Louisville—Five years ago, the Habitat for Humanity “Baptist House” was in jeopardy. With the economic downturn, some Baptist churches had to dial back their budget, decreasing donations to Habitat for Humanity. At the same time, the Bob Downs Golf Invitational, part of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Louisville’s golf ministry, was “looking for somebody to partner with.”
“We had tried some different things, but we just weren’t happy,” David Garrard, St. Matthew’s minister to children and Bob Down’s Invitational coordinator, said.
The team at Habitat was discussing the fate of the Baptist house project in light of the funding shortfall, Garrard said. “Then we walked through the door and asked, ‘You guys interested in a partnership with us?'”
He continued, “It was really an answer to prayer on both ends, because we were looking for a worthy partner in a faith-based ministry, and Habitat was at a crossroads in terms of what they were going to do.”
“Without the Bob Downs Invitational, we would not have the Baptist Habitat House right now,” Conway Stone, a member of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville and Baptist House sponsor and project leader, said
“In 1998, I got tired of talking about my faith. I decided I was going to do something,” Stone said. “I called up Habitat and asked, ‘What does it take to be an official sponsor of a Habitat house?'”
At that time, if someone raised $18,000, Habitat for Humanity would match it, and one could be an official sponsor of a Habitat house, he recalled.
“I got my church, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and another small group to give $2,000, and that got me started,” Stone recounted.
He continued to secure donations from Louisville-area churches and eventually raised funding for the Baptist House.
Today, it takes a $47,000 donation, with a matching contribution by Habitat for Humanity, to build a house. In July, Habitat will hold a dedication service for its 22nd Baptist House.
“This year Bob Downs contributed $20,000 to the Baptist Habitat house. Our churches have donated about $20,000, and we had $7,000 left over from the previous year,” Stone said.
“My goal in the future is to get four churches who can give $5,000 a year to Habitat, eight churches who can give $3,000 a year to Habitat, and I’m counting on the Bob Downs Invitational to give $15,000 to $20,000 a year,” he added.
Stone hopes to be able to build 30 total Baptist Habitat houses.
Over the last five years, the Bob Downs Invitational has contributed approximately $100,000 to the Habitat Baptist house. The Bob Downs Invitational is played on the Monday after Derby at the Big Spring Country Club each year.
Garrard said that he hopes that other churches across the state will join in the Habitat House initiative and begin Bob Downs Invitational golf tournaments. Stone’s vision is also for Baptist churches in other Kentucky cities to see the opportunity to start their own Baptist houses.
“It’s certainly not the only thing that Habitat does, but it is one of the cool things they do,” Garrard commented. “It is an example of cooperation. None of us could build that house by ourselves, but with a lot of people giving, it happens.”
“What we’ve discovered is that Habitat has an excellent reputation, so as we go out into the community and ask for people to sponsor our tournament, even though we’re faith based and even though Habitat is faith based, people say yes,” Garrard said.
Those interested in donating to or participating in the next Bob Downs Invitational can contact Garrard at firstname.lastname@example.org. (WR)