More than a dozen posters hang from the wall of Transform Scott County, each headed with the same question.
“How Would You Transform Scott County?”
Then below are listed a variety of suggestions, gathered at various events held over the last five years since the group’s founding.
One says, “Make Nathaniel Mayor,” a proposal that the nonprofit’s founder rejects out of hand.
“That’s not gonna happen. I may have the heart for it, but not the smarts,” says Nathaniel Price.
He laughs at the notion, which apparently was offered up by a staff member at a retreat held earlier this week.
In fact, the idea of a “staff” is itself pretty amazing for a group essentially launched on Price’s kitchen table, with the ambitious goal of creating a cooperative of churches to address poverty and other issues in the Georgetown area.
Since February 2015, when TSC was formally launched, Price has enlisted six Georgetown churches of different denominations into what he describes as a “movement.”
“Movements make change. Programs do not,” he says.
Last year alone, he estimates, TSC has coordinated the churches — Northside Christian, Faith Baptist, Grace Christian, Georgetown Baptist, Regeneration and Victory Life — to help some 300 families address and improve their situations. The number includes 80 youngsters being mentored by area residents.
Says Andrew Brown, pastor at Grace Christian, “We really appreciate Nathaniel and his leadership, getting churches to work together. It’s not an easy task at times. He’s been a really unifying voice in our community.
Wayne Currier, music minister at Northside Christian, says TSC helps churches collaborate to make differences in people’s lives.
Price explains some of the churches, like Northside, provide financial help to pay utility bills and rent. Some, like Grace, offer volunteers to mentor TSC’s clients.
Price jumps in: “We don’t have ‘clients.’ We have ‘friends.’ Relationships transform people’s lives.
“You cannot ‘resource’ someone to health,” he adds.
TSC’s approach separates it from how many nonprofit groups combat poverty. Instead of either providing counseling or doling financial help, Price says, TSC and its church partners take a holistic focus: counseling, mentoring, providing aid and, if needed, addressing employability issues.
Ask him what prompted TSC, and expect a quick sermon with passages from Isaiah 6, Matthew 25 and John 4: Isaiah responding to God’s call (“Send me), the parable of sheep and goats and Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well.
“If we’re going to follow (Jesus), we’ve got to go there, and all that he brought with it: power, hope, redemption, forgiveness, grace, the fruit of the Spirit, all of it.”
He gets quiet for a moment.
“I am not convinced that Western Christianity — I think we’ve forgotten. We’ve replaced it with a much more narrow understanding of the Gospel,” he says.
“‘Here I am, send me,’ that’s what we mean when we say ‘follow Jesus,’” he says.
Over the past few years, the financial support TSC has received — from individuals, area churches, local companies and grants — has increased to the point that Price has brought in staff — Anita Holloman, Cori Bishop and Rachel Rainey — to oversee the activities at the participating churches and volunteers.
Something Rainey brings is a deep understanding of some of the issues that underpin a person’s or family’s descent into poverty. Her mother spent time in jail and became an addict; her father was an alcoholic.
“Working with youth has always been something I’m very passionate about,” Rainey says.
In fact, earlier she had spoken to pupils at Georgetown Middle School about her experiences. She frequently speaks at schools.
She also shares Price’s passion for developing relationships with the people they work with.
“What attracted me the most (to Price and TSC) is, we as Christians like to pick and choose the parts of the Bible we’d like to do. I think we’re called to serve beyond our churches. It’s really getting in the nitty, gritty and the dirty,” she says.
Part of Price’s motivation, he said, was similar to Rainey’s: He recalls the experience of his youth, in a home where both parents worked hard but could not escape the cycle of poverty. He remembers hoping friends’ parents would invite him to supper.
Scott County residents should understand that people don’t choose to live in poverty, that many factors contribute to how they are forced to live.
“Understand the complexity of (poverty). We talk like people are poor just because. It’s so much more complex than that,” he says.
Dan Adkins is a freelance journalist.