Monday, June 2, 2014

Loving Houston — One Year Later (Part One)

Last year Mayor Annise Parker declared June 1-8, 2014 as Loving Houston Week. Over 2,000 volunteers went throughout six underserved communities in the greater Houston area showing and sharing the love of Christ. A few months later (when the weather cooled) more than 500 additional volunteers descended upon the Sunnyside area to continue the work begun in June.  Let me update you on what’s happened over the past year.

As our leadership teams reviewed what was accomplished and began dreaming about what Loving Houston might look like in the future several things became apparent:

  • we wanted Loving Houston to expand to include even more churches of that are part of the larger body of Christ in the city
  • we wanted to transition the work of Loving Houston to things that would have a more substantial and sustainable impact on the communities we served 
  • Mike Kraxberger, who worked so faithfully for almost a year as a volunteer to make Loving Houston a reality, could not continue to serve as a volunteer; he deserved to be paid
  • UBA did not have the funds to hire additional staff, therefore, we needed outside funding

In July we initiated conversations with potential donors about funding Loving Houston. It quickly became evident that private donors had some concerns about Loving Houston continuing as a UBA initiative:  (1) some churches (non-Baptist) might not participate because it would be seen as a Baptist initiative, and (2) running the funding through UBA might stop some funders from contributing, e.g. Methodist or Presbyterian donors might prefer giving to something that wasn’t “Baptist.”

At the same time we consulted with Kevin Palau who leads a similar initiative in Portland, Oregon and is recognized as one of the most knowledgable people in city transformation in the country. Kevin's experience in Portland was consistent with what we heard from potential donors.

Given the consistency of the feedback from a variety of sources, the leadership team determined to do three things: (1) broaden the leadership base of Loving Houston beyond Baptists, (2) set up Loving Houston as an autonomous organization separate from UBA and (3) find a host not aligned with any denomination to serve as a neutral convener for Loving Houston.

Once these decisions were made we moved quickly to file the necessary paperwork with the state to establish Loving Houston as an independent, not-for-profit organization (501.c.3 status). David Weekly, founder and owner of David Weekly Homes, helped and provided the initial start up funds for Loving Houston. We formed a board to oversee Loving Houston, elected Dave Peterson as the chair, and hired Mike Kraxberger as the operations manager. Through Dave Peterson’s connections with Bob McNair, the McNairs provided significant funding for Loving Houston and agreed that the McNair Foundation would become the neutral convener for Loving Houston.

Loving Houston began functioning as a new organization January 1, 2014. We thought we were off and running, but we immediately realized there were other issues that needed to be resolved. More about that next month.

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