Through online voting at WORLDmag.com/compassion, WORLD readers are now choosing the winner of the 2010 Hope Award for Effective Compassion. One admirable trait shared by our four finalists is the perseverance of their leaders: Year after year, without much money or attention, they work to change lives.
What about compassionate Christians we've covered in the past? Recently I decided to find out whether those we profiled about a decade ago are still at it. Here are brief updates on 10 of them.
Hannah Hawkins (WORLD, March 11, 2000), the widowed mother of five grown children, is celebrating this year the 25th anniversary of Children of Mine, an after-school program in a rundown community center in the poor Anacostia section of Washington, D.C. Devastated by the murder of her husband, she had made a "covenant with God. . . . If He would allow me to get up out of my bed, I would serve those that were less fortunate."
She told me in 2000 that she wouldn't think of taking government money: "Couldn't have prayer. And when they finish with you, it's not your program, it's theirs." She did once agree to take government-supplied meals, but was not impressed: "The milk was warm, the tacos were cold, and the watermelon was sour. Some of the children didn't want milk, so I didn't give it to them, and then the government people said you didn't give the children complete meals. I said I wanted to teach the children not to waste, but the government people told me, 'Give it to them anyway. Give them a complete meal, and let them throw it in the trash.'"
Hawkins' biggest challenge, she says, is a lack of funding, with donations not coming as they once were. Nearby centers have closed but Children of Mine continues to provide the same services to about 75 children weekly. Hawkins' volunteers also provide haircuts, run a clothing bank, and serve meals to homeless men and children, seniors, and needy families. Church groups come in to teach Bible studies and to cook and feed the needy.
Stephen Broden (WORLD, Sept. 4, 1999) of the Fair Park Friendship Center in Dallas still runs an after-school program for latchkey kids otherwise left alone. FPFC provides tutoring plus arts and crafts, with snacks thrown in, from 3 to 6 p.m. A summer program for 15-20 boys takes them out to local camping sites where they work on developing personal responsibility and the understanding of teamwork. A program for 10 girls emphasizes healthy lifestyles and Bible study.
Broden says his inner-city community needs greater understanding of the value and worth of human life from a divine and biblical perspective. He also faces economic challenges-blue-collar workers in the neighborhood need to improve their skill sets. Federal government programs, he has found, provide services that eliminate incentives for self-determination and produce a dependency mentality.
FPFC moved into a new 10,000- square-foot facility in 2001 that is paid for and debt free: It houses a food pantry, clothing store, and the after-school program. FPFC remains privately funded by businesses and individuals: Finances are always a challenge, but Broden has found people willing to give as long as they see their investment is making a difference in the local community.
Tim Glader (WORLD, Aug. 14, 1999) started Masterworks in Minneapolis to provide basic employment to people who had proven unable to keep a job. He set up a series of incentives to push people to stay on the job for at least a year and was often frustrated when people dropped out after, say, a fight with a girlfriend. But he has kept at it, and Masterworks now operates a packaging business and a thrift store and manages several apartment buildings.
John Piper's Bethlehem Baptist Church has continued to support Masterworks, and some employees have broken out of their self-destructive cycles. Some with prison records, though, have found it hard to transition to better jobs: Employers often cannot get insurance to cover ex-inmates. The continuing recession has stung small businesses that are the biggest job providers.
Prince Cousinard (WORLD, Feb. 20, 1999) ran Inner City Youth, a refuge in Houston's rough Third Ward for kids abandoned by drug-dealing dads. Now he and his wife, Sheila, have expanded his small neighborhood sports ministry into a program with 14 staff members, The Forge for Families, that offers activities for both kids and adults.
Their children's programs include seasonal team sports, summer youth camps, daily after-school programs, and a character development program for girls. Their adult programs include a seven-week life skills development curriculum, friendship circles for mentoring, personal counseling, and a recovery program. The Cousinards remain in the Third Ward, remain committed to Christ, and attract 400 volunteers each year.
Bill Stanczykiewicz (WORLD, Aug. 5, 2000) ran the Front Porch Alliance, which helped Indianapolis church and community groups to cut through governmental red tape. Now he is the president and CEO of Indiana Youth Institute, a secular organization that supports grassroots youth organizations and the 7,000 youth-serving professionals within them.
IYI publishes statistics on child well-being, has a state-wide radio show and a newspaper column, provides online career planning services, and runs the Indiana Mentoring Program, which provides mentors for any student in Indiana who wants one, as a stepping stone toward academic achievement. Some 20 percent of the organizations IYI supports are faith-based. IYI has received local and federal support and also manages state contracts to help at-risk youth and encourage responsible fatherhood.
Tim Streett (WORLD, Dec. 18, 1999) opened JIREH Sports in 1998 with an emphasis on gymnastics, classical wresting (not the WWF variety), and character development. The plan is still the same: Use non-conventional sports to challenge stereotypes in black communities, and help parents who see their children largely as future Michael Jordans to come to grips with their own expectations. Since then, JIREH has added taekwondo, boxing, jump rope, and dance to the program, which serves 175 children each week, and still has the classic wrestling segment, which a dozen Christian coaches and former wrestlers run on a volunteer basis.
JIREH Sports now has two buildings and 24 acres of land that Streett plans to develop, but the organization itself in 2008 merged with Jay Height's Shepherd Community. Streett is now assistant director at Shepherd, and he hopes through that ministry to provide more services to children's families. Streett and others run "Shepherd U," which has 6-week courses called Poverty 101 and City 101 that are designed to help volunteers and staffers understand the nature of urban poverty.
