Three New Orleans Youth Strive to Make a Difference

Kevin Kieschnick – LINC New Orleans

To commemorate the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, neighbors, church members, and AmeriCorps members came together to better their community through service. Community Development at its Finest: 

PRESS RELEASE
September 9, 2011
Contact: Laura Brenner at 504-656-4025

New Orleans, LA: It’s a beautiful Saturday morning; the sun is shining, perfect weather for basketball, taking a run, or sleeping the day away.  Which is exactly what this eclectic group of people would be doing, if not for the common goal that brought them together: strengthening the community. To commemorate the 6th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall, City Year New Orleans partnered with the Bywater Neighborhood Association in a day long beautification initiative.  Communities First Association partner, LINCNewOrleans heard about this great collaboration and wanted to strengthen the effort.

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Grandma’s Hands

Tronn Moller – Faith and Community Development Institute

Meeting at their weekly Bible study to pray, share potluck suppers, Chat and Chew discussions and  ideas about how to better their grandchildren’s lives was a regular event for many of the grandmothers residing at The Estates, formerly known as the Desire Housing Development in New Orleans.  According to Marcia Peterson, director of Desire Street Ministries who leads the weekly study, it began after Hurricane Katrina and the main focus of the ladies was to help provide activities and services for their own live-in grandchildren .  “A lot of them are single women raising their grandchildren for various reasons,” said Peterson.

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Success Story –Socorro/ Montana Vista

Jose Rayas – Valley Ridge Ministries

According to the latest statistics, there are approximately 30 million deaf people in the United States. But what is disturbing is that only a small percentage of them attend church. In fact, the number of churches serving the deaf has been decreasing.

So, what can a community do? In East El Paso, Valley Ridge proposed to do something about it: to conduct sign classes in order to have the hearing and the deaf to have a way to communicate. To this end, Valley Ridge has teamed up with Ms. Tiffany, who teaches American Sign Language, and interprets for the court.

As these classes progressed in Socorro, the community of Montana Vista has also answered to the call, and has teamed up with the Spanish Baptist Church in Montana Vista, which has provided a place for Ms. Tiffany to teach a second American Sign Language Class.

Given the fact that El Paso has close to 1 million inhabitants, it is of great importance to continue these classes since there are only two deaf churches in El Paso County.

When Is It a Good Thing to Cancel a Class?

Jose Rayas – Valley Ridge Ministries

Over the years we have been here in Socorro/Montana Vista, we have seen programs cancelled due to low or decreasing enrollment. In part one has to admit that interest and benefits may be no longer suitable for the maturity level of the community. So when is it a good thing to cancel a class?

At Valley Ridge we have been holding ESL classes at the church since early September of last year. And we at the beginning had a group of approximately 20 students. At the end of March, the students themselves were talking about cancelling the class. But it was a good thing. Since the class started, 8 students secured gainful employment, and 4 started studying at the local community college in the spring semester. This leaves us with 8 students, all of whom have the desire to continue, but are also considering further studies, whether it be obtaining a GED, or attending Community College.

Of those who have exited the program, one stands out because of his vision to give back to the community.

Alejandro began the ESL class over a year ago. He was depressed, couldn’t get a job and in general, felt useless. He was encouraged to see God’s wisdom in bringing him to class and making good use of his time. First, he found a part time job at a temporary agency. Upon learning about his abilities, we worked with him to sharpen his skills.

At the present time, Alejandro has been working full time. And in addition to this, he has been giving volunteer time (5 hours per week) as a tutor at San Jacinto Community Center.

But the story does not stop there. Alejandro has made a conscious effort to be an example to the community of what can be accomplished when several people and programs can work together. We hope to see those he tutors as future tutors and leaders in the community.

We Can Do Our Part: Youth Build Urban Gardens

Tronn Moller – Faith and Community Development Institute

Lots in the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans maybe still abandon because of Hurricane Katrina, but its days are quickly coming to an end thanks to youth in the community.  They are turning the abandon lots into urban gardens.

The Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans still has 25 percent of their homes still blighted and 15 percent of the lots are abandoned.  Parlo Perkins, a Youth leader at Desire Street Ministries and resident of the community, said, “When I walk around the Upper 9th Ward, I see work that has been done. But I also see an opportunity for work to be done. Several months ago, we turned a vacant lot into an urban garden and we were excited about what happened. When the vegetables started growing, we really got excited.  That excitement grew into us asking ourselves, what if we took more lots and built more gardens?”

With the assistance of Desire Street Ministries staff and Tronn Moller of the Faith & Community Development Institute, the youth organized, mapped all of the properties on Louisa Street, and then researched to see who the owners were.   Some of the properties were owned by locals, and some of the properties were owned by the City of New Orleans.

The youth contacted the owners of 1706 Louisa and 1540 Louisa and they acknowledged that they weren’t ready to move on rebuilding on the lots. They just didn’t have the resources. The youth shared their vision of planting urban gardens and the property owners agreed to allow them to clean and plant gardens.

The first month of the project, the youth cleared the yards of paper, trash, old tires, and debris.  They reached a roadblock with hauling away the trash, but the City of New Orleans moved quickly to help.  On March 10th, youth volunteers and community leaders turned dirt and planted seeds. After they completed planting, Parlo commented, “I think we are on to something here. We can do our part in rebuilding the community.”

Teens in Action

 

Pictured above are Ivan, Jose, Rosalba, Barbara, Jim and Mario

One of the goals of community development is to secure the future of the community. This desire has been reflected in the association between Teens in Action, Gangs for Jesus, Sunshine Community Church and Valley Ridge Community Church. As this association has become more mature, this cooperation is developing a joint venture to tend to the health of the local youth. We look forward to this joint cooperation and the benefits that it will bring to the community as it becomes involved in the community development process.

 

Montana Vista Story of Transformation

Often times we look at short term impacts when dealing with community development. However, the best indicator of transformation is in the long term. Several years ago, when community development started, it was the parents who were first touched by ESL classes. Since then, these parents have taught their children to succeed.

It must be noted that these children had also been influenced by former Americorps interns Maria del Rosario Arreola, Mayela Lucero and David Gonzalez.  At the present time, Genesis, Griselda and Ivonne are now attending college with a vision of helping impulse the community of Montana Vista toward progress. Ivonne, in particular, is working and studying to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and has the desire to stay within the community of Montana Vista.

In addition to this, several former students, like Claudia, have secured and kept their jobs for at least three years.

Valley Ridge Story of Transformation

Over the last few months much has changed and matured at Valley Ridge. For instance, all the students who took the citizenship class at Valley Ridge Community Church have passed the exam and will be sworn in as US citizens between the end of January and February of 2011.

In addition to this, Alejandro, a former ESL student at Valley Ridge, has passed his GED, has secured a full time job, and is now volunteering time on the weekends to tutor in Math. Hilda and her Sister Blanca are now volunteering their time to help the Ronald McDonald house here in El Paso.

In reference to the political process, the community has come together and succeeded in getting a public vote to remove the Mayor of Socorro and one council member. The vote will take place at the end of January, and a special election will most likely take place by May to elect a new Mayor and council member.

Journey Ninth Ward

It is with great excitement that I announce to you the launch of Journey Ninth Ward—the second campus of Journey Fellowship Church! My purpose in this proposal is to share with you the amazing story of Journey Ninth Ward, and to boldly ask for your generous help in making our vision a reality.

All of us know the devastation in New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, “the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States.” One of the hardest hit areas of the city was the Ninth Ward. This section of the city is filled with the unique culture and old-world charm for which New Orleans is famous. However, the real asset of the Ninth Ward has always been the people—people who lived here for decades, many of whom returned home to rebuild after the devastation. They must not be abandoned!

