Lincoln Neighborhood: Developing Leaders, Connecting Neighbors

Eric Smith – Think Tank INC

I met George Young at the Springfield Promise Neighborhood Kickoff and Community Celebration, the first community event planned alongside residents, nearly one year ago. It turns out that George is a long-time resident of the Lincoln Neighborhood. As part of the listening process, I met with George for a one-on-one learning conversation.

It quickly became evident that George was interested in seeing the ethic of responsible fatherhood integrated into the fabric of his neighborhood. He also had a clear passion for developing the character of the youth of his community. However, George did not have an opportunity to exercise his gifts and passions.

I therefore invited George to attend a leadership training series on the principles of Asset-Based Community Development. Through the training, George’s vision crystalized. Another of the attendees, as it turned out, had a similar interest. So following the training, George invited a select group of his neighbors, also long-time residents of the neighborhood, as well as his colleague from the training, to a meeting.

The neighbors quickly decided that they could accomplish the corporate desire that they all had to impact others if they formed into an organized group. The initial meeting has led to the birth of the Lincoln Neighborhood POPS Club. The Club has been connected to Urban Light Ministries, the responsible fatherhood initiative in Springfield, to provide stability as needed.

As their first project, the Club leaders have worked to establish a safety patrol program at Lincoln Elementary. Though very much needed, Lincoln Elementary has not had a safety patrol program for many years.

What is inspiring and transformational about this story is that fact that now a core group of neighbors is more alive because they are able to give of their gifts and experience to influence the next generation. Even as they are becoming more alive and aware, they are instilling pride in the 16 youth that are part of the safety patrol. The patrol is quickly becoming an opportunity to nurture good character, self-regulation, and aspirational thinking in the lives of a select group of youth.

What was lacking before was merely the vision to see the gifts and dreams that connected the neighbors to each other and the Club to the youth. Imagine now what other opportunities exist just around the corner in a neighborhood of over 4,500 neighbors and youth!

A Tapestry of Connections

Judy Van Dyke - Good Samaritan Ministries

Meet Nancy K., our new Kitchen Coordinator for Park Church’s midweek evening meal and ministry. Nancy has been a neighbor of Park Church for over a decade, but we had not met until the winter of 2010. It is a great story of connecting people; matching the gifts and passions and needs within a neighborhood. I met Nancy’s granddaughter, Sierra, in July of 2009, while walking through the neighborhood for the first time. Sierra, age 8, was a cheerful child; full of stories about her life, family, and adventures on her bicycle. She told us she is living with her dad, Mitch, and her grandmother, Nancy. After a lively conversation we realized Sierra’s love for dogs would come in handy for another neighbor, Helen. Helen was older, and struggled with health issues. Her dog, Skippy, was not getting the exercise and attention it needed, and Sierra was eager to help. We went to Helen’s house, I introduced them, and off they went, Sierra and Skippy; a match made in heaven, literally.

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Mary

Rick Droog – Siouxland Diaconal Conference

Kurt & Emily Rietema’s stories of life and love in the Argentine neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas, and in Croc, Mexico 

Before ye cast your first stone at me, admit it. You, dear reader, are not that different than I. At fundraiser brainstorming sessions, you give an honest attempt, hoping for something new, something novel and innovative. With populist ideals, you hope for the wisdom of the common man to rise up and shame the cynics. You hope for that one, moment of brilliance, like the humble offering of one small boy with a few fishes and loaves of bread, feeding the five thousand again and leaving behind twelve baskets overflowing with fistfuls of twenty dollar bills. But you can sense the suppressed bake sales and 25- cent lemonade stands gasping for air. You brace yourself for it like the frontman in a washed-up, cover band waiting for the drunk guy in the back to start yelling, “Freebird! Freeeebird!!!” Yet it comes just as inevitably. “I think we should do a car wash.” Let’s speak plainly for a moment. Car washes are dumb ideas. Most of us swear them off in fifth grade. And as much as I’ve wanted to put my learning into practice and embrace locals’ ideas and empower and support them in implementing them, my conceit won out. I couldn’t help but think that Mary’s suggestion of a car wash fundraiser for the Franklin Center was a dumb idea. Nate did some quick, careful redirecting that day, but months later, on August 20 there we were in the Franklin Center parking lot. Rain coming down. Washing cars.

