Paul Huneycutt and his wife, Lorie, came to Cleveland in 2014 as Site Coordinators for Envision Cleveland, a ministry of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, to establish and strengthen communities of faith. Through its work, Envision Cleveland actively collaborates with individuals, communities, ministries and local government to reach marginalized populations in Cleveland and those struggling with poverty. And they are making a real impact in the community.
The mission focus of Envision Cleveland is restoration, reconciliation and resourcing in the hopes of transforming neighborhoods. Their work centers around restoring hope and opportunities, not only to area residents but properties as well. “A lot of people have lost hope,” says Huneycutt. “They are struggling to find out who they are and determine what the future looks like for them. We work to reconcile people to God and each other so that all people – no matter the color of skin, background, or cultural beliefs – can live together in peace.”
Just some of the work Envision Cleveland performs in the community involves renovating properties for low-income housing, providing healthy food options for the homeless population, establishing sports and after-school programs for neighborhood children, and assimilation and job training for refugees.
According to Paul, there is no shortage of organizations and ministries doing great things in the community, but they often lack the people, finances and resources needed to make a larger scale difference. “There are resources available, and we want to find ways to distribute those resources where they are needed most and can have the greatest impact.”
One such place of impact is the growing refugee population of Cleveland. The ministry largely serves the West African refugee population but also assists those displaced from areas such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In 2017, the Cuyahoga Land Bank facilitated the donation of the Oehlhoff United Methodist Church on Clark Avenue from the North Coast District of The United Methodist Church to Envision Cleveland. Envision Cleveland transformed the church into its Bridge International Community Center, a community education and gathering space, and ministry for many persecuted refugees from The Congo.
In partnership with the local arm of the non-profit Us Together, the Community Center offers education and support services for refugees, including English as a Second Language (ESL) and entrepreneurial classes for women. “Most of the resettle women, for example, don’t have the opportunity for education in their home countries. This is the first educational opportunity for many of these women, and it is wonderful to see,” Huneycutt says.
“There are a lot of needs for these refugees,” he continues. “Things are very different here than from where they came, including the way in which they communicate with each other and others. We give them the tools to assimilate and participate and thrive in the community.” Huneycutt recounts a recent conversation he had with a Congolese community leader. “He said, ‘We have been refugees for so long, but now we are Americans. We need to learn how to be Americans and be part of the community, not outsiders.’”
Envision Cleveland continues to expand its reach into other inner-city Cleveland neighborhoods, including Detroit-Shoreway, Fairfax and Mount Pleasant. “There is a strong burden on the east side of Cleveland, and we would love to collaborate to open another community center and find leaders to help neighborhoods rise up.”
Envision Cleveland’s ongoing relationship with the Cuyahoga Land Bank will be a valuable tool as the group expands its ministry. “The Cuyahoga Land Bank has become a key partner in what we do. The staff has not only been supportive in helping us find homes and properties to better these neighborhoods but is also a big cheerleader for us. It seems like we’re part of a family.”
For more information about Envision Cleveland, visit their website HERE.