February 2, 2009
Jeremy Everett will join the Baylor Center for Family and Community Ministries (CFCM) in February to direct the Texas Hunger Initiative, a new project to alleviate hunger in the state that is being sponsored jointly by CFCM and the Christian Life Commission.
"With some organization and creativity, hunger in Texas can be alleviated, and I think we'll be well on our way to that within six years," said Everett, who has BAs in religion and history from Samford University and an MDiv (2001) from Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.
The THI project comes alongside hunger ministries related to the Texas Baptist Offering for World Hunger offered through the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which currently provides $475,000 for 95 Texas hunger ministries. The initiative will build capacity of existing ministries that are addressing hunger in the state. Initially, the project will identify regional leaders in the state and create networks, meeting the different needs of each region.
"I appreciate that this project begins by assessing strengths, and then allows us to build upon those strengths with a model that incorporates cultural and environmental sensitivity," Everett said. "We already have a lot of great efforts to alleviate hunger in place."
Suzii Paynter, director of the Christian Life Commission, BGCT, is excited about partnering with the School of Social Work. "It's like a new harvest to have the Baylor School of Social Work as a partner to boost and nourish the network of Texas Hunger Offering ministries," she said. "Great people are doing God's work caring for the 'least of these,' and this project will give them tools, support and blessing for ever greater things, especially as we focus on Texas HOPE 2010."
Everett has spent the past five years in San Antonio's West Side, a historically low-income area where he lived with his wife, Amy (MDiv/MSW, 2004) and their two children, Lucas, 4, and Sam, 2. Employed by Baptist Children and Family Services, Everett helped start Guadalupe Street Coffee, a café with computers, wireless Internet service, murals painted by local artists and meeting spaces. As a community developer in West Side, Everett worked to bring together members of the City Council, business owners, and students and administrators from the area's Sidney Lanier High School.
The coffeehouse employs an average of seven people and sponsors a variety of youth and community programs, including college assistance, art events and business development meetings. Now, $2 million in city and federal grants are slated to further economic development in and around the coffeehouse, according to a report by Abe Levy, San Antonio Express-News (posted Jan. 24, 2009).
The Texas Hunger Initiative will give Everett opportunities to use his community development skills on a broader scale. Initially THI will focus on El Paso, the Valley, Bexar and McLennan counties seeking to develop and implement strategies to alleviate hunger through policy, education, community organizing and community development.
"We have chosen to focus on these areas first because there are existing programs and relationships," Everett said. "We can build upon the trust that is already there and grow successful partnerships."
Everett will spend the first months in his new role getting to know dedicated people who address the needs of the hungry every day and involving social work graduate students in the initiative.
"The process we'll put together for the hunger initiative is the same one I used in San Antonio, and both use social work principles," he said. "Students interested in community development and community organizing will graduate from the School of Social Work with direct practice experience gained through this initiative."
Baylor's School of Social Work began a concentration in community development this past year, and students already have been effective in a specific community building effort to alleviate hunger. The fall 2008 practice class researched, organized, chartered and began a Campus Kitchen, based on the national program in Washington, DC. Now a part of Baylor's Student Life Division, the kitchen will retrieve and feed nonprofit groups this spring.
In addition, the CFCM has researched and written original curriculum titled "Understanding Poverty," that now is being tested in congregations before final publication.
"We have found that churches are nearly begging for resources to help them address community needs," said Jon Singletary, CFCM and assistant professor at Baylor's School of Social Work. "We will continue to develop a curriculum on poverty to present to churches and civic groups as a way to introduce and prepare them to engage impoverished families in their communities."
The initial three-year funding of $100,000 annually for the THI will come from grants, gifts and BGCT sources. Everett will be located at the CFCM in Baylor's School of Social Work.
"Feeding hungry people and developing communities so that families can afford to feed themselves - that's what Jesus called us to do," said Diana Garland, dean of Baylor School of Social Work. "I am thrilled we will be working with the Christian Life Commission of the BGCT to help congregations bring an end to hunger and the poverty that creates hunger in their communities."
For more information, contact Everett at 254-339-3242 or Paynter at 512-789-5702 or at [email protected]