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Park View Community Mission: Shared Mission, Shared Spaces

Todd Blake

Todd Blake

Park View Community Mission –

Many of those we serve may have experienced a crisis that has brought them to a place of financial insecurity, such as the loss of a job or the death of a spouse. Others live in chronic or generational poverty, having never been taught another way of life – away to find that bridge they need to break the cycle. That is why we employ a holistic approach, to empower people to recognize their worth and their potential and live the full lives for which they were created, as shown in our motto: Help. Healing. Hope.

Rev. Dr. Todd Blake began serving with Park View in 2021 after twenty years of serving churches in North Carolina & Virginia. He has a Bachelor’s, Master’s of Divinity, and a Doctor of Ministry from Campbell University, home of the Fighting Camels. 

Todd is married to Kim, and they have two daughters, Hannah & Emma.  He enjoys playing, coaching, and officiating soccer games, as well as drinking lots of coffee

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The Interview Transcript

0:01 – Hugh Ballou Welcome to the Nonprofit Exchange. This is Hugh Ballou, founder and president of SynerVision, where we as leaders create synergy through a common vision and being articulate about what that vision is. And, you know, leaders inspire people and leaders influence people. And today I’ve got a friend here, a fellow Rotarian, and Persons in my neighborhood, he’s just a mile away from us. Todd Blake, who’s the executive director of the Parkview Community Mission. So Todd, welcome.

0:32 – Hugh Ballou And please tell us just a little bit about your background and who you are. People want to know who our guests are. So share a little bit, please.

0:40 – Dr. Todd Blake Absolutely. Thanks for having me here. Nice to meet you, David. You know, I came out of years serving in Baptist churches, primarily in North Carolina and Virginia. I was a pastor at a church near Lynchburg, Virginia, for almost years, up until and reached the point in my life where it was time for a career change. It was time for new challenges, and to learn new things. And I didn’t want to do just anything. I wanted to do what felt like meaningful work in the world to me, so I began to explore nonprofit work and what opportunities might be there.

1:21 – Dr. Todd Blake For nonprofit work. And so, you know, when the opportunity came along to come to Parkview, it was, it was an easy decision. And I brought to that what, you know, what I hope was, you know, good experience as a pastor of both, you know, speaking, just the simple things of speaking in public, you know, conveying a message, that sense of inviting people to be a part of something. I felt like I could bring that kind of skill to the nonprofit world and felt like Park View had something compelling to ask people to be a part of so trying to leverage those skills that I developed as a pastor, as well as managing budgets and managing people and committees and that kind of work.

2:05 – Dr. Todd Blake And so I’ve been doing this about two and a half years now. And I told Q and David before we started that one of the great things about my job is that a lot of days it’s to be Parkview’s chief cheerleader. And I love to get to go and tell the story of how Parkview began and what we do and the way we serve our neighbors. That is a fun job to get to go and tell what happens here and to introduce other people in our community to the neighbors that we serve and the circumstances that they experience in life, whether it’s food insecurity, unemployment, homelessness, those sorts of topics that for many folks in our communities, we know about these issues, but we don’t always know people that are experiencing these issues.

2:55 – Dr. Todd Blake And so I think when we know people who are experiencing circumstances like food insecurity, that it helps to break down some of the naive stereotypes we have around those circumstances. When we get to know those folks. And so I get to, in a way, introduce our community to their neighbors who are experiencing those circumstances. And that is meaningful work for me.

3:19 – Hugh Ballou Well, and having been there many times we moved here in and this is the second interview we’ve had in the series on Parkview. Your predecessors, Gordy and Ray were here as founding board members and the executive director then, but there’s been so much. This happened since then, and you’ve inherited a good program, but you’ve taken it forward very substantially very solidly. So what people don’t know Parkview is in what used to be a Methodist church. And it was no longer what was called decommissioned.

3:54 – Hugh Ballou So it was no longer a church and the property belonged to the district. For a while, the district had offices there. But Parkview Mission is it was it’s just all of these things you just described. So you were telling us before we came on that there’s a Wednesday night dinner and you were telling a story about the choir that that’s that’s a tradition that started a long time ago, didn’t it?

4:17 – Dr. Todd Blake It is. I love that part of who we are. I think who we are now is a direct result of how we started. We are in what used to be Parkview United Methodist Church. And back in the choir of Parkview United Methodist was gathered for a meal. And a neighbor came to the door, knocked on the door, and told the choir he was hungry. And we could imagine that a group like that situation might give him a to-go meal. But the choir went the next step. They invited him to come and sit at the table with them. They gave him not just food, but they gave him relationship.

