Alejandro and Beth Oropeza aren’t replacing just any ministry’s founder.
They’re stepping into the large shoes of Gene Beckstein, affectionately known as “Mr. B,” who led Good News at Noon at 979 Davis St., Gainesville, for nearly three decades.
The Oropezas, hired to replace the retired Beckstein, began their work as Good News’ new directors last week.
“Our hope is to take Mr. B’s vision ... and make Good News an even better place,” Beth Oropeza said.
“We’ll try to improve, to better everything,” Alejandro said.
“And develop the land that’s around here that Good News owns — do something with that in the long run, with a capital campaign,” Beth said.
In an interview Sunday afternoon at the ministry, the couple talked about their plans for Good News and how they arrived at the ministry.
Beth Oropeza said the couple hopes to spend the next three months learning about operations from Thomas Ramirez, who is in charge of the shelter’s daily functions.
Ramirez “knows so much,” she said.
The Oropezas will head Good News’ efforts to raise support and food donations and otherwise direct the mission’s vision, finances, building projects, land maintenance and volunteer coordination, board chairman John Lilly said.
“Thomas was doing double duty for several years, and they will all be working together for the good of the community,” Lilly said.
Beckstein and his wife, Margie, started the ministry in 1987 out of their home, after he retired from years of teaching. Over the years, that grew into a homeless shelter providing meals and health care, offering summer school programs for children and ministering to area residents.
“I see people changing their lives right here,” Beckstein said at his 92nd birthday party last year. “This is not church, but we lift Jesus up all the time.”
Lilly, who described Beckstein as “the face and main drive” of Good News, said he believes “God has placed (the Oropezas) at (Good News) at this time for something very special that only they could get done for God.”
The couple arrived in Gainesville 16 years ago to start a Hispanic ministry at an area church.
“My kids and I started coming (to Good News) one day a month to volunteer serving food,” Beth Oropeza said. “I always felt I was supposed to be doing something more over here, but I didn’t have the opportunity yet.”
She said that, having a master’s degree in social work, “in a lot of ways, this job fits me well. This is the kind of thing I’ve always wanted to do.”
As for the task ahead, “we’re excited but a little overwhelmed,” Beth said. “It’s such an amazing place.”
“It’s hard to fill (Beckstein’s) shoes,” Alejandro said.
“But there is so much community support for Good News, and that’s exciting also,” Beth said.
Volunteers: Those interested in volunteering at or donating to Good News at Noon can call 770-503-1366 or visit goodnewsatnoon.org