Thanks to Pilot Mountain Baptist Association (PMBA) for letting us provide this link to their video recording of Carol Polk’s presentation on April 29th, 2020. Based on lessons learned through Pivot, Carol shares how we, as the body of Christ and during unprecedented unemployment, can mobilize others and minister to folks in life-changing ways.
The plan for Pivot Ministry at its inception was to become a separate nonprofit organization, and the process has begun. Even before finalizing bylaws, creating articles of incorporation, or filing with the IRS and the state of North Carolina, Pivot’s first step in the separate nonprofit process was to form an official Board of Directors to replace its Preliminary Advisory Council. June 18, 2019, marked the first meeting of the new board, which is made up of Forsyth County men and women who have a wealth of experience and a wide diversity of background and skills. Members of the inaugural board include Darryl Sawyer, Harold Holmes, Heather Witt, Holly Brower, Jill Lackey, Kenneth Pettigrew, Mike Nuckolls, Sherry Ramsey, and Tracey Martin. Click here to read more about the board.
The Winston-Salem Chronicle recently featured an article about Pivot’s first graduating class . You can view it here.
Most people do not know there are more than 20,000 working-aged women in Forsyth County living in poverty. Or, that as many as 5,000, or 25% of those women, do not have minor dependents in the home. Since census data are not specifically gathered to identify this demographic, the statistical interpretations vary from source to source. 1
Who should care and why do these statistics matter?
First, everyone should care.
Second, as compared to single women with dependents who do receive assistance, women without dependents have limited access to assistance and resources, which can make all the difference in these women’s lives, to their families, in their relationships and to the community at large.
Enter Pivot Ministry
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “pivot” as a verb means “to turn on or as if on a pivot.”
Envisioned in 2015 and initially funded by Ardmore Baptist Church, Pivot Ministry is based on the successful 20-year-old model of the Christian Women’s/Men’s Job Corps®. Pivot’s objective is to empower low-income women for better life and income-producing opportunities through classes in life and job skills, and Bible study, supported and sponsored by local community resources.
According to Carol Polk, the Executive Director and Site Coordinator of Pivot Ministry, “We found these women’s requests for assistance are often denied; therefore, we determined our initial target group would be these underserved women, whether they are married or single.”
During the semester and following graduation, each participant partners with a one-on-one Christian mentor to guide them as they complete their class work and begin their new personal journeys. To begin, a woman must be referred and screened before earning a scholarship to participate free of charge.
New Skills from Education and Support
The ministry launched its first class with seven women on March 1st, 2018. They met as a small group one day each week for classes and a shared meal for the sixteen-week semester.
Each of the sixteen program-days was broken up into 3-5 sessions that varied from week to week. Topics included Financial Management, Interviewing Skills, Behavioral and Mental Health, Change and Decision-making, Conflict Management, Women’s Health, as well as Perseverance and Succeeding in life and the workplace, among others.
Community Comes Together to Support the Program
For more than two years, Pivot worked developing collaborative relationships with local organizations to identify gaps in service to this demographic cohort and strategizing how to work together. They also developed customized content with input from the participants, which is consistent with an asset-based community development approach.
Polk assured, “Without the support of the community, our partners and sponsors, we could not deliver this high-quality instruction to our participants. The skills they learn and the relationships they forge among themselves, with their mentors, the instructors and sponsors, empowers them to approach their lives and future employment with new eyes and experiences grounded in the training we provide.”
She continued, “I watched our participants flourish! They have hope, specific goals, and a sense of achievement. We have built a strong, supportive community in this small group and hope they will continue those relationships for many years to come.”
Pivot’s community partners include Allegacy Federal Credit Union,Ardmore Baptist Church, Financial Pathways of the Piedmont(formerly Consumer Credit Counseling), Forsyth Technical Community College, Goodwill Industries of NWNC, Totally Responsible Person(TRP), various departments of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and Debbie Loftis, who teaches LifeKeys: Discover Who You Are.