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Flower Power

Bethany Dudley – Requip

By Rita Feikema

Although the day was cold and rainy, turnout was great for a day of neighborhood beautification on the north side of Chicago. I work with many different demographics in the Rogers Park neighborhood, and I’d spent several months learning about the felt needs of our neighbors, as well as the strengths that already exist in our community. One idea that came through loud and clear was the desire to beautify our streets. Neighbors wanted a way to feel ownership and responsibility in our community.

So one Saturday, we got together a group of volunteers to plant flowers along the sidewalks of two major streets.  These were not just any flowers. They were seedlings that had been growing in the greenhouse at Gale Academy, a local public school, for months.

They had been tended by student volunteers from Rogers Park, who attended Loyola or Northwestern.   And, these were not just any volunteers. Members of the Rogers Park Garden Group shared their expertise on how to transplant these seedlings into the ground. College students who were interning in they city provided muscle and energy as they learned about one of the vibrant neighborhoods in Chicago. A group of moms who were looking for opportunities to volunteer in the community brought their kids. And members of Many Peoples Church came with coffee and cookies to warm us up.

It’s incredible how a little thing like planting flowers can suddenly make a neighborhood seem friendlier. Everyone walking by wanted to know what we were doing, or complimented us on making the street more welcoming. Conversation – between passersby and volunteers, between college students and kids, between expert gardeners and novices – that never would have otherwise taken place flowed unforced.  And of course, now Rogers Park enjoys more pleasant, beautiful streetscapes.

Relationship Matters

Jim Schepers - The Other Way Ministries 

Three community members move from volunteer status to employed volunteer status.

These are difficult days in our West side of Grand Rapids community.  Housing values have cratered.  Long-term neighborhood businesses are closing.  Unemployment has soared, particularly for our community members of color.  And so, it is particularly delightful when hard work and opportunity come together for those who care enough about their neighborhood to stay involved in the work of community development.

We had just such an experience this past month, when three of our regular community volunteers were able to take advantage of an employment opportunity and move from simple volunteer status to employed volunteer status.  The path to this new status was through relationships developed through their community volunteering. This past month, they collectively took over the landscaping duties for the several properties owned and operated by The Other Way Ministries.

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The Journey at AACRC

Kimi Zimmerman – Community enCompass

For me, this is a story of hope…hope that the church can become what/who God intended it to be from the start. A place of learning, a place of growing, a place of acceptance, respect and love, and most importantly a place where anyone can belong because it is a community of people who care about each other. I am excited that this church that has been in existence for over a hundred is willing to say, “we need to change if we want to make a difference.” It gives me hope to work with a church that is willing to ask questions rather than give answers.

Allen Avenue CRC was ready for a change and wanted to become involved in our community in a different way than we had been in the past. However, we were unsure what that change was going to look like before being introduced to Asset Based Community Development earlier this year. After a few months, we have started to see a shift in the way that we think about and relate to our neighbors and the neighborhood. In the past, the statistics of this area have resulted in a skewed perception of the Angell neighborhood. Our opinions had been clouded by the things we were reading and hearing about concerning the crime rates, drug trafficking, violence, high rates of unemployment, and so forth.We had lost touch of the good things that were going on in our neighborhood and the strengths and assets already existing within it. Even more, we stopped knowing who are neighbors really were.

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CFA Cleveland Meeting: Strategic Planning

Andy Batten – Lighthouse INC

(Originally published in the CFA Summer 2011 Newsletter)

CFA Member, Andy Batten, with Heaven Train, Inc., hosted the Strategic Planning meeting held May 9-11, 2011 in Cleveland, OH. Seventeen member and staff participants gathered as member, Terri Larson facilitated Association strategic planning that included a historical overview of CFA, discussion of one year dreams such as plans for a should are team and member defined CFA standards, and the creation of three work groups. A site visit to Heaven Train, Inc. gave the group an opportunity to see local neighborhood transformation in practice.

Other presenters included Eric Geary (LLF Lexington, KY), Andy Batten (CFA member), Jonathan Reitz (Coachnet), Melinda Holsopple (Full Measure Fundraising), and Jay Van Groningen (CFA Executive Director).

