Wednesday, April 08, 2009

"Living Good, Feeling Good" in Charlotte

Wednesday in Charlotte, NC



Charlotte Communities of Shalom began in 1997 after three shalom teams were trained and equipped by the national network, one of which is still active. The focus of Thomasboro Community of Shalom continues to be on improving the health and welfare of residents living in seven communities in the city of Charlotte. In 2006, the organization received a $360,000 grant from the NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund to assist in reducing disparities in health among minority and under-served populations in the State. The Shalom coalition implemented a “Living Good Feeling Good” door-to-door campaign for cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention, “Hope Works” to improve economic and health status, as well as several other community health interventions and promotions targeting vulnerable children, youth and seniors.



I met this morning with Mike Collins, Conference Shalom Coordinator, Renee Jones, Executive Director of Thomasboro Community of Shalom, Sonia Crawley, Administrative Assistant, and Evelyn Newman, secretary/treasurer of the Board of Directors.

I was very impressed with the historical and current programs of Charlotte Communities of Shalom, and excited about visiting the neighborhoods and meeting the incredible people who carry on the work month after month.

Mike Collins was one of my Doctor of Ministry students at Drew until Katrina hit the Gulf and he had to manage all the dispatches for United Methodist Committee on Relief. Today, in addition to his ongoing disaster response role with UMCOR, Mike is Director of Volunteer Response Ministries for the Western North Carolina Conference with oversight for shalom ministries. I found his practical wisdom and perspective invaluable in offering technical and relational support to Communities of Shalom.



Renee Jones (wearing red) is a seasoned executive director who understands all the complexities of community-based non-profits, and how faith-based coalitions like Shalom need to navigate the waters of secular and sacred cultures. After spending the morning with her, I left re-assured the Charlotte Communities of Shalom is in good, loving, and capable hands.



Sonia Carley is more than the administrative assistant and office manager at the Shalom office. She is a special woman called of God as a missionary to Africa. After several mission trips and church sponsored projects, Sonia plans to return to Kenya, and later to Malawi, to help lead a local effort feed hungry orphans and dig wells in villages without fresh water. (As you can imagine, Sonia and I started to compare notes and got very excited about what Communities of Shalom can do together in Africa).



Finally, meeting Ms. Evelyn Newman, a veteran ‘shalomer’, was the highlight of my day. A retired Manager with AT&T, Evelyn has been an active resident, community organizer and community developer in the Tomasboro for several decades. As a long-time member and Outreach Chairperson of St James United Methodist Church, Evelyn became involved the Thomasboro Neighborhood Improvement Association to help make the community a safe and desirable place to live.

The church and community task force were successful in convincing the city not to demolish and close the Thomasboro Elementary School but to create a new one. She and others in the church and community formed a Shalom team, received ShalomZone Training, and became known as Tomasboro Community of Shalom. In recognition of Evelyn’s prophetic leadership in the community over the years, a local artist created a mosaic that included Evelyn’s image prominently displayed on Freedom Blvd in the heart of the community for all to see.



I insisted that I take her picture next to the mosaic, and was delighted to hear more about the Living History Project funded by the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte that included hers and other leader’s stories and images in a published booklet.

I’m sure we will hear more from Charlotte Communities of Shalom in the months ahead, especially after their new shalom community garden grows (on the spot in photo below)