The first class of seven women received their achievement certificates on Saturday, June 23rd, at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem. Margaret Johnson, longtime news anchor for WXII News 12, was the featured speaker, and Eddie Bines, a Winston-Salem vocal artist, was the featured singer.
A new group will begin in August 2018. For more information, visit pivotnow.org.
1 Map, Forsyth County, N.C.,; Forsyth Futures; the City of Winston-Salem; The Women’s Fund; and the Department of Social Services
After years of preparation and months of planning, the first group of potential participants was introduced to Pivot Ministry with games, laughter, food, information, presents, and much enthusiasm. Eight potential participants were identified after having two interviews with Site Coordinator Carol Polk, and showing a continued interest in Pivot’s program. On February 27, 2018, each attended an orientation event at the Enterprise Center to meet potential mentors and hear from class instructors at what Polk called “Pivot First Step.”
After some mingling and small talk among the attendees, volunteer Donna Bissette led a get-to-know-you Human Bingo game compiled by Lisa Turner. All participants, mentors, and instructors excitedly asked each other questions in order to fill out their Bingo cards. Gift cards were awarded to two participants who won the Bingo game.
Upcoming Pivot classes were introduced in game-style fashion by volunteer emcee Kathy Wilson. In this Share & Shift exercise, participants rotated around the room to tables where instructors and mentors had five minutes to give an overview of some of the classes that would be offered. Thank you to Ieisha Carter, Leslie Cox, Debbie Loftis, Marie Robertson, Sheryll Strode, Lisa Terry, Beth Warfford, Lori White, Carol Wilson and Pivot’s mentors who hosted the tables.
What’s a party without food? A table covered in heavy h’ors d’oeuvres gave attendees plenty to choose from, enough for an early dinner, and leftovers for some. While they ate, participants watched a short video about the Christian Women’s Job Corps national model on which Pivot is based. The video included testimonials from other sites’ graduates. The group then heard some encouraging words from Carol Polk. Thank you to members of Ardmore Baptist’s World Hope missions group, as well as Donna Bissette, Lisa Turner, and Terri Jeffares for providing and serving all the wonderful food.
By the end of the event, all the participants were excited and ready to commit to attend the classes starting on March 1. As a parting gift, each was given a stylish tote bag filled with lots of goodies. Thank you to volunteers Patty Stockner and Sylvia Pickett for providing the gift bags and contents.
The Enterprise Center, site of “Pivot First Step” event and the weekly classes, deserves special thanks for their generosity in providing a space that is convenient to bus lines and well equipped with all the needed amenities. Also, thank you to volunteers Kathy Stewart for serving as photographer for the event; Jim Mabe for designing a presentation that highlighted Pivot’s benefits; Mary Simmons for exploring volunteer roles with Pivot; Gail McAlister, Merle and Larry Andrews for helping plan, set up, and clean up for the “Pivot First Step.”
All of the planning and effort made for a wonderful evening and, weeks later, Pivot’s participants still recalled “their party” as the first step to a new, life-changing adventure.
By Debbie Loftis
“Hi, Carol. Long time no see. How are you?”
“Well, I’m leaving my firm to start a job ministry for women.”
“I’d like to talk with you about that.”
That conversation took place more than two years ago, and this spring I had the privilege of jump-starting a journey of self-discovery for seven beautiful women, the first Pivot Ministry participants. Over a ten hour series, we became acquainted with some heady ideas and made initial tracks on new life. We examined our Life Gifts, innate skills that come to us naturally and get better with practice. We claimed our Spiritual Gifts that tell us we are doing God’s work. We unpacked our gift of Personality, inherent preferences of collecting and sorting information and interacting with the world. Next, we identified our Values, our individual convictions that govern our decision-making. We then considered our Passions, recognizing them by our dreams and motivations to make a difference. As if that weren’t enough, we traveled onward looking for the path to set our direction (our Mission) and imagined where that road could lead (our Vision).
Throughout our journey, we overlaid our discoveries with a holy perspective and, in the end, walked away with assurances.
- God made me in a wonderful way.
- God gave me gifts of skill, personality, and passion to use for good.
- God gave me a spirit of power, love, and self-control.
