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Ballton Shares Insight on ‘Extraordinary Ministry in Ordinary Places’
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Religion Editor
Published March 3, 2021

                Lula Bailey Ballton (Courtesy photo)

In the world of CDCs, Lula Bailey Ballton is considered a brilliant innovator and some even regard her as the “dynamic queen of nonprofits.” Ballton’s reputation stems from her role as the CEO emeritus, co-founder and former president of West Angeles Community Development Corporation (WACDC).

In 1993, Bishop Charles E. Blake, pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, selected Ballton as the first executive director of WACDC and charged her with fulfilling the organization’s mission “to increase social and economic justice, demonstrate compassion ad alleviate poverty as tangible expression of the Kingdom of God.”

To Ballton that meant, “to serve God and love people” and during her 26-year tenure, she did just that by creating an array of cutting-edge, community-based programs under the umbrella of WACDC. The programs include several low-income, real estate projects such as West Angeles Homes, West Angeles Parklane Apartments and West Angeles Villas. She also spearheaded the WACDC’s Homeownership Centers, which provides ownership, entrepreneurial and dispute resolution services and much more.

Lula Ballton, 3rd from left, and Bishop Charles Blake, center, join with other guests at the groundbreaking for a WACDC project. (Courtesy photo)

Ballton, now the executive director of Community and Economic Development for the Church of God in Christ, Inc., recently published a book entitled “Extraordinary Ministry in Ordinary Places.”

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“The book is about the steps to start a CDC and steps to sustain one to make it a profitable venture. A nonprofit does not have to be faith-based or church-based. It’s supposed to be other-based – committed to whatever you say that you are going to do,” said Ballton, a former college professor and director of education for the Chicago Urban League.

“Extraordinary Ministry in Ordinary Places” is available at Amazon.com. (Courtesy photo)

“The purpose of a CDC is not to make money for a church or an organization. Working with integrity is super-important. So, my book is more a reference manual than a handbook. It’s a story of what you need to do, what your options are.”

The sections in “Extraordinary Ministry” cover administration, economic development, program development and the steps to follow. Also, the reader will learn what community development is and is not, how to establish an organization’s vision and mission, what are the required legal components, how to select and train board members and the seven principal steps to form a successful CDC.

“A 501C3 is a business. It’s a corporation. I think it’s misnamed with the word ‘nonprofit’ because you have to make a profit to have a business or you’ll go out of business. The difference in a 501C3 is that the profit goes back into the mission of that community or that work as opposed to being divided up among the shareholders or board members,” explained Ballton.

By incorporating scriptures with her experience, she offers practical guidance to help churches, faith-based institutions and nonprofits invest in and improve their communities. In addition, Ballton recruited WACDC program managers to author chapters about their departments.

Ballton and WACDC staff stand in front of the West Angeles Villas near 60th St. and Crenshaw Blvd. in Los Angeles. (Courtesy photo)

For instance, Paul Turner, economic development director, and Samuel Hughes, economic development manager, contributed information about that area. COO Claudia Jones, Operations Director Robert Norris and Executive Director Tunua Thrash-Ntuk discuss administration, and Sandra Speed, housing director, and Ariel Bailey Fernald, Mediation Center director, shared information on program development.

“Being the director of the CDC was a complete faith-walk because it was an arena that I did not considered myself prepared for,” recalled Ballton. “I didn’t come to the community with a plan that I’m going to fix this place. I lived in that community and my plan was to make where we are, in the Crenshaw district, a destination place.”

And Ballton certainly succeeded in that regard because WACDC projects are sprinkled along Crenshaw Boulevard, starting north at the U.S. 10 freeway and extending south to 63rd Street. “As the Lord led me,” she said, I saw opportunities to improve our community.”

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Ballton, who received a J.D. degree from UCLA School of Law, continues to aid churches and nonprofits through her independent consultancy firm, Lula Ballton and Associates. She also maintains her close relationship with God and applies His word to her life on a daily basis.

“My favorite scripture is Lamentation 3:21-22 because by His faithfulness, we get up everyday,” noted Ballton. “My other mantra is a poem that my grandmother taught me and that I live by. It goes:

“When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill, and the funds are low and the debts are high and you want to smile but you have to sigh. When cares are pressing you down a bit, rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

“Life is strange with its twists and turns and every one of us sometimes learns, though many a failure comes about, you might have won if you had stuck it out. Don’t give up though the pace seems far. You may succeed with another blow.

“Success is failure turned inside out, the silver tint of the clouds of doubt. And you never can tell just how close you are, it may be near when it seems so far. So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit, it’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”

“Extraordinary Ministry in Ordinary Places” is available at Amazon.com.

Categories: Religion
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