Looking after an investment

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 7, 2014

Back in October at Livingstone College, girls participating in FACT — Families and Communities Together — were able to spend four hours with some pretty successful women.

The “Girls Rock with Docs!” program allowed girls from Zion Hills Apartments a chance to hear inspiring messages from eight women — an attorney, professor, two associate professors, two dentists and a campus dean,  The women all had one thing in common — the “Dr.” in front of their names — and children living at Zion Hills don’t often get opportunities to meet these kinds of role models.

A unique partnership between Moore’s Chapel and Soldiers’ Memorial AME Zion churches made it possible, and that’s just one example of what FACT, their outreach ministry to Zion Hills, has provided over the past two-and-a-half years.

Why Zion Hills? Back in 1971, after buying property from Livingstone College, the two churches built the 50-unit Zion Hills Apartments, a rent-subsidized housing complex off Standish Street. The churches still own Zion Hills today and, to their credit, they are trying to be more than landlords. Members of both congregations could be satisfied with providing housing to low-income families, but they are not.

Rather, they decided in 2012 to try and enrich the lives of the families living at Zion Hills. For children and teens, they aimed at providing tutoring, mentoring, life skills and insights into self-esteem, good decision-making, healthy relationships, cultural appreciation and staying in schooll.

For the adults, the focus has been on computer classes, GED and continuing education, goal-setting, health fairs, meal-planning, safety, relationships and how to work toward owning homes for the first time.

Much of this work has happened at Miller Recreation Center, on the church grounds, at Livingstone College and at Rowan Public Library. There have been basketball camps and mentoring, reading camps, Vacation Bible Schools, art and literature camps and programs such as Girls Rock with Docs! and FIT, which stood for Females in Technology — a program sponsored by Livingstone  for fifth- through 12th-grade girls.

FACT is saying to the Zion Hills residents they can be successful, they are important and they will not be ignored, simply because of where they live and some of the economic challenges their families face.

Not many places in the United States will you find two churches who jointly own subsidized housing such as Zion Hills. As Soldiers’ Memorial’s Yvonne Tracey said, “it’s more unusual than it is usual.”

But the churches also are unusual in their compassion for the Zion Hills residents. You might say they are protecting their investment by making the best kind of investment of all — caring.