Investing in the Community: Non-Profit Green Lending Program at Just Christ Ministries
Pastor Anthony Wright and members of Just Christ Ministries in Chicago are proud to be the first recipients of a loan through the Non-Profit Green Lending Program.
“With this loan, our church will be able to invest in energy efficiency to be greener, save money on utility bills and rent, and use the money that we save to expand our involvement in the neighborhood,” said Pastor Wright.
Members of Just Christ Ministries live out their faith in service to others by opening their building to the needs of the community. They operate a non-profit organization called “Ring of Hope” that mentors young people through the sport of boxing, serves hundreds of people each week at the food pantry, and provides workforce development.
Many of these activities take place in a building next to the sanctuary that the church previously rented from another owner. For the past five years, Pastor Wright and the church board sought out financing options to purchase the building to invest in making improvements to it.
Yet, they ran into obstacles when banks refused to guarantee the loan using the church’s other property as collateral.
“Banks would often ask me for my personal financial information to guarantee the loan,” Pastor Wright explained. Just Christ Ministries was not alone in facing this barrier.
In 2015-2016, Faith in Place helped over 55 houses of worship participate in free Level 1 Energy Audits to discover the easiest and most economical opportunities for energy efficiency upgrades.
However, as staff followed up with these Houses of Worship, we noticed that many Houses of Worship lacked the capital upfront to implement these recommendations. Even though the investments would quickly pay back in savings on utility bills, many faith communities were unable to obtain loans unless the clergy would sign their personal property as collateral.
After a listening session with clergy voicing these concerns, State Treasurer Michael Frerichs and Faith in Place launched the Non-Profit Green Lending Program as a creative solution in spring 2017.
“You can wake up in the morning and look at everything that’s wrong with the world and want to crawl back into bed. Or you can wake up and think about the things that you have the power to change, listen, find partners, and create solutions to make a difference,” said State Treasurer Michael Frerichs.
The State Treasurer’s Office can facilitate partnership between lenders through the linked-deposit program, which provides capital to lenders at below-market rates so that the lender can make loans for a specific purpose. Everence Federal Credit Union, a faith-based financial services organization, is the first bank to participate in the Non-Profit Green Lending Program.
On Monday, February 5th, Just Christ Ministries hosted a gathering of local clergy to introduce them to their success with the program.
“We are greatly appreciative of this opportunity and partnership. It took only a matter of weeks to get the loan approved and we didn’t have to go through all the red tape that we faced with other banks,” expressed Pastor Wright. “Now, we are paying less in our mortgage that we were paying in rent. We are excited to share this opportunity to get other faith communities involved!”
Is your house of worship interested in the Non-Profit Green Lending Program? The first step is to contact Rev. Brian Sauder, President & Executive Director of Faith in Place, to discuss project ideas for a loan.
Larger-scale project could include energy efficient heating and cooling systems, structural improvements to buildings and parking lots, or rain gardens. Smaller-dollar improvements could include programmable thermostats, pipe insulations and faucet aerators. The minimum loan amount is usually around $10,000.
After that, you will be connected to Everence Credit Union, which will work with you on the technical details of the loan.
“We need to move from patching holes in our churches to investing in our communities,” said Pastor Booker Vance, Faith in Place Policy Director. “The unique partnership of the Non-Profit Green Lending Program allows the faith-based environmental movement to do just that.”