According to Merriam-Webster, “metanoia” is a Greek word describing “a transformative change of heart.”
A faith-based non-profit in South Carolina has lived into that definition in remarkable ways, observers say.
Metanoia is a faith-based community development corporation making a profound impact in some of the most economically challenged neighborhoods in North Charleston.
Founded in 2002 as an asset-based approach to healing child poverty in the city’s Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood, Metanoia has since grown in its community led mission to address other needs, including economic development, affordable and safe housing, education and job training.
The Chicora-Cherokee community is home to about 5,000 residents and covers about two square miles on the southern tip of North Charleston. But Metanoia’s reach now extends to a handful of adjoining neighborhoods in the area.
Metanoia’s housing projects include new construction and renovating existing homes for sale at affordable prices to local residents. Another program repairs owner-occupied homes.
Its economic development efforts have been the subject of consistently positive local and national news reports. In 2011, then Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke cited Metanoia as an example of best practices in serving distressed communities.
The ministry’s educational and professional development programs include the after-school Youth Leadership Academy and the Youth Entrepreneurship and Volunteer Center. Students gain hands-on, real-world experience through staffing a café, by running a screen printing enterprise and through individual entrepreneurial projects.
“Students come here because they want to be here,” said youth coordinator Craig Logan, who oversees the entrepreneur center where students are involved with the design, manufacturing, marketing and sale of products. Their eyes and minds are opened to possibilities far beyond the minimum-wage jobs that previously awaited them.
“That’s where I have seen transformation happen,” Logan said.
Other programs include providing affordable rentals, a community garden, financial literacy classes and neighborhood organizing.
One of its next ventures is the possible purchase or long-term lease of the former Chicora Elementary School. Metanoia is in the midst of an 18-month due diligence process to raise funds to renovate the 1930s facility into space for start-up companies, artist lofts, an early childhood center and other non-profits.
The school’s renovation got a big boost from the U.S. Air Force’s Charleston-based 628th Logistics Readiness Squadron, which participated in a United Way Day of Caring in November. More than a dozen officers and enlisted personnel helped gut the old school while corporate volunteers cleared green space and parcels for current and coming Metanoia housing projects around the community.
The civilian and military volunteers were directed to the Chicora-Cherokee projects because of Metanoia’s penchant for inspiring transformation, said Amanda Lawrence, vice president of community impact for Trident United Way.
“They align with our mission of affecting community change,” she said.
What Bill Stanfield and his 11-member staff don’t want to change is the local character of the neighborhood. So they are taking steps to hedge against gentrification.
“I get notes all the time, ‘I’ll buy your house,’” he said.
Metanoia has joined a group that is investing in properties to create a land trust.
“Then we will build it out a little bit at a time.”
Creighton Shingler is looking to the future, too. Thanks to Metanoia, he said he has a better one.
Shingler attends Metanoia’s after-school youth leadership program and participates in the screen-printing operation.
“I get to take part in making business decisions,” the high school student said.
The program has helped raise his grades from a B to an A-minus average. It makes his desire to become a veterinarian more attainable.
The programs also have transformed his entire outlook.
“I never would have thought this would have affected me the way it has.”
Read more in the Metanoia Series
Metanoia Community Development Corporation is a movement of people rooted in faith. They invest in neighborhood assets to build leaders, establish quality housing and generate economic development in North Charleston, South Carolina. They are pushing forward into new relationships with God and one another to create strong communities.
This series in the “Faith & Justice” project is part of the BNG Storytelling Projects initiative. In “Faith & Justice,” we tell the stories of the people and organizations that are helping to bend the “arc of moral justice” towards justice and who are transforming communities. Additional series on this topic include Charlotte: QC Family Tree with Greg and Helms Jarrell.
Seed money to launch our Storytelling Projects initiative and our initial series of projects has been provided through generous grants from the Christ Is Our Salvation Foundation and the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. For information about underwriting opportunities for Storytelling Projects, contact David Wilkinson, BNG’s executive director and publisher, at [email protected] or 336.865.2688.