- God will complete good work in me.
- God can do more through me than I can ask or imagine.
With each session, I witnessed growth in first one woman then another. Fear gave way to hope. Timidity flowed toward confidence. Self-worth took root. Throughout our classes, the ladies showed interest in my reference material, so Pivot agreed to buy each participant a set of the three primary books: LifeKeys – Discover Who You Are, Do What You Are, and The Path. Two generous Handicrafters, Jo West and Linda Cline, tied each set with a colorful bow and added their signature red felt heart. On our last day of class, as I placed the books in their hands, each woman cried out, laughed, and wept simultaneously. We all hugged – and hugged some more – with palpable excitement. After a calming breath, one lady looked into my face and quietly asked, “Are these really for me?” “Yes,” I answered. “To take home?” “Yes.” She closed her eyes, hugged the package to her chest, and murmured, “I’ll put them beside my bed.”
The moment was holier than I could ask or imagine.
Debbie’s passion is helping others discover and fulfill their giftedness..
How would you feel if your small group was selected from among hundreds of others for a private meeting with an internationally known Christian speaker? Could you contain your excitement? What if the speaker called you by name and showed genuine interest in your personal story?
That’s just a glimpse of the thrilling experience Pivot participants had on May 1 at the Citywide Prayer Breakfast at Winston-Salem’s Benton Convention Center. The guest speaker was author and TV personality Cynthia Garrett (www.cynthiagarrett.org), who shared her story and challenged the audience about what it means to walk out our faith as followers of Jesus.
Thanks to generous table sponsor, Teall Capital, and the gracious invitation by Chuck Spong, Love Out Loud’s Executive Director, six Pivot participants were “blown away, inspired, moved, and blessed.” Not only was there a delicious breakfast, but the words spoken, the videos shown, and the music were inspirational. As Pivot’s attendees waited for Cynthia after the event, dozens of people came to their table to encourage and connect. Two women even joined them at the table, talking and sharing on a spiritual and personal level. Our ladies were moved by the warm and welcoming hearts.
The private group time with Cynthia was powerful, personal and perfect! With a challenging life in her past, she connected with our ladies in such a special way as they chatted informally. Cynthia asked, “What is the biggest lie Satan is telling you?” As each participant shared her personal challenge, Cynthia responded with empowering scripture and encouraging words to address that person’s answer. Each participant then received one of Cynthia’s books in which she wrote a personal note and signed it.
God surely used the prayer breakfast and all of these people to affirm His love and the self-worth of each Pivot participant.
First day of class: March 1, 2018
Here is a quick summary of the day in praise to God for His mighty works in bringing this vision to fulfillment…and into life! Now comes the living of it!
God has provided eight phenomenal women who are ready to make a change in their lives!
- Seven were present, involved, committed and enthusiastic!
- The eighth did not drop out, but scheduled a meeting with me, and has a plan to “make up” what she missed.
Our classes for the first day were led by 4 fabulous volunteers/women of God:
- Leslie Cox and Beth Warfford – guided a prayerful discussion to pick a Bible study from among 4 options. Decision: A Woman Who Hurts, a God Who Heals by Elsa Kok.
- Debbie Loftis – led the first of 4 sessions on LifeKeys: Discover Who You Are. This one was “Life Gifts” and how to apply them in the “right” job and other areas of life.
- Teresa Cutts – focused on self-care and stress management, as the first installment of “Body, Mind and Spirit.”
Barbara Hudgens – provided a delicious, healthy lunch with an overflow to fill some take-home boxes.
Here are a few prayer requests:
- For Participants: Envelop them in prayer during this journey of change, which is seldom easy for anyone! It was clear that Satan was working in some of our lives to complicate and make that first day of commitment difficult. Some of their situations are more chaotic and stressful than you might imagine: trauma for one, financial crisis for another, loneliness, opposition to this change from people in their circles of influence… We are adding to their situations a significant amount of new information and personal growth. Their motivation and hopes are high. God is working in their lives already. Sustain them with your prayers.
