OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma pastor has made it her mission to not accept a dime in pay from her church.
Instead, Pastor Ilinda Jackson puts that salary toward her charity, Raising the Standard Ministries, which includes six transitional homes, funded only through donations, for abused, homeless or women starting over after prison.
"I was incarcerated for seven years," said Anita Whorton, who is living at one of the homes.
During her time at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, Whorton met Jackson through her prison ministry.
Whorton said she didn't know then that, years later, Jackson would save her life after her release.
"I basically became homeless," Whorton said. "She was the one that my mind always came back to, was Pastor Ilinda Jackson."
Whorton is one of about 25 women living at the transitional homes who have access to job training, a food pantry, Bible classes, free clothing and help to reconcile with family.
"I would've been in a mental institution because I was basically at the point where I had lost my mind," Whorton said. "She saved my life."
Jackson leads The Secret Place Community Church in northeast Oklahoma City, named after the Bible verse found in Psalm 91:1 "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." (KJV)
Church member Lillie Armstrong wanted to honor the pastor for her generosity.
"Because she does so much and she gives so much, and we just wanted to say something like thank you and we love you," Armstrong said.
Armstrong nominated Jackson for Pay it 4Ward after she helped Armstrong furnish her apartment with donated furniture.
"She'll go into her pocket and use her own resources to make it happen, and I'm sure she does that a lot," Armstrong said. "It tells me that she's a person for God and she cares about the people."
A group of excited members gathered and called Jackson, telling her she had to come to the church, but they refused to say why.
When she walked through the doors, Jackson was so surprised to see our News 4 cameras that she screamed.
Armstrong handed her the $400 from First Fidelity Bank and said "We all love you, so everybody came and, yes ma'am, we just want to say thank you. We know you give so much, so much of yourself."
"I'm so happy, so tickled!" Jackson laughed, then cried, then laughed some more, and said the $400 is going right back into the women's homes. "I have a $500 bill due to pay off a house. I've been putting it aside, so one more hundred, and that particular house is paid for!"
Jackson also leads multiple prayer services throughout the week, along with outreach ministries, coat drives, and she also works for the Department of Corrections.
She said she manages to squeeze it all in because she is working out of passion.
"I love serving, I love helping Oklahoma families," Jackson said through tears. "This work is very rewarding, to help women, to recover, to be restored. I do it from a position of love, so it's nothing I get paid for, it's nothing anybody gives me but it meets a tremendous need of those that are in trouble in one form or another."
For more information, click on the links above or call the church at 405-427-4322, extension 2.
Pay it 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.