Faith in Leadership
At a time when the Christian Right enjoys its greatest infl uence in American politics, clergy of all faiths are picking up where the government leaves off, caring for the least of us and changing the way people worship. Meet several locals who are leadin
Photographs by Pat Crowe
Famed self-help guru Stephen Covey once said, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
Either case could be made for Reverend Gloria Cherry, a world traveler, head of the Healing Wings Christian Center in Dover and founder of the Because We Care program, who’s made it her crusade to improve the human condition wherever she goes.
Cherry, 70, formed Because We Care in 1985 as an after-school program for troubled middle school youths. After witnessing one of her 12-year-old attendees get expelled from school, she extended the program into an all-day learning environment.
“Unfortunately, these kids will end up on the streets,” she says. “So we went to the school, found out the children who were being expelled, and asked if we could work with them during the day.”
Because We Care has since grown into an alternative middle school with certified teachers who aid about 100 kids every year. School districts Milford, Lake Forest, Caesar Rodney, Smyrna and Catholic are all in the BWC fold. The kids who can’t make it in their middle schools often wind up with Cherry.
Cherry’s daughter, Addie Merchant, has taken the reigns as CEO of Because We Care, but she still credits her mother with laying the groundwork. “You’ve got to have a good pair of shoes to work with her,” Merchant says. “Rock bottom seems to be her natural environment.”
Nowhere is this more evident than in Cherry’s most recent cause: Help To Haiti, by far the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. On top of bi-monthly food donations, Help To Haiti has been allotted 30,000 acres by the Haitian government to develop into farmland.
“I guess like everything else God does, He laid it on my heart to assist the Haitians, not just to help a few individual Haitians, but the nation of Haiti,” Cherry says. “We’ll be sending over trailers, chickens, rice, equipment, whatever is needed.”
With the backing of USAID, senators Joseph Biden and Tom Carper, Haitian officials and many others, the seed Cherry has planted is beginning to take root.