A unique story that details how a woman and her husband created a ministry that began with fostering 75 children in their Memphis home without any financial support from the state or federal government is outlined in a new book entitled “Called: How One Couple Served A City.”
JoeAnn Ballard, the book’s author, explains how she and her late husband, Monroe Ballard, transformed a labor of love into an endeavor that eventually led to the founding of Neighborhood Christian Centers, Inc. in 1978.
“Called: How One Couple Served A City,” by Southern biographer Sheridan Hill and published by Real Life Stories, LLC, describes how Ballard’s childhood set the stage for a lifetime of compassionate service.
A book signing is scheduled on Thursday, June 19 from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church, 4055 Poplar Ave., in the Fellowship Hall. The event is free and open to the public. The author will discuss her lifelong commitment of service to those in need and sign copies of her book.
The Ballard’s ministry started when Monroe Ballard, a high school teacher at the time, noticed that a student had threadbare clothes and was always hungry. The very next weekend, the Ballards invited the student to come to their home. They fed her, took her shopping and brought her to church.
The Ballards soon found other children in need of their help, and word spread throughout the black community. What started as a simple answer to meet the needs of one young student grew into a lifelong ministry of serving their neighbors in need.
Today, the non-profit organization serves over 60,000 neighbors annually. Core programs and services include parent training for early childhood brain development, afterschool and recreation, college and career preparation, family enrichment and marriage support, job skill training, and emergency assistance for those in crisis.
“My husband, Monroe, and I answered a calling to meet the needs of our neighbors that became a lifelong journey of service. Everything we did, we did in Christ. My hope is that others will be inspired to join me in compassionate service using their individual talents to serve neighbors in need,” said Ballard.
Year after year of consistent relationship building – first among the materially poor and then among the materially rich – laid the groundwork that eventually built a community organization that includes six community centers within the most impoverished zip codes of Memphis.
Today, Neighborhood Christian Centers, Inc. strives to build upon the view of it as “a vortex, magnetizing resources and summoning the materially poor to educate, train, and restore a sense of self-worth within the Memphis community.”