Yesterday I was in Covington. It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve spent any real time in this quiet old southern town, founded in 1839. Covington is located on the edge of the sprawling metropolis of Atlanta, which keeps inching toward it. There, you can step back in time and see huge oak trees lining the streets where stately antebellum homes and stunning churches beckon the curious visitor. Its picturesque town square anchored by the courthouse at one end has served as the backdrop for numerous TV shows and movies in recent years. It’s also home to Stalvey’s world famous country cooking (oh my goodness!). However, since its inception and even today, Covington continues to be a bustling place. While the population has boomed 61 percent since 2000 and has now broken the 100,000 mark, it’s still a place where community is built around faith and business relationships are forged over lifetimes.
Unfortunately for Covington and greater Newton County, and like many communities in Georgia, poverty is an issue that undermines progress. One out of every five residents of Newton County (19,000 all told) is living in poverty and 66 percent of school age children qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches due to economic hardship. Poverty has a way of tearing people and communities down. All of this is true despite the fact that the community is full of compassionate leaders, from every walk of life who are either already trying to help or who want to help and make a difference in their own unique ways. Unfortunately, poverty is a tough problem–one that doesn’t go away easily. And up until now there has not been anyone to coordinate the community’s efforts. That is until someone had a dream to bring Action Ministries to Covington and greater Newton County.
The Rev. Teresa Lilja, pastor at Alcovy United Methodist Church–a small membership church with a huge heart for local missions–had always seen the need and dreamed of a day when Action Ministries’ poverty coordinating work would happen in Covington. When funds became available, she reached out to the Rev. Leah Cunningham, pastor of Mt. Pleasant United Methodist Church.Together, they invited others to join them in dreaming. In quick order, and as a result of their efforts and those of countless others, including the generous folks at Covington First United Methodist Church, who donated beautiful office space down the street from their primary facility, Action Ministries is joining the community!
For 52 years, Action Ministries has been leading people out of poverty all across Georgia by mobilizing communities to address the challenges of poverty by focusing on hunger relief, housing and education. As a result, Action Ministries envisions communities in which the cycle of poverty is broken and everyone has the tools they need to reach their full potential. In 63 counties and hundreds of communities this year alone, Action Ministries has provided community partners and volunteers with the tools they need to lead their fellow neighbors out of poverty.
I am tickled to write that as of May 19, Covington is now home to Action Ministries’ newest office. Business leaders, faith leaders, political leaders and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce gathered to collectively roll out the red carpet for Action Ministries. Building on the efforts of those who have already been in the trenches and working with leaders from a cross section of the community, Action Ministries will join the fabric of the community and help mobilize people to take action that will lift up and lead many people out of the grasp of poverty.
By taking this step, the citizens of Covington and Newton County have proven that they are a caring community, one that is making progress and improving its trajectory. I am grateful for the opportunity Action Ministries has to join them in making history!
I hope I find more Covingtons on my journeys across Georgia.
John R. Moeller, Jr.
President & CEO
Action Ministries, Inc.