We are Christmas people.

Dec. 13, 2023

A number of years ago my friend attended a church meeting in the Fairview neighborhood of Camden.

“When I arrived,” he shared. “One of the older church trustees took me to the sanctuary window, pointed out at the people in the street and defiantly grunted:

‘They took my neighborhood…they sure as hell aren’t gonna take my church!’”

These were not words he expected to hear from a church leader.

Once an all white working class community build during World War I to provide housing for shipyard workers, Fairview’s racial and ethnic dynamics dramatically changed in the second half of the 20th century. And this trustee had no intention of letting his church going through a similar change. Preserving the past was his goal.

So, instead of meeting a changing community with a heart of love and open arms—change was resisted in fear. And we all know where fear leads.

Over the next few years the congregation continued to dwindle, eventually closing its doors.  We bought that church building a few years ago and had a vision.

We are Christmas people. We believe old things can be made new, dark places can be made bright, and abandoned places can come back to life.

Since then, we’ve seen plenty of obstacles: the steeple was crumbling, the kitchen violated code, toilets didn’t flush, the city’s school landscape completely changed, and COVID slowed things down.

But our team persisted. They did what was needed to maintain and rebuild the program amid obstacles, from establishing trust with new school administrators to knocking on doors and sitting with people in their homes to tell them about the opportunity UrbanPromise offers to their children.

“Relationships drive everything we do,” shared Albert Vega, Director of Children and Youth Programs. “You know the saying, ‘If you build it, they will come’? For us, it’s if you build relationships, then they’ll come. We show parents that we’ll become an extension of their family. They know they can count on us.”

The shuttered church doors are now open to the Fairview community.

“I love this place,” shared parent, Kenny August this past week. “I bring my daughter each day after school. I walk through the doors, I feel the love and excitement. For many neighborhood kids it’s a home.”

That’s an image I hope you’ll hold and cherish this Christmas season. In the heart of Camden there is a place where doors are unlocked. All are welcome at the “Inn”.

Peace on earth—friends.

Bruce Main
President & Founder

P.S. To keep our Fairview “Inn” open takes money. Heat. Lights. Food. Staff. Curriculum. Gas. Hot chocolate. Good news! Every dollar you send to support our Fairview Program will be matched towards general UrbanPromise operations—up to $145,000! I hope you will support the “Inn” this Christmas.