Time to Care Winner: Phin Hitchcock

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- This summer you'll find Phin Hitchcock doing what he does best: growing hope.

He's doing that in a most unlikely place. He built an urban greenhouse that looks more like a mirage rising out of the scorching summer asphalt in a remote corner of the Augusta Farmers Market.

"This is asphalt that you're standing on," he said as he strolled down row after row of fresh flowers. "Three months ago this was just like this out here. Just asphalt."

His name is John P. Hitchcock. The "P" stands for Phinizy. So his friends call him Phin.

"The Farmers Market is a beautiful place to do this. It's been kind of neglected over the past years, and we want to help bring it back," he said.

While you have been trying to stay out of the heat this summer, Phin and his Fireside Ministries crew is out working in it.

"A lot of people are fleeing from the downtown," said Hitchcock, wiping the sweat from his brow. "We want them to come join with us hand in hand in the restoration of this wonderful facility."

What they grow and sell here goes right back into helping others.

"Our whole mission is restoration of people and places. And that comes from Isiah 61:1-4. And basically that's to work with people where they are. We all need restoring and in God we can be restored," Hitchcock said.

Hitchcock and his wife, Jan, have made a career out of this. They also founded Heritage Academy, an urban Christian school, in one of the city's neediest neighborhoods.

Back at the greenhouse, Shanda Edwards is spending her summer doing an internship at Fireside Ministries.

"Whenever he's inspired to do something, he just goes and does it," she said.

Edwards knows the story well. Her internship is about much more than getting summer credit. Her T-shirt with the Fireside Ministries logo tells the story, it says, "I've been Restored."

"I met Phin back in '99," Edwards said. "My grandmother was a high school dropout."

She grew up in poverty, raised by her grandmother, who also turned to Fireside for help.

"Ever since then, we've just stayed in touch and they've done everything they can to help me and my sister have the best education possible," Edwards said.

If you're looking for a success story here, you can see it in the plants growing from the asphalt. You can see it in the construction work to expand the operation with two more greenhouses on the way. And you can see it in Edwards, who just happens to be a senior now at Furman University.

She's a young woman who refused to let poverty or position define her.

"Don't let those get you down, because if you strive to do your best, there will be people along the way who will encourage you and see something in you and pick you up and help you get there," she said.

The Fireside Ministries greenhouse is easy to find. It's in the parking lot of the Augusta Farmers Market. From fruits and vegetables to plants, it's all for a good cause. To find their website, click here.

If you'd like to nominate someone for our Time To Care Award, you can find that information here.


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