our history, our partners
We've been around since 2001, and the road has been full of twists and turns. Here's the short story.
The idea of UrbanSpirit began in 2000, as the focus of an academic paper. The next year, we started putting it together, in the vacated home of Grace Lutheran Church in Louisville's Portland neighborhood. With the partnership of the Disciples of Christ (and the DOC Women's Quadrennial), we prepared our space and welcomed our first program group in 2003, a campus ministry group from the University of Illinois. In the early days, we were a destination for groups who wanted to do "service trips," but we knew we had to do more than give people a chance to feel good; we wanted our focus to be education.
In 2005, we launched our poverty simulation, a way of helping youth and adults who are not poor feel the reality of poverty, rather than just seeing the symptoms. The simulation has grown and evolved over the years, and remains a powerful and vivid memory for those who have experienced it, including the adults who thought they were just coming along as chaperones!
In the years since, hundreds of youth and adults have experienced the simulation or our middle school intro to social justice, and many have completed the advanced leadership programs. Groups have come from across 24 US states, from Hawaii and California to Connecticut and Pennsylvania, Texas and Georgia to Minnesota and Nebraska; from a variety of faith traditions including Christian, Jewish and Muslim, from churches including UCC, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Methodist; and from colleges and universities including Pacific, Temple, Toledo, Illinois, Delaware, Manchester, Kansas State and others. They have been black, white, Latina/o, Asian/Pacific Islander. Adults who have experienced our program are teachers, ministers, social workers, graphic designers, business owners, builders, drivers, attorneys, professors, parents and grandparents.
"My hope for this trip was that the youth would catch some of the passion I have for justice and understand the social realities that create injustices. Little did I know that I would be so inspired myself! This week, while draining me physically and mentally, has fanned the flames in my soul to fight for all those who are less fortunate.... I know I will always remember this experience..."
In 2016, we relocated to the Russell neighborhood of Louisville, 2 miles SE, to the historic Plymouth Settlement House. The Settlement House is a remnant of the early 20th century, a former boarding house for young black women moving into the city. We think we're faithfully repurposing the old gem. And we're thankful to the UCC and the Disciples of Christ for helping with renovation. A new era and a new partnership with Plymouth Congregational UCC begins.