More than 90 years ago, the Milwaukee Christian Center (MCC) opened its doors, originally serving as an outreach ministry for the American Baptist Churches to residents of the near south side. The center recently has begun a process it hopes will lead to prosperity for the next 90 years.
The first step was a community visioning session, held at South Division High School, 1515 W. Lapham Blvd. Business leaders, politicians, community leaders and residents shared ideas, discussed challenges and outlined a draft vision of the center’s future.
Common themes that arose during the session were healthy living, education, job programs and community gardens, among others.
Among MCC’s services are an emergency food pantry, youth and elderly programming, the Neighborhood Improvement Project and a first-time offender program. The organization serves a neighborhood it describes as diverse, poor and underserved, but full of untapped potential.
“We need to encourage our young people from the neighborhood to recognize their brilliance,” said Barbara J Wyatt Sibley, MCC executive director.
Sibley added that the center is located in a culturally diverse section of the city, and serves a broad range of people.
“We serve children, young adults, teens, seniors, families, the entire spectrum of people who live in our neighborhood,” Sibley said.
The planning or “visioning” will involve taking suggestions from the community and focusing them into a single vision with three to five top priorities, according to Tammy Belton-Davis, community engagement advisor for Alinea LLC., the company coordinating the effort.
Alinea offers coaching for capital campaigns, board development and other projects. It specializes in working with non-profits such as MCC.
“To move to the next level, we need the perspective and insight of people who work with non-profits, corporate business people and, of course, people from the community to help shape MCC’s vision,” Belton-Davis said.
The visioning should take several weeks, with a concrete action plan to help shape the future of the center set within two months, according to Terri Isabell, vice-president of relationship strategy for Alinea.
Isabell, along with Sibley, made it clear that for the neighborhood to become a model for all Milwaukee neighborhoods, the center will need a lot of community participation.
“In order for us to dream for the next 90 years, we are going to need your help,” said Sibley, addressing the audience of more than 75 people.