Opportunity Task Force Report How Covenant is responding - now and in the future

Above: Covenant volunteers work on a Habitat build on Friday, March 24.

A panel of community leaders published much-anticipated recommendations Monday for improving economic mobility in our city. It's an urgent problem: Poor children in Charlotte are less likely to escape poverty compared to their peers in America's 50 largest cities, according to a study from Harvard and UC Berkeley.

As you may be aware, Covenant is considering a capital campaign to address specific needs in our city and to re-define Covenant’s role in Charlotte for the foreseeable future. Several task groups of lay leaders are at work. Once their proposals have been refined and presented to Session, they will be fully presented to the church community.

A potential campaign would build on our congregation's many years of work with nonprofit partners.

Below are some key pieces of the new report, a look at what Covenant is currently doing to support these goals - and a glimpse at possibilities for doing more in the future.

Panel recommendation: Make the necessary investments to ensure all children in Mecklenburg County from birth to age five have access to quality early childhood care and education.

How Covenant is responding now: Covenant supports the work of two organizations focused on this challenge: 1.) A Child's Place, which supports children, families and schools by intervening at the point of crisis when a family loses their home. 2.) Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, which prepares Spanish-speaking preschoolers with dual language education to prepare for successful entry into kindergarten.

In the future: Covenant is considering the launch of a new full-day child care program, including a component designed to serve multi-economic families. Nearby childhood development centers have long wait lists and little, if any, financial assistance. Our task group has done research, developed financial models, worked with architects and is getting close to being able to recommend a wise course forward. A larger goal would be to create a model for other churches.

The Arwood family served at Charlotte Bilingual Preschool during Covenant Impacts Charlotte.

Panel recommendation: Take dramatic steps to address our affordable housing crisis, which will stabilize working families, prevent family homelessness, and minimize the disruption of a large number of children who move from school to school due to housing affordability issues.

How Covenant is responding now: Covenant helped form Crisis Assistance Ministry for families facing emergencies with rent, utilities, clothing and furniture.

The church owns a building on Arosa Avenue adjacent to campus that includes three condo units for clients of Charlotte Family Housing. Since 2007, Covenant has provided $200,000 to this organization.

In addition, the congregation has provided nearly $550,000 to Habitat Charlotte since 1998. A Habitat build in west Charlotte Friday and Saturday brought together some two dozen volunteers (video below). McCreesh Place opened its doors to 63 residents in 2003 and has received $77,000 from Covenant dating back to 2001.

This spring, a Wednesday night series brings advocates and experts to the Covenant campus to educate us on current and future needs in our community.

In the future: Covenant is exploring the potential for purchasing safe, affordable family housing and contracting with local service agencies for placement and management. We may replicate the model used on Arosa Avenue, or expand to others. We would like to coordinate our affordable housing efforts and other mission endeavors, such as our work with Freedom Schools, Charlotte Family Housing, Habitat and Highland Renaissance Academy. Early indications suggest it will probably involve taking measured risks as we seek to address this pressing problem in our city.

Covenant is hosting a public conversation series with guest speakers from nonprofits.

Panel recommendation: Expand and strengthen support for first-generation and other low-socioeconomic students who need help transitioning to and completing post-secondary education.

How Covenant is responding now: Covenant provides reading buddies, staff appreciation brunches and a summer Freedom School program for Highland Renaissance Academy, a high-poverty CMS school off North Tryon Street.

Just this month, more than 35 Covenant members teamed to make Staff Appreciation Week a resounding success with deliveries of teacher supply bags, coffee and donuts and gifts in teacher mailboxes.

A portion of our most recent Christmas Eve offering will allow fourth- and fifth- grade students to take field trips to Raleigh and Atlanta to visit historic sites and museums. For many, it will be the first time to travel beyond the city limits of Charlotte.

With financial support from Covenant, Highland students visited Charleston (upper left) and Atlanta (upper right). Teachers are treated to monthly staff appreciation brunches (bottom).

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