For 23 years of active service in the US Coast Guard, after graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in June 1975, I looked for opportunities to help others – teaching at the Coast Guard’s Officer Candidate School, serving at sea in four cutters, including command of USCGC FORWARD (WMEC-911). I invited young people to experience the Service in all assignments – taking students from HD Woodson High School on a cruise up the Chesapeake Bay. It is the same idea that brought me 10 years of community organizing with the Industrial Areas Foundation project in Washington, DC – the Washington Interfaith Network.
Just over four years ago, I met Mack McCarter who shared an idea about reimagining what I call “the caring fellowship in the neighborhood,” launching Community Renewal in Washington, DC. The invitation – go into the neighborhood, meet people where they are and walk with them as they discover their gifts and rebuild the community. This included going on retreat with core team members from the DC Metro Area. On retreat I shared my idea of caring fellowship in the neighborhood – walking an hour in any direction from my house and encountering people who knew me and my 12 older siblings. All the adults were actively engaged in my life. I knew I was in the right place when Mack, Teshome, and Valentin – from Shreveport, Ethiopia and Cameron respectively, shared that this was their experience growing up and they wanted to recreate it for others.
Why am I here? Community Renewal in DC is an invitation to build the caring fellowship in the neighborhood – finding the best in what we call the worst neighborhoods and introducing people in gated communities to what they’re missing by not meeting the people in the projects. Real fellowship – real community – real people; that is Community Renewal.