4:59 – Dr. Todd Blake They saw him. They heard him. And I think that’s so important to who we are today. And so this neighbor felt such hospitality that the next week, when the choir was gathered again for another meal, he brought a friend. And it almost accidentally became a neighborhood meal because it just grew from there. And even when the church closed as a worshiping congregation, those former parishioners kept coming back here to carry out that meal. Other churches joined in. The Methodist district joined in.

5:35 – Dr. Todd Blake Other denominations and other community groups joined in that effort to provide this neighborhood meal. And that gave rise to what would become the food pantry and what would become the clothing connection. Because they realized there were needs beyond just that Wednesday night meal, which is significant, not just for the calories, but also for the relationships. But people do need to eat more than just once a week. People do have needs beyond clothing. And so those faithful folks began to try to address those needs.

6:05 – Dr. Todd Blake And that grew into six programs through which we served neighbors last year And it started with one meal. I believe it is something only God could do. And it’s something that happened because a group was faithful to share their food and their relationships.

6:28 – Hugh Ballou And there’s empty church buildings all over the country. And even some are still active that could be extensions of The work that we’re doing. So, David, you’ve been to my house. We live in the 0-1 zip code in Lynchburg, which is the highest poverty in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Lynchburg, yes, but this zip code is the highest poverty in that city. And so, both of you and I, we’re in the same place. And our Rotary has gone down to do the food for families and other ones, My family, when family comes to visit, I say, we’re going to Parkview.

7:09 – Hugh Ballou That was in the days before we had had groups and register. We just show up and Gordy let us work. But, you know, it’s it’s amazing. You see the gratitude on people’s faces. That one track is where people come through with their shopping cart and they get their monthly supply of groceries. You feed a lot of people through that one channel, not to mention the others that you serve.

7:28 – Multiple Speakers How many people a month?

7:30 – Dr. Todd Blake Well, just last week we had Our pantry is open two days a week, Thursdays and Saturdays. And interestingly, last week, Thursday and Saturday, both days served families. So, times two. Last year, through Food for Families, we served over individuals just through that one program.

8:01 – Hugh Ballou And they all have families. David, you have some questions for Todd? A lot more than this, a lot more than this, but that’s a significant program.

8:08 – David Dunworth Well, knowing that your facility used to be a church and knowing also that, as Hugh mentioned, there’s a lot of churches that have been decommissioned and they’re empty buildings and things like that. In your professional experience, how can people in different communities make the most of what spaces are available to serve the community?

8:34 – Dr. Todd Blake Well, coming at it from, again, years working in churches, and honestly, churches, that their buildings would sit empty a good chunk of the week. And that is many of our congregations across the country. You know, I constantly encourage my former congregation to find ways to use the building during the week. And so we would partner with other organizations to have groups come in and use the building in some way that serves the community. And so I think it’s, it’s considering the stewardship of You know, the, how much it costs to maintain the infrastructure of these buildings that we have.

9:13 – Dr. Todd Blake How can we best utilize them to serve the community? And, you know, for me, from a religious standpoint, you know, how can we best utilize the resources God has given us? You know, a church sitting empty five or six days a week is not good stewardship. And so we can leverage those spaces to serve the community in better ways when we partner with other people. And so, you know, we’re in a building now that, again, was housed, you know, housed one congregation. Now it does house a congregation, a different congregation.

9:46 – Dr. Todd Blake It’s not a UMC congregation, but there’s a congregation that worships here. They fill up the sanctuary twice a Sunday on Sunday mornings for two services. They have other activities during the week. There are other nonprofits in the building that use space for various endeavors that they do, and various services that they offer to the community. And Parkview Community Mission is here with our programs. And so you have a building that is used days a week to serve people in 1 way or another, mind, body, spirit.

10:20 – Dr. Todd Blake And you have organizations that work together to serve the neighborhood. You know, I look at it this way. When we recently, the Methodist district gifted us the building. And so we redid, you know, all the agreements with the other partners in the building. The very first paragraph in the MOU talks about this idea of using the building, and maximizing the use of the building to serve the community. And I look at it, you know, the very low bar is our mission should not get in the way of each other.

10:52 – Dr. Todd Blake The highest bar that we should reach for is the way our different missions, and different nonprofits can work together to serve the community. We don’t do what the congregation does. We don’t do what the UP Foundation the Community Access Network or Lighthouse Communication does. But we can all serve together in a way that we take care of each other, we refer to one another, we support one another, and we maintain a building together. And I think it’s a beautiful picture of what can be.