Evaluation of the strategic plan and group updates will take place at CFA’s upcoming conference in Chicago, IL on October 23-26, 2011. This conference will be held in conjunction with the Leadership Foundation Institute.

Keith

Jim Schepers – The Other Way Ministries

A young man needing to do some community service gets an experience beyond what he came for.

One of the main outcomes wanted when placing an Americorps community worker in a neighborhood to do asset based community development is the development of an increasing number of volunteers who care enough about the community to spend their time making it better for everyone.  Of course, we are most interested in investing in local neighborhood residents, the assets of our neighborhood.  However, sometimes, the assets we find don’t always fit our pre-determined model.

To identify and engage neighborhood ‘assets’, we train Americorps members to listen carefully for opportunity and to make connections, giving volunteers the chance to do some simple good works in the neighborhood.  What we cannot teach is the thoughtful follow-up, invitation and encouragement it takes to help change a person from a disconnected resident to a volunteer engaged and invested in developing community.  Karl, our Westown Americorps Member tells one story of how he makes that happen.  His story is about Keith.  Keith came to us simply to fill a school required community service project.  He left having gotten much more than he needed.

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Bethany Housing Resident Models “Good Neighbor”

Kimi Zimmerman – Community enCompass

Theresa’s story is exciting to me because it accomplishes exactly what I think ABCD is all about. It opens the door for all neighbors to give what they have been given to make a difference in a community…one life at a time. What a story of hope! and doing life together! and love for our neighbor. Theresa was given hope when a community believed in her and worked with her and made room for her to become more of who God intended her to be and in turn we are watching her do the same in the lives of the children around her.

Theresa Higdon is an everyday hero who understands the value of neighbors working together to achieve great things.  Even while she strives to move forward with her life, she works hard to accomplish great things in our community.  Theresa became a member of the McLaughlin community when she entered our Bethany Transitional Housing Program after a number of homeless episodes.  She progressed to the point of becoming part of our Home Ownership Program and is currently leasing with the option to purchase her home while she continues to work on repairing her credit.

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Neighborhood Safety Work Team

Eric Smith – Think Tank

In May, the Neighborhood Safety Work Team of the Lincoln neighborhood of Springfield, Ohio, convened a “Meet-&-Greet” with the Chief of Police, four of the Police Department’s officers, 3 principals from area schools the mayor of Springfield and an estimated 45 residents.  A light dinner was cooked by residents with the ingredients supplied by the local church food pantry.  The purpose of the meeting was to start to build a relationship between the neighborhood residents and the police force charged with patrolling the area.  The tone of the meeting was generally positive so that the police would know that they had allies in the neighborhood, much as the residents would know that they had allies in the police force.  Ideas were exchanged regarding how to best coordinate efforts for highest impact.  One of the suggestions was to have better reporting of incidents of illegal activity.  The Neighborhood Safety Work Team has met since the Meet-&-Greet and a task force has been formed to look at how to launch a block watch program to better respond to safety concerns in the neighborhood on an ongoing basis.

Nuestra Casa – The Gathering Place

Judy Van Dyke – Good Samaritan Ministries

There are approximately 200 vacant homes in the central city of Holland, Michigan. The home at 253 West 15th Street has been sitting vacant for the past 12 years. Two years ago the home was given to the church across the street, New Community Fourth Church (NC4th). Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) has been working in partnership with NC4th and Maple Avenue Ministries to do community transformation in this neighborhood. Judy Van Dyke, the Neighborhood Connections Director has been leading an Advisory Team consisting of neighborhood stakeholders and supervises an AmeriCorps member, Raul Garcia as the neighbors, Community Guy. Raul applies Asset Based Community Development methods in this neighborhood to bring people together around things they care about. Raul and the church began listening and dreaming with the neighbors about what they would like to see happen to this deteriorating, vacant home. They soon learned that their shared vision was to create a community center for the neighborhood with an efficiency apartment above to establish a central place where neighbors could connect, share information, skills, resources and knowledge.  Nuestra Casa – The Gathering Place was the name they chose to reflect the diversity and desire of the neighbors to meet in this place.

