from the Reno/Sparks area churches, as well as community members who see the good being done in their neighborhood. Thank you all for loving your community through your service!