11:22 – Dr. Todd Blake When I interviewed with the search committee for this position, I talked about how Parkview is its kind of resurrection story. This church died, but it gave birth to something new, and that something new meets real needs in our community. As Hugh mentioned, the highest poverty rate around is right here where we are Yeah, great.

11:54 – Hugh Ballou So it’s not a faith community, a parachurch community. It’s a separate 501c3. And it’s very purposeful. And I watched as you navigated through the shutdown during the pandemic. And you still served people. You pivoted, but you still served people and still accomplished your mission. That was a great feat. So several things you mentioned are out-of-the-box for most communities, you know, collaborate. Now, we have silos, and of course, we have them, or every city has them, but you mentioned the collaboration with other non-profits.

12:34 – Hugh Ballou Are there other collaborations, like with businesses, with universities, or others? So what kind of, and define what do you mean by collaboration? It’s kind of a fuzzy word for some people.

12:44 – Multiple Speakers It can be.

12:45 – Dr. Todd Blake I think Parkview should be good at what Parkview does. But we don’t have to try to be good at what somebody else is already doing well. So, finding, you know, we get asked, you know, part of you get asked, can you take on this? Can you take on that? And typically, my first response is, is there someone else out there doing that well already? And, you know, if so, why do we need to do it? Why don’t we just support and partner with those who are doing it well already? Outside of Parkview, I coach soccer.

13:18 – Dr. Todd Blake I love coaching soccer. I love playing soccer. I love officiating soccer. I love watching soccer. But I coach high school girls’ soccer. And I think about the players that I coach, and they’re all very different. They all bring different skills. If someone’s great at scoring, I’m not putting her in as goalkeeper. I want her to do what she uniquely does well. I think our nonprofits should take the same approach. Do what you uniquely do well, support the other people around you who are doing well what they do, and find ways to work together.

13:54 – Dr. Todd Blake I think if we bring that same kind of approach to this collaboration across different nonprofits. We work as an organization, we work with other nonprofits, we work with government agencies, we work with faith communities, and so if everybody, in those various groups, does well what they do, then we really can, and don’t worry about who gets the credit, then we really can lift the community.

14:21 – Hugh Ballou Don’t worry about who gets the credit. David, what you got boiling up for a question?

14:27 – David Dunworth Well, you know, you mentioned that the United Methodist Church gifted you that building, so you haven’t got the Ownership, quote-unquote, you know, by having the debt and that sort of thing, you do upkeep it and so forth. There are a lot in In Hugh’s neighborhood, in your neighborhood, I’ve been there a few times, and there’s a lot of nonprofits doing a lot of different things, but there’s a lot of duplicates too. And if everybody’s owning a facility, then that’s an awful lot of responsibility that really should be thought through.

15:07 – David Dunworth So how can communities avoid having to have that debt load I’m assuming you’re going to tell me that having the responsibilities of that particular thing will distract you from your mission, but also by combining efforts, I think your mission can probably be elevated or your capacity building and sustainability would improve. Would you agree that that’s so?

15:42 – Multiple Speakers I think so.

15:43 – Dr. Todd Blake We think a lot about that. We spend a lot of time thinking about how to Um, one, take care of the building for ourselves, uh, to be, um, good building owners for the other partners in the building. Um, I have likened it to a, the gift of a free puppy. Um, they are wonderful and they are a lot of responsibility and, and this building is, is that it is wonderful. It secures our future here in this place, in this part of the city where poverty is concentrated, which is incredibly important.

16:18 – Dr. Todd Blake And at the same time, I am well aware that it comes with a real serious responsibility to maintain the building. So that we can continue the services that we provide. And the other organizations in the building can continue what they do. If it was if it was part of you alone in this building. It would be a, we could not maintain the building on our own without some significant capital campaigns, you know, debt servicing, you know, things like that. But because of the other partners in the building, we all chip in on both paying the bills and saving a little bit for those surprises that come along the way.

16:58 – Dr. Todd Blake I mean, it is a building that’s, you know, nearing years old. And so some responsibilities come along with that. Um, but because we all chip in and we can, we can maintain the space and take care of one another well, but it’s, you have to let some things go, you know, you have to be willing to, you know, the, the church’s mission that the other nonprofits in the building, their missions matter too, but it’s not just Parkview’s mission that matters, you know, in our space and working together to, to navigate that I think is important.

17:35 – Dr. Todd Blake Um, having a shared sense that we don’t have the same programs, we don’t serve the community in the same way, but that we share the same impulse and desire to serve the community I think is important.

