Anniversary event canceled, Presbyterian group gears funds toward grants

Self-Development of People offering COVID-19 grants with money for postponed 50th celebration

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Just over a week ago, the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People was supposed to be in Rochester, New York celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

Add that celebration to the interminable list of events lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Self-Development of People (SDOP) is determined to make some good come from the bad situation. Much of the money that was to be used for the event in the same town where the committee was officially launched at the 182nd General Assembly is being redirected to grants to address the pandemic and its fallout.

“Usually, we don’t do emergency grants,” said SDOP Coordinator the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson. “But this is a different time.”

Like regular SDOP grants, the COVID-19 grants of up to $7,500 are available to community organizations and groups working with low-income communities. Groups currently receiving SDOP funding are not eligible for the grants, but Johnson said they can redirect the funds they received from the committee to COVID-related endeavors.

The Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson is SDOP coordinator.

“It’s not a ton of money, but it’s helpful for those that are doing the work and addressing the issues of COVID,” Johnson said. “We feel this is exactly what needs to happen with this money.”

With the announcement, SDOP joins its fellow One Great Hour of Sharing ministries Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and the Presbyterian Hunger Program in offering emergency pandemic grants.

Since the pandemic emerged, SDOP has heard from groups and communities it has been involved in for years about the needs generated by the pandemic and its impacts. The situation has taken many partners back to addressing basic needs such as delivering food, helping people stay in their homes and such, addressing child-care issues and unemployment, and similar concerns.

The applications have been streamlined to help people apply quickly because, Johnson said, “It’s hard to stay strict on criteria when people are falling apart.”

Johnson said the pandemic and subsequent uprising against police brutality and systemic racism have helped illuminate issues SDOP hoped to highlight at its 50th anniversary.

“A lot of what the 50th was going to look like was a poverty conference,” Johnson said.

The event was to include panels and speakers addressing anti-poverty work, as well as looking at projects SDOP has funded in Rochester and elsewhere. Featured speakers were to include the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, a Presbyterian pastor who is national co-chair of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, and the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. Johnson said SDOP’s work falls right in line with the Mission Agency’s Matthew 25 invitation, which includes addressing systemic poverty and structural racism.

“I’m hoping we can still do that at some point,” Johnson said.

“We want to be clear that this is not how we normally function, but we are acting out of an unprecedented time,” Johnson said. “This is not going to be a new SDOP thing. We had this money that was going to be for the 50th anniversary, and now we’re going to use it here. It’s a way we can walk alongside folks.”

Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People is one of the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Support Self-Development of People and help transform the lives of people through gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.

Read more

Self-Development of People grew in part from the church’s response to the Black Manifesto

New SDOP chair is one of the ministry’s biggest fans

Self-Development of People celebrates its 50th anniversary

SDOP-funded program works to keep people in their homes during COVID-19

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