Forge Flint is connecting people together to help the city move forward. Matthew Soulia, Executive Director and Founder of the non-profit organization, is fulfilling a calling by helping to make that happen.
Soulia grew up in the Flint area and studied ministry at Olivet Nazarene University in Chicago. He participated in church mission trips and helped with many service projects. He came back to his hometown because he believes he has a calling here.
“I’ve always loved Flint,” he says. “A special seed was planted in my heart to become engaged in my hometown.” Soulia is also the lead pastor at West Flint Church of the Nazarene.
“We will work with community agencies to make sure
the assistance goes to families who really need it.”
Executive Director and Founder
Funded primarily by private donations, Forge Flint exists to celebrate the Kingdom in Flint through Christian community development. The organization works on several initiatives with many area churches. “It’s not one individual church, it’s a multi-interdenominational undertaking,” Soulia says. Forge Flint works closely with Joy Tabernacle Church, which has its own non-profit, the Urban Renaissance Center.
One of Forge Flint’s initiatives is hosting summer service camps. “Folks come from all over the country and perform service projects in Flint,” Soulia reports. “Over the last four years, over 500 students have come from nine different states to do good work here.” The volunteers work on projects such as community beautification, roofing, painting houses and building a park, primarily in the Civic Park area.
Another initiative that was undertaken was the installation of full-house water filtration systems, as Forge Flint was the recipient of a $10,000 grant. Workers were trained to install water filtration systems in 40 homes, from the water meter throughout the whole house. Jason Lipscombe, Project Manager and Garage Director, lived in Haiti and installed water filtrations systems there, so he has experience with this work.
One of organization’s more recent projects is the purchase of the Forge Flint Garage, located in Mt. Morris Township. The garage is intended to help under-resourced families by providing reduced-cost auto repairs. It will serve the community as a center for apprenticeship and job training. “We will charge for parts, but the labor is free,” Soulia explains. “We will work with community agencies to make sure the assistance goes to families who really need it. There will be a screening process.” Lipscombe, who is a certified mechanic, will oversee the garage. “Our hope is to repair 100 cars with free labor,” Soulia adds.
Additionally, Forge Flint is working on building a coalition of organizations that will provide holistic job training and placement, similar to the philosophy of the national organization, Jobs for Life. “Our goal is to have five sites that will host weekly training for residents that help them be prepared to work, as well as build a network of businesses that will hire them,” Soulia explains. Three partners have already committed: Urban Renaissance Center, Little Lambs Closet, and Eastside Mission. “This is a grassroots collaborative effort!” says the director, who believes there is a massive need for job training in the Flint area.
Soulia believes that Forge Flint’s strength is connecting churches, agencies, neighborhood associations and others to encourage them to work together. “We can achieve more working together than apart, “ he says. “My hope is to see Forge Flint as another piece of the puzzle. We can all work together to meet these challenges.”
Photography by Eric Dutro & provided by Forge Flint