Action Ministries to Bring 'Life Changer' Programs to Newton County
Generous Bequest Enables Congregations to Partner with Action Ministries
Leaders of Action Ministries have announced that, starting in June 2015, it will be offering its signature hunger relief, housing and education programs to the people of Newton County.
Thanks to the generous bequest of the late Mrs. Jean Davenport, a long-time Newton County resident who worked at Sears, Roebuck & Co. and later enjoyed a 35-year career at Life of Georgia insurance company, two congregations seeking to steward this gift in a compassionate and transformative way have been able to partner with Action Ministries.
Rev. Teresa Lilja, pastor of Alcovy UMC in Covington, says she wanted her church to be a "dot on the map" for reaching people in need. As the pastor of the church of around 30 active members located just outside metro Atlanta, she saw a growing and urgent need for compassionate services for the portion of their community that struggles with poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, homelessness and hunger.
"We see a lot of hurt. We're a very small church, but the missions our folks do just blow me away,” said Rev. Lilja. "They are feeding people, distributing coats, working with a food pantry. They work very hard at it, but unless you team up with other people, your impact can only be so big. We dreamed of doing something bigger."
Just over a year ago, their dreams came one step closer to reality after a member of the congregation, Jean Davenport, died and left her sizeable estate to three area churches that she was connected to in Newton County.
The bequest linked Alcovy to Social Circle's Mt. Pleasant UMC, which was also named in the will. Mt. Pleasant also was heavily involved in its community, hosting food drives, feeding the hungry and serving local people in need.
Both congregations found themselves with access to significant resources, but with little guidance as to how their benefactor wanted it used.
"We had discussions with the executor of the estate to learn what mattered most to Jean. She wanted to make an impact in her community, especially on families and children," Rev. Lilja said.
Both churches desired a partner, one which brought a depth of experience and connections in the area of mobilizing communities to lead people out of poverty. Such a partnership would allow the churches to multiply their efforts and touch lives in new ways. Action Ministries was their choice.
"Bringing Action Ministries to Covington is a win-win-win situation, and that's where you find God fantastically meeting the needs of people through this little church that so wants to help," Rev. Lilja said. "The faith community as a whole in Newton County will have brand-new opportunities to work with folks in the secular world to love and care for our neighbors. We'll get a chance to demonstrate what it looks like to work alongside Christians."
"We believe Action Ministries is well suited to carry out the vision of ministry and mission in our community that our congregation and the benefactor felt was important," said the Rev. Leah Cunningham, pastor of Mt. Pleasant.
One of the first programs to touch families in Newton County will be Smart Lunch, Smart Kid this summer. Approximately one million children in Georgia receive free or reduced-price lunch, a crucial meal that disappears when school is out for the summer.
In partnership with local congregations, corporations and volunteers, Smart Lunch, Smart Kid will serve the children of Newton County lunch and provide enrichment opportunities to nourish minds and bodies.
"I am humbled and inspired by the servant leadership of Teresa Lilja and Leah Cunningham, who represent these two gifting congregations, and we can't wait to be part of this unfolding story," said John R. Moeller, president & CEO of Action Ministries. "We are excited to turn the page together in Newton County."
"I think miracles are ahead of us," Lilja said.
Action Ministries has named Tamara Richardson as the Newton area director. An individual with significant experience in downtown revitalization, marketing, tourism and development, she will utilize Action Ministries’ philosophy of learning about existing programs and then building strong partnerships with nonprofits, congregations, government offices, businesses and the citizens in order to expand hunger relief, housing and education opportunities for the people of Newton and surrounding counties. ounty.
“I’m thrilled to be a part of the Action Ministries team and excited to use my 27 years of building relationships in the community to help my fellow Newton County residents,” said Richardson. “This is a wonderful time for Newton County. Mrs. Davenport would be so pleased that her gifts are being used exactly as she intended – to make an impact in her community.”