Milwaukee’s 53206 zipcode is often in the news for its challenges, which include the city’s highest concentration of poverty and the nation’s most-incarcerated population. But every day in that same neighborhood, the Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist Church and affiliated Greater Galilee Community Development Corporation (CDC) go to work to help make their community a better place to live, work, learn, and grow up. And they’ve been doing it for more than 90 years.
“We made the decision 20 years ago not to leave the central city like a lot of other churches were doing,” said Pastor John White of Greater Galilee. “We felt it was our calling to stay here and address the needs of this community. We can’t be everything to everybody, but we can create a space to foster collaborations with partners that can offer different kinds of programming.”
Greater Galilee’s deep history in the community includes opening the area’s first Head Start program and one of the city’s first African American church Credit Unions. They serve thousands of hot meals, get thousands of toys donated to kids at Christmas, and have provided more than 1,000 kids with back-to-school supplies.
With so much going on, Greater Galilee needed more space. That’s why it started acquiring adjacent properties about 8 years ago with the long-term vision to create an Intergenerational Community Center. IFF’s real estate services team has been working with Greater Galilee since October 2016 to plan and budget the project, and IFF will continue to provide owner’s representative services throughout construction, which is due to begin this fall.
The new 20,000-square-foot facility will house wellness and health programs; meals and nutrition programs; financial services; creative arts and recreation programs; senior adult day care services; and flexible spaces for partnership programs. The $3.2 million project is being financed by a $2 million loan from IFF, a $900,000 loan from the American Baptist Extension, and additional grant support from local Milwaukee institutions.
The IFF financing came from a special set-aside of IFF’s New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) allocation. IFF’s NMTC Loan Pool brings the benefits of NMTC financing — low rates, 7-year terms, and interest-only payments — to smaller community development projects like Greater Galilee.
According to Pastor White, building this facility will be key to securing commitments from various city, county, and nonprofit programming partners. “They need something they can touch and see,” Pastor White said. “When they don’t see a facility, they don’t want to give a firm commitment. We’re pushing the envelope to get the building up, and we have faith the commitments will follow.”
“It’s been a long time since I’ve worked with people who have the kind of passion and commitment to the community that IFF has shown. It’s refreshing,” Pastor White said. “I was an engineer for 20 years, so I enjoy working with people who know what they’re doing. We could not have done this project without IFF.”