Woodmere Community Organizes a Summer Youth Program
In March 2009, Mission Possible Community Development Corporation, in conjunction with members of Temple of Praise Ministries, developed a ministry called the Battle Ground Believers (BGBers). The purpose of the BGBers was to walk the Woodmere community, listen to the neighbors, build relationships, identify things we can do together to transform the community, and pray with people if the opportunity opened.
Elder Nelson Dexter, pastor of Temple of Praise Ministries said:
“Woodmere is the biggest neighborhood in the State of Louisiana. It’s located on the Westbank of New Orleans, in Jefferson Parish. When you drive into the community from Lapalco Blvd, you see commercial areas. Then for several square blocks, you see apartments and some homes that have been run down. You can also get any type of drug and gun you need. Then as you keep driving you have this healthy working class community. So our goal in walking the community wasn’t to evangelize to them. Or to even try and condemn them. We just wanted to listen and learn.”
Every Saturday evening for about two hours, the BGB walked the community. After six weeks, they held their first meeting to discuss how they could improve their community. Two vision elements developed out of that meeting: (1) Weed out the drugs in our community. (2) Partner with Woodmere Playground to develop more youth programs.
With the summer approaching, the community members held several more meetings and preformed research actions with Jefferson Parish Recreation Department and Councilman Byron Lee. Out of the meetings, we discovered we could hold a summer enrichment camp at Woodmere Playground, because the facility was basically going to be unused during the day.
Community member Lavar Smith said, “Once we found out that we could host a summer enrichment camp at Woodmere Playground for youth ages 6 to 18, we were excited. But what we didn’t realize was that we were going to have to organize more as a community and staff it. The Jefferson Parish Recreation Department and Council district were without monetary resources.”
Because it was late in the fiscal year, both the Jefferson Parish Recreation Department and the Councilman didn’t have funding. They used to be able to fund a summer program through dollars from the local casino, but the council changed the laws to bring that money into the overall budget.
The Woodmere Community members stepped up again. Four teachers and three volunteers from the community offered their services and managed the program fro 5 weeks. The program served 32 youth and enriched their math, reading, and writing skills. They went on field trips and listened to guest speakers.
Pastor Dexter said, “Watching all of this unfold for Woodmere in a matter of weeks was unbelievable. It’s a testament to what people can do when they organize and release their gifts. I can’t wait until the Night Out Against Crime in August. That may push us to working on our next vision statement.