Reducing Poverty One Neighborhood at a Time
A Decade of Results
Elevate is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Our mission is to train and mobilize Christians, so they can improve the lives of families in impoverished neighborhoods. The process begins when we energize collaboration between churches, schools, government, and business leaders in a city. Over the years our projects have accomplished three major objectives over a 3-5 year period:
- Elevate energizes churches to collaborate with each other, as well as government, education, and business leaders in a city.
- Elevate recruits and trains Christians in “Partner Churches” to pray for, and work with a “Neighborhood Church”. Volunteers live out the Gospel by investing in the lives of families in impoverished neighborhoods near the neighborhood church.
- Elevate finds ways to resource “Neighborhood Churches” so they do “Better Benevolence” in impoverished areas of the city. Elevate also trains them in proven methods of loving their neighbors, so the Gospel can penetrate the darkest areas of any city and “elevate lives”.
Early Years – 2007-2012
It all began with one man in one church, in a affluent part of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who decided to help the principal of a local elementary school in an impoverished part of the city. Russ Gosselin saw a need in a local school. He prayed. And God put a burden on Russ’s heart to “help the principal and follow the thread wherever it would lead”.
In order to help the principal and children of the surrounding poor neighborhoods, Russ organized 100’s of volunteers to provide 6,500 volunteer hours the first year. Volunteer projects that year included school cleanup, painting, “reading buddies”, as well as after school, and summer school programs. Single moms were thrilled, and the principal reported that state test scores of her students improved, and many had a renewed sense of hope.
Church volunteers felt a real sense of accomplishment living out the Gospel by loving their neighbors. So Russ organized more of the same in year two. Programs expanded to include more kids. More volunteers came on board, and these project teams nearly tripled the first year results, with over 18,000 volunteer hours logged in one elementary school and the surrounding neighborhood.
In year 3, there was a buzz among more churches in Colorado Springs. Russ needed a name for what he was doing. People told him he was “elevating lives”, in these neighborhoods. So Elevate became the name of the effort.
Russ was excited about what was happening, but also wanted a way to foster deeper relationships between hurting families and churches in their own neighborhoods. He joined with a local rescue mission to bring a tremendous amount of new resources like food, furniture, and clothing for poor families in the neighborhoods.
Russ found one church to serve as an anchor church near the first elementary school. He also recruited another church in a 2nd impoverished area of the city. Russ asked the second neighborhood church to commit to a one year pilot program to try to build relationships amongst their neighbors.
Elevate kicked off that 3rd year with a huge neighborhood event day in the church parking lot, inviting every home within a mile radius. Volunteers from a more affluent church helped with the event and the rescue mission provide furniture and clothing. All of a sudden the neighborhood church of 100 people saw immediate fruit from blessing their neighbors. After the event, 35 families from the neighborhood church “adopted” 75 new families that were willing to have someone visit them on a monthly basis. Relationships began to form over the next few months. Volunteers from more affluent churches came alongside the neighborhood church, and the results were overwhelming. Many salvations occurred each month, along with the following results:
- Twenty neighborhood families turned their lives around financially. Many were on the verge of getting evicted and losing their homes. They had received life coaching and budgeting through the church. These families made lifestyle changes, paid down their debt, and did not become homeless.
- Eleven married couples were on the brink of divorce. They saw their marriages turned around through new church relationships, counseling, and the love of Jesus.
- Eight couples, who experienced the love of God through church mentors, decided they wanted to get married, and build a stable family in the church community.
- The church grew by 225 new converts during the 12-month pilot project. A church of a little over 100 people grew to 325 individuals in one year. God showed Russ Gosselin and other leaders, the power of relationships focused on life-on-life discipleship, all done in the name of Jesus Christ.
By the end of year, over 12 pastors and churches in Colorado Springs had began partnering together to help elevate the lives of struggling families in poor neighborhoods. Along the way, Elevate developed practical training for churches, volunteers, and even city officials, as all segments of the community got involved when they witnessed tremendous improvement and life transformation in poor areas of the city.
Year 5 – Expansion To Other Cities
In 2012, Convoy of Hope, a nonprofit committed to helping local churches reach the poor, caught wind of what Russ was doing with Elevate. Russ’s wife Sharon had developed health problems requiring a move to a lower elevation. Discussions with COH ensued, and Russ came on board with a goal of implementing the Elevate concept in other cities. Springfield, Missouri, where COH was headquartered, became the second city to try the Elevate experiment. With more resources and several years of experience under his belt, Russ was able to connect churches and city officials even faster in Springfield.
