HOPE CHARITABLE SERVICES began in 1992 as Frank and Wendy Allen along with their two-year-old son Ashton were appointed by their denomination (Church of God) as urban missionaries to work with the poor in Norfolk’s inner city. Their ministry began as a work of faith, without a building or a team. Frank organized meals and simple supplies to distribute to the poor and preached from a milk crate in alleys and vacant lots. While he was preaching, Wendy and volunteers would prepare meals and set up for distribution of relief supplies for the homeless and poor. From these humble beginnings the Allen's founded the URBAN OUTREACH CENTER that has grown into today’s international HOPE CHARITABLE SERVICES. Each month serving more than 9,000 individuals in over 3,200 homes in the region and shipping millions of dollars worth of relief supplies and coordinating services to partners ministering in inner cities, rural poverty pockets, migrant camps and Native American Reservations across the Commonwealth of Virginia, throughout the United States and into 26 of the poorest countries of our world.
In 1993 the ministry outgrew its first mission facility in Ballentine Place, Norfolk and moved to the East Ocean View area. Late In 1994 “redevelopment” claimed the low-income community where the ministry was located in and the poor migrated to other areas. At which time the Church of God had a Church in the inner city of Portsmouth that had suffered from the ravages of suburbanization and was slated for closure and sale. The Administrative Bishop cancelled the sale and gave Frank and Wendy the facility to continue their work among the poor.
The Allen’s felt that Portsmouth was the ideal location for their ministry. Being a landlocked inner city community within Greater Hampton Roads it had some of the nation’s highest crime, poverty and unemployment statistics. Its schools ranks among the most challenged in the country with the lowest high school graduation rates in all of Virginia. Additionally, the vast majority of Portsmouth’s schools are reported as Title One Schools (serving an impoverished community) and failing to meet the required standards. Portsmouth’s children living in poverty is nearly double that of statewide statistics; and overall, the Portsmouth crime index is 115% greater than the Virginia average and 91% greater than the national average.
The disparity in these statistics are not an indictment against the school system, police department or any government entity; but rather reflects a breakdown in families and a decay in community. Frank and Wendy saw this community as fertile ground to fulfill their call to serve the poor. It is from this inner city environment that the URBAN OUTREACH CENTER developed into the unique rescue mission that serves as an international leader in Christian social work and humanitarian relief.
Early on, grocery stores gave boxes of food, department stores, specialty stores, drug stores and other businesses gave their reclaimed goods as the ministry grew; they told their regional managers; in-turn they told their distribution centers and corporate headquarters. Donations went from boxes, to pallets to truckloads. Major humanitarian organizations began to partner and increased their partnership levels. Today, HOPE CHARITABLE SERVICES continues their direct service programs in their inner city community and share resources with partners in their region, across the United States and into 26 of the poorest countries around the world, with a concentrated and ongoing missions commitment in Jamaica and The Holy Land.
Twenty-two years later Frank and Wendy have expanded their missionary family to include a gracious team of staff and volunteers working tirelessly to serve those affected by poverty and disaster. This missionary team has grown and followed the path of grace and continues to live in community with those that they are called to serve.