A Community of Hope strengthens families in Tallahassee, Florida

A thriving community can nurture the safety, success and hope of every child. Such communities — what we at Casey Family Programs call “Communities of Hope” — require active engagement across every sector, including government, philanthropies, businesses, faith-based groups and citizens themselves.

In Tallahassee, Florida, one community-based effort illustrates how these groups can come together to support children and families. Anchored by Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, the Bethel Community of Hope is helping to keep children safe and building hope for their future.

Bethel’s project EMBRACE seeks to keep children safe and strengthen families through wrap-around services. Families are offered services such as counseling, mentoring and enrollment in the church’s private school in cases when child protection investigations find that children are safe but have a high risk of future maltreatment.

The history of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, rooted in a historically African American neighborhood, is storied. It was founded more than 140 years ago by a former slave and provided significant leadership during the civil rights movement. In more recent times, the church community made a deep and conscious decision in 1989 to revitalize and reinvest in its Frenchtown home, then a struggling, high crime area, rather than move to a suburban area.

The church continues to build community and renew its neighborhood through a variety of initiatives and programs under its broad ministry. Its community investments have created two schools as well as after-school care, family support services, health counseling, mentoring and more. The church also built a residential neighborhood for first-time homebuyers and a home for senior citizens.

“The church has an obligation to meet the needs of the family by providing programs that will make a lasting difference in their lives,” said the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr. “Church is on Sunday, but it’s their lives outside the walls of the church — out in the community — that matter the other six days of the week. We are passionate about moving at-risk children and families from surviving to thriving.”