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2014 Most Interesting People

01/03/2014 07:54AM ● Published by Christy Quebedeaux

Be inspired by Community Activist Nelson Warner.

Interesting people hold your attention; they are engaging, fascinating and intriguing. Each January for the past 10 years, Acadiana LifeStyle has recognized the Most Interesting People in Acadiana, as nominated by their peers. As we begin the New Year with a fresh start, be inspired by Community Activist Nelson Warner.

For some volunteers, handing over a check is all the giving they need to do. But for others such as Lafayette local Nelson Warner, the hands-on approach is much more fitting. Just over 11 years ago Warner and others from his congregation set out to make a difference. “It started with a holy discontent, and mine was boys without fathers. That motivated me to get in the game and go do something,” Warner says. 

At first they had trouble finding an organization that enacted meaningful change. Instead of giving up, they studied the community and traveled – to Miami, New Orleans, Chicago and Philadelphia – in order to find a model of the type of organization they wanted to commit their time and efforts to. After months of searching they settled on a group called the Christian Community Development Organization, which had worked in inner cities for over 25 years. Their model? Move into the neighborhoods you want to change. So, relocate they did and the Bridge Foundation of Acadiana was born.

After moving into areas typically marked as ‘red’ neighborhoods, Warner says he and others went door-to-door asking inhabitants of the areas what their dreams were for the area. Additionally, Warner points out that his is an asset-based organization: “What people already have is where you start. We listened and people realized that we cared.” 

After speaking to many residents in his neighborhood, Warner narrowed their dreams to three main aspects: a safer and more secure area, children receiving a better education and changing the character of the youth in the area. Naturally, the Bridge Foundation built their program around children. Weekly tutoring sessions and bible study classes helping both youth and adults in the area are hosted at the Bridge. Warner remarks, “People do not need relief, they need development. We don’t do for people what they can do for themselves.”

Since the Bridge has begun its work the area has not experienced a murder in three years and the violent crime rate is down by 50 percent. Due to funding shortages, the Bridge chooses to focus its efforts on the youth of the community, hoping that starting early will have a greater outcome on their lives. The program serves about 75 children but Warner says they aren’t pushing the growth; they want it to progress naturally. 

Recently the organization built two new facilities for neighborhood children to use and it has made a big impact on the community. Warner says, “You have to choose to move into brokenness. Choose to love your neighbor. That’s the journey. But on the other side, you’re humbled.” 

–By Samantha Stevens

To learn about all of our MIPs pick up the January 2014 issue of Acadiana LifeStyle.

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