Over time the church and neighbors learned that they couldn’t move forward because the cost was too great to renovate the home. Their dream was put on hold until a group of women  from Women’s Day of Service walked into GSM and asked the question, “We are celebrating our 10th anniversary of doing community volunteer projects and we want a challenge this year…something that would have a lasting impact on our community. Do you have any ideas for us?” Immediately thoughts came together to have this group of 100 or more women walk with the neighborhoods to begin renovating this home into a community center. The neighbors could begin to dream again.

Plans are underway and progress is being made on the home. The church and neighbors went in front of the City Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to receive a conditional use permit to have a community center. A steering committee has been formed to work on program development, construction, coordinating volunteers, fundraising and communication. Neighbors are working on interior home demolition, developing a volunteer database, planning a yard and bake sale, working on program development and creating a blog. Today there is energy and new life starting to take shape in this home. A bike ministry and Community Garden are already happening at Nuestra Casa. It will be exciting to see this Extreme Makeover unfold.  This home will be a neighborhood place of life, hope and belonging for years to come.

Neighborhood Youth Camp in Muskegon

CFA AmeriCorps has a new blog post that you should check out:

http://communitiesfirstassociationamericorps.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/neighborhood-youth-camp-in-muskegon/

Getting a short term focus. One S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Andy Batten – Lighthouse INC – OH

Many of the mapping parents are helping design and lead a summer leadership camp. The project will work to develop a team of young people to develop a plan and execute it as a team. Hope this will bring a DeVos project together in Cleveland. These are the notes of the visioning session #1:

Summer Collaboration – VISION:
Develop a youth development model that is multi- generational that involves youth, parents and providers in design, execution, and evaluation.

A successful summer youth program built on the power of “WE”.

There was a great deal that we learned at our first meeting. Now that we have a “Big Picture” dream and a focused short term goal we need to get specific.

Once we answer these questions about our goals we can have a clear plan in place that allows us to move from ideas, to plan, into execution.

We need to decide who wants to continue the conversation about how we move forward. Time is short, so we need to finalize this first project.

Specific goal. The specific goal is to execute a 5 week summer leadership program with the shared resources of our “network”.

Measurable: The program will meet from July 5th to August 5th and will focus on no more than 50 students and end with a back to school basketball camp. What are the goals that we want to measure????

Achievable Are we committed to make sure this is done as planned? Can we realistically make this happen with what resources and people we currently have in place?

Realistic Are our goals something that we can reasonably do? Do the things we work towards make a real difference? Will anyone notice if we decided not to proceed?

Time Bound What is the timeline for us to get started? How do we know when we are finished? How do we transition out and celebrate the success? What is the detailed schedule of activities for each day and hour?

OBJECTIVES:

1. Explore Possibilities  2. Understand Opportunities    3. Discover Resources

LOAVES and FISHES  (The resources that we already have.)

1. Curriculum
2. Staff,youth coordinators
3. Participate
4. Volunteers, teach history
5. Drill
6. Smile, helping hand
7. Recruiting – ABCD Mapping
8. Time to volunteer
9. Volunteer network
10.Relationship
11. Resource network
12. Food SFSP
13. 15 Passenger van
14. Neighbor Circle
15. Space
16. DeVos Leadership Plan

THE GAPS (Things that we still need.)
1. Gas Money
Core to the strategy is a weekly field trip. There is a need for gas money to cover the transportation costs.
2. Lonnie Burton
Because there are so many kids and a wide variety of ages we need to include Lonnie Burton in the planning and execution as part of the partnerships.
3. Space at Cedar
With so many kids already in the networks care, we need to find a space that will allow Cedar’s young
people to participate in the activities. Time and space are key concerns.
4. Coordinated efforts.
With the many projects working together it is going to be key. The need for solid planning and consistent communication is critical. A working calender with details clearly spelled out is a must if we can move forward.
5. Celebrating together

Uncovering the dreams:

