Merlene Davis: Lighthouse Ministries continues founder's vision after 10 years

Herald-Leader columnistMay 5, 2014 


    What: Lighthouse Ministries' 10th Anniversary celebration featuring guest speakers Congressman Andy Barr and Mayor Jim Gray, with free food and tours of the nearly-restored new addition.

    When: 6-8 pm, May 15.

    Where: 185 Elm Tree Lane.

    Information: Call (859) 259-3434.

The late Dan Henderson credited two elderly Christian women for opening the spiritual door that led him from drugs, crime and imprisonment, to becoming a minister and the executive director of Lighthouse Ministries.

Those women approached Henderson while he was jailed in Detroit, awaiting trial for armed robbery and escape. They talked to him about becoming a new creation in Christ.

That was in 1975. From then on, Henderson became a new creation in Christ, and he tried to lead as many people as he could down that same path.

Henderson died in January, 2004, just as his ministry was restoring a building at 185 Elm Tree Lane so that more homeless people, more substance abusers and criminals could be fed, physically and spiritually.

Since his death, his widow, Valerie "Tay" Henderson, has continued that ministry which also offers Nehemiah House, a 12-month residential program for men who are transitioning from jail, prison or substance abuse.

Lighthouse Ministries opened on May 15, 2004 and it will celebrate a decade of serving men, women and children in this community by hosting a dinner featuring guest speakers Congressman Andy Barr, R-Lexington, and Mayor Jim Gray.

Kristen Oberholtzer, marketing director and event coordinator for Lighthouse Ministries, said everyone, including dignitaries and the people the ministry serves, will gather on May 15, from 6-8 p.m. and acknowledge the strength of Henderson's vision.

Through that vision, Oberholtzer said, more than 330,000 meals have been served, growing from an average of 19,650 annually, to more than 40,000 now.

Hot lunches are served Monday-Saturday at noon and at 1 p.m., and dinner is served on the last Sunday evening of the month. Along with the food, the guests receive a Bible message, individual prayer if requested, and clothing and toiletries if needed.

"They come in and eat restaurant-style," Oberholtzer said. "They come in, get a cup of coffee and a snack and have a service.

"Then the men in the recovery program and any volunteers serve them a hot meal and dessert," she said. "We also counsel and pray with them and see if we can help them with other things."

If more is needed, the staff connects the guests with resources that are available.

"A lot of them don't even have identification," she said. "That is a hurdle and barrier. Getting the ID card is the first step to getting housing."

The Nehemiah House is the temporary home of nine men, with a capacity for 12. Four of those men will graduate in June, making room for more men to find that new creation just as Henderson did. They will not only attend classes, but also help prepare food for the daily meals and serve them.

The ministry is hoping to raise another $50,000 to complete the renovation of a 12,000 square foot building behind its current location. When completed, it will seat nearly 200 people and provide space for classrooms, offices, and a larger kitchen that would allow breakfast services as well.

Other programs planned with the new building are a nurse's station, hygiene assistance and hair care services.

Donations to complete renovations will be accepted at the celebration, or you can mail them to Lighthouse Ministries, P.O. Box 54494, Lexington, KY, 40555.

Henderson's desire to help others turn life around is still working and growing bigger.

All it took was someone believing in him, even when he wasn't believing in himself.

"That is usually what it takes," Oberholtzer said. "He said you need to find one person who will give you a chance and then work your butt off."

The ministry has stories of several people who have done just that. You probably will meet some of them at the anniversary celebration.

Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog:

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