Ashley believes we have all been given a measure of talent and we have to be accountable, good stewards of those talents and put them to good use.
“I get involved because I want to give a good account of the talents that have been given to me,” he said, “So that I can say ‘here is what I have done as a good and faithful servant.’”
Giving Hope That Changes Lives
Although Ashley is involved in several organizations in the community, the most notable is his dedication to Lighthouse Ministries. Steve Turbeville, President & CEO of Lighthouse Ministries and a fellow member of Leadership Lakeland Class 27, was the reason Ashley got involved with Lighthouse originally, but after fully realizing the organization’s mission and vision, Lighthouse has become an integral part of Ashley’s life.
“What keeps me involved at Lighthouse Ministries is their mission to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor and at-risk population among us and to meet their physical, emotional, and other needs,” he said. Lighthouse Ministries was founded in the mid 1970s and their vision as an organization is to help individuals achieve an overall outcome of God’s peace, life purpose, and fulfillment of potential.
Ashley explains that Lighthouse Ministries helps a population he says can be easily forgotten about. He adds that Lighthouse Ministries is not just a soup kitchen, they are a life-learning campus where they give people a second opportunity at many things in life.
“Some people go in without a high school education, and they come out with their GED. Some go in to refresh their educational skills to propel on and become college graduates or their job skills. They are being taught how to make financial decisions, helping them save money so when they leave Lighthouse they go on and become a contributing citizen to the Lakeland community,” he explained. Lighthouse Ministries also provides mental illness assistance for those struggling as well as a women and children shelter for those who have been displaced.
Ashley says that Lighthouse Ministries didn’t become the organization that it is now overnight. It took time, the investment of public funds, and the community rallying behind their mission. “I think the public dollars often follow the interest that people took in the area,” he said.
Not only did the community help Lighthouse, but Lighthouse helped the community–the Downtown area in particular. “The Downtown you see now is not how it was 40 years ago. Lighthouse Ministries was integral in being one of the initial organizations that committed itself to Downtown and it has not lost its presence,” he believes. “Lighthouse Ministries is a great model of how a homeless ministry can be a good neighbor to Downtown partners and merchants.”
A Listening Ear
There are so many wonderful organizations and causes in our city that need those who are seeking to make meaningful contributions. For some, especially those who are younger, knowing where or how to get started can feel overwhelming. Remembering those who have helped him along his path, Ashley recommends finding those currently involved to help guide you. “Seek out the ear of those presently involved because they can give you tremendous insight on how to move forward with an idea and with your enthusiasm,” he said. Ashley says that he thinks his care for the community has encouraged others to do the same.
His advice? “Be present. Be present, available, and willing.”
When Ashley looks back on his life, he recognizes how easily he could’ve become a statistic. He was raised in a single income household with a young mother, his elementary school would’ve been an “F” school by today’s standards, and he grew up in a neighborhood filled with drug dealers. However, he decided early on that his passion lies in giving back to his community and helping others who may have the odds stacked against them.
His path wasn’t straight, nor was it without obstacles, but Ashley has found the best ways to utilize his talents in order to make his community better. Our December CityMaker is humble in his success and in the ways he gives to others, and he says he wouldn’t be where he is today without these three things:
Grace, a loving family, and a caring community.