Every morning she looks out her window at the spot where a tree used to stand. The tree fell one stormy night, but its roots still serve as a foundation to serve others.
It’s the beginning of just another workday for Executive Director Joyce Ervin.
Next to her home, the Open Heart’s Center sits, providing a building filled with comfort, love, and support from Ervin and her sponsors.
“I always wanted to be my own boss and I knew I wanted to help people in the community. I prayed about it and it wasn’t an overnight process, “ Ervin said. “Everything surrounding me in this building has been given to me. I’m so blessed.”
As exciting as it is to help others, it can be overwhelming.
“After my son passed away, I still didn’t understand everything about God’s plan, but I know God provides,” she said.
It has been a rough journey, but the journey still goes on.
It began when Ervin knew exactly where she wanted to build the open-heart center. There was only one big problem. There was an enormous oak tree sitting right in the middle of the spot she wanted to build on.
“I knew I wanted to build the center where that oak tree was sitting but I also knew it would cost a fortune to move it. A couple weeks passed and a huge storm came blowing through Athens,” she said. “I woke up the next morning and that tree had collapsed and not damaged any of the surrounding buildings, including my house, and I knew God was providing for me.”
She knew this was a start to her never-ending journey of sacrifice and serving.
“When I started this organization in 1999, I had nothing but this building said Ervin. “All of a sudden over the course of time, I received donations from people all over who I didn’t even know. People came and gave me a printer, a work chair, a computer, and couches. It was truly unbelievable.”
Joyce Ervin’s Open Hearts Center is a place where people can come and be provided with the basic necessities. The Center provides food, clothes, furniture and household goods.
“One of my favorite parts about Open Hearts Center is that it is a neighborhood organization where people should feel free to walk in and receive the basic needs, “said Edith Frasier, a neighborhood friend and Sponsor of the organization. “To Joyce this is a ministry more than a job to her.”
Days pass and Ervin is always looking for new opportunities to help others and reach out to others in need.
“I was sitting in the stands of a middle school gym watching my daughter play basketball”, Ervin said. “While talking to some of the other mothers, I learned about one of the girls on the team and how she had moved in with her father because she had been sexually abused while in the care of her mother. I wondered who would teach her about hygiene, teach her about safe sex, show her how to cook and clean?” Then I thought about a way to help.”
Sister of Colors is part of Ervin’s organization and is a workshop offered through the Center for girls of all races between the ages of 6 and 17. There are classes taught to provide girls with love and guidance for those growing up without a mother or father figure in their lives.
Providing for others has been successful, but not without sacrifice.
“I make sacrifices, but its fine because it’s not a job, it’s a service under God and we as a family find time to worship together after church,” she said.
Ervin isn’t the only one spending her time helping others in need. Ervin has sponsors and board members who love to help and serve as well.
“Open Hearts is a great organization where Joyce and her husband are giving to people and I think it’s a gift to be able to help all of these people who are in need, “said Regina Walker, a board member at Open Hearts Center.
Serving others is a continuous and growing process that Ervin and her friends hope to continue doing.
Ervin also runs a summer camp in which children and families get involved with helping serve in their communities by feeding the homeless and volunteering at several community events. As a reward they get a trip to Disney World as the summer comes to an end.
“I love helping others and watching children’s faces light up in happiness when we take them to Disney World”, said Ervin.” There’s been times we have had over 50 kids come to Disney, buses and buses full.”
Although Ervin has sacrificed a lot of her time to serve she continues to serve and help others because it makes her heart happy. She believes it’s what God called her to do.
“Everyone has a purpose and a calling. This was mine,” said Ervin.