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2018 Adese Fellows

Say hello to the 2018 Adese Fellows. 


At the intersection of faith and enterprise, something new is emerging. By creating sustainable ventures, these leaders are combating systemic poverty.



Stephanie Findley is an educator. She taught adult basic education classes at Centro Hispano in Milwaukee, Wis., and was an adjunct instructor at Bryant & Stratton College School of Business. Findley is the founder and chief executive officer of Midwest Construction, a commercial construction firm specializing in concrete, flooring, painting and general labor. Through the Adese Fellowship, Findley hopes to aid under-resourced communities in the city of Milwaukee eradicate poverty through entrepreneurship.



Ra'Shawn Flournoy is a minister. Ordained in 2006, Flournoy has been involved in numerous church plantings and the fight for social justice across the United States. Flournoy is the senior pastor of ReBirth Cathedral in Charlotte, N.C. He maintains a passion for education, particularly among adolescents and young adults, and seeks to create strategies that reduce the negative consequences of early or irresponsible sexual involvement. He currently serves as executive director of the Dream Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an array of individual-level, group-level and community-level programs and services targeting youth and young adults in the community. Flournoy and the Dream Center received funding from the Holy Covenant United Church of Christ Unconventional Pilgrims Grant to expand outreach efforts. 



Mariah Hayden is an outside-the-box curator, lover of dissonance and energetic minister who enjoys helping people connect their gifts and interests with the needs of others. She is also an urban farmer, United Methodist ordained minister, and advocate for food justice.  Hayden runs UpCycle Farm on Cleveland’s west side where she raises chickens, keeps bees, and grows a wide range of produce for sale to the surrounding community. Prior to moving to Cleveland, she served urban churches in Denver focusing on serving those at the margins of society.  Her 2018 proposal to the East Ohio Conference is to begin new community-based opportunities using the farm as a basis for Christian faith formation and advocacy for food justice. The grit of the urban core and the beautiful chaos of farm life meet to offer opportunities to build community, reclaim vacant land, and inspire a sustainable life. As an urban minister, her focus stays on relationships with the marginalized and the ways that poverty, race, health, and opportunities intersect with the food systems we create. 



Paxton Hughes is a forward thinking leader who inspires others to pursue greatness. He studied business, information systems and ministry at Winston-Salem State University, Hood Theological Seminary and Virginia Union’s School of Theology. He continues to pursue ventures that teach, train, inspire and enrich. He worked in banking and finance and later embraced the call to serve in pastoral ministry. Hughes is passionate about ministry and works to advance people in life for an empowered and transformative future. As the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Kings Mountain, N.C., he continues to learn, educate and promote the very intrinsic values that enhance the growth and development of communities. With the support of the Adese Fellowship, Hughes will develop an information and learning center for current entrepreneurs and prospective ones with the mission of building sustainable business ventures that address economic injustices. “EL3” — Entrepreneurship and Leadership (Arts, Invocation and Advice) — is the venture designed to inform and educate entrepreneurs. 



Nozomi Ikuta is a minister. Born in Cleveland, she attended Carleton College, Harvard Divinity School and New York Theological Seminary, and lived and ministered in urban, rural, congregational and office settings before returning to Cleveland to serve at the national office of the United Church of Christ. In 2005, Ikuta was called to Denison Avenue UCC. She and her husband moved near their church and opened Affordable Bikes. In 2016, after noting the number of customers interested in a variety of price points, they changed the name to Upcycles. They also initiated giveaway and sliding-scale pricing to accommodate lower-income cyclists. As a Fellow, Ikuta will incorporate her bike shop experience into a broader economic empowerment project involving the church, surrounding neighborhood and suburban congregations. She will help Avon Lake UCC solicit household goods from other congregations, offer them to local business owners and discuss ways to work together to improve the local business climate.



