Because creating community is an integral part of the spirit of Hospitality
Pantries, it follows that community organizing is an essential underpinning
of the process. We also understand that it doesn't happen overnight, and it
doesn't just happen on its own. Since the early 90's, we have collaborated
with Genesis Organizing, Inc., a non-profit directed by Beth Carroll Hunley.
Beth has worked for 20 years in a variety of settings in East Tennessee
communities organizing coalitions to address poverty and hunger issues.
Together we began to develop an intentionality for creating community through
our work by working across racial, economic, and denominational lines to bring
people together around issues of hunger and poverty.
During the initial phase of the development of our new Northwest FISH Hospitality
Pantry (while we were still drawing up building plans and fund raising) through
our community organizing effort we began to initiate and engage the participation
of the surrounding neighborhoods. We began the Northwest dialogue, spending a
year and a half listening and learning from congregations and residents of Northwest
neighborhoods. We then pulled together a council composed of many of those we met
during this process who guide the policy of this work, holding up values of respect
for human dignity, and inclusiveness, and built relationships between this group
and congregations across the wider community so all could come together to craft
a vision for the new work.