Successful summer program.
To find a way to come together this summer to deliver a vibrant program for the young people that are in our network, residents of Central, or CMHA.
Holistic youth Development
Develop a process that works to surround young people with people not programs in way that models a family environment and fosters growth.
Quality programs for all of CMHA’s youth.
To develop a program at Outhwaite that can be delivered at all CMHA family estates that work as part of a continuum of care.
Inter-generational
We will be intentional to include parents, grandparents, and the communities wisdom as a key to creating sustainable and meaningful connections.
Focus on Children
With so many needs that can distract this group, we will focus our efforts on the Children and youth believing that an investment in our young people is an investment in our future.
Raise a new standard for Central kids
We are tiered of passing sub- standard projects, expectations, and results off as success. In order to prepare our young people for life, we need to challenge them to set goals and standards that will allow them to succeed. We have to be honest and face the cold hard facts if we want to see things improve.
That this is only a first step toward a big Dream.
No matter how successful the summer is or how much struggle we face we understand that this is only a first of many steps that we must take together that will lead to our dream for the preferred future.

New Life Community Center

Rick Droog – Siouxland Deaconal Conference

Through God’s bountiful blessings, Starfish Ministries has found wonderful space to lease for use as a community center for the KaRen refugee community on the east side of St. Paul.

Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church at the corner of Arcade Street and Larpenteur Avenue has space available which had been used by a school for the deaf. As a January 1, we are leasing three classrooms and an office.

Beginning the first Tuesday in January, tutoring of KaRen children was moved from Faith CRC in New Brighton to the new location. The space is well suited for this use and all are pleased with the change.

Then, in February, Chao Khang and the KaRen youth group began using other space at Gustavus Adoplphus. They have agreed to allow the youth group to use their youth space, called “The Fish Market” and the gym on Friday evenings.

On Saturday, February 6, adults from Grace CRC and Faith CRC worked with the KaRen youth to paint the new space and do some other sprucing up. It’s beginning to look pretty good.

Preliminary plans are being made to move ESL classes from the University Avenue location of Hmong American Partnership to the NLCC. There may be new opportunities for volunteers to help tutor the students and perhaps provide childcare for the infants and toddlers of day students.

Pastor Phonh Sinbondit is also surveying the New Life CRC congregation to see what days and times it would work to have volunteers available to help with mail and forms. This is another potential volunteer opportunity.

Recreational Opportunities For Children and Youth Work Team

Eric Smith – Think Tank

Over the course of a week, from March 21 to March 28, a core group of Lincoln residents came together to discuss one of the issues that the community had described as being a top priority for the neighborhood – increased recreational opportunities for children and youth.

During the first meeting, the group described the issue and then brainstormed and organized possible solutions (see below). At a follow-up meeting, the group developed priority areas and action plans to implement the change they wanted to see. Their plan called for the creation of two work groups – the Bobcat Elites work group with a focus on athletics and the Promise Fundraisers with a focus on resource development.

In the three weeks since this community action group formed, the Bobcat Elites work group has further developed their plan and met with the appropriate leaders at the local Elementary School where they intend to hold twice-weekly sports clinics and organized play time on Saturdays. They have been busy recruiting volunteer coaches in order to be able to offer the program for free to area children and youth. They are also seeking out curricula to integrate team-building and character building lessons into their sports activities.

Meanwhile, the Promise Fundraisers work group has begun to further develop strategies for raising money to, among other things, cover the cost of purchasing sports equipment. Plans are in the works for fundraisers like cookouts with a “Promise” menu, community garage sales, and more.

What a fun example of what can be accomplished when residents gather around the issue that they care about enough to act on!

RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR CHILDREN & YOUTH WORK TEAM

March 21, 2011

Sports

Mentoring

Field Trips

Fitness

Fundraising

Community Gatherings

Fun & Games

Weekly sports leagues Building items together to bring in math skills Bring life back to South – some activities Fitness classes Toy/clothing drive Block parties Field day competitions
Sportsmanship camp Discipline Fishing, museums, parks YMCA Concessions @ events Dances Kite flying
Sports camps Teenage workforce Nature hunt Selling dinners Include parents to build confidence and community Cornhole toss activities
Volleyball, flag football, whiffle ball Trail biking Hot dog stands Community gardening (teach to grow their own) Family outings
Free sports activities Field trips (as reward) Fund raising Gardening Arts and crafts as day camps
Day trips (as reward) Arts and crafts

Community Fruit

Jim Schepers – The Other Way

As is often the case, it takes a while for fruit to develop.  Often we look for fruit of our neighborhood Americorps listening, connecting, and convening in the increased willingness of neighborhood residents and other stakeholder to work together for their own good.  Occasionally though, the fruit of this work is the discovery of other community leaders who will not only show up and lend a hand, but will step up and organize others in the neighborhood also.   The picture below is of our Fresh Fruit – Matt.

