This is great news and everyone is excited about it. Our staffs have been working together, our boards have had joint meetings, and we all see God at work in knitting us together. The idea came after my wife and I attended a Heart Reach fund raiser. We have valued the ministry of Heart Reach for years and wanted to support their efforts. That evening, Paris Yanno, the director of Heart Reach, was sharing her vision for Heart Reach and it struck me hard. It was the same vision I have for Neighborhood Ministries. The seed was planted.
After several months went by, I approached Paris and we began talking about what a merger might look like. The more people we brought into the conversation, the more the excitement grew. And the more we prayed about it, the more we felt like God was moving. Let me provide you with some assurances right away. First, Neighborhood Ministries is not decreasing. In fact, with the merger we hope to grow the number of children and families we are able to serve through our Family Assistance, After School and Teen Job Readiness programs. Second, we are not laying off any staff. We hope to grow the number of staff and volunteers we have supporting the programs we started. Third, our ministry partners will remain and will increase. We have spoken to leaders of American Baptist Churches of Ohio and American Baptist Churches USA. We have spoken to major donors like United Way and local foundations. All have affirmed our decision and feel it is a great way to grow.
With this merger we will be able to better serve our existing children and families. We will have a larger staff with a great variety of expertise, gifts and talents. We will be able to share resources to strengthen both programs and family assistance. We will have ministry sites on all sides of town and in schools, providing greater access to the communities we need to reach. And we will have a stronger ministry team, which means a stronger staff and a stronger board.
The new organization will be called Heart Reach Neighborhood Ministries. Our vision is awesome. Here are a few highlights:
- School time Bible education and character development in every Youngstown elementary school!
- After school programming in all Youngstown public housing developments as well as the main campus!
- Leadership training for middle school students at all sites!
- Job readiness training for junior high and high school students at all sites!
- Expansion of Family Assistance program to Youngstown’s North Side!
- Additional partnerships to expand program offerings to children and increase community outreach events!
We look forward to sharing more in the coming months so check back frequently!