Former star quarterback comes home to serve those in need
Mention the name Frank Sullivan in Lewisburg and many will smile and say “Ah, the quarterback.”
Sullivan would like to add a different association for people in Lewisburg. “Ah, Hopetown.”
That’s what he hopes the old Connelly School building come to symbolize for those in Lewisburg who are most in need of hope.
“That’s what I want Lewisburg to be... Hopetown,” he said.
Sullivan is stepping in at Connelly as the first full-time person serving the community there through ministry.
Since it closed 20 years ago, the old school building has been home to the Salvation Army and has undergone various starts and stops as a ministry and outreach center for those in Lewisburg who need support.
Most recently, First Assembly of God has been using the building to offer support for those in need in the community.
People using their extra time has made a difference, Sullivan said, but he hopes having a full-time person, a face for Connelly, can do even more.
He has assumed the presidency of the local Salvation Army at Connelly and has rechristened the ministry as Hopetown.
“There are a thousand great things happening here (with churches in Lewisburg),” Sullivan said. “We just want to be a ministry meeting the unmet needs of the people in the most challenging and difficult situations.”
Sullivan has recently moved back to Lewisburg after 25 years spent all over the country, ministering to those in need.
He heard the call, felt the pull, while he was still in college.
He wasn’t planning on ministry as a career, wasn’t studying for it, but had an offer he felt he couldn’t pass up. Graduate and move to inner-city Detroit. Help people there.
He wasn’t sure what to expect. They only asked him only to commit to stay for a year. He stayed for 13 years.
He spent time as a missionary in the Far East and several years ministering in Montana and in Appalachian Virginia, reaching out, like he hopes to do here, to those most in need.
Sullivan felt a pull bringing him back home as well.
He had just moved to Baltimore, when he returned to Lewisburg to visit for a 30th school reunion.
They toured Connelly, where Sullivan had gone to school himself, as part of the weekend.
“God began forming something in me,” he said.
That something brought him back home, standing in his old school, trying to see what needs to be done and how to get it done.
“It always starts like this,” he said. “You just have to keep trudging.”
Sullivan has gone door to door in the neighborhood around the school, talking to his neighbors and listening to their stories.
After his years in Detroit, there wasn’t anything in Lewisburg that would shock him, but even he admits he was surprised by the stories he heard and the depth of some of the need.
The current programs at Connelly will continue.
The Saturday evening service and meal, called Church on the Street, attracts as many as 100 people every week and Sullivan would like to expand the existing food pantry.
Two recovery meetings are hosted every Sunday as well.
Sullivan would like to expand what Hopetown offers to meet more of the needs in the community.
Lots of children attend the Saturday service and Sullivan knows that they need activities in the summer and after school.
He’d like to build on the relationship the center has with New Beginnings domestic violence shelter as well.
The fifth day of every month will be for distribution of, or the “blessing of” as he puts it, staple goods for those who need them.
Hopetown offered clothes in March, and toys in April, and plan for other opportunities like food or personal care items in the future.
Sullivan has found support in town already for the idea of Hopetown.
Talos Engineered Products in Lewisburg has chosen Hopetown to be their primary volunteer focus in the community.
Sullivan knew that the community would step up from his own time here.
“This town has been good to me,” he said. “I had to have lots of people fill in spots in my life growing up.”
Sullivan is fine with being remembered as a high school athlete. Now he wants to be known for filling those gaps for others as well.