Monday, April 13, 2015

Launch of N. Fair Oaks Empowerment Project a Big Success!

The launch of the Fair Oaks Community Empowerment Project took place at the home of Maria Teresa Kowal, an architect from Nicaragua who lives on Summit Ave. Twenty people came to this gathering and it was a big success. Among those attending were five pastors and two members of the Northwest Pasadena Commission. The pastors were Henry Sideropoulis, John Stewart, John Bledsoe, Henry Johnson and Sterling Brown. The Northwest Commissioners were Hilda Delgado and Michelle Bailey. It was appropriate and encouraging that these Commissioners attended since the Northwest Pasadena Commission serves as a monitoring body for this area and makes recommendations to the City Manager about development activities (see ;

After a delicious brunch, and a prayer by Pastor John Stewart of the New Guiding Light Missionary Baptist (whose church is located on N. Fair Oaks), Jill gave aPowerPoint presentation explaining the goals and methodology of the project. 

"Today we are launching a new effort to transform a neglected corner of Pasadena via a resource fair in partnership with the African American churches," said Jill. "We will work with and not simply for the community. We have already begun listening to the hopes and dreams of some of the eight churches and eighteen businesses and nonprofits on this part of N. Fair Oaks. We are inviting them to join our team and into the process of discovering the assets they have in transforming their community. The community itself will plan this fair and be featured in the fair, as well as outside resources like groups providing jobs and job training. In the process, the community will form a collective voice." She explained how other members of her team, Josh Lopez and Maria Teresa Kowal, have begun canvassing members of this community. So far, all have said they want to participate in this effort.

Pastor John Bledsoe, president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA,an organization of African American pastors), announced that that IMA has fully approved and supports the North Fair Oaks Empowerment Project as part of their outreach in the community.  Both Northwest Commissioners felt this project was something that the City should support and fund. Sharon Hannahone of Jill's long-tiem supporters, explained why she is a regular donor and expressed her enthusiasm for this new project.

Over $1200 has been raised so far, with promises of over $1000 more from various individuals and churches. 

I am personally very excited that this launch was so successful and have already pledged $500, in addition to my time. I feel that this project will not only benefit the community, it is consistent with my Quaker values. Several members of my Quaker meeting have expressed support for this project and have offered to donate funds.  I will keep you informed about how this project develops. 

 Please consider a tax-deductible contribution so that we can engage indigenous leaders to transform their community through the power and love of Christ.  You can give online at:   Be sure to select “North Fair Oaks Community Empowerment” from the “Designation (please Choose One)” dropdown menu.  Write your check to “Missions Door” and be sure to put on the memo line: #74616O (the last digit is the letter “o”, not “zero”) or the project name.

                North Fair Oaks Community Empowerment

As Jesus said, “What you do to the least of these you do for me” (Matthew 25).

At first glance, North Fair Oaks Ave looks like a blighted area, especially compared to other areas of our affluent community. Most of the nearby residents are low income Latinos and African Americans. The crime rate in this area is the highest in the city. But we are convinced that God has not abandoned this area, nor should we.
If you were to pass by on a Saturday afternoon, you might notice a communion meal taking place at one of the eight churches located north of Howard and south of Woodbury, or fresh paint outside of the local meat market, or perhaps a family picking up a quinceaƱera dress from a family-run business.  Take a closer look at this part of town and you’ll see the many nursing homes (known as “bed-pan alley”), a community health clinic, a Boys and Girls Club, eighteen businesses and eight churches. These glimpses of God’s resurrection power give evidence of hope in a place known mainly for its rampant violence and drug abuse—the result of policies that have neglected this area for many years.
We feel that God is calling us to help resurrect hope in this part of our city. In conversations with some of the business owners, we asked, “If the city were to invest in this neighborhood what would you like to see?” With much prodding, they suggested, “A crosswalk” “A median with trees and flowers” “Parking” “My friends would never be caught in this corner of town, we need a safe place with decent food to go for lunch.”  Yet, all responded with doubtfulness, “The city would never do this.” We believe in a big God, able to resurrect places as well as people, who can raise up local leaders to nurture their collective voice and realize their common dreams. We believe God will provide the resources needed to realize these dreams, and in the process, transform lives for the glory of Christ.
We see Christ already at work.  He has put this dream in the hearts of our team and we hope that you will join us. We are inviting you to partner with us over the next seven months to support our Christian mission team that we have named the “North Fair Oaks Community Empowerment.”
Our strategy: Under the coaching of the Communities First Association ( ) and the direction of Dr. Jill Shook, who is a nationally known expert on Christian Community Development, we will use the best practices in asset-based community development. We will engage in a process to discover and develop indigenous leaders and collaborate with them and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (an association of African American pastors that has been active in Pasadena for nearly 80 years) to create a resource fair. Through this fair, we will help forge a collective voice to renew the community’s faith and to build their capacity to realize their dreams. 
The total cost for this 7-month project is $37,600.  To reach this goal, we need 20 people to give $270 per month, 40 people to give $123 per month, or 80 people to give $67 per month. Please consider a tax-deductible contribution so that we can engage indigenous leaders to transform their community through the power and love of Christ.  You can give online at:   Be sure to select “North Fair Oaks Community Empowerment” from the “Designation (please Choose One)” dropdown menu.  Write your check to “Missions Door” and be sure to put on the memo line: #74616O (the last digit is the letter “o”, not “zero”) or the project name.

We are very excited to be part of what God is doing and hope you will join us!


Maria Teresa, Jill & Josh

Our Team

Maria Teresa, from Nicaragua, is an architect who has designed and planted churches, done housing development and job creation.  She currently lives on Summit, a few blocks from N. Fair Oaks. She has engaged thousands of her neighbors through creating block parties, Christmas posadas and starting a home church. These efforts have contributed to diminishing the rampant shootings and murders on her street.
Jill Shook has been involved in community transformation efforts for decades. She is author of Making Housing Happen: Faith Based Affordable Housing Models and through this book has researched how God is transforming communities across our nation.  Jill is committed to creating mixed-income housed communities that thrive and demonstrate “Thy Kingdom come on earth as in heaven.” Her mission is the restoration of the soul of the city, the redemption of people, communities, and the land itself.

Josh Lopez recently completed his Master’s in Transformational Urban Leadership from Azusa Pacific University while living and working in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is passionate about engaging the body of Christ to be front and center in the social and spiritual transformation of their local communities.

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