Blog: 10 September 2013
One hundred years after being founded as a Sunday School to serve children in Camden, the Fairview Community Baptist Church faced the real possibility that it may have to close its doors forever. The eight remaining members prayed for a miracle, and when they got it, UrbanPromise received a great blessing.
The news came with the ring of a telephone and an offer too good to refuse. The opportunity to own this property gives UrbanPromise the chance to focus on the heart of our vision: to create safe, nurturing spaces amid harsh conditions where children can thrive.
I am so happy to share that UrbanPromise plans to purchase Fairview Community Baptist, part of the American Baptist Church, for $25,000. It will require about $15,000 in repairs before we can offer after-school and summer programs. The site, which includes a church and a parsonage, is in good condition but needs some plumbing and roofing work. With financial support and volunteers—and more prayers from the congregation (and you)—I believe it can be up and running this month, providing an after-school program and jobs for 50 young people.
Gil Medina, a former StreetLeader and now 31 and a union foreman, Gilberto lives two blocks away and plans to help: “I can’t wait for my (three) kids to have an UrbanPromise camp to go to, and you can be sure my wife and I will volunteer. It made such a difference in my life, and the children in Fairview need this. Right now, there’s nothing for them to do outside of school.”
We already have a presence in six neighborhoods in Camden. Our “camp” sites (after-school and summer) are the core of UrbanPromise’s model. We connect with over 500 children a year at these locations, starting when they are as young as 5 and keeping them engaged through college. We are “the place” to be after school and in the summer. By connecting at these sites, we introduce them to our schools, our Trekker program, and at age 14, our StreetLeaders program, where they can mentor the little ones. UrbanPromise has so many success stories—stories of college graduates, parents, and civic leaders who once were kids who connected with caring people in these camps and found the hope and faith to believe they could achieve their dreams. This work emanates from our camp sites.
What compromises our mission is a lack of consistent facilities. Over the last 10 years, we have had to move a site at least every 2 years. Owning an after-school site allows us stability. We, like the church on Common Street itself, can thrive for the next 100 years.
The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey is very pleased at the prospect of continuing their original mission and soon having children fill the church. “The church was founded to serve children; we are thrilled it will do so once again. ABCNJ looks forward to partnering with UrbanPromise in serving the youth of New Jersey going forward. ” Dr. Lee Spitzer, Senior Regional Pastor, told me recently. When Bruce Main visited, he was quiet for a minute, shut his eyes, smiled, and said, “Can’t you just see kids dancing and laughing in this space?”
The Community will also benefit. According to UrbanPromise Board member and Harvard University professor Kathy Edin, the very presence of a community center strengthens the social conditions of blighted neighborhoods. The after-school program and summer camps that will be held here will enhance the community, making it safer and stronger.
I hope you will help us reopen the doors of this sacred space and welcome children of promise, giving them a safe space to have a snack, do their homework, strengthen their faith, and connect with their dreams. Providing a safe and nurturing environment is the critical mission for UrbanPromise; providing it in a beautiful church that we call our own is truly a blessing.
Please help us purchase and open our Fairview site in September by joining in our Fairview Campaign:
- Leadership gift of $10,000 (we are hoping for one Leadership gift)
- Legacy gift of $2,500 (we are hoping for 8 Legacy donors)
- Vision gift of $250 (we are hoping for 40 Vision donors)
- General donation of any amount is so appreciated!
Thank you so much for your continued belief and support of our work,
PS: Please also consider signing up to join us or bring a group on a work day in September and October. As soon as we purchase the property, we’ll be able to schedule our work dates! Please contact Marcus Bell, WorkGroup manager at (856) 382-1876 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will be in special need of skilled plumbers and roofers, so please pass the word to any who might be willing to donate their time.