CLEVELAND – City of Cleveland Chaplain Dave Gulley was determined to catch an early flight from Chicago to Cleveland so he could present an award to a man who has helped him throughout his life without knowing it.
Gulley arrived just in time to speak at the City of Cleveland Black History Month Minister’s Breakfast held at Sunshine Cafe in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood on Feb. 27, 2019. Gulley introduced Pastor Ernest Fields of Calvary Hill Church of God in Christ, the event honoree.
Gulley began his speech by apologizing to the crowd for his relaxed attire. It was unusual for him not to wear a suit on such an occasion, but that proved to be unimportant.
What was more important was Gulley’s message to local Cleveland inner-city ministers, community leaders and government representatives.
“My mother was blind and I did not have a dad growing up,” Gulley said. “It was the commitment of the community leaders that this old, little boy from 79th and Hough was able to succeed over all odds.
“Can you imagine a boy having to grow up early? Can you imagine a young man not having a father to support him?”
“Brother Fields, this is ironic, and I don’t know if you understand this, I don’t know too much about my father, but he actually was a member of your church.”
Fields humbly bowed his head to acknowledge the magnitude of Gulley’s statement. Gulley is one of numerous individuals Fields has helped over the years as a pastor in the Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhood.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Fields said during his recognition speech. “Sometimes, we can’t imagine what will happen if we just get engaged and let God do His work.”
In an attempt to revitalize his surrounding neighborhood, Fields formed Buckeye Ministry in Missions Alliance (BMMA) in 2014. The group has been meeting biweekly for the past five years at Calvary Hill. Regular attendees include representatives from Cleveland Habitat, Thriving Communities of Western Reserve Land Conservancy, Home Repair Resource Center and Ministry of Reconciliation, along with street club and local government representatives.
Early in the group’s formation, Fields contacted Greater Cleveland Habit for Humanity president/CEO John Habat to seek advice on rehabilitating distressed and abandoned homes in the church’s vicinity.
Habat agreed to help. When Cleveland Habitat began working in Buckeye Woodhill in 2016, the organization committed to rehab 25 to 30 houses and help 100 existing residents. By the end of 2018, the nonprofit exceeded its goals. It rehabbed 27 houses and assisted 220 existing residents.
In 2019, Cleveland Habitat will continue its commitment to the area with its Greater Buckeye Phase II initiative. For the first time in five years, Cleveland Habitat will shift its focus from rehabbing old homes to building new ones.
“We have never seen this before where three inner-city churches came together and said we are making this a mission of ours,” said Habat, who attended the Minister’s Breakfast. “Reverand Fields was the first one I met. That was unusual for Habitat to find not only one inner-city church that said, ‘We want to be a part of what you are doing,’ let alone three.”
According to Habat, Habitat is committed to building 40 new houses in the Buckeye Woodhill neighborhood in the future.
“Rev. Fields, your leadership has been important to us so Habitat is making a huge, new investment in your neighborhood,” Habat said. “We are going to be building 40 new houses. We will be rehabbing 10 more in that immediate area.
“Rev. Fields, you have to claim some credit for that, and we are happy to be working on your side to do that.”
As Habat spoke, Fields humbly nodded just as he did when Gulley spoke. The accolades were fitting and proof that the mission of a single man can make a difference.
Editors’s Note: I met Pastor Fields while working on a freelance article for Community Leader Magazine, a quarterly insert in Cleveland Magazine. Click here to read more about Pastor Fields and Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity’s mission to revitalize the Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhood.