Wesley Church of Hope UMC in Columbus, Ohio, found its mission outside its own doors. It decided to help save the South Side community.

The church’s mission statement – Our mission is to transform our community by putting God’s love into action – is played out through the church’s involvement in Southside Hope CDC, Inc. The non-profit was created to help people in the impoverished neighborhood surrounding the church learn the steps to buying a home.

Lori Fisher
Lori Fisher

Lori Fisher, a member of the church, serves on the non-profit’s board of directors.

Because of her church’s community involvement, Fisher wanted to serve South Side in a tangible way, using her grant writing, organizational, and event planning skills.

“I live in this community,” she said. “It’s my home. I see many of the houses going into foreclosure. People are leaving and not coming back. That needed to stop.”

As the Southside Hope CDC board began researching what could be done, they learned that about 40 percent of the houses in the area are rentals, some of which had owners who might be willing to sell.

“We learned that most rents run about $850 a month, and the amount of a house payment with a 15-year mortgage is about $650,” Fisher said. “The church asked what could we do to help renters begin the pathway to home ownership. Homeowners have more of a buy-in to the community. We determined that could only be positive for the church as well. When people own homes and are invested in the neighborhood, they will see that our church is also invested.”

Columbus’s United Way partnered with the church to create and sponsor homeowner workshops for people in South Side who are interested in becoming homeowners. These free workshops educate the community on home buying and what it takes to qualify for a mortgage. Some attendees even qualify for down payment assistance.

Khalisa (left) was the first person to complete the Wesley Church of Hope UMC-sponsored home ownership workshop to qualify for and close on a home of her own.

Fisher shared one success story from the workshop. Khalisa is a young lady who attended one of the workshops and worked to reach her goal of being a homeowner.

“Khalisa is the first person in her family to own a home,” Fisher said. “She not only learned about the financial aspects of home ownership, but she learned about what responsibilities she would have as a homeowner. She learned about insurance, taxes, and that home repairs and upkeep would be on her. She was well prepared to be a homeowner. We all celebrated when she closed on her home in July.”

In less than a year, Wesley Church of Hope established the non-profit, offered workshops, got grant money, and planned the upcoming HopeFest.

HopeFest is a festival scheduled for Sept. 14 by Wesley to celebrate the South Side community. As an experienced grant writer, Fisher helped get money for the event.

“The church will host HopeFest and provide hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, and such,” Fisher said. “We’ll have bouncy houses, games, and other things for kids. Head start early childhood education, the local elementary school, and other community resources will have booths there. We just want everyone to know we believe South Side is a great place to live, work, play, and worship.”

The church recognizes the importance of reaching the community with the gospel, and they see the homeowner workshops and HopeFest as a way to do that.

“Our church wants to be intentional about reaching South Side with the love of Jesus,” Fisher said. “When people see that we love them, want to partner with them, and want them to put down roots here, that will mean something.”