17:53 – David Dunworth That sounds like a pretty good model for communities to duplicate. I know when we were in, the last time I was in the neighborhood there, Uh, we had discussed talking about, you know, there’s so many nonprofits, but they’re all like islands. And it sounds like you’ve created an opportunity there for melding together multiple different missions to serve that community. Um, you know, from soup to nuts. That’s great.

18:28 – Multiple Speakers I commend you for that.

18:29 – Dr. Todd Blake I told I told the board early on that I wouldn’t park you to be known as a nonprofit that played well with others. So we actively seek out ways to do projects with other nonprofits. You know, I think of one going now where in our Life Skills Institute, so we’re teaching career and personal skills at our Life Skills Institute, LSI. We partnered with another nonprofit that does uniquely well with at-risk teens and intervening there. And so we brought those young people in for a cooking program.

19:03 – Dr. Todd Blake Where they learn skills in the kitchen that would both serve them as individuals, that they would learn to prepare food for themselves. And our hope is, is that turns into maybe one of those young people who discovers a love of cooking and finds a career path. Or down the road, we’re able to provide Serve Safe certification and it means a job for them in a restaurant or fast food or whatever it may be. And so we did that because we had this relationship with another nonprofit That they have the contacts and connections with those young people.

19:36 – Dr. Todd Blake And we have the facilities and the teachers. You put those things 2 together and we had a wonderful experience teaching these young people their way around the kitchen.

19:47 – Hugh Ballou Yeah, great what you said earlier about you’re very good at what you do. And you don’t need to do the other things if you can partner with other others and I know I brought somebody who was in the down there too. Talk to your person about his needs. And she knew how to connect him with the other agencies. So it’s not just feeding people. And I know when our Rotary Club comes to people volunteer, it’s meaningful to us to be able to come in and serve there. So creating a new space for collaboration is key these days.

20:24 – Hugh Ballou Is there a connection? You’ve managed to stay upright and actually do well and support your programs financially because you have a really solid foundation there. What’s been the most challenging for you in your leadership in this day and time at Parkview?

20:45 – Dr. Todd Blake Well, when I came to Parkview, there had been a rapid phase of growth in terms of programs, staffing, and the financial needs that went along with that. And thankfully, the fundraising had grown along with it. What I needed to do when I came was to kind of backfill some of the administrative pieces that during that rapid growth just didn’t happen. That, you know, meant making sure there were clear, accurate job descriptions for everyone on staff. You know, starting to think about not just funding the next day, the next week, the next month, but the long-term financial stability of the organization.

21:27 – Dr. Todd Blake So working with our development staff a fundraising consultant and our board on really long-term fundraising plans. And so those were good challenges for me. Again, I was very experienced in preaching sermons and teaching Bible studies, and working with church committees and things like that. And so these were some interesting challenges that I might not have imagined coming in, but when I arrived, those were the needs, those kind of behind-the-scenes, administrative things that aren’t necessarily sexy, but important to the longevity of the organization.

22:07 – Dr. Todd Blake And so I found that a very interesting challenge and also very important to us as an organization. I also found that I came from a congregation where our budget annually was about half a million dollars, just under half a million dollars. Parkview’s budget was, you know, right around a million. And then our in-kind budget of, you know, so donated goods and services was another three to million in value. And so suddenly you go from a budget to a, you know, million budget in some cases.

22:43 – Dr. Todd Blake And so I very quickly realized that the area I need to grow in is that financial management piece. And so the board has been very encouraging and supportive of my efforts to do some continuing ed around financial management. I’m in a program now working through that. It’s been challenging in a good way. I do not want to be an accountant. I have learned that, if I wondered about it before, but, you know, learning to just, you know, take care, be a good steward of everything that, you know, our community and trust depart for you to take care of our neighbors has been really important.

23:18 – Dr. Todd Blake And I’ve been grateful for the board support and that continuing ed. I’m also thankful, you know, over the past couple of years, the fundraising outlook for many nonprofits has been pretty bleak. And we have continued to grow, kind of counter to the trends, our fundraising has grown about 27.5% So, Todd, I think the ones that are chasing the money are the ones that are having trouble.

23:51 – Hugh Ballou What you’ve done is build programs and infrastructure and build results and have an impact on the community, which has then attracted the money.

24:01 – Dr. Todd Blake Yeah, like I said, I think one of the things that was unique about Parkview is that I felt like Parkview has a compelling mission that people are going to want to be a part of

24:13 – Multiple Speakers Yeah.

