Association of Valley churches ends challenging year in black

YOUNGSTOWN — Despite numerous unexpected challenges 2020 presented to many area businesses, groups and faith-based organizations, the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches managed to end the year slightly in the black.

“Our financial situation was similar to how it began in 2020, despite difficulties due to the pandemic,” MVAC’s outgoing president, the Rev. Ted Brown, said during Thursday’s virtual annual board meeting.

Specifically, the Christian-based organization saw a $397 surplus, as it began last year with an $8,398 budget and closed out 2020 with $8,795, Brown noted.

The budget finishing in the black was mainly courtesy of contributions from MVAC’s church-member organizations, the Youngstown Foundation, online donations and funds from board members and others, said Thomas D. Sauline, executive director.

About 22 religious leaders and others attended the one-hour session, in which Sauline mentioned a variety of MVAC’s accomplishments last year as it worked in the community and with a variety of churches. The achievements included participating in last October’s Nonviolence Parade and Rally in Youngstown, working with the Next Steps Coalition for police reforms and greater accountability, partnering with the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods organization and supporting the Greater Youngstown Community Dialogue on Racism group, he told attendees.

In addition, Greater Youngstown Community Dialogue on Racism was awarded a $3,450 Raymond J. Wean Foundation grant, Sauline continued.

Other MVAC achievements during the pandemic included hiring an executive secretary, assisting with this year’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Workshop, sponsoring the virtual Youngstown CROP walk and co-sponsoring We Thrive Together, an organization that hosts an array of gatherings and events largely to reduce social isolation and loneliness in the community.

Because of the ongoing health crisis, however, MVAC was unable to host the annual Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast, Sacred Music Fest, Taste of the Faiths and other events.

Also at the meeting, several new officers were installed for one-year terms, effective immediately.

Those sworn in are Chet R. Cooper Jr., a professor in Youngstown State University’s Department of Biological Sciences, president; Sister Mary Alyce Koval, vice president; and Brenda Antenucci, secretary. The Rev. Robin Woodberry maintained her position as treasurer.

Also praising MVAC’s work in 2020 was the Rev. Rebecca Kahnt, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, who said last year laid bare many societal ills and difficulties such as systemic racism, churches’ sparse budgets and people being separated from one another. Nevertheless, many stood up to those challenges, she added.



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