Jay Height (WORLD, Aug. 5, 2000) still heads up the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis: After merging with four other ministries Shepherd has a staff of 60, a budget of almost $4 million, and a reputation for trying to meet physical needs for food and clothing, while emphasizing spiritual and educational needs. Shepherd annually serves 5,000 people with childcare, after-school programs for elementary and middle-school students, college prep programs for high-school students, summer camps, job skills training, and family counseling.
Height says that heightened drug use and higher unemployment are creating overwhelming needs. The privately funded group hit some rough financial spots in 2008 and 2009 but has lately seen improvement.
Curt Williams (WORLD, Jan. 30, 1999, and Nov. 11, 2000) still runs Youth-Reach, a program with beds for 18 troubled kids in Houston and now 18 more in Alabama. The emphasis is still the same: inner transformation through a relationship with Christ buttressed by discipline and accountability. The program is still financially challenged but it's becoming more ecologically self-sufficient: Youth-Reach just received a grant to build a greenhouse.
Williams himself now has seven children, ages 3 to 16. The philosophy announced in a newsletter a decade ago remains the same: "We are unapologetically a Christ-based program. . . . For a child to have new clothes and keep an old heart is an example of misdirected energies."
Fred Myers (WORLD, Aug. 14, 1999) was 73 in 2003, the year he retired from the organization he had started two decades before, Rebuild Resources. Rebuild, located in St. Paul, Minn., is still going strong as a workplace and home for people recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction.
Myers' retirement did not last long. He is now president of Sober Corps, a volunteer organization incorporated in 2007 to serve individuals unable to get jobs due to felonies or incarceration on their records. Through one-to-one mentoring Sober Corps aims to help those who have repeatedly relapsed. Mentors operate out of a downtown church and agree to serve at least eight months. Myers remains convinced that people seeking sobriety need a strong support system based on individualized counseling.
-with reporting by Tiffany Owens
Jim and Carol Clarkson are still the directors of Sunshine Ministries in St. Louis (WORLD, Feb. 9, 2002). Sunshine's primary work a decade ago, in a run-down area, was with homeless men and women. That's still an important focus-but the Clarksons saw the need to start earlier. They now have new teen and youth/family buildings, and a major activity this summer is a camp at Eagle Lodge, located an hour from the inner city.
The camp has three 3-week sessions, each for 20 campers from poor families who ride a bus there every morning and enter the lodge sniffing for the sweet smells they've come to expect: Carol Clarkson bakes before the kids arrive so that the smell of cinnamon rolls or something similar will greet them. She also takes lots of photos and prints out the pictures every day so that campers can put together scrapbooks that in hard times will remind them of their Eagle Lodge experiences.
Each camper has a big buddy, a student at least 16 years old. One 7-year-old late in June, asked what she had learned in camp, said that she had jumped into the pool worried that her big buddy wouldn't catch her--but big buddy Erika did.
Many of the kids don't have much experience with trust. Nor are some of them familiar with sitting down to a well-prepared lunch (one day: hot dogs, baked beans, watermelon, grapes) or praying before they eat. "We really have good meals," Clarkson says: "I make my own macaroni and cheese from scratch. . . . We always have fruit or salad. . . . They eat like you wouldn't believe. . . . My specialty is brownies. . . . I always serve them hot out of the oven so they're real gooey."
Clarkson said that many of the campers come from "this environment where there is crime and there are horrible things going on around them and they are supposed to accept those things . . . and go on with your life. So, they don't even learn some emotions as kids."
Big buddies tell the campers Bible stories: One girl in her fifth year at camp talked about her favorite Bible story--how Adam and Eve "got made by God." And big buddies play with their campers in the swimming pool, a new experience for many who, as Clarkson explains, had never before been in a pool: "It's a really good one-on-one time with their big buddies because they play together and they do silly things out there. It's just a moment in their lives when they can totally block out anything else and just have innocent fun."
The camp at Eagle Lodge originated in a loss of innocence and life-the rape and murder of a mom and daughter. The daughter had been a participant in the after-school program, and the "so what else is new?" lack of emotion in the teens, when they heard the sad news, was something that Clarkson couldn't forget.
Two weeks later she read in the book of Isaiah the prophet's proclamation that even youths will grow tired and weary-but hope comes from waiting on the Lord and then, as chapter 40 of Isaiah relates, soaring on wings like eagles. The Clarksons began looking for property outside the city on which they could locate a camp that could fight such weariness of soul.
When they checked out one house, they saw eagle figurines above a sink, pictures of eagles in the wrought iron on the backs of benches, an eagle weather vane on the top of the barn, eagle etchings here and there. That property is now Eagle Lodge.
Carol Clarkson lives there from Monday through Friday during the summer. (Husband Jim, who runs the program for the homeless, comes on Wednesday and returns to inner-city St. Louis on Thursday morning.) It all requires planning. She quickly learned that she could not depend on parents to send kids with their swimsuits every day, so she emphasizes having parents send the kids with their suits the first day: Clarkson keeps them at the end of each day, dries them, folds them, and puts them back in their rooms every night.
On Friday night she washes everything before she goes home. She says she cleans the bathrooms quickly, puts the first load in the dryer, and then goes to her room, puts her feet up, and enjoys an ice cream bar. Vanilla with dark chocolate: "That's my drug of choice."