B-CU Grad Has Vision to Turn Around Daytona

01/14/2012 14:51

DAYTONA BEACH -- Whether it's from his barbershop chair or the pulpit of his church, the Rev. Derrick Harris has a vision to turn around lives and revitalize downtown Daytona Beach.

Pastor Derrick Harris outside Master's Domain Church of God in Christ, where people waiting for food line up Thursday. (N-J | David Tucker)


The Bethune-Cookman University graduate came to Daytona Beach as a freshman from Miami, set up shop 22 years ago while in college and never left.

In 2010, he and his wife, Darcia, moved their Master's Domain Church of God in Christ from the back of the barbershop on Orange Avenue to downtown Bay Street, a historic move as downtown's first church with a primarily African American congregation, says Harris.

Membership has grown from about 25 to more than 200, with plans to soon add more programs at the three-story church, including a daycare center, a senior citizen ministry, physical education classes and music and activities for youth.

The church, located next to First Baptist Church and Halifax Urban Ministries, also provides food and clothing to low-income people once a week and plans to increase that to twice a week.

Harris, 41, who is pastor/superintendent of the Daytona Beach church and district superintendent for churches in New Smyrna Beach, Riviera Beach and Altamonte Springs, also envisions working toward partnering with investors to buy empty surrounding buildings for future businesses.

He and his wife, who have been married 19 years, both still cut hair at the barbershop and are both active in the ministries. He is also on Bethune-Cookman's associate board of trustees helping with fundraising.

A licensed minister since he was 22, Harris grew up participating in his father's church and now his four children are active in the church.

Harris has worked with police and has started his own program to convince young people in the community to stop selling drugs. Part of what he enjoys, is "seeing people's lives change."

"I let them know you can have a good living by doing the right thing," he said.

The couple have used some of their own finances to keep the church going, but is still in need of grants and other assistance to continue to grow stronger.

"It was a great personal sacrifice, but the I know for a fact the Lord called us to do it," Harris said.

The Rev. Troy Ray, executive director of Halifax Urban Ministries, said Harris and his wife didn't waste any time getting involved in helping the community after moving to Bay Street. They've partnered with his agency on events, including helping to provide turkeys during the holidays.

"They strike me as wonderfully warm and sincere," Ray said.

Delores Williams, 55, of Daytona Beach, who cares for her four grandchildren, said the church "has helped me and my children when I was hungry and needed help. You feel like someone cares."

Deborah Circelli