Thirteen self-help projects across the U.S. have received grant funding from the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People. During its recent meeting to celebrate its 45th anniversary, SDOP approved grants totaling $168,000. Earlier this year, it approved $25,000 to two additional projects.

Those attending the September celebration included members of the Synod of the Trinity and Pittsburg Presbytery. SDOP Committees and community partners included Angel Treats, Family and Friends Garden and Women Empowered for Entrepreneurial Excellence. Other participants included the Rev. Sheldon Sorge, executive presbyter of Pittsburg Presbytery and Sara Lisherness, director of the PC(USA) Compassion, Peace and Justice ministry.

The crowd was energized by the Rev. DeNeice Welch and the choir from Bidwell Street Presbyterian Church. The Rev. Kimberly Murrell, director of the Metro Urban Institute preached a sermon based on her experience as a mission worker in Africa. Friday and Saturday Bible studies were led by the Rev. Drew Smith, professor of Urban Ministry and the Rev. Kelly Norris Wilke.

“This was a time of celebration and affirmation. I am proud of the work SDOP has done and continues to do,” said Cynthia White, SDOP coordinator. “Through this ministry, the Presbyterian Church participates in the empowerment of economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people around the world. This gathering was indeed energizing.”

In the midst of meetings and celebrations, the committee approved grants to the following programs:

  • The Camden Community Youth Development Center, Camden, Ala. ($12,000). The center is located in an economically-depressed region offering computer training, self-guided tutoring programs for young people as well as healthy lifestyle programs. Some of the funding will replace computers damaged by a water leak.
  • JUNTOS, Philadelphia, Pa. ($15,000). This low-income immigration group helps educate its members and community residents on how to navigate through the immigration system and engage members on critical social issues affecting their communities.
  • Hispanic Affairs Project, Western Slope, Colo. ($15,000). This organization works to develop, strengthen, educate and advocate for immigrant and workers’ rights.
  • Phat Beets Produce, Oakland, Calif ($15,000). This self-help hunger group provides basic nutritional support, micro-loans, grass root support and employment related information to low-income families.
  • Providence Student Union (PSU), Providence, R.I. ($13,000). This organization of low-income high school students works on ways to improve schools through safety programs and educational resources.
  • Neighbor to Neighbor, Holyoke, Mass. ($15,000). The community-led campaign advocates for investment in jobs, education and mental health reform instead of prison development.
  • New Zion City Preservation Associates, New Orleans, La. ($18,000). The neighborhood beautification project aims to rehabilitate property damaged and abandoned following Hurricane Katrina in hopes of attracting new home owners to the area.
  • Skills Development Project, Davis, Calif. ($15,000). This group helps developmentally and economically challenged entrepreneurs who have started several businesses. Professional business consultants will be hired to help build the group’s business management skills and marketing knowledge.
  • One DC, Washington, D.C. ($15,000). The housing advocacy project works to provide affordable housing for low income residents in the DC area.
  • Southeast Goat Cooperative, Tuscaloosa, Ala. ($20,000). This organization works to help farmers currently raising goats on a small scale, in hopes of expanding their farms and livelihoods.
  • Migrante in Partnership with Filipino Community Center, San Francisco, Calif. ($15,000). The organization trains, educates and empowers Filipino migrant workers to organize and advocate for themselves in response to exploitative labor trafficking.

Other projects funded in 2015 include:

  • Capital Park Women’s Empowerment Project, Columbus, Ohio ($10,000). The funding will assist in the creation of a cooperative sewing program for a community of refugee women. Participants will be trained to become master seamstresses with the ability to design, produce and sell designer bags, make clothing repairs and participate in the marketing of the products.
  • Rockaway Wildfire, Far Rockaway, N.Y. ($15,000). This project is designed to help bring affordable housing, employment and job training to residents in the East Far Rockaway community.
The Rev. Sheldon Sorge, executive presbyter of Pittsburg Presbytery welcomes SDOP Committee members and guests.

The Rev. Sheldon Sorge, executive presbyter of Pittsburg Presbytery welcomes SDOP Committee members and guests. —Clara Nunez

One community partner summarized SDOP’s partnership with communities across the U.S. and internationally, saying, “As important as the funding was the tremendous moral support we received from SDOP—visits from representatives of the Committee, phone calls and participation in mutual projects. It gave us the sense of tremendous support by a larger community who believed in our cause, group and members.”

The partner went on to say they truly felt they were dealing with “Christ’s disciples, whose only concern was carrying out his instruction to care for the poor and others who have been pushed to the margins of our society.”

“As Bidwell Presbyterian Church’s Choir led the celebration with the song ‘Celebrate Hope’, let us continue to celebrate all that has been and is yet to be done, that has brought hope to thousands of people in poor, oppressed and disadvantaged communities through partnerships with the Self-Development of People ministry,” said White.


The work of SDOP is made possible by Presbyterian congregations across the US through the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. For more information on SDOP, click here.