Emmanuel Baptist Church looms majestic at the intersection of Lafayette Street and St. James Place in the Clinton Hill section of central Brooklyn, N.Y. Erected in 1887, it is a declaration to passersby that prosperity lives within its walls.
And indeed it does. The church boasts a membership of 4,000 and growing and an annual operating bud-get of approximately $4 million. If the Rev. Anthony L. Trufant, senior pastor and visionary behind Emmanuel’s Community Economic Development arm, has his way, prosperity will reside within those walls indefinitely.
Like many communities in central Brooklyn, brownstone-rich Clinton Hill is fast becoming gentrified and Emmanuel wants to make sure that its members are prepared to take advantage of opportunities that accompany that gentrification, says Andy Lewis, the newly appointed executive director of Emmanuel’s Community Economic Development Corp. (CEDC). CEDC initiatives are under way to increase financial literacy among the parishioners and help those mired in debt to pay off their creditors and enhance their savings and investment profile, he says.
The church also is a strong advocate of real estate ownership, with a view toward preserving the local investment legacy of generations of parishioners, Lewis says. A key initiative, therefore, is the CEDC’s “Mortgage Matters” and “The Road Home” seminars, which take first-time home buyers through the nuts and bolts of real estate acquisition.
Lewis becomes most excited when he talks about the CEDC’s “Teens That Mean Business” summer initiative, a mentorship program conducted in partnership with small business owners in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Some 22 young people between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age participated in the program this year.
“What we really do is provide a hands-on experience for these kids to come in and really get the full scope of what it means to be a business owner,” Lewis says. The teenagers work 28 hours a week and attend a once-a-week workshop where they receive spiritual, business and professional development training. Each is given a $1,200 stipend, bringing Emmanuel’s overall cost for the program to $75,000.
Shariff Colon is one of the program’s success stories, Lewis says. “[He] actually opened a small business where he does small business promotion. He works with other small business owners to do flyer distribution and small business development through marketing,” he says.
Lewis and his three-man team at the CEDC are working on a project aimed at providing technical assistance to those who have great ideas for busi-nesses, but who need guidance in getting these ideas off the ground. The Emmanuel Small Business Technical and Planning Group is slated to be launched in January 2007 and will be open to would-be entrepreneurs among Emmanuel members and from the community in general, Lewis says. He anti-cipates more than 100 applicants for the group’s first program, from whom 25 will be chosen. Those chosen will work with independent consultants in marketing, financing, loans and mortgages and in the restaurant industry.
“We’ll be engaging consultants in probably six or seven areas of small business development, who will actually foster the process,” Lewis says. The CEDC expects to spend $175,000 in the first year to bring the project to fruition. The goal is to make it an annual program, Lewis says.
A veteran community worker, Lewis stresses the need for faith-based entities to develop an economic focus geared toward developing small businesses. Emmanuel, he says, is committed over the long term to “providing real support, real guidance, both spiritual and professional, to people who are seeking the opportunity to open their small businesses.”
Emmanuel Baptist Church
279 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Web site: www.ebc-ny.org