Nonprofit PPP loan recipient transitions from bustling church to online worship – Church in the Circle, Cleveland

The “Church In The Circle (www.churchinthecircle.com)” serves as a ministry center for the University Circle community in Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to Case Western Reserve University, the area also includes Severance Hall, where one of the top symphony orchestras in the country performs, as well as the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cleveland Institute of Music. But as lead pastor Anthony Everett explains, there’s also an impoverished area nearby as well. Church members minister to school children and other community members in the area through mentoring, after-school programming, neighborhood lunches, and more.

IFF sat down with Reverend Dr. D. Anthony Everett to learn more about how the organization is responding to COVID-19 and how the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) may help them through this moment in history.

 

IFF: How did COVID-19 and the related shutdowns affect your organization?

Everett: In the state of Ohio, they’ve been pretty good about shutting down businesses and organizations. When we first shut down during Phase 1, all of our worship and almost all of our programs moved online – choir, counseling services, worship, everything except for an essential feeding service that we provide in the community.

Normally, we’re a bustling church. Going online has been a major change.

Normally, we’re a bustling church, open 7 days a week. Going online has been a major change, and it’s had an impact on our giving. People were acclimated to doing that in-person, mostly during our Sunday worship. A lot of elderly people like to give cash. Now, they can mail in a check from time to time. But it’s not the same.

The hardest part was probably figuring out how to host a funeral without being at the church and with social distancing. We’re also a huge wedding venue, which is a big source of revenue for us, but we’ve had to push back all weddings into the new year.

 

IFF: Why did you decide to pursue a PPP loan, and how do you think it will help your agency?

Everett: Basically, the loan should help us keep our people on board. We have full-time and part-time staff who work for the church, and this has been a major blow for them economically. Going for the loan/grant has been helpful for us to make it so we can continue on with the staff. And, when COVID is over, hopefully we haven’t lost that staff to other churches or jobs or relocation.

 

IFF: What was your experience like in getting the PPP loan?

Everett: I had never heard of IFF before. However, one member of our congregation who is a retired fundraiser informed me about it. So we decided to do two things at once. One, we pursued the PPP loan through our bank that we normally work with. Two, we pursued working with IFF.

It was a great experience that says to me that we want to be working with you all in the future.

What happened was the bank had very little response to us. I made an appointment with the banker at one time, and they were a half hour late in meeting with me. Afterward, they said they would get back to us. They put me in contact with another person, but by that time they were saying stimulus money was already running out. What that showed me was that they had no concern for what we were doing as a church. It was very disheartening.

However, on the other side, working with IFF was really a smooth process. It was just a wonderful experience that I could have one of my church members – who is not a paid staff member but who was willing to help us – to work with you all and then eventually bring the final application to me for review and signing. It was a great experience – an experience that says to me that we want to be working with you all in the future.

 

IFF: What’s one thing you’ve learned in this climate?

Everett: I would say that as a nonprofit – and churches are nonprofits – that financial institutions have kind of let us down. We have a fair amount of money in the bank that we use, and we also have members that use banks. But it’s not as if we’re a big business or even a small business with a better cash flow. There seemed to be no concern about our type of organization, and we provide some vital essential, services. We’re going through a pandemic, and people are calling the church for prayer – which is a form of helping people mentally as well as spiritually to deal with the situation. Banks were not concerned about that; they were  concerned about the for-profits as opposed to the nonprofits. So I’m glad to learn of IFF and learn there is an organization that is using community reinvestment funds in a very accountable way – the way that it should be used, not just for churches, but for all the nonprofits out there that are serving the community. We’re all in the same boat.

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