The roots of economic development are well fertilized by an uplifting movement to raise the fortunes of citizens who need a hand up. We have that here.
Manatee County is blessed with an organization that bloomed from a Bradenton-focused Central Community Redevelopment Agency district idea into a greater asset that serves the entire community.
The Faith-Based Alliance unites religious organizations and churches with agencies dedicated to job and financial training as well as law enforcement and government -- all on a mission to solve community issues.
This well planted seed began modestly, as Bradenton Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk told Herald reporter Mark Young in a Saturday article detailing the alliance.
From its beginnings as an effort to simply join the hands of pastors, congregations and other faith organizations into a community improvement force in East Bradenton, the word and the mission spread -- as good ideas tend to do.
The alliance enjoys partnerships with CareerEdge, the region's leading public service agency for job and career training for residents looking to switch careers, and Suncoast Community Capital, which teaches low-income families how to best manage their finances. The United Way, Salvation Army and Habitat for Huanity are among the many community organizations sitting at the table, too.
As Polk told Young, "We started with a good plan, and now we got a God plan, and a God plan is much better than a good plan."
We'll second that.
Transforming lives. Giving people a second chance. Tackling such major issues as crime, housing, joblessness. With a faith foundation. The mission could not be greater.
Only a year old, the Faith-Based Alliance has rightly earned a strong reputation as a model worthy of imitation. The monthly meetings now attract attendance from city and county representatives from Sarasota and Hillsborough. Some 70 people gathered for the last meeting.
Bradenton police officer Kimberly Camacho best articulated the alliance's already remarkable success: "When I tell people about the relationship between the church and the city government, they say it's amazing and they wish they had that there."
For anyone looking to find a clear answer to questions about any dilemma, the alliance appears to be that place. Said the Rev. Don Sturiano, senior pastor at Kingdom Life Christian Church and Bradenton Police Department chaplain: "Our mission is to connect the dots of what's already there."
The organization's mission statement elaborates on that:
"To work collaboratively with our community partners to enhance the quality of life for all citizens and to individually empower them to effectively use the services and resources of this community for personal growth and development."
Bradenton is proving once again to live up to its moniker -- and more. The Friendly City is also a helping city, as the Faith-Based Alliance shows.