Patty Lowe, executive director of the CornerStone Initiative, prefers to calls herself “lead listener” of the organization. She is committed to setting an example of listening and empowerment that is so central to this young community development organization’s roots. The CornerStone Initiative was birthed out of a young, missional church that felt a corporate call to come alongside their neighbors. What was then 100X Church began asking questions about what it would look like to embody the call to come alongside the people in their neighborhood. The neighborhood was historically known as Westside Huntsville and includes many affordable housing communities. The church has since been renamed Westside Community Church, after listening to the history and people of the community and their desire to reclaim the name of the neighborhood. The church now meets in one of the Huntsville Housing Authority community centers.
The Cornerstone Initiative began with simple front porch conversations in an effort to listen to the community, build relationships, and raise up leaders within the community. “Our neighbors now know and trust CornerStone, and the community leaders are stepping forward,” Patty emphasized. It is immediately clear the organization is committed to listening to the people of the community. They facilitate quarterly Neighborhood Conversations in which leaders of the community set the agenda and people who wouldn’t typically have access to the mayor’s office or various agencies are invited and heard. “At the heart, we’re all more alike than different,” Patty noted.
The organization is in their 2nd phase of economic development asset mapping. Phase 1 included visiting 85% of the neighborhood’s businesses, listening to their stories and hearing these local business leaders’ hopes and dreams for the community. Phase 2 of their asset mapping will help facilitate the formation of a Westside Business Owners Association so that small businesses in the neighborhood can join together, supporting one another and their community.
The CornerStone Initiative was intentionally birthed out of a local church but functions as a separate organization from Westside Church in order to collaborate with many other churches and nonprofits. This model has served the community so well. CornerStone collaborated with the Huntsville Housing Authority and five local churches to facilitate Jobs for Life classes. Furthermore, just this week CornerStone hosted their annual fundraising event, the CornerStone Conference for Community Compassion (C4), with the primary goal of educating the broader community about the mission and methods of Christian Community Development.
Time and again we see the key components of the Christian Community Development Philosophy worked out in the CornerStone Initiative’s presence in their neighborhood. Patty shared that the pastor of Westside Community Church attended a CCDA conference a few years back and now they make the conference an annual educational opportunity for people who have a heart for transformation in their community.
When asked why being a church-based organization was so important to their mission, Patty answered, “How can we not be? Christ is the model of community development. The scripture we go by is Ephesians 2, ‘We are no longer strangers but fellow citizens in his household with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone.’ ” The CornerStone Initiative is clearly committed to following as best they can Christ’s call to the community to love God and love your neighbor.
CCDA exists to inspire, train, and connect Christians who seek to bear witness to the Kingdom of God by reclaiming and restoring under-resourced communities. Consider partnering with organizations like The CornerStone Initiative by becoming a member of the CCDA familia.