First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church property at Central and Broadway, NE.

Sonny Hodge is a sentry of sorts. The volunteer security guard for Noon Day Ministries spent the past two years keeping an eye out on the First Baptist Church property located at Central and Broadway. It will be the future home of UNM’s community initiative called Innovate ABQ, a project designed to revitalize downtown Albuquerque and spur economic growth in the city and state.

The church and its affiliated day program, Noon Day Ministry, which feeds homeless folk in the area, relocated to new facilities. During the process, an unusual situation developed as a result of the purchase of the property. UNM recently discovered that Hodge, who lived at the property to keep an eye on the church and to prevent vandalism, would also be in need of a new home.

Noon Day Ministry, a nonprofit community program established in 1982 to meet the needs of homeless individuals and families through its feeding program, the largest such program in New Mexico, occupies Noon Day Center, which is part of the First Baptist Church property recently purchased by STC and located just west of the church building. Noon Day also provides many other service programs for the homeless and relies solely on contributions from the public, businesses, and churches (including First Baptist), and other organizations to fund its operations and programs. 

Noon Day also relies on volunteers to staff its many activities and services. Some of the volunteers are also homeless. For approximately two years, Noon Day relied on Hodge, a very loyal, disabled homeless client who serves as their security person for the buildings on the property. Danny Whatley, director of Noon Day Ministries, said Hodge has been adept at patrolling the buildings at night, driving off would be vandals, burglars and squatters. 

“I’ve instructed him to call me or the police if there’s trouble,” Whatley said. “A few years ago the church had a major break-in and also a fire that did some damage to the building so having Sonny on site at night has really helped us.”  The church allowed Hodge to live in a room at the church so that he can make his rounds periodically at night.  

Of course, now that ownership of the church has changed hands, Hodge, who has been living with Whatley and his family, can no longer live at the church. Considering his disability from a brain injury that has limited his ability to work, Hodge would probably not do well living on his own.

“Sonny suffered a brain injury several years ago, is disabled and not had regular employment for many years,” Whatley explained. “He has a sister in Alabama, but no family here. Sonny and his siblings were adopted out as kids. We’d like for him, and Sonny wants to continue, to be our security person at our new facility. Since we’re a day program providing meals and service,s but not beds for the local homeless population, we need to find accommodations for Sonny.” 

To help Hodge continue his duties at their new facility, a crowdfunding project,The Sonny Project, has been created to help raise money so Noon Day can buy a used trailer for Hodge. Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. Noon Day’s goal is to purchase a used camper for Hodge to live in at their new facility, which they will be moving into this fall.

"As the new owners of the property, STC.UNM and UNM felt it was the right thing to do to raise funds to help Noon Day buy the trailer," said Lisa Kuuttila, president and chief executive officer, STC.UNM. "This crowdfunding project is hosted by Main Street Crowd and we encourage the UNM community to go to the site and make a donation in any amount.”

For more information, visit: Main Street Crowd site.