From the first days after the hurricane, God called us to be part of this rebuilding process. In November, 2007, Journey Fellowship Church purchased the former Redeemer Lutheran Church—an historic church off St. Claude Avenue in the heart of the Ninth Ward. I wish all of you could have been part of the exciting, rewarding, miraculous transformation! Two buildings with more than two feet of hurricane water became Journey Ninth Ward. One building is a World War II-era sanctuary with a beautiful bell tower and incredible stained glass windows. Each window recounts stories from the life of our Savior and Redeemer—appropriate themes for a community that needed to be saved, and still needs to be redeemed. The second building is a multi-purpose facility that serves as our children’s ministry facility and the home of Compassion Outreach, a non-profit organization established to support our holistic ministry.

Why are we so passionate about the Ninth Ward? Nearly five years after Katrina, it seems New Orleans still lacks the natural and spiritual walls to protect its residents from vast poverty, deteriorating families, low academic achievement, and unprecedented violence. But in the midst of such discouragement, we have chosen to respond as did the prophet Nehemiah—by calling God’s people to rebuild the walls of the city. With residents returning and schools reopening and businesses rebuilding, it is critical that the community of faith rise again. People in the Ninth Ward need a revitalized center of worship where individuals and families can find hope, healing, and restoration. This is our mission—to “Transform Lives Forever.” We are passionate about the Ninth Ward because we know that God is passionate about the Ninth Ward. With us, it’s personal!

What makes Journey Ninth Ward distinctive? We know many people and organizations are committed to rebuilding New Orleans, and they are doing a wonderful job. But there is a difference. Our calling is not just to help people, but to permanently transform their lives—and we believe this best happens by connecting them with God. We know that God can change a heart permanently, because he has changed our hearts! And so we introduce people to the God of love, and remind them that their Creator has done everything necessary to reconcile them to himself in Jesus Christ. We think God’s Word is still the best guidebook for reconstructing a needy community.

This is what this proposal is all about. The time has come for Journey Ninth Ward, while continuing its spiritual partnership with Journey Fellowship Church, to become a fully self-supporting congregation. Thank you for taking the time to explore more deeply our vision for the Ninth Ward. And thank you also, in advance, for your prayers and partnership! Sincerely in Christ,

Robert Burnside, Pastor Journey Ninth Ward

http://www.journeyninthward.org/

Strengthening Community By Strengthening It’s Leaders and Organizations

There is a growing movement sweeping across the nation that community matters more than ever, and that building on the skills of local residents, community leaders and its institutions creates more sustainable communities for the future. The task of developing the framework for these organizations is a daunting one, but with the help of organizations like the Faith and Community Development Institute (FCDI) there is relief and hope.

The mission of the Faith and Community Institute is to build the capacity of citizens and institutions engaged in community transformation by providing coaching, training and research. The ultimate goal is to see people and organizations working together to restore and strengthen their communities.

“I am equipping leaders, engaging congregational leaders, providing constituency development, and developing a regional network of leaders. Together we learn about churches being strategic players with their communities making life better for everyone,” said Executive Director of the Faith and Community Institute Tronn Moller.

After Katrina, Moller was looking for an opportunity to engage the Faith Community in the redevelopment of the Gulf Region. Over the past 3 years since the FCDI’s inception the institute has helped over 21 organizations grow and thrive.

By providing a supportive learning environment, resources and the necessary tools to strengthen those engaged in building community it not only benefits the individuals, the organizations they work with, but most importantly the citizens of the communities.

“The services that Tronn and the Institute provide are extremely needed in the faith-based community. Training leaders to be more effective at what they do will and has made a valuable impact on our communities,” said Pastor Nelson Dexter Jr.

Dexter is a Pastor and Teacher with the Temple of Praise Ministries, and serves as Board President for Jefferson Cops and Clergy Coalition.

“In my church Tronn has done asset based community development training, leadership development, board development, and team building for my volunteers. Personally, Tronn and the Institute have grown me as a leader. He has expanded my ability to organize, plan and implement strategies that will cause both organizations I serve to be more effective and efficient in both vision and mission,” said Pastor Nelson Dexter Jr.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation to the city of New Orleans, the guidance of Moller and the institute was invaluable helping Rev. Dwight Webster and Churches Supporting Churches (CSC) rebuild the communities affected. The mission of CSC is to restart, repair and rebuild churches to redevelop New Orleans.

