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Church dedicates apartments

NICOLE ZEMA | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Pam Edwards, a minister at New Hope The Vision Center, gives Judge Charlie Vess a tour of one of the new Washington Apartments units.

NATCHEZ — Members and leadership at New Hope The Vision Center on Morgantown Road refuse to let themselves become overwhelmed with problems in their community.

They decided to offer a solution to one of the biggest issues affecting families — the need for decent, affordable housing.

The church’s focus on community development spawned a vision that is now a reality. The church dedicated the new Washington Apartment Complex on Sunday.

The apartments are modern, duplex-style units with two bathrooms, three bedrooms and are disability accessible.

NICOLE ZEMA | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves, who was guest speaker at the Washington Apartments dedication service at New Hope The Vision Center, follows his wife Lora and daughter Chandra from one of the units Sunday afternoon.

Senior pastor Bishop Stanley B. Searcy Sr. commended the congregation for taking responsibility for community development.

“We believe everyone needs good, affordable housing,” Searcy said. “One tenant told me, ‘This is the first place I’ve ever stayed in that was new. No one ever stayed in it before me.’ Tears welled up in her eyes. It was all worth it. We have a lot of wealth in our church; maybe not material wealth, but wealth in willingness to do.”

Searcy prayed a blessing over the Washington Apartment Complex.

“Let laughter be in the homes of people who live there,” he said.

U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves of Yazoo City was the special speaker at the dedication service. Duvalier Malone, a former church member who now works for the Department of Veterans Affairs shared a few thoughts before introducing him.

“These apartments are a testament to what we’ve come from,” Malone said. “Bishop Searcy looked across this field and had a vision. We talk a lot about the separation of church and state, but it was in the churches where the chains of slavery were broken and civil rights were born. As a congregation we might not want to tackles those big issues in our community, but if you want change, you have to.”

Carlton Reeves is the second president-appointed African American to serve on the federal bench in the state. He was nominated by President Obama and assumed office in December, 2010. Reeves said it was good to be in Natchez.

“I appreciate a faith-based organization taking a step toward a better community,” Reeves said. “Bishop Searcy has acknowledged that other steps can be taken because the problems in our community are multi-faceted. I think that’s something God expects each of us to do. That grace you didn’t earn, he expects you to share. If you live life without doing something for your fellow man, you have not lived life how God wants.”

Reeves said the challenges facing modern communities include crime, unemployment, illiteracy, broken homes, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and HIV.

“Use your talents to help in the areas I mentioned, or find your own problems out there, one bite at a time,” Reeves said. “Be proud that that’s what God expects of us.”

Kevin Smith, city president of Britton & Koontz Bank, said Searcy and his trustee board came to the bank with a vision to satisfy the real need of affordable housing several years ago.

“They are doing it, one step at a time,” Smith said.

The financing for the new apartment complex grew out of a partnership of the Federal Home Loan Bank in Dallas, Mississippi Development Association and Britton & Koontz Bank.

“Bishop Searcy and the board were very easy to work with,” Smith said.

Deanna Bowser, senior lender at the bank, said she admires that the church had the idea and ran with it.

“Construction was finished very fast, and the whole process went smoothly,” Bowser said.

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