This week we pick up the story of Bradley Initiative for Church and Community (BICC) in Phase 3 (mid-2004 to mid-2007).
The opening scene finds BICC in a flurry of wonderful things happening:
1. REACH Adult High School opened its doors for the first semester and, while we were anticipating 15 to 20 adults to apply, you can imagine how we felt when 52 students enrolled.
2. The Black Fox Community Preschool was filled to capacity.
3. With the fourth Festival of Cultures scheduled for Sept. 8, preparations were in full swing.
4. BICC's Diversity Team was designing a series of workshops and seminars planned for September.
This was an exciting time of seeing the fruit of our labor through definite, measurable outcomes of the community working together across barriers that had formerly limited this level of collaboration. Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland and Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis jointly proclaimed September 2004 would be “Stand for Unity” Month in Cleveland and Bradley County because of the Festival of Cultures, BICC's diversity work and a community-wide prayer event called Transformations sponsored by Cleveland Net.
When REACH Adult High School became a full-fledged high school in the Bradley County School System and Black Fox community pre-school was also under the same system, this freed up BICC's human resources.
It was again time to gather the listening interviews that continued to be conducted through the past year. After a careful review, youth issues in our community stood out as a major concern. Recognizing the multiplicity of issues that face our youth, BICC asked the question, “What project can make the greatest impact in the lives of our youth?”
It was acknowledged that youth are influenced greatly by their peers; therefore, the emphasis of BICC's next project would be youth leadership development; that is, helping youth develop their innate leadership abilities to positively impact their peers. A visionary team developed the goals and objectives for the program and applied for a grant to launch Inspiring Tomorrow's Leaders Today (ITLT).
However, the same week that we received the disappointing news that we were not chosen as one of the grant recipients, the Bradley County School System received the $8.2 million Safe Schools/Healthy Students Grant. Since all the ground work was in place for ITLT, BICC was invited to be one of the faith-based partners of the initiative.
In January 2005, Desmond Wellington was hired as the director and launched ITLT. The main objective was to recruit students from each of the middle and high schools in Cleveland and Bradley County to serve in the capacity of a board with decision-making roles and responsibilities. This group's directive was to design and implement the most effective means of helping students to make positive lifestyle choices.
With earlier initiatives, the community forums were conducted prior to the selection of the project; however, BICC took a little different approach in the youth emphasis. It was decided that the community forum related to youth issues would be developed by the youth.
After the program was established, the ITLT students were involved in designing and organizing the forum. On a very stormy Monday night, more than 200 people gathered for discussion. Parents, educators, elected officials, police officers, pastors and many youth gathered at the Museum Center at Five Points and actively participated as youth had the opportunity to share their perspectives and discuss issues that affect young people.
As ITLT moved forward, it became apparent there was a great need for caring adult mentors in the lives of many of our youth. BICC developed a plan and submitted it to the Safe Schools/Health Students Initiative. The plan included a five-year partnership, bringing together the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of Cleveland, the Family Y and BICC in a concerted effort to help “bridge the gap” for students who needed additional support.
The Bridging the Gap Mentoring program was launched in June 2006, and began recruiting and training caring adults to serve as mentors. Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs and Family Y generously make their services and facilities available for mentees and mentors to meet in wholesome environments with great activities available.
At this point, I need to go back and pick up on the 2004 Festival of Cultures that was in full swing at the beginning of this phase. The long-awaited day finally arrived; however, it was also the day a terrible weather front stalled over southeast Tennessee. Torrential rains lasted through the night and morning hours. The painful call was made around 5 a.m. posting the notice that the Festival was cancelled. It was a great disappointment, but we rescheduled for April 2005, hoping the spring weather would be more amiable.
The 2005 Festival of Cultures turned out to be the best ever with an estimated 25,000 attendees, many cultural booths, great entertainment and tons of food from many different countries were among the attractions. The 2006 Festival was planned as the Five-Year Anniversary Festival. Extensive planning and preparations were made as the day approached.
A rain date was scheduled just in case. Therefore, the fact that heavy rains did come on the original date was not an issue because everyone knew about the rain date. However, heavy rains through the night and morning hours on the rain date were pretty devastating. The 2006 Festival was held in sporadic light showers and very wet conditions. In spite of all, there were still about 5,000 attendees.
BICC's financial losses related to the Festival that year were approximately $50,000. Although the Festival of Cultures had become a very popular event in our community, as a nonprofit we could not continue to risk these kinds of losses. The Board of Directors recognized that the Festival of Cultures had made a tremendous impact on the disunity issues that we set out to address, and while we would continue to address these issues in our other work, BICC would not continue to host the Festival of Cultures.
Although the disappointment was heavy through those days, we knew that God was at work. The next phase brought even greater opportunities and positive impact in our community as we will discuss next week.
This is Week No. 5 in a series that is being devoted to BICC and various BICC-initiated projects, including their history, development, current status and future goals. I invite you to continue to join me here each week as I share the work and ministry of BICC. For more information, check out our website at www.bicc-inc.org; email email@example.com; or call 559-1112.
Each week I will pose a question and invite your response. You can mail your response to: BICC, P.O. Box 5404, Cleveland, Tenn. 37311; or send an email to the address above.
Question for Week No. 5: “What hopes do you have for our community?”