“Moller’s work with us through The Faith and Community Development Institute was instrumental in assisting us in formulating the three main thrusts or pillars of CSC—Capacity Building, Community Development and Advocacy,” said Rev. Webster.

Through the Institute’s assistance CSC was able to secure start-up funds to get the organization established as a working group, later a Louisiana non-profit corporation and ultimately a 501 (c) 3 tax exempt organization. According to Rev. Webster, Moller’s work was not limited to the organization, but he also worked one-on-one with individual pastors who were able to shadow CSC’s development and get tax exemption designation for their churches as well.

Recently, FCDI was instrumental in the development of our first deeply affordable house. This has built even more trust between the pastors and FCDI and they now at the beginning stages of training and coaching two leaders from each church in community engagement.

The FCDI is a much needed faith-based community development organization, according to Marcia Peterson of Desire Street Ministries, whose organization is based in the upper ninth ward of New Orleans and operates a medical clinic and youth development programs.

“I have benefited from working with Tronn as a coach in helping me create an RBM tool for managing my organization; he has conducted our staff development around leadership and community engagement for the past three years; and most recently he is working with our board of directors for our charter newly formed school, facilitating our board development sessions on forming a mission statement and vision elements.” Peterson said.

By strengthening those engaged in community development The Faith and Community Development Institute provides a much needed service to New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Like most non-profits they rely on donations to keep their vital operations going.

Churches Supporting Churches Builds Its First Deeply Affordable Home

Churches Supporting Churches held their first ribbon cutting on April 8, 2010, at 2601-03 South Galvez Street, New Orleans, Louisiana. This newly constructed home was built in response to the dire need for “Affordable” housing in the city of New Orleans.

“Two years ago, the churches in the Hoffman neighborhood walked and mapped the community. Through our conversations with the community and others, we saw opportunity to build deeply affordable housing. We call it “Deeply Affordable Housing” because it makes a homeowner out of the person that falls between the gaps of a Habitat House and public housing. And the partnerships that help build the house kept the cost down,” says Rev Aldon Cotton.

Every partner contributed something very valuable to the construction of this house. Jerusalem Baptist Church donated the land. The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation gave a mini grant. Members of churches in the Hoffman Community provided some of the labor. Neighborhood Development Foundation provided consulting and homeownership counseling. Janice Porter, a 30 year resident of the Hoffman Community, said, “This is more than just a house. This community was in decline way before Hurricane Katrina. We were high violent crime community and the housing stock was terrible. Post Hurricane Katrina, we have some houses that were rebuilt. Which has been good. But this house is a sign of hope. Other community members are already talking about the new message this house sends for our community.”

One of the goals of Churches Supporting Churches is to build at least one of these Deeply Affordable Houses in all of the four designated areas over the next few years. “We feel that we are off to a great start” says Churches Supporting Churches Board Chair, Rev. Dwight Webster.

http://www.cscneworleans.org/

From ESL to Advocate

Ana Martinez started attending ESL classes in Montana Vista about a year and a half ago.

Since then her self esteem and confidence level have increased to the point that she is now involved in the community and speaking publicly on behalf of the community. One such instance took place on March 8. As the community of Montana Vista is becoming involved in the political process, they have engaged the department of Justice to effect true immigration reform. On March 8 Ana worked with the “Red Fronteriza” (The Border Network for Immigration) and spoke to community members as well as Justice Department personnel. In addition to this, they are currently organizing an immigration rally that will take place on April 10, 2010. It is awesome to see Ana involved in this as she is also encouraging others to seek justice for the community.

In addition to this, Ana is encouraging the young adults graduating from High School as she has gone with them to fill out applications for study grants and acceptance into the local community colleges.

Transformation Through ESL and Financial Literacy

Over the last six month community members have been gathering at the Spanish Baptist Church for ESL classes and to learn financial management.