Elevate – Springfield
In 2013 the Elevate-Springfield Project, under Convoy of Hope, started with four pastors in one of the most at-risk neighborhoods of the city. Over the last 3 and ½ years, Elevate-Springfield has grown to over 28 churches actively involved with another 50 churches being involved at some level of serving the poor in Springfield.
Over 25 neighborhood block parties, like the first one in Colorado Springs, have already taken place in Springfield. Scores of neighborhood clean-ups and school partnerships have been established.
In 2016 Elevate organized 5 record breaking city-wide gatherings of churches. Elevate provided training on effective ways to engage impoverished families in low income neighborhoods.
In addition, Convoy of Hope’s Elevate Initiative along with the city of Springfield and another organization hosted a half-day city wide summit, just for pastors. Over 120 Springfield pastors and leaders attended. Practical, proven opportunities to partner with city government, schools, and poor neighborhoods were adopted by many.
In the last several years other cities around the country have gone through the Elevate training and incorporated it into their local outreaches. Cities like Marlborough MA, Long Island NY have seen tremendous impact.
The core trainings of Elevate have now been incorporated into the training for the City Reach Network of church planters. CRN has told us that pastors who put the Elevate training into practice are about a year ahead of those pastors who did not include Elevate concepts.
The Long Island training has turned into a movement by the local churches called Hope Day. It started out as a single outreach event with one church and is now over 65 churches in 25 communities. Hope Day leaders are recruiting and training churches to hold outreach events, and then become more involved in the lives of those who they connect with throughout the year.
2017-2018 Elevate-Springfield Projects
In 2017 Elevate Lives, has become a separate nonprofit and implementing partner of Convoy of Hope. Our plan over the next 24 months, is to expand our support of Springfield churches, working with city officials, to reduce poverty in the city’s poorest neighborhoods:
- We will work with local government (Mayor, city council, city manager and his staff) to provide on-ramps for the church to engage in key neighborhoods helping the poor. (Churches working with Government)
- At our new distribution center, we will train and resource churches in impoverished neighborhoods, so they have what they need to serve the poor around them. (Church Resourcing)
- We will link “Partner Churches” (churches located in higher economic areas of the city) with “Neighborhood Churches” so both can strategically implement Elevate principles in impoverished neighborhoods. (Church Helping Churches)
- We will provide training and implementation of proven methods for neighborhood churches to engage in new relationships with their neighbors. (Neighbors Helping Neighbors)
- We will recruit and train neighborhood churches and volunteers to help their neighborhood K-12 schools. (Churches Helping Schools)
As a founding partner of the first Jobs for Life program in a low-income Springfield neighborhood, our goal is to expand this sustainable program through other low-income locations throughout the North Side of Springfield. In Jobs for Life, Churches help families learn better life skills so they can acquire better paying jobs.
We will provide citywide pastor summits with national leaders, to provide cutting edge training to help Springfield church leaders unite together around what God is doing in the city.
We are planning citywide church gatherings that will enable Christians to worship together, partake of communion, and hear from a respected national leader about engaging their neighbors with the love of God.
An important long-term goal is to help create a new low-income housing program where unstable families attend life-skills training in exchange for rent rebates. This stabilizes families and prepares them for home ownership.
Many Churches in Springfield are strategically involved in missions locations throughout the world through their financial support as well as sending teams to help villages experience the love of God. Within our city we have an Urban Mission field where we need to also strategically and together interact with and see the transforming love of God bring about systemic, sustainable transformation. Many churches have a local missions budget and volunteers that work towards helping and reaching those in our city. While not attempting to replace those efforts Elevate provides an umbrella and a platform for churches both inside and outside these Urban Mission locations to strategically work together to make a multiplied citywide difference. We get to have a greater impact then any of us can have alone.
Support – Missions Projects Right in Your Own City
We can do together… what no one church can do alone. In order for Elevate to achieve each of these goals, we need your help and participation. Our goal is 75 churches investing at some level: $50, $100, $250 $500 or more per month with Elevate through 2018. We realize that some will be able to budget more while others less. We ask that you strongly consider making a real and sustainable difference in the lives of the poor by investing in Elevate. we are committed to reducing poverty one neighborhood at a time.
You can set up monthly credit card or electronic check contributions at ElevateLives.org/donate .