Gail Reese could teach the non-profit world a few things about partnerships and collaborations. Her program, “Ministry of Reconciliation,” thrives on the sorts of alliances that build communities—and now, thanks to help from the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Reese’s group has a home for its faith-based outreach and mentoring activities.
Until this year, Ministry of Reconciliation has been borrowing storefronts, living rooms and any other spaces they could persuade people to donate short-term. “We needed a permanent place for our small-group sessions,” says Gail Reese, the Ministry’s founder, and for work surrounding the Ministry’s main purpose, “connecting congregations, schools and businesses, mobilizing them to pool their resources and help the people in their communities.”
Reese and her volunteers are like busy neurotransmitters that carry messages across the synapses of the brain. They learn about the resources of a church or business—financial, social, spiritual, physical—and constantly work the synapses of the community, matching those strengths to people’s needs.
Without a permanent address, however, it hasn’t always been easy to bring people together efficiently. A few of the Ministry’s people-driven programs:
- Adopt-a-School. This Ward 1 initiative introduced pastors and school principals to each other, in hopes they would commit to making sure kids’ needs in their overlapping jurisdictions were covered. “We took the principals to church, and some of them talked to the congregations from the pulpit,” Reese says. One church welcomed an entire school staff to a cookout. Parishioners volunteered their time and supplied schools with uniforms, supplies and other items the schools needed. Every school in the ward was adopted, with one exception.
- Stop the Violence Campaign. Partnering with the Rape Crisis Center, the Ministry used school gyms to counsel students who wanted to talk confidentially about any kind of abuse, bullying or violence. Individuals in churches were trained in crisis counseling so that when they adopted a school, they could work with the school in its anti-violence programs. Students also entered their essays, poetry and artwork to compete for $50 prizes.
- “Strength to Stand” support groups. As part of “Stop the Violence,” neighbors are offered evaluation and counseling in anger management and conflict management, with ongoing support beyond the 30-day programs.
- Parent Power Breakfasts. Parents, grandparents and guardians attend a full-course breakfast where they’re encouraged to talk about their needs, feel supported, and get information. “Our goal with this program and the others is to train people,” Reese says, “so they can take what they learn out into the neighborhood.” Like all of the Ministry’s programs, Parent Power has a spiritual component: “We all pray for other people,” she says. “We make sure everyone has someone praying for them and their needs.”
The Ministry’s new home is on Emery Road, in the Lee-Harvey-Miles community. The Ministry acquired the property from the Cuyahoga Land Bank with much of the renovation work being donated. “Businesses and individuals have given their time—one installed carpeting for free, and a church sent a team to paint,” Reese says. “People invested with their hearts.” Little money has been involved in transforming the Ministry’s new home, but Reese considers herself a wealthy woman regardless: “It’s been a rich process,” she says.