24:13 – Dr. Todd Blake People want to be a part of meaningful things. Whether that is through their finances, their time and their service, or their willingness to share their contacts and their networks, people want to be a part of meaningful things. And I unashamedly say that Parkview is meaningful meets real needs in our community and is making a change in our community. And so then it’s just an invitation to be a part of it.

24:39 – Hugh Ballou Well, That’s wisdom, you know, some people are the groups that are suffering, just focusing on the money. And then you’ve had a very balanced approach. So I’ve for those people watching the video showing the website, what will people find? If you’re listening to a podcast, you can find the website and it’s in your podcast data too. It’s Park View Mission. Take three words and make it one. And Todd, give us a navigation. What will people find there?

25:09 – Dr. Todd Blake If you look across the top, there are a couple of important things that I want to point you to. 1st is just about and who we are, the people that make up the team, both from our staff and our board, a little bit of how we came to be that I mentioned earlier. And if you go a little bit across to the right, you’ll see volunteers and partners. And you’ll find opportunities to volunteer and, you know, we have a great system through our what we call it’s called volunteer hub. It’s a product that helps us manage our volunteers.

25:40 – Dr. Todd Blake And somebody interested can go on and find the different programs that we have the different programs, and you click on and it brings up the times. And days when volunteers are needed in each place. Um, and and so then you can, you know, again, you just scrolled over to our programs, the different programs and a little bit about them food You know, career skills to our life skills is to clothing and then our community resource center. That’s helping with utility cut-offs and eviction notices and things of that nature.

26:10 – Dr. Todd Blake And, of course, you know, I never want people to overlook the donate page. Because what we do is it does cost money. It costs again a little over a 1Million dollars a year to do what we do. But we believe it’s making a real impact in our community. And so we believe our neighbors are a good investment. Example of that. In of our neighbors was able to get back into the workforce. And through our Life Skills Institute. Of those neighbors, 79 stand to earn over a million in wages over a year.

26:49 – Dr. Todd Blake Our neighbors are worth the investment. They have proven it again and again. If you’re supporting Parkview, you’re supporting making sure our neighbors know where their next meal is coming from, making sure they know they’re safely housed, And when they have those base level needs to be taken care of, then we can help them to get to a class at our Life Skills Institute, whether it’s a computer class, a budgeting class, financial literacy, or a career skills class that results in a job.

27:18 – Dr. Todd Blake You know, one of the things we’re working on this year is how can we help the wages that they’re earning increase. They increased from you know, last year, increased to about a dollar and a half per hour. And we want to continue to grow that this year. We want to help our neighbors get the raise, and get the promotion. You know, those folks who’ve entered an entry-level job to find that, you know, long-term career path.

27:45 – Hugh Ballou People you serve, you call neighbors.

27:47 – Multiple Speakers I like that.

27:48 – Dr. Todd Blake The words we use most to you are neighbor and dignity. Everybody’s our neighbor. We want to know their name and their story, and we want to infuse as much dignity in the process through every step along the way.

28:00 – Hugh Ballou Todd Blake, you’ve made this half-hour flyway. You’ve given us a lot of concrete things. What do you think, David, to think about?

28:08 – David Dunworth Well, you know, I love the fact that he’s got a structure there, but there’s so much variety of things that are going on, and they’re all serving their neighbors. Everything that they’re doing is just very well coordinated and complementing each other. I love that. That’s a great model for others to do.

28:30 – Hugh Ballou Todd, you get the last comment. We have an audience of similar people to you, but people who are on their boards, people who are volunteers, people who are supporters of nonprofits. So anything you’d like to say to those people as a parting thought?

28:46 – Dr. Todd Blake I would say first that I’m incredibly grateful for a congregation that imagined a new way forward and in dying, died well. And gave birth to something new. I think that’s incredibly heroic and brave, and many congregations are afraid to do it, but they did. And I’m sure there was pain and heartache along the way for them, and I respect and appreciate that. I would say to that group out there that’s struggling with, you know, the congregation that, you know, their building owns them and not the other way around, To find the creative ways forward, to find the partners that can come alongside them to share in mission, to share in space, to share the cost of maintaining space for all of their missions to thrive.

29:40 – Dr. Todd Blake There’s such a desire to own the building, to own the thing, and when we let a little bit of that go and share, it’s amazing what we can do together.

29:54 – Hugh Ballou It’s amazing what we can do together. Todd Blake, Executive Director of Parkview Community Mission, thank you for being our guest today on the nonprofit exchange.

30:05 – Dr. Todd Blake I enjoyed it. Thanks..

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