Renewal, Inc. began shortly after Bishop Alvin Walker founded the Lighthouse Church in Monroe, La. After becoming aware of the need for computer training classes, steps were taken to offer them to the entire congregation. Having some success, Bishop Walker began to see there was also a real need in our community to provide services to help individuals come out of poverty. Renewal, Inc. emerged in 1998 with the mission of fostering economic and social development to disadvantaged communities in Northeast Louisiana. Renewal partnered with a local agency named the Ouachita Enterprise Community (OEC) and its Executive Director Mr. Eric Lowe. Mr. Lowe was instrumental in helping Renewal with grant funds, and program development assistance. OEC along with professors Dr. Paul Dunn and Dr. Tammy Rapp Parker from the University of Louisiana at Monroe Small Business Development Center (ULM-SBDC) collaborated with Renewal, Inc. to start a youth/adult entrepreneurship program with an initial grant of $100,000 from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Along with funding from the Foundation, each organization and/or team was provided with a Coach or central figure that would help with program implementation and communication with Foundation. For us that person was Ms. Faye Williams. Ms. Williams proved to be extremely knowledgeable, approachable, and a real asset. With her assistance Renewal built a solid foundation that we still have today.
Soon after, Renewal began providing a comprehensive business development program to interested individuals over a 4-week period. The program included bringing in local entrepreneurs to share the pros and cons of starting a business.
Participants toured local businesses in this area and had to present a full business plan at the end of the classes. The best plans received $500.00 towards the start of their businesses.
Graduates of the program started a Small Business Support Group that met once a month to discuss issues such as obtaining contracts, marketing, etc.
Through evaluation methods, it was determined that many of the entrepreneurs were in need of affordable housing. Renewal partnered with Macon Ridge Community Development Center to review individual credit reports. This information was invaluable to those who went on to purchase homes of their own.
Next we partnered with Community Trust Bank and Mr. Larry Emory to teach the Money Smart Program. This program would insure that these people could maintain their finances properly. Many people in our community were helped including the youth in our community. Several of whom opened bank accounts and had a better understanding of financial issues. Because there was such a need for financial literacy, we shared these classes with schools, community centers, and low-income housing communities in Northeast Louisiana.
Renewal has also served as a regional intermediary for Microenterprise Development for the Louisiana State Department of Economic Development in Northeast Louisiana.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation offered opportunities to various communities to work with youth to develop documentaries about their communities. Nick Superla of Appalshop of Whitesburg KY, which is a non-profit multi-disciplinary arts and education center in the heart of Appalachia, worked with 12 youth ages 11-18 on their first documentary called “I Come from a Place Where.” The video was about the lives of the youth growing up in Louisiana. Since its’ inception, the Youth/Adult Video Production program has completed documentaries on Booker T. Community Outreach, Sarah Albritton and The Blue Light Café, Moses Williams of Tallulah, La, Renewal, Inc. and the Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The program was recognized nationally by the Southern Rural Development Initiative in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Renewal Regional Community Building Program (RRCBP) began as a way for organizations in this region to collaborate, network, and receive valuable information on strategies to become sustainable organizations. Through Renewal’s efforts, Eight grassroots nonprofit organizations have received over $44,000 in seed funding and needed technology equipment to help their firms prosper.
The Church and Community Flag Football League Program was a direct result of the networking and collaborative efforts of the RRCBP. The program mentors’ boys ages 8 to 17 with a summer long Flag football league. Over 200 youth have participated in the highly successful program that has become an enjoyable event for whole families of our community. The RRCBP evolved into the Summer Youth Basketball League and is presently partnering with the City of Monroe in serving the community by mentoring boys during the summer and providing a wholesome environment for them to be nurtured in.
Currently, Renewal provides 1st Time Homebuyer's Classes, Credit Education and several other programs. We plan to continue our work to fight economic and social issues in our region.