Carla Leon is a serial innovator. She has been an intrapreneur in the for-profit sector winning the President’s Award for innovation. She has started an e-learning platform, a telemarketing social enterprise, and a consulting firm that supports small businesses and non-profits. She is beginning new initiatives in the United Church of Canada including a mentoring platform, a pitch competition for social entrepreneurs, and ramped up the innovation granting program which has funded 190 initiatives in two years. This fall she published the "Giveback Economy," a book about how to do well while doing good. Her latest initiative is Community Innovation Hubs. This is a national strategy in Canada that leverages church space to support spiritual entrepreneurs in their work. The hubs provide workshops, peer-to-peer learning sessions, mentoring and access to the social capital of the communities of faith. Most importantly, the spiritual entrepreneurs build new relationships and are connected with each other adding to the already existing networks between hubs. 



Howard Lindsay  is a minister at Grace Tabernacle Community Church in the Bayview Hunter's Point section of San Francisco, where he concurrently serves as the head of social justice ministries, including a local interfaith network, and on Grace’s Board of Trustees. He also works with a global investment bank, volunteering with charitable, religious and professional organizations locally, nationally and internationally. Lindsay graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary earning a Master of Theology in ministry. He also holds a bachelor's from Wesleyan University, where he double-majored in economics and African American studies. Lindsay's ministerial focus is on the transformational force of love, abundance-consciousness, and community empowerment made manifest in its fruit: justice. With the Adese Fellowship, Lindsay will embark upon the next stage of growth within his family’s social enterprise: Pat’s Exotic Beverages (PEB) aims to be a best-in-class purveyor of Caribbean-Diaspora-inspired fresh juices and beverages in the U.S. and beyond. Reimagining PEB at this inflection point, engaging its diverse stakeholders, and building a strong team will converge in four-fold impact: advancing faith, people, planet and sustainable economic re-investment in the communities served.



Leah Lonsbury is a baker and a minister. She hails from Kansas City and is on her second go-round in Georgia, this time with her beloved and two big kids. Lonsbury loves learning about people and their stories, crafting and experiencing words that move and influence, and cultivating shared tables. Oakhurst Baptist Church teaches and calls Lonsbury to seek love and justice in the world, and her extended family of faith, the Alliance of Baptists, provides a network of connectivity, inspiration, and wise and hilarious company for the journey. She has worked in education, ministry, and writing for church leadership and nonprofit organizations. Lonsbury currently runs Just Bakery of Atlanta, a nonprofit bakery that trains, certifies, and hires refugees at a living wage in the metro area. This organization aims to address significant gaps in continuing education and professional credentialing in the resettlement process. This partnership supports the refugee neighbors' long-term economic security and builds a diverse community of understanding and support. Trainee bakers from Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nepal currently work with Just Bakery of Atlanta to produce locally and sustainably sourced baked goods for sales that support nonprofit efforts.  



Meagan McLeod is a fighter for her community. She has been a resident of Philadelphia, Pa., her entire life. McLeod's upbringing in an urban environment offered her a bird's-eye view of how systems such as poverty and education can affect a generation of people. McLeod completed her bachelor’s from Temple University in speech communication and then received her master’s degree from Lutheran Theological Seminary. She is currently the chaplain and spiritual care director at Friends Psychiatric Hospital. Through Adese, McLeod will combat poverty among minority single mothers with Healing Streams Center. This venture helps to create a new internal dialogue. When one lives in poverty, an internal story is told continuously that no matter how much your circumstances may improve, poverty replays a story of lack, insignificance, and insecurities in your head continuously. McLeod wants to defeat that narrative and change it to one of victory, one mother at a time.



Marilyn Pagán-Banks is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ and currently serves as executive director of A Just Harvest, an anti-hunger organization committed to service, community organizing and economic development; and as a local pastor in Chicago. A graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary, Pagán-Banks is committed to the liberation of oppressed peoples, building power and creating community. The overall economic and community development work of A Just Harvest was created with the goal of increasing economic sustainability by utilizing the assets, gifts, and abilities already present within the community. The Just CIRCLES (Caring for and Investing in Returning Citizens Looking to Embody Success) program is A Just Harvest's response to reducing recidivism and violence by addressing the need for dignified and safe employment for our young adult neighbors who are under negative pressure on a daily basis from the state and peers alike.



