Partner Agency Spotlight: Asheville Poverty Initiative

This week on the blog we wanted to highlight one of the agencies we partner with who are doing amazing things in the community. Asheville Poverty Initiative (API) was started about a year ago by Rev. Shannon Spencer, a local pastor who saw a need in the community. We sat down with API’S intern, Lisa Freeman, and she told us what API is all about, what they do on a day-to-day basis, and how she has seen boundaries being broken down through the work they are doing.12417929_990385267686753_28703631766396363_n

Lisa said that API is “focused on fostering mutual relationships across socioeconomic boundaries.” There is no such thing as a typical day with API, but in any given week they might work with college students, faith communities, and community organizations to provide educational opportunities led by poverty scholars. These scholars are folks who are living in poverty or have experienced it at some point in their lives. API is also working towards developing their 12 Baskets Cafe, a place which provides a dignified meal experience for people of all walks of life, and seeks to bridge the gap between the nutritious food that is in excess in our community and people who need it, while building relationships over a common meal.image-8

While they’ve been working to get the Cafe established, they’ve been rescuing leftover food from restaurants and hospitals, and taking it to Pisgah View Apartments, the largest public housing project in Asheville. Every Tuesday, Pisgah View residents, neighbors living on the streets, API volunteers, and other members of the community come together for a shared meal. By simply using resources that were already available, and redistributing them, API has created a place in which boundaries of race and class have been broken down, and relationships and trust have been built up.

Lisa said that the most significant thing she has learned during her time with API is that there is no such thing as “haves” and “have-nots.” “People in poverty have incredible gifts, in the same way that all of us have incredible gifts. We stop seeing each other by what we have and do not have, but more as humans, when we can develop more of a relationship as opposed to just me coming in and serving you. There’s more of a relational piece.” Lisa said that just this past Tuesday while they were out at Pisgah View, she could see residents starting to take ownership in the Cafe. One person, who works at a pizza place, came to lunch and brought with him pizzas for the whole group. Another woman had noticed Shannon’s van was getting ruined from transporting the food, so she brought her plastic wrap to protect the upholstery. “We’re sharing stories together, laughing together, enjoying good weather and good food together. It’s just a really powerful day of the week.”

What is a need that you see in your community? Where are there excess resources to meet that need? If someone in your youth group is doing something to bridge gaps and break boundaries, let YMCo know at [email protected]!

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