How do you solve a problem like child poverty?
Reverend Bill Stanfield decided to dig in deep and establish his family in the Chicora-Cherokee neighborhood of North Charleston, the place with the highest density of child poverty in our state.
After college and seminary, he was filled with purpose. He took a job that would let him help people in a different way—not just inspiring them with sermons or trying to organize as an outsider, but living in solidarity with those he was trying to help so that he would truly understand what needs should be prioritized.
Bill has been there walking the walk 13 years at the helm of Metanoia, a nonprofit that strengthens his neighborhood by creating positive and measurable change, from repairing and building affordable homes to recognizing and developing assets (bright young minds) and vitalizing the area in a way that increases opportunity and quality of life.
Metanoia’s offices are in a church building, and through their third-floor windows they see almost-vacant Reynolds Avenue that will soon have a cafe and coffee shop—also Metanoia’s doing. A new elementary school is opening up down the street, and the popular community garden speaks volumes about what this neighborhood is about and what it could be.
“There is a holistic nature of what we do that makes us different. We don’t just do afterschool programs or housing programs. We do a number of things within this certain geography, like economic development. Asset-based community development is what we are known for.”
His devotion to community seeps through his work and home life. As his family experiences the highs and lows of our public school system, he stays fully immersed and informed about the reality of our divided city and its troubling disparities.
“We can’t just be concerned about the kids for a few hours out of the day, and we can’t turn them out into homes that aren’t safe.”
The community is all working together on it, from the inside out.
Watch Bill’s TEDxCharleston Talk here.
Words by Dee Dee Arthur
Photo by Karson Photography