One person who has excelled in both is Bertha Guerrero. Her language skills have improved from a level one to a level 3 in less than a year. In addition to this both she and her husband have put into practice what they have learned. His business is turning a profit for the first time, and their personal finances have improved to the point of almost being debt free. They expect to be debt free within a couple of years.

Another Success story is Eva Macias. In the past both she and her husband, have been financially strapped. But after learning how to manage their money and be good stewards of God’s blessings, they have created and implemented a financial plan that is helping them get out of debt. They have gone from being in the red every month, to being able to save $100 dollars a month on average. In addition to this, Eva has been using what she has learned in the ESL class to help her children in school and to tutor other neighborhood children.

Community Garden Brings a Sense of Pride

“Our neighborhood is one of the most violent in the City of New Orleans. I would have never thought, in a million years, that our neighborhood would have a community garden. ” These are the words of Leonidas neighborhood resident, Mr. Lyndell Jones, after he distributed the vegetables on “Harvest Day.”

On October 18th, the Leonidas community members held its first “Harvest Day”, to distribute food grown in their garden.  The idea of the garden generated when the youth and young adult ministries of St. John’s Baptist Church surveyed the community and identified that their was a high rate of diabetes and poor physical health conditions.

Wondering what could they do? They researched and discovered that a community garden had numerous benefits from the production of fresh vegetables that promote a healthy diet to increased exercise to an enhanced sense of community.

The youth and young adults ask St. John Baptist Church pastor, Rev. Donald Boutte, for a small plot of the land in the back of the church, and they went to work. They focused on the aesthetics first, by cleaning up the land and planting a few flowers. Gradually, other neighbors began helping by laying out boxes and caring for the space. “We all begin to learn how to start plants from seeds, as well as, how to transplant vegetables,” mentioned Mr. Jones.  “We even began to socialize more, as we worked.”

The community members selected the plants and vegetables for the garden. They planted squash, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. As the crop grew, the youth and young adults began to reach out to the people they surveyed and offered them the first opportunity for vegetables.

This generated into “Harvest Day” for the community. People from throughout the community came to celebrate the work that had been done. Together they picked vegetables, placed them into the bins, and delivered them.  Pastor Boutte commented,” This garden has given us a sense of pride. I believe this garden is going to be the start of working together on other issues in our community.”

New Pediatric Clinic Opens in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans

Four years post-hurricane Katrina, citizens of the Upper Ninth Ward communities now have full access to their very own pediatric clinic, Kids’ First Pediatric Clinic, located at 3512 Louisa Street.

Desire Street Ministries/CDC58:12, Abundance Community Residents, Children’s Hospital,and LSU Tiger Care Partnership has been working diligently to provide medical services for thousands of these citizens. The new clinic officially opened its doors on September 1, 2009. However, there was a ribbon- cutting ceremony on August 28th, followed by a ‘Second-Line,” a New Orleans’ own dance celebration in the streets of the city. Keynote speakers like: Danny Wuerffel, executive director of DSM along with others, came to speak to citizens during their dedication dinner.

“Once the flood waters receded after Katrina, our ministry team returned to the Upper Ninth Ward to help rebuild. Initially, progress was slow as families and resources trickled back into the city. In the four years since Katrina, we’ve resumed high-impact programs, one by one,” Wuerffel said. Some of those programs and services implemented are:

  • Helping to gut over 600 flood-damaged homes, preparing properties for rebuilding
  • Rebuilding and renovating nine flood damaged homes
  • Providing financial literacy seminars for local families
  • Serving over 150 local youth each year through after school and summer programs focused on education, recreation, and character development
  • Resuming Desire Street Academy to graduate 8 local young men this year while pursuing charter school status for the 2010 school year

The clinic served over 700 patients before the Katrina floods and now those numbers have doubled post-Katrina. DSM, New Orleans Director, Marcia Peterson said, “After Katrina, and periodically since, we’ve surveyed returning residents to learn the most pressing issues and obstacles to recovery. Our ministry efforts have been focused on meeting those priority needs.” DSM stands firmly on the outreach mission to encourage and equip leaders to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

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.