Brooks Pollard is a minister. He has pursued a career path at the intersection of healthcare, ministry and business development. Pollard currently works for CareAllies, where he consults primary care physicians in underserved communities, and he serves as the minister of sustainability at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. Pollard’s ministry at Covenant is focused on identifying new partnerships, funding sources and streams of income to both support and guide the church’s community initiatives and prophetic witness. At CareAllies, Pollard works with primary care physicians to achieve two goals: one, provide the best care possible to underserved communities, and two, join forces with like-minded physicians to create economies of scale and purchasing power while also maintaining their independence as entrepreneurs. Prior to his current responsibilities, Pollard held roles with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Emory University and Bethesda Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga. Pollard has a Master of Divinity from Emory University and a Master of Business Administration from Wake Forest University. Pollard’s goal with Adese is to create a medical supply company that offers low-cost medical supplies to independent physicians practicing in underserved communities.



Anna Runion is a minister for youth and social justice at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, Calif. Since 2010 she has served on the boards of the North County Immigration Task Force, Justice Overcoming Boundaries and the North County LGBTQ Resource Center. Runion is passionate about facilitating growth and development for small organizations and grassroots movements. In these times, she is committed to creating sacred spaces for activists and organizations to find spiritual grounding and renewal for the work ahead. She finds great joy in helping people discover and explore their own passions and callings. As she has walked with activists and organizers, Runion has become increasingly aware of the challenge of finding appropriate and consistent space to work, meet and collaborate. Her passions and experience have led her to begin developing Co-Working for Justice, a space for small and grassroots organizations to strengthen their capacity and form creative partnerships that can deepen their commitment to intersectional justice. Co-Working for Justice will also provide the space to nurture the activist spirit — through leadership and organization training and through opportunities for spiritual grounding, renewal and growth.



Greg Smith is a lifelong follower of the way of Jesus. He has served in lay and pastoral positions in Mainline Protestant congregations ranging in size from a few hundred to a few thousand members affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Lutheran (ELCA), Presbyterian (PCUSA), and United Church of Christ (UCC) traditions. He serves as director of social enterprise at the Wesley Mission Center and as an adjunct professor of religion at Hodges University. As the founder of So What Faith, Smith helps individuals and faith communities ask questions and engage in conversation about matters of faith that matter. Smith’s goal with Adese is to scale the Wesley Mission Center’s thrift store, including relocation to a larger space. In addition to serving as the primary funding for the programmatic arm of the Mission Center’s work empowering people on the journey to self-sufficiency using the Working Family Success Model, the store aims to create a more just world beginning in the community of Mansfield, Texas. The store provides low-cost items to all and no-cost items for clients and serves as a community change agent by providing job skills training and second-chance employment while modeling sound stewardship of resources.



Renita White is a servant to her community, working in social services for more than 30 years. White works at UCAN, a Chicago-based nonprofit serving at-risk children, as vice president of housing support and workforce development. White also works as a consultant to many agencies and has served on multiple task forces at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She serves as a peer reviewer and technical assistant for the Council on Accreditation (COA), which certifies and ensures best practices for child welfare agencies nationwide, and she sits on the board for the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries. White is a graduate of the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration with a concentration in policy and administration and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Public Service Sorority, Inc. During her time as a Fellow, White will explore two social enterprise ideas. One proposes a multi-sector business approach and offers continued research efforts surrounding dollars spent on printing and copying activities while bringing these resources in-house and serving a social good in the community. The second enterprise idea puts young and older adults from economically disadvantaged communities to work in a viable and nationally growing trade by providing soft skill training.


Learn more about the Adese Fellowship here.

Learn more about the curriculum and faculty here.

For further information about the Adese Fellowship, contact Melina Higbee, strategic program administrator, at or 216-736-3817.