Pastor Donte Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church and Senator Chris VanHollen (D-MD) collaborated on the Neighborhood Economic Development and Opportunity Act That Was Introduced Today
BALTIMORE, Aug. 3, 2020
BALTIMORE, Aug. 3, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- For nearly 20 years I have led the Southern Baptist Church and our Mary Harvin Transformation Center Community Development Corporation in East Baltimore with a divinely inspired vision to transform our church and community into the Kingdom of God, where people can find decent and affordable housing, be educated, work, and live, while worshiping God safely with their families.
For the last three years we took our plans and pleas to make churches the hub of the solution for the forgotten neighborhoods of East Baltimore to all corners of Washington, D.C. While everyone took the time to listen, Senator Van Hollen (D-MD) got to work and acted," Hickman said. "Our fantastic senator introduced the bill that we suggested to advance our effort to make churches and nonprofits the delivery points for rebuilding neighborhoods nationwide."
"The church, as a community stakeholder and trusted partner, has the responsibility to evolve our outreach and evangelism. We have always tried to restore the heart and soul of people through worship," Hickman noted.
"We also have a second responsibility in neighborhoods where we worship that have experienced decades of neglect. Our responsibility is to rebuild properties, and streets, and parks in those neighborhoods so that people have a decent place to live, work, and worship near their church," Hickman explained.
Combining those ingredients and integrating them is the missing link to solving the problems that we see today. To that end, Hickman has partnered with the community and neighboring churches to develop the East Baltimore Revitalization Plan, a grassroots Master Plan that was adopted by the City of Baltimore's Planning Department.
Hickman's program now includes other churches and faith based organizations in each of the quadrants of Baltimore City to expedite change. While the Southern Baptist Church had some success with building affordable housing and making huge property and land acquisitions, there is always a funding gap in the most neglected neighborhoods where we pastor.
"We are hopeful that his bill that we suggested to authorize and fund the financial gap and deliver the solutions through plans developed by churches, faith-based groups, and non-profits will be quickly acted on and included in the COVID recovery legislation," Hickman explained.
If so, faith based institutions can integrate their work to restore people and rebuild neighborhoods and places to live and enjoy life around churches as an anchor. "We can do this for God's glory when this bill passes, because we will be able to fill the funding gaps. This is what I've been advocating and fighting for with the Trump Administration and Democrats and Republicans in Congress," Pastor Hickman concluded.
Pastor Hickman was raised in Edmondson Village, an inner city community in West Baltimore and now pastoring in Broadway East, an inner city community in East Baltimore. He knows that there is no dearth of talent, energy, giftedness, intellect and initiative in the urban communities. But what Baltimore and other cities need besides fairer opportunities are a removal of the overwhelming obstacles, barriers and distractions that make it all but impossible but for a few exceptions to pursue and accomplish dreams, become gainfully employed, build families, strengthen communities, and make America better for all.
The health and economic disparities in urban communities has suppressed both the monetary and moral values so severely that these distressed areas are impossible to be revitalized without the right public spending and gap financing that bolsters and compliments private investment and federal tax credit programs such as Opportunity Zone Tax Credits.
"With this bill the faith based communities and non-profit partners that have local plans for their neighborhoods can lead, collaborate, and help to successfully transform our communities neighborhood by neighborhood. We can rid the blight, poverty, illness and violence that has plagued the forgotten and misunderstood citizens of not only East Baltimore, but all of our inner city communities across America," Hickman explains as his vision.
"In Baltimore and cities across our nation, we know our local non-profits and faith-based neighborhood organizations serve as the heartbeat of their surrounding communities, bringing people together and helping those in need. These organizations are uniquely positioned to understand the economic hardships facing residents of our cities – and how best to address them – but are often overlooked in the federal grant process. This legislation opens the door for new partnerships and taps into the local expertise of these organizations in our work to strengthen urban areas and improve economic development initiatives. I'm proud to introduce this bill – and to have worked with partners in Baltimore on this concept, and I will be pushing for Senate consideration of this important measure," said Senator Van Hollen.
"The church, as a community stakeholder and trusted partner, has a responsibility to rebuild properties, streets, and parks in our neighborhoods so that people have a decent place to live, work, and worship near their church. For the last three years we took our plans and pleas to make churches the hub of the solution for the forgotten neighborhoods of East Baltimore to all corners of Washington, D.C. While everyone took the time to listen, Senator Van Hollen got to work and acted. We are hopeful that his bill will be quickly acted on and included in the COVID recovery legislation. If so, faith based institutions can integrate their work to restore people and rebuild neighborhoods and places to live and enjoy life around churches as an anchor," said Pastor Donte Hickman of the Southern Baptist Church.
Pastor Donte Hickman
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SOURCE Southern Baptist Church