Replying to Seattle’s Displacing Economy

Inspired by the popular television show, Shark Tank, Urban Impact successfully held its 2nd Annual Sharks at the Beach Social Venture Pitch Competition in March. Urban Impact’s version of Shark Tank addresses poverty by promoting local business and supporting local entrepreneurs with coaching, as they present and work on their business plans.

This year’s winner, owner of Jacob Willard Home, an antique furniture store for over two years in the heart of Hillman City, Karl Hackett is launching a groundbreaking process of helping local small businesses remain sustainable and keep up with a neighborhood that continues to see change and development as a result of ongoing gentrification.

As a 20-something, Karl grew up during a time when it was still affordable for a young person to live alone and easily foster relationships with small business owners in the community.  As a homeowner in the Central District, he began to see the effects of gentrification in his community over the years.  He realized that the very thing that made a neighborhood “cool” to live in was being diluted by raised rents that pushed locals out, as new wealthy residents moved in.  As a business owner in the Hillman City neighborhood, he and others saw their leases increase by 50% over a short period of time.

Karl took a leap of faith and allowed God to use his passion for collecting chairs to become something much grander.  Impacted by the work of Urban Impact and Community Development Hub at Rainier Avenue Church, he has seen the impact of what an active church in the community looks like. He believes that Urban Impact shares his vision of breaking stereotypes and endless cycles that leave a community crushed. Karl would like to see more churches get involved in their communities and step outside the church walls to do outreach like he has seen with the Urban Impact Community Development Church Hubs.

In his business plan, Community First Development is the idea of promoting cooperative commercial ownership in the community that will allow small business owners to purchase their rental space. Karl’s team is hoping to partner with contractors to acquire buildings that are in need of updates so they can be purchased at an affordable rate, remodeled, and units can be sold in a coop structure that would be affordable for local businesses to buy and sell, essentially acting like an HOA (Home Owners Association) for a business with the idea to keep small locally run businesses at the heart of the community.

Although the hope was to launch this venture in a year, it will be a challenge due to the fast pace of the economy. However, he is confident that they will have the full support of the community to reach their starting goal soon, and will be launching a fundraising campaign to raise capital to acquire their first project. Stay tuned!

6 Things Your Church Should be Doing, but Probably Isn’t

By Becky Gonzalez, Director of Global Outreach

 

This article from Relevant Magazine is a challenge for churches to be better at reaching our community and world for the sake of the Good News. BelPres! We are proud that you are a church community seeking to do these things. We are not perfect, but we are making good strides and love that we are a church committed to programs that lead to deeper and stronger relationships with each other and with God. Nonetheless it is a good challenge for us all to keep on track as ambassadors of the Gospel.

1. Working Face to Face with the Poor
2. Building Relationships with Other Churches
3. Putting Effort Toward Diversity
4. Chasing a Vision, not a Quota
5. Building a Missions Department that Goes Beyond the Offering Plate
6. Equipping Their Members, not Just Entertaining Them

In what areas are you proud of BelPres? Where do you think we can grow?

 

Knitting Disneyland

By Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach

Mary McCrackenAs the new Director of Community Outreach, I have been slowly making the rounds to the various agencies and groups who partner with BelPres in our surrounding community and at the church. This past Thursday morning I decided to hang out with some of our home crowd, the ladies who make up the BelPres Fireside Knitters. As a person who loves all things yarn, I was looking forward to meeting women with a like-minded passion and to the conversation I knew would ensue.

Having just moved to the area, some of my “non-essentials” are still packed away. I woke up early to search for my knitting needles, but to no avail. Not wanting to embarrass myself by showing up empty-handed, I grabbed a crochet project I found in a drawer, stuffed it into a bag with a crochet hook I found in my pencil jar, and arrived promptly at 9 a.m.

Meeting in the library just off the church lobby, the setting is beautiful for knitting. Light pouring into the windows, comfortable couches, books lining the walls. Over the next hour, the ladies arrived, each one with their knitting projects in hand. As the newcomer, at first I introduced myself; quickly, the ladies took over and would introduce me to those who arrived next.

At one point, Jan King took me to what I now call “Knitting Disneyland,” a room filled with yarn and completed projects waiting for the proper season to be given out. Beautiful hats and gloves for school kids who live in poverty, neck and wrist warmers for the homeless, lap robes for the elderly or those who are ill. In showing me the various projects and patterns, Judy discovered a ball of yarn that would complement my crochet project and we returned to the library. The room was crowded now, with multiple conversations, laughter and the joyful feeling of community.  I searched to find a seat; two women scooted close together on the couch to make room for me. As we squished together, I felt a shifting in my spirit, comfort and peace encircling me.

I was a newbie, yet one of the group. Some of the women reminded me of my mom, who lives across the country and whom I seldom see. One woman shared that she was facing a heart-breaking decision, and we paused to pray for her. Another woman was struggling with her pattern, and two of us leaned in to see where we could help. Another woman passed around a small piece of knitting she had been working on as she learned a new type of stitch. Always, there were stories being shared and two hours quickly passed. As I left to head back upstairs to my office, the ladies warmly asked me to come back in two weeks. “Bring your projects,” they said, “or work on one of ours.” I assured them I would return.

Back at my desk, I thought about what had just transpired. Two hours of knitting! But there was more. God weaves His story through the tapestry of time. He invites us into the marvelous, beautiful, glorious work of His love for His creation, weaving our individual threads into the greater whole. The Fireside Knitters are quietly working their own threads into God’s tapestry. They take their simple yarn and work it into beautiful, practical, creative gifts for those who are in need. As they send out their gifts, they wrap others into God’s story of redemption and reconciliation. As well, they take the threads of their individual stories, weave them into each other’s lives, building community through prayer, laughter, work, and presence.

As a newcomer, I felt the gentle thread of the Fireside Knitters’ welcome and acceptance wrap around me and draw me in. In the beauty of the room, squished on the couch, listening to stories, God was inviting me to weave my thread into the tapestry of a new community. That community is busy in the missional work of valuing the lives of those who are often devalued by our society: immigrant children, the homeless, the elderly and the chronically ill. Though their work is quiet, peaceful, simple – they are kingdom power brokers.

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ…” (Col 2:2 NET). 

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Now it’s your turn! Where have you felt God’s presence in a strong community?