This happy experience has been a recent development of our Americorps Member working on the west side of Grand Rapids.  He is supported by a coalition of three partners: The Other Way Ministries, Servants Community Church, and West Town Jubilee Housing.  Karl Williams, our Americorps Member, whose first hand story is provided below has proved to be both a wealth of neighborhood network connections and a non-stop advocate for neighborhood investment in making Westown a better neighborhood for all.  Every community should have a Karl.

Jim Schepers
Church and Community Development Coach
The Other Way Ministries

AMERICORPS’ FIRST COMMUNITY LEADER IS MR. MATT BATTEN. MATT HAS LIVED ON THE WEST SIDE OF GRAND RAPIDS SINCE 2009. HE ALSO WORKS AT THE FULTON PARTY STORE WHERE HE IS A VALUED EMPLOYEE. MATT WAS MY FIRST VOLUNTEER FOR THE VERY FIRST AMERICORPS PROJECT: THE WEST SIDE RAKE PROJECT, IN NOVEMBER OF 2010. THIS PROJECT WAS A RESULT OF SURVEYS BEING HANDED OUT IN THE COMMUNITY AND RETURNED TO REFLECT WHAT THE COMMUNITY WANTED, A CLEANER NEIGHBORHOOD. MATT ASSISTED IN RAKING SOME ELDERLY AND DISABLED MEMBERS OF THE COMMUNITY’S YARDS WHILE CONNECTING WITH NEIGHBORS AND FAMILIES, WHO SHARED SOME OF THE SAME GOALS IN WORKING TOGETHER. MATT HAS ALSO VOLUNTEERED FOR THE WEST SIDE MOVING PROJECT, WHERE HE HELPED A GROUP OF THREE VOLUNTEERS, HELP A WOMEN, WHO WAS EIGHT MONTHS PREGNANT TO MOVE HER FAMILY’S BELONGINGS INTO STORAGE UNTIL HER NEW HOME WAS READY TO MOVE IN.

GRAND RAPIDS AMERICORPS, WILL WELCOME THE COMMUNITY’S FIRST COMMUNITY PROJECT LEADER. MATT BATTEN. THIS WILL BE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY FOR MATT TO FACILITATE IN CONNECTING RESIDENTS IN A DIVERSE ATMOSPHERE. THIS {ABCD} APPROACH IN BRINGING POSITIVE COLLABORATION AND SUPPORT TO THE WEST SIDE SHOWCASES THE ASSETS WAITING TO BE TAPPED INTO, AND SHOULD HAVE A GREAT OUTCOME.

KARL T. WILLIAMS  AMERICORPS

Building a Safe Place for Oliver

Judy Van Dyke – Good Samaritan Ministries

Good Samaritan Ministries provides leadership and organizational development for a local nonprofit, 3sixty that recently worked with 80 volunteers to help a family remodel their home for their 4 year old son, Oliver who has been battling neuroblastoma cancer. Parts of the home needed to become germ free for Oliver to live at home after receiving a bone marrow transplant.

After six busy weeks and 800 volunteer hours later the kitchen, stairway, hallway, bathroom and Oliver’s bedroom were all remodeled and ready for him to come home.

3sixty coordinated businesses and individuals that donated time, money, and materials to the project along with many professional builders, electricians, plumber, painters, drywallers and plasterers (most from the neighborhood) that shared their expertise to support the effort. There were many neighbors that came together to work on the project…many meeting for the first time because of their time shared in service. They did everything from demolition, to hanging drywall, to painting, to baking fresh cinnamon rolls for the work crews. Brian Wolthuis, the director of 3sixty was amazed at the generous outpouring from the neighborhood.

