To help halt the deterioration of their downtown Fort Wayne neighborhoods, build connections between residents and service agencies and share the Gospel through acts of mercy, three local churches have joined forces with several community agencies to rehab homes in their areas starting June 1, 2014.
Redeemer, Zion and Emmanuel—member churches of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)—are working together with LCMS National Housing Support Corporation (NHSC) to provide critical home repairs to families in need in their downtown neighborhoods.
“In these neighborhoods, especially recently, the communities are declining significantly because of the economic downturn,” said Nicole Ridley, chief executive for NHSC. “This is an opportunity for the congregations to lend a hand and assist—there’s so much potential there for them to be the catalyst for revitalization because this may be the last hope in these communities.”
The three churches and NHSC have also enlisted the help of other agencies in this revitalization effort: Fort Wayne Office of Code Enforcement, who helped the churches identify at-risk homes in their areas that were in violation of the city’s building codes or had potential health or safety-related issues; LCEF Laborers For Christ (LFC), a group of retired, volunteer builders who will carry out the repairs and rehab work; City of Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation has agreed to provide the Laborers with a place to park their RVs during the duration of the project; and Lutheran Social Services of Indiana will provide financial management training to those residents served by the project to give them the tools they need to save money and support their future home repair needs.
“Lutherans have always done so much for the community in my experience in Fort Wayne, so it wasn’t a far out plan when [NHSC] contacted me because of all the great things they’ve done already,” said Cindy Joyner, deputy director of neighborhood code enforcement for the city of Fort Wayne. “There are lots of property owners right now, more so than before, and a lot of people have come in to hard times and may not have money to do work on their homes. When a group like this comes in to do work to bring that [home] into compliance, it’s a win for everyone: the neighborhood, the homeowner.”
The project got started when Redeemer and Emmanuel went out into their neighborhoods and asked residents what they’d like to see happen in their community—and what they consistently heard was that residents wanted ways to help improve the property values and make the neighborhood safer, as some houses were falling into disrepair.
In the case of Zion Lutheran Church, this is an extension of a neighborhood revitalization project that LCMS President Matthew Harrison began in Fort Wayne in the late 1990s. That work was the precursor to today’s joint revitalization efforts between Zion and a neighboring congregation, St. Peter’s Catholic Church.
NHSC connected the churches with community agencies to help enhance the overall project and provided access to funding, customized consulting services and training resources. The three LCMS congregations will serve as rallying points through which volunteers and resources are deployed into the community to perform the needed repairs for 10 or more families in their surrounding neighborhoods.
This “Helping Hand” initiative has been supported in part by grants from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation Charitable Trust, and the Charlie Tippmann Charitable Trust Foundation. Support can still be provided to this program through August this year. To learn more, please contact NHSC’s development office at 800-248-1930 ext. 2823 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos were taken by Erik M. Lunsford and are provided for use on the NHSC website by LCMS Communications.