MELBOURNE, Fla. – John Farrell is used to challenges. This week's Getting Results Award winner spent 11 years as Director of the Daily Bread soup kitchen in Melbourne.
Farrell oversaw capital improvement projects including a new building, renovated kitchen and expanded services to the homeless and those in need.
As he proudly gave News 6 a tour of the facility’s spacious kitchen, he said it was a struggle, and a lot of work, to get the center to its current state.
“This building was a biker bar and it was all we had,” Farrell said. “My office was a combination storeroom, janitor’s closet and lots of other things,” he laughed.
Farrell’s leadership and perseverance transformed the center from a simple soup kitchen to what is now the largest outreach center for the hungry and homeless in Brevard County.
Current Executive Director Jeffery Njus says Farrell left a great legacy. “Sometimes it wasn’t easy,” Njus said. “They say you can’t fight City Hall but John did. The community came together and they did what they needed to do.”
“It took eight years to get it done,” Farrell remembers. “We had a lot of conversations (with the city).”
Farrell stepped down in 2017 following a cancer diagnosis.
He got good news in August, the cancer is in remission. Shortly thereafter a call came from longtime friend Eddie Struttmann.
Struttmann, Founder and President of Saint Stephen’s Way, was looking for someone to help grow his nonprofit. Saint Stephen’s Way’s mission is to help house homeless families.
“The problem was just real apparent,” Struttmann said. “There is just no housing for men with children.”
Struttmann says as soon as Farrell came on board things began happening fast. “I’d think about it at night like I used to think about Daily Bread,” Farrell said. “I’d be solving problems in the middle of the night and it just kept coming back to me.”
The two happened upon an 8-acre parcel along Melbourne’s Crane Creek. The storied property is said to have been first settled by a former slave, Wright Brothers, during reconstruction after the Civil War. It was then purchased by missionaries, Nellie and Lincoln Holman, upon their return from China in the 1940s. The land has sat, barely developed, because of a clause in the deed drawn up by its former owners.
Dr. Nellie Holman left it to the Tabernacle Church of Melbourne with the caveat that it had to be used to “further the kingdom of God.”
Saint Stephen’s Way hopes to do just that by developing 40 units with the purpose of transitioning homeless families into permanent housing.
“We don’t want to be a place where someone just comes and rents a property,” Struttmann said. “What we want is we have a holistic approach to helping people.”
Struttmann says he hopes to provide individualized services for each family based on their needs.
Struttman nominated Farrell for the News 6 Getting Results Award.
“John is just an incredible man in that he gets things done. When he came on board things just happened.”