Ministering Outside the Church Walls

Partners in Ministry

“At the end of the day, there’s only one of you, and you got to get that person to the highest point you can,” says Mondale Patterson, a 17-year-old who has been involved with Partners in Ministry in Laurinburg, N.C., since the third grade.

The organization is dedicated to unlocking the potential of youth and children, providing housing and urgent home repairs and serving as a “one stop shop” for neighbors in need across Richmond, Scotland, and Robeson counties. These counties have some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in North Carolina.

Although Partners in Ministry is a faith-based organization, don’t look for all of this activity to happen just in church on Sunday, says founder Dr. Melba McCallum. “We’re bringing the church outside of the walls of that church and into the community,” she explains.

After retiring from the N.C. Community College System, McCallum, a deaconess in the United Methodist Church, felt a call from God to bring church and community together. She saw churches on every corner, but not enough action from them against poverty and other community challenges. And in the community college system, she saw far too many students coming in ill-prepared. “I was called to this ministry to address those issues,” she says.

On any given day, Partners in Ministry volunteers, local churches and businesses, educators, parents and students can be found putting faith into action in a myriad of ways inside and outside the former elementary school that serves as the organization’s home base. Support from The Duke Endowment helped make the transition into the 17,000-square-foot building possible.

Whether stocking the food pantry, distributing meals, assembling donated school supplies or preparing urgent repairs to homes, believers make the organization’s motto of “instilling hope, empowering change, one family at a time” real every day.

Even with the expanded space, forward-thinking minds are looking for even more growth. Dr. Carolyn Banks, an educator who leads the ministry’s SYSTEM (Strengthening Youth through Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program, peers into a classroom corner packed with 3D printers, robotics equipment and computers. She says demand for out-of-school time programs for children ages 3-8 is high. “I hope we’re able to serve more students. I am a vision person,” she says. Last year, 239 students from eight schools participated in SYSTEM programs.

“My life lessons have taught me that no matter what, it will keep going and there’s really nothing you can do to stop it. At the end of the day, there’s only one of you, and you got to get that person to the highest point you can.”

Mondale Patterson, program participant

A short walk down a hallway festooned with art and inspiring messages created by students, the Youth Empowered to Succeed (YES) program prepares young people for job opportunities that can keep them in school and reduce the number who enter the criminal justice system. In 2022, more than 100 young people participated in leadership building, career and entrepreneurial skills development, counseling, on-the-job training and mentoring with local business and community leaders. Once they have completed the program, students are paired to job opportunities with local employer partners, giving everyone involved further belief in the power of YES to open opportunities.

Further down the hall, the Upward Bound program prepares first-generation college students for success. Program director Mycha Stricklin knows first-hand what the youth she works with are experiencing. “I was one of them!” she declares. In 2022, Stricklin guided 25 students through Upward Bound’s offerings, including mentoring, academic and cultural enrichment, college tours, and a six-week summer program.

Mondale Patterson was one of those Upward Bound students. “I would like to go to college for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, then go on to be a software engineer,” he says. Thanks to Partners in Ministry, he’s well-prepared for an upward trajectory in life.

Learn more about Partners in Ministry.