Walker Moore’s Story

This story is about Walker Moore and his missionary work in the city of Waco.  He never meant to stay in Waco; he was just going to get his education at Baylor.  Then he would head back to Oklahoma.

However, fate being what it was, he met the woman of his dreams and married.  However, that is not what kept him in Waco.  While he was doing his masters degree in Social Work, he interned with Waco CDC.

While he was doing his masters degree in Social Work, he interned with Waco CDC.  While working there he fell in love with the children of Parkside and Brook Avenue Elementary School.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same way.  The manager of Parkside was suspicious of a tall lanky white young man hanging around the apartment complex.  Soon the parents also were not happy that this young man was coming around this predominately African American and Latino community.  This would not deter him from doing God’s work.  He knew that God wanted to bring about change in this neighborhood and especially in the Parkside apartments.  He worked so hard and with time began to develop inroads.

In comes Harry Porter.  I met Harry through an inquiry off the CFA website.  Harry was going to become the next CRWRC intermediary in Dallas/Waco.  One of the people that Harry heard of and wanted to collaborate with was Walker Moore.  Unfortunately, some of the hood had rubbed off on Walker and he was not having any of it.

I visited Harry two to three times a year and met Walker on one of those visits.  I also had an opportunity to meet with Mike the director of the Waco CDC.  After having lunch, we came back to Mike’s office and just began to chat about community organizing.  They asked me for suggestions on points of entry.  Apparently, my responses turned the relationship around.  I advised them to increase their target area to include people who owned their homes.  I also encouraged them to connect with neighborhood associations.  Harry and I had visited the city economic development office and they were helpful.

Then just about the time we were making progress, Harry had a terrible gut feeling.  While he was excited about the work in Waco, he could not get the thought of working in Uganda out of his mind.  His wife was the only reason he had not considered it before, but now she too could not get Uganda out of her mind.  Then on my third visit, Harry reluctantly broke the news to me.  It was a devastating blow.  I thought after all this effort, all this work is down the drain.

Then out of nowhere, Walker approached me at a CCDA conference and asked if I would be willing to mentor his work in Waco.  I remember the first meeting he called at the Parkside Community Center.  He was expecting 10 to 12 parents.  Three people showed up.  He was devastated.  However, he did not quit.

I helped him develop a framework that captured all the work that he envisioned.  He sent me a weekly report on his progress.  After a year of emails, telephone calls, helping him be trained on facilitation methods, and visits to our team meeting, he began making progress.

The last report he sent me, he reported a meeting of 28 people, which he did not facilitate because he had someone else trained.  He also mentioned being part of a citywide Waco Education summit. Walker Moore has grown so much in one year.

One of the challenges I had with Walker was that I wanted him to work as an intermediary but he and his organization only wanted to work in the Oak Brook neighborhood.  They still have not changed the scope of their work but now others are approaching them and they are collaborating with other neighborhood leaders.  Therefore, the work is growing and spreading but they are not extending their work beyond their initial scope.  God is bringing transformation to Waco. It is great to be part of the CRWRC story.

Central City Church & Community Open Transitional House

What was once a dream is now the reality for many families in the city of New Orleans and surrounding areas. Central City Community leaders and the members of Bethlehem Lutheran Church are taking strides into decreasing the homeless rate throughout the rebirthed city, by opening a transition house in Central City for abused and battered women. After one year of careful planning, hard work and newly renovations, the very first transitional house of 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths, opened in February.

“The original idea was to work with Foster Kids who have been emancipated and put out of the foster care system at 18-years-old,” Rev. Patrick Keen said. ” Funding didn’t allow this to happen right now, but it’s still in the works.” The Unity Coalition for the Homeless and Covenant House of the city are the other partners. They are helping to find abused women who are in need of a stable home and helping them find employment opportunities and providing food for the women. Martha Kagle, director of the Unity Coalition for the Homeless is selflessly assisting to provide for these women and their families.

