Urban Impact Ministries is celebrating 20 years of life-changing service in Central City New Orleans. In 1989, Glen Schrieber was astounded by the conditions in which the youth of New Orleans lived. Escalating violence, extreme poverty, broken families, poor education and the introduction of crack cocaine had created an environment of hopelessness and defeatism within the youth.
Reverend Marshall Truehill, a local activist, introduced Glen to the Melpomene and Calliope housing developments. The needs were vast. As an immediate response Glen started showing up with footballs and baseballs to play games in the grassy areas. Eventually Glen formed a structure called challenge circle based on AWANA games. The goal was to share the Gospel and teach basic teamwork principals.
In 1991, Pastor John and Wendy Gerhardt joined the team with a focus on starting Bible studies, planting a church and coordinating mission teams. In the early days it was a continual race against time to help the youth see vision and hope for their future. As relationships with the children and families grew, a need for supplemental education became very apparent. An after school program we began bridged the gap in reading comprehension and math skills. Urban Impact has continually used any means necessary to teach youth that God has a plan and purpose for their life.
Those youth first touched in the early 1990s have become the catalyst for outreach now. An old bank building purchased in 1995 is the headquarters for today’s activities which include after school homework help and youth Bible studies run by Tyrone Christoph, an early member of Urban Impact’s programs. The building also houses the Urban Impact Leadership Academy, our very own high school for students at-risk of not graduating from a traditional public school setting.
Castle Rock Community Church, founded in 1998, meets every Sunday within the walls of this over-crowded building where many youth impacted in the last 20 years are active members. Some have even had their own children who benefit from the same programs they did 10, 15 and 20 years ago. Sunday attendance now exceeds 100.
In 2005, we purchased land for a new community center, but plans for the building were put on hold after Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, Urban Impact partnered with EFCA TouchGlobal to begin the process of restoring our neighborhood. For three years our two ministries have hosted more than 12,000 volunteers from across the nation and around the world, completing . We have now completed more than 20 work projects in the neighborhood from cosmetic repair to complete rebuilds.
During the past year a strong effort has been made to return to our roots while continuing the rebuilding process. We have focused on building our youth programs back to pre-Katrina numbers, partnered with KIPP Central City Academy to tutor students and have added an alternative high school.
We are very excited about returning to our community center project as we are outgrowing our current facilities.