Thank you for making Metanoia Happen in 2017!
As I write these words of gratitude to the Metanoia community for a great 2017, we are also amid the Christmas Holiday. It is a time when Christians celebrate the idea that that which is transcendent (the Divine Creator of all) can be contained in that which is tactile, visible and concrete (a young child being born in Bethlehem). As Eugene Peterson’s “the Message” paraphrases John 1:14
“The Word (who was God) became flesh and blood,
And moved into the neighborhood.”
The idea that the transcendent can be present in that which is ordinary and concrete to us each day is not unique to Christians alone. It is an idea that has sustained me through much of our 15 years of community development work at Metanoia. Yes, we operate daily programs and are engaged in projects that can be difficult and sometimes exhausting. However, one of the keys to our sustainable progress is taking the time to step back and see the deeper meaning behind all we are doing. On our best days, Metanoia’s work offers a window into what it really means to love someone (love always being something that needs to be concrete to be understood), to maintain hope, and to believe despite the circumstances so much that we get to see the circumstances change.
2017 has been a remarkable year at Metanoia. Many of you know this because you have had an opportunity to review our Annual Report just released through the mail this past week. We began the year by opening a new Café on Reynolds Avenue. Duvall Catering was essential in helping us open “The Macon,” and realize our vision of seeing “Reynolds Avenue become a hub of community activities.” Although Duvall eventually had to close that café due to some broader reorganizing within their business, we are very excited to have a new operator in that space and going strong. Dellz on the Macon is owned by Dell Grayson and her daughter Smarel Taylor. They are offering healthy food and a very hip meeting place for our community each day on Reynolds. People who visit talk of how it is surely a sign of great things to come to the street as a whole. In 2018, we hope you might see progress on expansion of our Reynolds Avenue effort to include a business incubator in the building adjacent to ‘Dellz’.
This year we completed two homes on Norwood Street (with a third on Redwood Street just days from completion) for quality affordable housing in our community. We continue to repair the homes of numerous homeowners on a fixed income. We also received full funding for another eight units of housing to be completed in 2018 within our neighborhood. We have been privileged to partner with our friends at the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities to steward housing capital dollars which have allowed us to acquire property in our community and build out a pipeline of future housing projects. Because of this work, we hope that years from now you will be able to visit a positive, mixed income neighborhood and that it will prevent the typical script around the gentrification of distressed communities from occurring (low income people all get shoved aside as reinvestment comes in).
Our Youth Leadership Academy has more students attending than ever before. We are finishing the third year of a three year, developmentally appropriate and rotating curriculum for leadership development that will pay dividends well into the future. Our Youth Businesses are growing and this summer we were privileged to partner with Clemson University and the Boeing Corporation to offer coding camps to students that attended our summer Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School. We have graduates of these programs off at college and doing well. Our students remain a great inspiration to so many of us!
We made significant progress on our eventual plans for the adaptive reuse of the former Chicora Elementary School. We were able to get site control with the City of North Charleston. Though we had a bit of a scare that a significant source of funding may disappear as the result of federal tax reform efforts, these fears were averted when congress preserved New Market and Historic Tax Credits. Our project even generated a little local advocacy in this effort. We continue making very promising progress for this project and hope to have more significant news in 2018 which promises to be a big year for Old Chicora.
In each of these works I can think of names and faces of people that have exhibited something transcendent to me. They have shown hope and faith and love to me and to others in a way that is truly inspiring. Maybe that is why I am as excited about 2018 (our 16th year of doing this together, believe it or not) as I have ever been about any year at Metanoia. Without YOU, yes YOU, this would not be possible. Your financial support, your volunteering, your involvement in our community help us make real and tangible progress. But maybe more importantly, your tangible support conveys something transcendent, very meaningful and intangible. You communicate hope, joy, faith, love and a host of other values that are the sustaining lifeblood of our life together at Metanoia. Thank you for a great 2017, I look forward to working alongside you in 2018 as we experience that which is transcendent in our everyday, concrete work together.