“We would have been completely unable to accomplish what we did without the neighborhood and the family’s own community in partnership. I’m thankful for the new friends, neighbors, and fellow servants that I’ve met in the process.” Now Oliver can be in a safe and healthy environment with his family because of the generosity and talents shared by a supportive community of care.

Lighthouse Inc CFA Update

Andy Batten – Lighthouse Inc

Happy Easter, I am happy to report that our “weavers” are hosting their first neighbor circle as I type. Brandy Davis, is our host and she is one of our “Asset Mapping/Weaver” workers. She has invited the 10 neighbors that share a building with her in her Cedar public housing building. She is inviting the parents to share in an Easter Egg hunt for their kids and to share their stories with the mapping exercise.

I must say that I am excited that the neighbors have come together to pull resources for both the egg hunt and for lunch. It cost a total of $15 for maps and markers. One of the great moments was when they chose to go with ham and cheese sandwiches because everyone did not want to wait till the food stamp cards were refilled. They felt it was better to start with what they had, than to wait. (What a great lesson for us to learn from) The group will be selecting the follow up date(s) this afternoon. I can’t wait to hear the report.

By the way, we have no fewer than 4 more circles ready to start. The families have been filling out our “point of entry” survey and have told our folks, we would never give out our personal information to anyone, but we trust Heaventrain. Now they are pushing us, calling, tracking down the “weavers” and asking, “when are we going to get ours started?” And “why are you starting with ‘that’ group, we are ready to go”. We have our hosts set for the next 3 circles, just waiting on a start dates.

We will meet on Wednesday to debrief, and will have a blog of sorts where our weavers will be sharing the significant moments. Once we get our hands on a couple of the flip cameras we will begin to document the moments with video blogs.

Update:

Well, Thanks. Things did not go exactly as we had planned. First, the weather the last few days left the ground a muddy mess so the egg hunt was delayed. That led the folks to work on a “edible” craft and homemade card making for the kids that got things going. The problem was that once the kids started having fun, more and more showed up. In total there were 46 kids. The adults did not want to turn the kids away and kept working with them. Then thing really went of the rails when they started frying up Bologna sandwiches (I know Bologna??), it was what they had. Once that started, nobody had thought that the kids had been off school for a week on spring break and were very hungry (No school lunches all week). When they ran out of food they had served 137 sandwiches. Not a whole lot of time left to do the mapping exercise, but the adults decided they needed to pick a time that works so that kids are in school because childcare is going to be an issue. They also want to take the new skill, Homemade card making, to create some cool invites and make it an exclusive party feel.

Obviously, this did not go anything as planned, but we did see our neighbors step up to a leadership roles (we were almost completely hands off) and tackle what turned out to be a real need for their neighbors. The big thing was they all felt like they had done something important, and are committed to continuing to work together. Some very cool conversations started without a facilitated meeting, and my wife got a card from a mom and a little girl that made her day.

“Hands Around the Plain” Opens

Our new store is now open! “Hands Around the Plain” is located beside “The Fruited Plain” on highway 75 in Sioux Center. This unique gift shop is an exciting opportunity for the women of The Bridge to gain employment and to build a good job history. And, equally exciting: all proceed from the store will go back into the ministry of The Bridge.

Hand Around the Plain will carry a variety of items including: jewelry, jams and jellies, oils, soaps and lotions, purses, cards, baby gifts, pet collars and leashes, used books wine glasses and racks, rugs and art on consignment from local artists.

Along with these made-in-the-Midwest products, HATP will carry Fair-Trade products made in Chile by struggling artisans. HATP will also carry a line of jewelry made by impoverished women in Nepal who have developed a business to help other women in similar situations. HATP hopes to develop several relationships with other international ministries in the future.

Another exciting thing happening at Hand Around the Plain, is a product line called “Beyond the Bridge.” These are products that are either made by the women of The Bridge or by friends of The Bridge. These products include: candles, grocery totes and bags, table scarves, goat soap, pottery, photography, quilts, baby blankets and scarves. We hope to expand this line as the store grows. The “Beyond the Bridge” line is exciting because the items are donated, so 100% of the retail price goes back into the ministry of The Bridge!

Nearly all of the remodeling of our building was done by volunteers from the community. We saved an incredible amount of money because of the help of others. Thank you!