- For Class Instructors: It takes a significant amount of dedication, time, preparation, and wisdom. They don’t get to hear the other instructors’ classes to know how to tie it all together. Pray for God’s guidance, the right words, and sustaining wisdom for them.
- For Mentors: In the coming weeks, each will be paired with a specific woman with whom she will build trust, live into the mentor relationship, and establish an accountability partnership. Also pray that the matching process is God-inspired! Pray for God’s sustaining wisdom and guidance as well.
- For Me: I need His wisdom in that matching process. I didn’t quite get the sleep I needed during the week, and as we transition into the new stage of Pivot’s life, my priorities and activities will also change. Prioritizing, organization and clear boundaries are continual prayer requests – along with God’s sustaining wisdom and guidance! He’s SO good!
- For More Lunch Providers: Someone has volunteered to provide lunch next Thursday, and we’ll need more individuals/groups to prepare/deliver or cater lunch each Thursday. Pray for the team that will meet on March 9 to develop a plan to recruit and coordinate lunches. Pray for folks to step forward.
Here’s a funny Carol quirk:
Some of you know that I have a song playing in my head at all times. Often I have to stop, pay attention to it, and figure out what I’m singing…and why. It’s just a quirk …or an outpouring of my joy. Who knows? BUT…yesterday:
- As I was packing up after class, I realized I was singing words from an old hymn, “To God be the glory, Great things He hath done…” It’s quite obvious why! This is all for His glory! He pulled it off. He brought the right women. He set the date when He knew they would all be ready and available. He gave you patience to wait for it to happen, and somehow constrained me from running ahead of Him…and more.
- Apparently my spirit took that to a more formal mode with a later realization that I was singing an excerpt from Handel’s Messiah: “And the Glory of the Lord.”
- After finally getting to my room later that evening, I turned on the TV for 5 minutes. Tears streamed when I realized someone was singing Andre Crouch’s My Tribute (To God Be the Glory)
Needless to say, I end this with a repeat of the opening statement: To God be the Glory! He is amazing! Pivot is alive and well…moving forward to make a difference for Him in women’s lives (and a few men’s lives along the way, I’m sure)!
What is Pivot Ministry?
Pivot Ministry exists to empower low-income women for better life and work opportunities.
WHO: Pivot’s classes are small groups of women who are:
- ready to make a change in life
- without minor dependents in the home
- willing to commit and to participate in weekly classes
- interested in building community with others
- open to a Biblical foundation and a one-on-one Christian mentor.
HOW: To empower participants Pivot offers:
- classes in
- life skills
- job readiness
- Bible study
- one-on-one Christian mentors
- an asset-based development approach
- building upon participants’ strengths, not needs
- committing to long-term change and progress
- creating a trusted small-group community for participants
- community collaboration
- linking to – not duplicating – existing programs, training, resources
- connecting with grass-roots leaders to identify participants and build trusting relationships
- encouraging participants to find ways in which they can give back to their respective communities.
Pivot empowers participants to deal with life challenges that are deeper than the most recent crisis and partners with them providing a hand up, not a hand out.
Characteristics of Successful Economic Development Interventions:
- Use development rather than relief, because the vast majority of people in North America are capable of participating in the improvement of their lives;
- Improve some aspect of the economic system or enable people to use the existing system more effectively;
- Use an asset-based approach that builds upon the skills, intelligence, labor, discipline, savings, creativity, and courage of people;
- Have the potential to be designed, implemented, and evaluated in a participatory manner;
- Provide an opportunity to use biblically based curricula, allowing for a clear presentation of the gospel and the addressing of worldview issues;
- Use church-based mentoring teams that can offer love, support, and encouragement, thereby providing a relational approach that seeks to restore people’s dignity (relationship to self), community (relationship to others), stewardship (relationship to rest of creation), and spiritual intimacy (relationship to God);
- Are implemented over fairly long periods of time, thereby creating space for “development,” the process of ongoing change and reconciliation, for both the “helpers” and the “helped.”
Used by permission, adapted from Corbett, S., & Fikkert, B. (2012). When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, pages 175-176.