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‘A bias for action’

Starting with four men mentoring four teenagers, Jericho Partnership now energizes a slew of local ministries

‘A bias for action’

Pathways mentor Don Lewis talks with his mentee, Ryan Turner, 14, an eighth-grade student at Pathways Academy (Robert Falcetti/Genesis)

Northeast Winner: Jericho Partnership

Growing up in a rough North Philadelphia neighborhood with his single mother, Bill Beattie was a prime candidate to drop out of high school. But with mentoring from his chemistry teacher, he graduated high school and then college. With mentoring from his youth pastor, he devoted his life to Jesus.

When he was older, Beattie became a successful mining executive based in Danbury, Conn. He was at a high point in his career, having left Union Carbide and started his own thriving company, when everything changed. He and his wife were canoeing the Zambezi River in Africa and capsized.

Another boat quickly rescued his wife, but Beattie was stranded in the water. The others nearby saw a crocodile plow toward him—but it turned away at the last moment. Once on dry land, Beattie was certain that God had saved his life, and for a specific purpose.

Beattie thought about the teenagers he knew in Danbury, many of them lost and without fathers as he had been. He thought about the mentors who had brought him through school and brought him to Jesus. With a buy-in from local churches in Danbury, he and a few other men started a mentoring program for four teenagers in 1997.

The businessman already had metrics in mind: He would measure success in long-term relationships. Twenty years later, he and other mentors have achieved it. He refers to his first mentee from 20 years ago, Charneil Bush, as family. When the two first began meeting, Bush’s mom was incarcerated and struggling with addiction, and the boy was having a difficult time. Bush ended up graduating high school and college and is now working on his master’s degree.

“Mentoring was a solution we could get to very quickly,” Beattie said, noting that Christian business executives like himself could have enormous influence through mentoring and still continue their day jobs. Those were long days, though. In the early years, he would host organization meetings in his company’s boardroom at 6:30 in the morning.

Robert Falcetti/Genesis

Mentor Dave Corby with his mentee, Jason Marroquin, 13. (Robert Falcetti/Genesis)

The plan was to add five teenagers and five mentors a year if the program went well—and it did. That handful of mentoring relationships became Pathways Danbury Youth Ministries, a six-year program that now serves 50 middle-school and high-school boys and girls with one-on-one mentoring and tutoring.

The mentoring program spun off a Christian middle school for boys, which Beattie started with Cedric Rice, a former IBM executive who worked on the original NASA Space Shuttle in 1969. Rice, through his church, was an early mentor in Pathways and had become friends with Beattie.

Beattie and Rice’s connection also represented the melding of two churches: the largely black New Hope Baptist in downtown and the suburban Walnut Hill Community, one of the largest evangelical churches in the area.

Rice became the principal of the school while also teaching math and science—a job he continues today at age 70. The school, where all the students are below the poverty line and many are in single-parent homes, has a 96 percent graduation rate.

Of the first 11 boys who started at Pathways Academy a decade ago, five had fathers in prison. All but one of the boys graduated high school, and all the graduates went on to college or technical programs.

“That one always troubled me,” said Rice. The boy was a straight-A student but left Pathways after the first year because of discipline issues. “In this business you don’t win all the time. But when you win, what a great feeling it is.”

The business executives spun off or “acquired” more ministries as families in their church circles had needs. Now they have eight partners, providing pediatric healthcare, counseling, addiction recovery, housing, and meals. That larger organization Beattie developed that oversees all these programs is Jericho Partnership.

Robert Falcetti/Genesis

Kih (left) and Robert (right) Best play basketball with boys they tutor. (Robert Falcetti/Genesis)

“I enjoy seeing things happen,” said Beattie about the business DNA in Jericho. “We have a bias for action.”

Named for the Good Samaritan parable that takes place on the road to Jericho, Jericho today manages eight ministries, thousands of volunteers, and 26 local church partners. Thirteen of the church partners are in the city, and 13 are in the suburbs, and they cross racial and economic lines.

Partner churches give Jericho $5 per member and have a seat on the organization’s advisory board. Local pastors help Jericho staffers know specific needs in the city and how to address the many cultures in a place where a third of the population is Latino.

Even with Jericho’s up-front Christian identity and close alliance with local churches, its ministries have won the enthusiastic support of the longtime mayor of Danbury as well as the local public schools superintendent.

“Once they got momentum, they were a home run,” said Danbury Public Schools Superintendent Sal Pascarella, about Pathways Academy.

Robert Falcetti/Genesis

Mathematics teacher Cedric Rice keeps an eye on students during a test at Pathways Academy. (Robert Falcetti/Genesis)

THE BIG OLD WAREHOUSE that houses Jericho Partnership in Danbury was once a furniture showroom. It’s renovated now, but its maze of rooms still feels like a showroom for the ministries at work there.

Walk into the lobby of the Jericho building and hang a left. Through the door is a waiting room for Samaritan Health Center, a pediatric clinic for the uninsured where a Spanish-speaking mom is cradling a baby. Toys and books are scattered around, along with newspapers in Spanish. In 2016, about 2,000 uninsured children received healthcare through the clinic.