Families can stay at the transitional house, anywhere from three to five years, while being provided rehab and given the tools they need to become homeowners, one day. ” I want these women and families to have their own homes… and myself along with Unity and Covenant House are going to try our best to make sure this happens,” Keen said.

Groups Brings Health Care to New Orleans

by Tronn Moller

Mohammed Ali once stated, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”  The Desire Street Ministries of the Upper Ninth Ward in New Orleans, La. are paying rent to local citizens in the form of free health care. Almost four years after Hurricane Katrina, DSM is still working with the post-Katrina issues of unbalanced and inefficient health care throughout the once proclaimed “Forgotten City.”  With the help of  Dr.Pinkel Patel, Chief Resident at Florida Hospital in Oviedo, Florida and his medical team of fifteen, Marcia Peterson, director of DSM, organized a week-long free clinic this past summer that addressed and catered to the needs of 260 New Orleans residents. Services ranged from basic screenings, case management, examinations, and recommendations for lab work to writing prescriptions and physical therapy.

Since the area was not earmarked by the city for most of the help it needed for recovery, Peterson made the need for health care and physician availability within the community, a priority. Along with Peterson, Patel was drawn to volunteer his time and efforts after attending a seminar in Florida where Danny Wuerffel, also known as the ‘quarterback with a servant’s heart’ and a 1996 Heisman Trophy Winner challenged the audience to make themselves available to those in need. Patel believes that much of the country is not fully aware of how much New Orleans still lacks in basic resources.

“It’s nationally known, but it’s not nationally exposed,” Patel said.” We got people from Florida and people say, it’s New Orleans, ‘isn’t everything fixed there?’ “Unless we know there is a need, unless we know we need to give time in addition to resources, things aren’t going to get done,” Patel said. Patel estimates that over half of the individuals seen at the week-long clinic suffers from diabetes, hypertension and/or some other chronic illness, making the demand for help even greater.

Furthermore, to help assemble a continuing wellness network within the community and to pinpoint the various medical needs, patients completed medical survey forms. The forms were designed to gather information concerning what services patients would most likely benefit from. The survey, also addressed the scope of health issues in determining whether or not patients suffered with bouts of sadness and/or depression. This bit of information then birthed the need for citizens gaining access to proper mental health and psychiatric care facilities. “What we‘re trying is to do is, we’re trying to collect demographic information here to see what patients we’re seeing here? What needs have we met here? Have we taken care of the blood pressure? Have we taken care of the diabetics; whether or not there is access to psychiatric care and follow-ups?”  Patel rhetorically exclaimed.

To insure that the clinic will provide a continuing and wide-ranging source of medical aid, DSM has collaborated with New Orleans based Excelth Inc, a federally funded healthcare primary care network and LSU Medical Center in a one-year agreement to offer “comprehensive care” for pediatric to adult demographics. Regardless of employment or lack of insurance coverage, the trio collaboration has not turned the cheek to anyone in need of medical attention. According to Mary Crooks, Community Relations Special Project Coordinator, of Excelth Inc., the organization will be providing health referrals, follow-up visits and weekly on-site clinicals through the mobile unit program. These clinicals are held each Thursday. “We’re a healthcare network and what we’re doing is , we’re helping to bring healthcare back here again to this particular community.” Crooks said. ” So, one of my roles was to help set this up and help coordinate the services here to make sure the services are appropriate and really something the community needs and what we don’t provide directly we provide indirectly; referrals to other sites.” Crooks said. Citizens throughout the community are being informed of the healthcare clinic through fliers, brochures and word-of-mouth.

Currently, the trio collaboration is planning to expand on their foundation to provide HIV testing and health awareness seminars to citizens of the community.  With the help of community citizens and leaders, DSM has gathered community input into designing its new web site. In keeping with it’s goals to rebuild and rejuvenate the physical as well as spiritual needs of its surrounding communities, Desire Street Ministries continues to offer high-quality care by adhering to the simple application of the scriptures found in Matthew 25:35-36a : For I was hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty , and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and  ye took me in  : Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me ……

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