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A church in Fresno, California is leading an effort to revitalize one of the city’s poorest areas. While businesses moved out, the church decided to stay and invite neighbors in. As Barry Simmons tells us, the commitment is paying off.

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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Fresno, California)

(Voice of the Rev. Vickie Healy) “This is El Dorado Park neighborhood. It’s the highest concentration of poverty in the city of Fresno.”

Pastor Vickie Healy’s mission field is a cluster of apartments known as “Sin City.”

The Rev. Vickie Healy, Wesley United Methodist Church: “To be face-to-face and hand-to-hand with folks from economically-deprived neighborhoods has been sometimes a challenge.”

So each Thursday night her church, Wesley United Methodist, opens its doors for one big family-style feast.

Josie Vasquez, Volunteer: “There are a lot of needs that aren't being met. And if we can start helping to bridge that gap, then I think it's really valuable.”

Volunteers use the opportunity to build relationships with the children…

Volunteer: “So what did you do at school today?”

…often finding they are just as starved for attention.

Thomas Manson, Parent: “When they come together in this organized way where there’s caring people showing them kindness and a good meal, it gives them a different view on life.”

At a time when others are leaving El Dorado Park…

The Rev. Vickie Healy, Wesley United Methodist Church: “There’s a lot of people who won’t drive through this neighborhood.”

…Healy and her church have chosen to stay…for a hundred little reasons.

Volunteer: “Jesse, how old are you?”

Members invite kids over to play – and learn. Scarves knitted for fun are given away to others in need.

Della Campbell, Volunteer: “When you’re living in crisis, there’s not much time and attention left over for you the child…that’s why I think this little group is real, real important.”

Once, when the school board threatened to close the neighborhood school, members rallied parents to keep it open.

Parent: “Instead of thinking about me, it’s thinking about other people. It means a lot. It sure does.”

Neighborhood child: “It’s fun.”

Neighborhood child: “Yeah, it’s pretty good.”

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The church is partnering with other non-profits and agencies to come up with a broader plan to bring businesses back to the El Dorado Park neighborhood. And it looks promising. Some private developers are already showing interest.

For more information about the activities offered at Base Camp, call 559-224-1947.

Also, see: Congregation offers sanctuary for youth

Posted: June 10, 2009