Around the corner is Hopeline, a pregnancy resource center for women with unexpected pregnancies. The center performed 566 ultrasounds in 2016 and estimates that it saved about 300 unborn lives.

Through another door are counseling services. Upstairs is the adoption agency Bethany Christian Services. Open another door: Pathways Academy is the Christian middle school serving 39 boys this year, almost all of whom are black or Hispanic.

Beware of your emotions if you walk directly from the pediatric clinic to the middle school, past Christian doctors caring for babies and into a language arts classroom full of seventh-graders earnestly taking a spelling test. A sign in the classroom carries the school’s tagline for the “men of honor” they are cultivating, spelled in the acrostic of “Christ”: Courteous & Respectful, Hopeful & Confident, Resourceful & Goal-Oriented, Inspired & Close to God, Sexually Pure, and Trusting in the Lord.

When the bell rang in the middle school, each boy filed out of Lakeema Moore’s language arts class and shook her hand. Down the hall, the head of the mentoring program, Horace Hough, was getting ready to take his high-school senior boys to the mall to buy suits for graduation.

Jericho hosts all of these ministries in its building rent-free, which is a big gift in an expensive city like Danbury. Downtown the organization also has a transitional home for homeless women and children, and a homeless shelter. Given the dizzying number of Jericho projects, the group posts its annual financial audits online for transparency.

Jericho’s specialness comes from hosting all of these ministries under one roof. Girls at the Hopeline pregnancy center who might need support can walk down a hallway to the teen mom ministry YoungLives. The Pathways Academy boys can get immunizations at the pediatric clinic, and counseling. Boys from the school have started going to Young Life (also in the showroom warehouse), and boys from Young Life have enrolled in the school.

Jericho President Carrie Amos says all of this overlapping builds “covenant” relationships. Next to the Jericho building is a liquor store. A mother of three boys in the Jericho programs was living in an apartment above the store. A few years ago she overdosed and died. Jericho paid for her funeral and stuck with the boys. The third boy is about to graduate high school.

“We want to help them understand that they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them,” said Rice, the math teacher and former Space Shuttle brainiac. He stood in the Pathways middle-school lobby between classes, wearing a letter jacket with a big “P” on it. Many of Jericho’s leaders, like Rice and Amos, are people of color like the children they are serving.

After school many of the academy boys walked a few doors down to the tutoring program, which was gearing up with about 50 students. Portraits of Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., and George Washington hung on the walls.

This tutoring program has classrooms dedicated to different subjects, with tutors specializing in particular subjects to help students with their work. The students rotate through the rooms depending on their work. When they finish, some play basketball on a dusty court out back with Kih and Robert Best. The Best brothers went through the program themselves when they were in middle school and high school, and now tutor.

Robert Falcetti/Genesis

Naomi mentor Nanette Aponte with her mentee, Paris Ortiz-Torres, 15. (Robert Falcetti/Genesis)

Inside, Jada Ortiz, a senior in high school, stood in the bathroom doorway, wearing her graduation suit for the first time. She has been in the girls’ mentoring program for six years, after her public school counselor first suggested it to her. The girls’ program is named Naomi, for the Biblical character and mother-in-law who guides Ruth.

Jada wasn’t sure about the skirt’s fit and called for advice from Michelle Ross, who runs Naomi. Did the skirt need tailoring? Ross thought it looked good. The girls often scoff at the idea of suits, Ross said, but then when they put them on—“they’re making duck lips,” a selfie face. Jada plans to go to a local community college.

All the girls in the six-year Naomi mentoring program have gone on to colleges or technical schools. Ross’ tagline is “Leading girls to Christ through relationships,” which mirrors Jericho’s central theme. This isn’t theoretical; one of the Naomi mentees moved in with Ross when the girl’s mom suddenly moved away from Danbury during her senior year of high school. The girl graduated—the first in her family to do so—and has stayed with Ross while she figures out next steps.

Ross is one of many leaders in the program following Beattie’s model of long-term relationships. Beattie’s first mentee from 20 years ago, Charneil Bush, related a story at a Jericho dinner in 2016. By many measures a Jericho success story, Bush had in the last year gotten laid off from his job. Three months passed without a new job, and he grew depressed and suicidal. In that moment Beattie was the first person he called.

“The impact of mentoring is always knowing what home looks like,” said Bush, crying. His old mentor prayed with him over the phone and then asked what he could do to help.

Reflecting on that phone call, Beattie described Bush as having “broad shoulders” but says that it’s difficult to be “a survivor in a family that’s dysfunctional.”

“He has a strong faith in God, but we all need encouragement at times,” he said. “I’m still mentoring him and he’s still mentoring me.”


MONEY BOX

2016 revenue: $3,021,119

2016 expenses: $3,100,900

Net assets at the end of 2016: $791,613

Executive director’s salary: $105,000

Jericho staff: 11

Active volunteers: 1,700

2018 budget: $3.3 million

Website: jerichopartnership.org


Next in this series on the 2018 Hope Awards: Southeast Region winner Jump Start

Emily Belz

Emily Belz

Emily reports for WORLD Magazine from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emlybelz.