By mere happenstance, Ken Flower stumbled across the Stowe Mission on Parsons Avenue.
He passed the Christ-centered urban ministry in the German Village area several times on his way to the freeway. As a co-pastor of Cross City Church, which he founded with his friend, Scott Burns, Flower also has a personal and sacred objective to ease poverty and help the unfortunate.
Impressed by what he found at Stowe, Flower decided to help. He has initiated a project called "Go for Stowe," an effort in which he will try to raise money for the center in concert with his run in the Nationwide Insurance Columbus Marathon this fall. Flower is looking for sponsors - 26 individuals or businesses - to give $26 per mile, or $676 total, which would raise $17,576.
"That was just a way of saying, 'Let's dream big,'" he said.
Contributions can be made at goforstowe.com.
Stowe, founded in 1981, provides a variety of services for the needy, including a soup kitchen, food pantry, children's recreation program, vision and dental clinics and job-training programs.
"As I got to know what they were doing, (I knew) they were going to play a key role in sustainability" for the neighborhood, he said.
When Flower moved to German Village, he said he noticed a lot of complaints about crime. He tied some of the behavior to poverty.
Michael Brooks, president and CEO of the mission, said the recession has caused more and more people to seek help through the Stowe Mission, 888 Parsons Ave.
"We've seen the numbers continually climb," he said.
The Stowe facility, formerly known as the Stowe Center, doubled in size to 16,000 square feet when the organization moved from a building right across the street.
"We give away millions of dollars of services on a budget that's less than $50,000," Brooks said.
Flower moved to German Village from southern California in December with his family and Burns. He and Burns relocated to Columbus to establish Cross City, a nondenominational church that now meets at the Schiller Recreation Center.
Flower will be running the race, his first marathon, with friend Jeff Eldersveld. Flower said he trains four days a week, logging about 28 miles per week.
The meeting with Flower was fortuitous in many ways, Brooks said.
"They want to impact the community and make change happen," he said. "That's what we want to see. God has just networked us together. I think change happens when you get different groups and agencies working together instead of all of us working on our own."