First Fruit Ministries shares the unconditional love of God through food, shelter, and friendship with those experiencing homelessness and poverty in Southeastern North Carolina. Our local homeless community is familiar with First Fruit Ministries through First Fruit’s continued outreach and service over the last two decades. The trust in these relationships overcomes the fears many homeless people have regarding accessing professional services.
First Fruit focuses on supportive housing for women and families and street outreaches including street feeding programs, food pantry service, outreach to home-bound widows, and a day shelter which provides medical care, emergency services, and housing referrals.
First Fruit Ministries’ current form and mission were developed in 1998 when founder Rick Stoker began bringing food and supplies to homeless, runaway children in downtown Wilmington. This quickly grew to be a street outreach to people living under bridges and in the woods of our community, women and girls caught in the commercial sex industry and human trafficking, and to our local gangs.
Rick and volunteers began having a Thursday night family-style dinner for the homeless community that continues today. Within a year, founder Lee Anna Stoker shaped this heart for the poor and action on the street into a non-profit organization able to grow capacity and continue to meet the needs of the homeless community.
In 2000, First Fruit Ministries opened a transitional housing program in response to women who had been rescued from trafficking and had no place to heal mentally and physically. First Fruit Ministries’ Wilmington Dream Center: Supportive Housing is a safe place for any homeless woman who desires real transformation in her life through therapeutic community living and intensive case management. Unsheltered women encountered through Street Outreach continue to be connected to a loving, safe environment at Wilmington Dream Center.
In 2004/2005 First Fruit purchased and renovated property in the Long Leaf Park area. A ministry campus was developed that features:
- 12 beds of transitional housing for single women
- 2 transitional housing units for families
- 2 permanent supportive housing apartments
- An Outreach & Engagement Center that includes:
- A medical center
- Therapist’s office
- 6 shower rooms
- A recreational space
- A Food Pantry
- A commercial kitchen
- A dining hall
- Community meeting space
- Separate houses for male and female Urban Missionaries who serve throughout the ministry.