KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 16, 2015) -- “The Lord Provides.” That is the message of the wooden sign over my desk.
Richard Gibson, my predecessor as executive director of Wesley House Community Center, left me that little piece of wisdom when he retired. He told me there would be days when I would need to be reminded. He was most certainly right. When I started my leadership at Wesley House in 2011, the board talked about growth. They started this discussion in 2006 but the economy was not in any condition then to begin a major fundraising effort.
However, by 2011 things had started to turn around, and so the discussion started again. Even as we talked about ways to reach more people, the Lord did provide. I had a meeting with the new CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tennessee Valley in 2012. As we talked about the need to provide after-school care to more children in our city, I told her about our board’s desire to do just that. She asked me if we wanted to buy a bigger building. I told her we would not leave the neighborhoods served by Wesley House for more than 100 years. She assured me she had two buildings in our neighborhood that needed to be sold.
One of the buildings turned out to be a perfect fit, so we committed to this purchase in January 2013. We went public with our intentions in March 2013 although our fundraising had already begun. Again, we hoped that “the Lord would provide.” Many times I looked at that little sign on the shelf over my desk and prayed.
With the help of many, we raised $176,000 of the $400,000 purchase price prior to closing on June 11, 2013. We borrowed $230,000 on a short-term, interest-only loan for two years, hoping we could pay this debt off without taking out a mortgage. I kept reading the sign, “The Lord Provides.”
And he did! Individuals, churches, businesses, foundations and even Sunday school classes made commitments to our capital campaign, even while continuing to support our increasing operational budget. The Lord touched the hearts of many wonderful people, and near the end of 2014 our debt on the building dropped below $100,000.
I was still nervous but hopeful that we could raise the rest of the funds needed before the loan came due in June 2015. Again, God stepped in. A donor called in early December 2014 and offered to make a significant impact on our remaining building debt. This anonymous donor sent a check for $80,000! The Lord provides! With that, and funds already contributed, we were able to close out our building loan on Jan. 13, 2015.
I know there are still people paying on their capital campaign pledges, myself included. That is good, because there are still capital projects that need to be done. Our 26,000-square-foot building needs a new roof, a new wall on the west side, and bathroom renovations. That’s what we know about right now. Our original capital campaign goal was $550,000 because we knew there would be additional needs like these.
Our operational budget will also continue to grow, as we reach more children with after-school and summer programs. Our after-school program enrollment has increased by 65 percent, our summer program by 71 percent. We have projected growth to continue over the next three years.
Our current goals are to grow to 120 students after school and 150 in summer program by 2018. Our program for senior citizens has also become a year-round effort. None of this would have been or will be possible without the prayers, passion and commitments that you have made to Wesley House over the years.
The Lord Provides! He provides wonderful people who see the difference this 107-year-old ministry can continue to make in the lives of people we serve – with you as our partner. Come and see what a difference you and the Lord make every day in the lives of the people served by Wesley House.
Tim Adams is executive director of Wesley House Community Center, a United Methodist affiliated ministry based in Knoxville, Tenn.
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