Stop in and see us in Sioux Center on highway 75 across from Coop Gas and Oil. We’re excited to have you visit!

What You Can Do

  • Donate your books! Give your ‘very good’ used best sellers or classic books to HATP. All proceeds from their sales at HATP go back into the ministry of The Bridge!
  • Donate items that you’ve created, such as quilts, blankets, pottery, art or woodworking to HATP.
  • Volunteer to work at HATP a few hours each month (email or call 712.441.2528)
  • Join our Facebook page
  • Shop at HATP!!

The Franklin Center

The Franklin Center is an Argentine icon. It’s a stately, stone school building that was constructed in 1897 that until October of last year had been used as a community center. Several different social service organizations were housed there as well as a café and grocery store. Over the years, as these organizations closed shop or relocated, the bills had become too much for the final few tenants. They abandoned it one year ago. Vandals broke in, graffitied the walls, broke windows, emptied toner cartridges, and stole all of the copper wiring from the breaker box. On June 21 they set a small fire in a stairwell. Residents had feared this was the end of the Franklin Center.

Last night a different story was being told about the Franklin Center. Our Youthfront School of Formation students joined with community members and about forty-five students from Heritage Christian School in beginning some of the initial cleanup of the Franklin Center. Until last night the building had only been secured by placing plywood over the several broken windows by a group from Pathway Community Church. Broken glass was swept up, trash was gathered, and items that the previous tenants had abandoned were organized. Local kids showed the outsiders around their neighborhood and we finished the night with Mexican food from El Rabanito.

Cleanup is only the first stage of what we ultimately hope to see at the Franklin Center. Today with our Youthfront School of Formation students, we created a plan for community organizing around the Franklin Center using Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) principles. ABCD distinguishes itself from other forms of development by looking at a marginalized community like ours as a glass half full rather than empty. Rather than looking at all of the needs of our community and then “servicing” those needs through outside resources, ABCD looks at how we can mobilize the assets, all of the latent and often hidden talents, skills and passions of the local community to achieve and implement their own collective dreams for the community. While Argentine residents may not have a lot of money to pay for renovations and programs in a traditional development way, we do have construction workers, bilingual speakers, and mothers who care about what their kids do during their after school hours. What we hope to do is to organize the small loaves of bread and fish that people here have his way with them. One of my neighbors upon hearing of this came over to my house with 25 galls of paint for the renovations. Our friends at El Rabanito, wondering what all of the fuss was about last night didn’t hesitate in their offer to donate some food as well as labor in painting and drywall.

Before we’ve even formally begun, activity and interest is gaining. And I think its because while this route is much more laborious and less efficient than raising a half million dollars of renovation money through grants, state funding and the like, it’s attractive because it’s empowering. It’s a call to quit viewing ourselves as poor and dependent on the charity of the powerful, but to recognize the imago Dei in each of us and that out of our fragmentation we can collectively create something new. Our YSF students get to be instigators of this. They will soon be out on the streets gathering dreams and networking these people and resources into collective action, practicing resurrection in Argentine.

This requires that the church take a different role in our communities than we oftentimes do. Oftentimes, we are mere occupants in our neighborhoods-we don’t engage those in proximity to us. It is merely a church in the neighborhood. But if we do recognize that we have a missioning God, we often engage our neighbors in a patronizing way, especially if it is located in a community of need. It’s a temptation for us to set out as saviors in our community because if we don’t come as the “have’s” in the have/have not continuum, we don’t know what we have to offer. This is a church for the community. But others are recognizing that there is another way. A church with the community is one that recognizes that God is not confined within the walls of the church but is already actively at work in the community. A church with the community is one that shapes but is also shaped by the community.

In this way rather than setting the agenda for what will happen in the neighborhood and doing things for the community, the people of God can play a different role. We can listen. What we hope to do instead is to awaken the Kingdom imaginations of the people that lie dormant. They already know what a better future looks like for themselves and those around them, but they don’t dare to dream because dreaming alone seems futile. As the church we can stir those dreams and honor people, even poor, marginalized sinners as image bearers of God who have worth and can change things. And finally, we can call them to join hands with saint and sinner alike, because we’re all both, calling them to participate in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation.

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