The programs of the Wear Gloves nonprofit are designed to help people on their journey to wholeness.
When Melissa walked into the Wear Gloves nonprofit’s Dignity Center for a job interview, in the back of her mind was the old familiar dread of being asked questions about her background, including her 15 years of drug addiction. But the premise of Wear Gloves, which also includes Dignity Roasters, Dignity House and Church in the Garden, is not to judge, but to help.
The 501©(3) founded in 2009 by Ken and Wendy Kebrdle has a mission of providing opportunities for those in distress to be able to work for a living and grow in dignity, not dependency. The only requirement for Melissa getting the job with Wear Gloves was that she be willing to work and have a goal.
Melissa now works with the Wear Gloves litter crew and helps clean up city parks in Ocala. During her several months of being involved with Wear Gloves, as shared through her story on the website, she has been able to reinstate her driver’s license, begin restoring her relationship with her children, see her grandchild and buy her own car.
“They saved my life,” she says. “They really did. I wish more people knew this was here.”
The Kebrdle’s founded Wear Gloves based in part on Matthew 9:37, which states, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few …” and with the intent to fulfil the Biblical commandment to love your neighbor.
“We had a big job and big home but felt we could use our skills to do more,” Wendy shares.
The couple quit their jobs in 2009, sold nearly everything and packed their few remaining belongings into a recreational vehicle and set out with their then 12-year-old daughter Madison to learn about the homeless and impoverished around the country. After touring the United States for six years and interacting with a wide variety of people, they returned to Ocala and opened the Dignity Center in September 2015.
Wear Gloves offers work to their clients through different providers, such as the city of Ocala. They contract with the city for litter pickup at city parks, with around 10 clients working the morning shift and eight working the afternoon shift, five days a week, while another crew of clients cleans up storm drains. Some clients work for Trinity Surface, where they primarily make display boards. Wear Gloves clients also assemble parts for ClosetMaid projects, with anywhere from 18 to 30 clients usually working morning shifts. Clients also roast, package and ship Dignity Roasters coffee. Each of the job opportunities is supervised by clients, giving them ownership and leadership skills.
“Wear Gloves does not hire outside help,” Wendy explains. “We raise up clients to take over leadership positions.”
The Wear Gloves team includes Ken and Wendy as full-time staff, along with other staffers, many of whom are clients, and numerous volunteers.
“We provide earning opportunities for folks who are somewhat unemployable due to a living situation, addictions or mental stresses,” Wendy notes. “We found it better to allow folks in need to earn the help they need, not charity. We help folks to move forward in their lives and without dependency, allowing them to have dignity in their growth.”
She says that in addition to the work opportunities, they help clients move forward in life “by providing a job reference, a connection to their dream career and food handling certification.”
“We provide sessions with an addiction counselor, mental health coach and Bible studies,” Wendy continues. “We also provide laundry facilities, along with a general store where we allow clients to buy needs at pennies on the dollar.”
In the past eight years, the organization grew so much it needed more room to accommodate the various programs. The Kebrdles’ hosted a celebration on November 28th to show the community around the campus of their new “downtown ministry” at 98 NE 9th Street. More than 300 community members toured the Dignity Center and Dignity Roasters and were treated to refreshments.
Anyone can visit Dignity Roasters from 7:30am to 11:30am Monday through Friday to enjoy freshly roasted and brewed coffee and supporters can subscribe to receive regular orders.
Wear Gloves receives donations from local businesses, churches and individuals, but no state or federal funds.
“The other income comes from our social enterprise business,” Wendy outlines. “In 2023, 78 percent of every dollar went directly back to clients in need through their payroll.”
This year, the Kebrdles hope to build a wholesale bakery to create even more jobs for Wear Gloves clients.
“We currently have 88 clients on payroll, but have over 60 on a waiting list,” Wendy says. “The bakery will help fill that void.”
In addition to donations, volunteers are always needed to support the various programs, such as Church in the Garden on the last Saturday of each month, which offers an outdoor worship service with food and entertainment. OS
To learn more, go to weargloves.org