By George Capsis
I received a carefully-worded invitation from Wellspring Consulting, a firm that “provides strategic planning for nonprofit organizations,” to attend a meeting to help explore how St. Luke Church in the Fields could “expand its service offerings to meet the needs of the West Village community.” Following that meeting, I received a letter from Christopher Keevil, the Partner and Managing Director of Wellspring Consulting, summarizing the firm’s findings.
St. Luke was founded in 1820, which makes it nearly 200 years old. During that time, the church would have identified the community needs, and indeed that seems to be the case. Since the 1980s, for example, St. Luke has had an HIV/AIDS program inviting victims of that now-controlled pandemic for Saturday dinners and Sunday teas. In fact, the second Sunday service has attracted a largely Gay attendance.
I arrived at the meeting late, with a staffer who regularly attends Al-Anon meetings in the same room, in response to the alcohol abuse problem of family members. I thought: This is exactly the kind of organization the church should support.
Reverend Stacy had just left and the meeting was in progress with Christopher Keevil, who one might easily mistake for a minister. Keevil had projected the following statistical portrait of us West Villagers:
About 55% of us live alone and are elderly, versus 32% for the rest of the City (this is a bit of a shocker and maybe explains why our readers still want to hold a newspaper in their hands). 84% have a Bachelor’s degree or higher, versus 36% for the rest of the City. 6% have incomes below the federal poverty level, versus the City average of 21%. And, oh, we have the least amount of parkland in the City. But now the important stuff—Wellspring Consulting’s conclusions—the need to:
- Support the elderly to reduce social isolation, help with basic needs, and assist in crisis.
- Prioritize early childhood care by providing out-of-school recreational space for children and families.
- Foster spiritual fulfillment (Keevil explained that there is little patience for old-fashioned religion but there is a yearning for “something.”)
- Provide flexible space for community activities (hmm, I’m not sure what this means but maybe we should keep space open for the next social need.)There could not have been more than 25 people at the meeting, but sitting in a tight group were a number of African Americans. We learned that they belong to fringe groups who now use the open community room after they come in on the PATH train for a day of gathering on the piers.
I sensed that this group was afraid of being shut out in favor of poor seniors and so they quickly recited their protest mantras. Later, I asked one of them why they did not use the LGBT Center on 13th Street. He rattled off a complaint, which I think was that they did not have enough room or services.
Now, St. Luke is finishing a condo tower on its parking lot which should keep them solvent and, yes, allow them to “better serve the community.”
But the question is: What community? Perhaps Reverend Stacy hired a consulting firm to discover THE West Village “community” that is really fitting and proper to “serve?”