“A Westside Story,” by Rev. Howard Beckham
We are delighted that Westside native and community leader Rev. Howard Beckham is the author of this week’s column.
Rev. Beckham wears many hats but is probably best known as the founder and CEO of Integrity Transformations CDC, the managing partner of the workforce development program Westside Works, which has already transformed the lives of many Historic Westside residents. This important program also aligns with Westside Future Fund’s “Cradle-to-Career” Impact Strategy.
As you’ll read in his column below, Rev. Beckham has dedicated his life’s work to his community, and the residents in the neighborhoods he serves are better because of it.
Reflecting on the theme of “the more we, the more I can do,” Rev. Beckham exemplifies “we” through his steadfast commitment to collaboration – working daily with a diverse cross-section of individuals and organizations – as well as his willingness to re-invest his own time and talents for the development of his community. Westside Future Fund is honored to support him in this work.
– John Ahmann, Executive Director, Westside Future Fund
By Rev. Howard Beckham, Senior Pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church and CEO of Integrity Transformations CDC
My affiliation with English Avenue and Vine City started over 24 years ago when I was appointed senior pastor of English Avenue’s New Jerusalem Baptist Church. However, my Westside story began over 30 years before my pastoral connection.
I was born in the Atlanta University Center community on Walnut Street and raised from the age of three to adulthood in the Dixie Hills community. I attended Head Start in Grove Park, attended Walter White Elementary School and graduated from H.M. Turner High School, all on the Westside. I am an alumnus of Carver Bible College and attended when it was located on Northside Drive in Castleberry Hills. I currently reside with my family in the English Avenue community.
My involvement, concern, commitment and affinity for the Westside is deep, extensive and irrevocable.
Through my role as pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church, I founded Integrity Transformations Community Development Corporation.
Integrity CDC began back in 1995 out of my church’s desire to expand our ministry into the English Avenue and Vine City communities. I assessed the needs and created the New Jerusalem Community Ministries. Homelessness was a major issue, so the ministry began to feed the homeless and working poor and established a community resource center which provided residents with referrals and vouchers to a multiplicity of service providers.
As the community changed, so did the needs, and workforce development began to emerge as a critical need for residents. In 2010 we changed our ministry’s name to Integrity Transformations CDC and workforce development became our primary focus.
Four years ago, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation also saw a need and built upon the 19-year recruitment and job placement success of Integrity CDC and created Westside Works, a long-term neighborhood program focused on creating employment opportunities and job training for residents of the historic Westside community.
While the goal of Westside Works is to create building blocks for job success, the Blank Foundation, which continues to be the program’s primary sponsor, wanted to ensure it also remained resident focused and asked Integrity CDC to serve as its managing partner.
We’ve taken that role seriously, and over the past year have expanded our services and further developed our staff to meet the growing demands of the community.
We’ve enhanced our program offerings and strengthened our reputation in greater Atlanta as having capacity to manage programs of others including Westside Future Fund, the City of Atlanta, Blank Family Foundation and Novelis.
Most recently, Integrity added a fifth training partner to Westside Works, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta. Through this partnership, we’ll be adding a Child Development Associate program that will train participants and immediately match them with employment opportunities. This new program will directly impact the development of children in our community as well.
To date, over 800 individuals have graduated from our training programs and over 600 have been placed into full-time jobs at a livable wage, averaging around $13.00 an hour.
Collectively, Westside Works has had an economic impact of over $17 million dollars, based on the wages earned by our graduates.
Integrity’s approach is quite dynamic. We understand that we’re rapidly building a ship that is sailing on a stormy sea. We’re able to lead redevelopment on the Westside by staying attuned to the pulse of the community and having a clear understanding of needs, gaps and concerns. As long as we know that we are functioning as a conduit between the community and resources, then we’re on track to meeting our goals. The Westside is a unique, diverse and historic area of Atlanta that is ripe for redevelopment but does not need to be reinvented. Crime is down, business and residential development is on the rise and residents are taking advantage of vast training and employment opportunities that are available. Residents feel safer and their future is bright!
I thoroughly appreciate the community for trusting us and our ability to assist them. We will remain a channel for the community that hears various voices and conveys the concerns and needs.