INSIDE STORY: Finding hope in a red door
Red, for example.
“Since I was a little girl, I always wanted a house with a red door that would welcome me with love and hope,” said Senoil Holmes, a mother of four young children.
Now, she has it, thanks to the Northeast Church of Christ and its determination to provide salt, light — and affordable housing — in its urban community.
About seven years ago, the church formed a nonprofit called Central Urban Development Inc. to undertake development in blighted areas. The corporation recently celebrated the completion of a 32-unit housing development in the poorest quadrant of Oklahoma City.
Financed with a mix of government and private funds, grants and loans, the $4.5 million development features brick, three- and four-bedroom homes with modern amenities.
Richard Lillard, chairman of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, praised church leaders for sticking with the project despite a housing market crash and other setbacks.
“This takes my breath away,” Lillard said at the ribbon cutting for The Fair Grounds — so named because of the development’s location west of the one-time state fairgrounds. “God bless you all.”
Northeast minister Arnelious Crenshaw, the corporation’s chairman, said church leaders hope to stimulate economic development in the community while enhancing the lives of people.
“It represents a hand-up as opposed to a hand-out,” Crenshaw said. “It brings dignity and preserves the dignity of the individual. Those are the things that are important.
“And also, it’s historic for the Northeast Church of Christ because it represents a dream. It represents our commitment, our mission statement, which is to positively impact the lives of people by being community-sensitive and by ministering to people holistically.”
Really, what business does a church have building homes?
Northeast member James Williams, who serves as vice president for Central Urban Development, said the church endeavors to minister to the mind, body and soul.
“Our whole vision is lifted right out of the Scriptures,” said Williams, a lifelong resident of Oklahoma City’s northeast side who serves on the city’s planning commission. “This provides homes. This provides shelter. It is good works.
“Through the good works,” he added, “it provides opportunities for us to be able to minister to folks and also for us to have an evangelistic effort. So … we are providing an entity that we believe can produce much fruit.”
State Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, a Northeast member, joined the grand-opening celebration.
“It’s harvest time!” Pittman proclaimed, urging her church family to press on.
“I don’t need you to grow weary in well-doing, because it’s harvest time,” she added. “It’s time for us to take our holistic ministry and our salt-and-light projects to the forefront of this community. We’ve stayed inside the church walls for so long.”
Senoil Holmes’ house is an answer to prayers for a family that has experienced hard times and heartache.
Frank Shay Holmes faced three years of unemployment after his layoff from an automotive assembly line in Detroit. He found a manufacturing job in Oklahoma City and visited the Northeast church, where Williams told him about the housing development.
“The Lord had blessed Shay with a job, which, in turn, blessed him to be able to get approved for one of the houses for us,” Senoil Holmes said. “So, when the children and I arrived, this was the first place he brought us — to show us the house that he had picked out for us. But to my surprise, the neighborhood was beautiful, and also, I had a beautiful red door.”
Her husband, 37, died unexpectedly in July.
“But he made sure I got my red door,” said Senoil Holmes, who is studying nursing at Oklahoma Christian University. “This housing project not only gives my children a beautiful yard to play in but a place to grow and call home.
“So, we are so overwhelmed with the love and support we are receiving from so many.”