Left to Right: Rev. James Hicks, Rev. Stephen Johns, Bishop Reginald Saffo, Rev. Albert Johnson and Rev. Bill Teague, all members of PTMAN’s cabinet, pose for a photo on March 22. Below: Cabinet members, including Rev. Pirsia Allen (far left) pose outside of Saffo’s Maywood church. | Submitted
Tuesday, March 22, 2016 || By Michael Romain
It’s a complaint that Bishop Reginald Saffo, pastor of the United Faith Missionary Baptist Church, 40 S. 19th Ave., in Maywood, hears often. Churches don’t do enough, particularly when it comes to employing young people in their own communities.
“Sometimes people say we’re not doing anything,” Saffo said during a recent interview. “We’re doing things. They may not be in the limelight, but we’re doing work.”
But the prominent local pastor, who recently replaced Bishop Claude Porter as the chairman of the Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network (PTMAN), modulated that observation by conceding that local churches could be doing more — which is why he said he’s been thinking long and hard these days about putting young people back to work.
“We can’t just sit by and watch these kids walk up and down the street, because there’s no funding coming from Springfield,” Saffo said. “We’re the only ones with the moral agency to challenge people to do something about this.”
Although the jobs program he envisions is only in the preliminary planning phase — during a March 21 interview, Saffo said he and his PTMAN cabinet was set to meet and discuss specifics later that day — the pastor gave a rough outline of what the program would look like.
He said each would voluntarily consent to either raise funds in order to employ local youths, or employ local youths directly in their respective facilities or on projects they’re leading.
“Churches could set aside a particular Sunday to take up an offering for jobs for our youth or a church could take already existing funds and we can pool the money together,” said Saffo, who vouchsafed for PTMAN’s financial integrity. He said an outside staffing agency could screen and interview applicants.
“We may not hire 100 kids, but if we can take 20 off the streets, that’s a start,” he said. “I think there is enough capacity within each church for them to hire a few kids off the streets. We have to be more attentive to the cries of the community. We can’t wait for a government handout.”
The nascent jobs program is consistent with PTMAN’s commitment “to leveraging our influence to bring about rectification to the systemic issues that impedes [sic] the purpose and progress of our community,” according to its organizational literature.
The organization also holds a monthly community informational meeting — an event of longstanding — each second Saturday of the month; hosts candidate forums during election cycles; and maintains a series of educational outreach programs, such as the truancy program Every Student, Every Day and Project Back Pack.
According to Rev. Pirsia Allen, who is also a Maywood Police officer and PTMAN’s safety coordinator, Project Back Pack organizes meal drop-offs to around 20 needy students at Proviso West High School and is looking to expand into Proviso East High School in the months ahead.
The truancy program utilizes volunteers to spread awareness about the importance of school attendance in the community and in participating churches.
Saffo took over the helm of the organization since Porter, its longtime head, stepped aside last year. Porter is now PTMAN’s chairman emeritus.
“Bishop Porter felt it was time to bring in new leadership,” said Saffo, who served as PTMAN’s executive director prior to stepping in as its chairman. “He’s committed to the growth of our organization and he’s watched me over the years.”
Since his promotion, Saffo has reconstituted the organization’s leadership infrastructure, implementing an 11-person cabinet that includes a safety coordinator, a membership coordinator and an outreach coordinator, among other roles.
According to new executive director Rev. Bill Teague, who pastors Hope Tabernacle Community Church in Forest Park, PTMAN has around 16 active members and 28 non-active members — numbers the newly reconstituted leadership team is looking to increase.
“PTMAN is not just a Maywood organization,” said Rev. Albert Johnson, the organization’s membership coordinator. “We want to challenge that false notion.”
Johnson said that, in recent months, the organization has started holding its monthly community informational meetings at churches outside of Maywood. While under Porter, the meetings were almost always at Proviso Baptist Church, 1116 S. 5th Ave., where the bishop pastors; now, the meetings rotate. Last month, the meeting was held in Bellwood. The April 9 meeting will be held at First Baptist Church in Melrose Park.
“That’s a real issue we’ve recognized,” said Saffo, referencing the perception that PTMAN is limited to Maywood. “We’re trying to break that myth by showing we’re willing to come to them.” VFP
PTMAN’s next community informational meeting will take place at First Baptist Church of Melrose Park, 2114 N. Main St., Melrose Park. The meetings are open to the public. Breakfast begins at 8:30 AM and the meeting starts at 9 AM. Donations are recommended in exchange for the meal.
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