BY CARLA NOAH STUTSMAN
Jason Malewiski didn’t think twice as he pulled the t-shirt over his head one Wednesday evening before heading to church.
When his pastor at The Church at Azle, Chad Geeslin, saw the Servolution logo on the t-shirt and asked what it was, Malewiski explained the concept, and how he saw it used in Oklahoma City.
“We need that here,” was Geeslin’s reply.
Fast-forward 2-and-a-half years.
Azle Mayor Alan Brundrett attended a meeting of the Tarrant County Mayors’ Association in September 2015 at which a group called 6 Stones made a presentation.
“We need that in Azle,” Brundrett thought.
He arranged for 6 Stones to make its presentation at an Azle city council meeting in February.
So what is it?
While Servolution and 6 Stones are two separate organizations – Servolution is virtually nationwide, while 6 Stones began in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford area and is now in seven Metroplex cities – their purposes and goals are very similar.
Now that the two organizations have collided, the results are beginning to look something like an explosion of goodwill unique to Azle and the surrounding communities.
Servolution is “a revolution through service to the community that’s rumbling through the body of Christ.”
In May 2012, then Major Malewiski moved his family from the Oklahoma City area to Azle, and in July 2015 he retired from the U.S. Air Force.
He is a servant at heart.
“I had read Dino Rizzo’s book Servolution, and was inspired,” Malewiski said. “My family had been consumers in the Servolution ministry in Oklahoma City, so when we came to Azle, I started out by organizing a group to help people in need within our church body.”
Utilizing his personal philosophy of “crawl, walk, run,” Malewiski said he started by figuring out how to meet some needs and “just loving on people.”
Then, he and his group partnered with another team at church that was serving dinners, and their efforts slowly evolved.
Now there’s a Pay It Forward ministry that collects gently-used furniture and appliances and gives them away – free – that has grown so much it needs a warehouse facility to store everything it has collected.
“Around the first of this year, there were two fires in the area in which the families lost everything they owned,” Malewiski said. “We were able to give them each a whole house of furnishings for free.”
Since September, about 24 families in the area have been helped, and Servolution has begun partnering with other churches.
About 6 Stones
According to its website, 6 Stones serves as a “neutral convener” bringing together local governments, businesses, churches, and other non-profits to jointly seek to transform the cities where they are located.
They call it “city transformation.”
Through programs like New Hope, Community Power Revitalization, Run for Hope, Operation Back 2 School, Night of Hope, Community Garden, and Community Ministries, 6 Stones is fulfilling its vision to be a catalyst of hope that transforms lives, homes and communities.
The organization’s mission is to build a coalition of churches, businesses, and others that provides solutions to meet the needs of the community, while exercising its stated values of being: Christ-centered, unified, honorable, respectful, compassionate, and service oriented.
Following great success in the seven cities it serves, 6 Stones has begun to look for ways to mentor similar programs in other communities versus expanding its brand.
Key leaders from 6 Stones, at Brundrett’s request, made a presentation at the Azle city council meeting Feb. 2.
Malewiski, Geeslin and pastors from several area churches were on hand to hear the presentation.
The plan 6 Stones presented included the city “buying in” to the local program with a $25,000 management fee.
Brundrett says the city may also budget an additional amount – up to $25,000 – for actual renovations.
6 Stones, in turn, teaches the program to the local organization and mentors it as needed.
As more communities get on board, the impact of the programs could be exponential.
The Azle version
For years, the Good Neighbors program in Azle found area church groups pooling resources once a year to fix up several homes around town – usually for elderly or disabled people, or those who simply could not afford to make repairs.
Ash Creek Baptist Church has continued with that tradition, even though the city-wide Good Neighbors program eventually fell by the wayside.
Now, Servolution’s Good Neighbors program is doing something very similar.
For instance, two weeks ago, the group gathered at the Pelican Bay home of Catherine Davis, a widow living on Social Security whose front and back porches were badly in need of repair. In a day’s time, they tore off the old porches, built new ones, and even spruced up Davis’ flower beds.
Malewiski thinks it only makes sense that there be a central, unified organization that can collect materials, schedule work, and be a virtual clearing house for the blessed to be a blessing.
It’s something he believes can and should cross the boundaries of church denominations, while also involving both businesses and service organizations.
A couple of local businesses have already agreed to be collection points for material donations to support the Azle community.
The Lions Club of Azle is already filling backpacks with food for school children who might not otherwise have food to eat over weekends. Countless other organizations are collecting food, clothing, diapers and personal hygiene items to help those in need.
“We could accomplish so much more if we consolidate our efforts and our resources,” he said. “Unity is the key.”
He spoke of a single item that was recently donated to a local church of a particular denomination.
A volunteer – who is of a different denomination – for a local service organization was looking for a similar item for an elderly client who needed one. The client was of a third denomination.
“Breaking down denominational barriers is so vital and partnerships matter. That’s how it works,” Malewiski said. “By being united, and through our common connections, we can do more.”
Another example is that through connections with 6 Stones, Servolution received a donation of three pallets – one of 18,000 shampoos, one of 18,000 conditioners, and one large pallet of razors.
The supplies were passed on to the Good N.E.W.S. Living At Home Block Nursing Program to support seniors and the Azle Community Caring Center, which serves all areas within the Azle ISD.
April 23 is the next Good Neighbors day, and Ash Creek Baptist Church’s group, along with another group from Lighthouse Harbor Church in Pelican Bay, are teaming up to revitalize a couple of homes in Pelican Bay.
Servolution decided to pick the same day for its project in the 2200 block of Cardinal Road, meaning multiple homes will be revitalized in the Azle community on the same day.
They specifically chose the same date to honor the Good Neighbors program, which Malewiski learned about after moving to Azle.
Eventually, he hopes Servolution will become an umbrella under which many churches, service organizations, food banks, governments, and even school districts can operate to serve the needs of the community from a united front.
Malewiski spoke to the Azle Ministerial Alliance several weeks ago to provide information about the 6 Stones model and the Servolution program.
Several churches and non-profits have already expressed interest in being involved with the Azle Servolution program, including First Methodist Church of Azle, Crossing Fellowship, The Abbey Church, Azle Church of Christ, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, the Azle Community Caring Center, Good N.E.W.S., Stonegate Center, and CB Ministries.
All churches and businesses in the area are invited to join in to be part of the solution, Malewiski said.
Where it all stands
Now that Servolution has received its 501(3)(c) status and is a stand-alone organization, the Azle city council will vote whether to sponsor the program with a $25,000 management fee. That’s expected to happen at the council’s meeting scheduled for May 3.
City leaders may also consider entering into what’s known as a 380 agreement with Servolution.
Chapter 380 of the Local Government Code authorizes municipalities to offer incentives designed to promote economic development such as commercial and retail projects.
Specifically, it provides for offering loans and grants of city funds or services at little or no cost to promote state and local economic development and to stimulate business and commercial activity.
In the meantime, Brundrett says he believes other council members are in favor of Servolution’s efforts; he’s even made arrangements for Servolution to utilize a portion of the former Azle Public Library building located next door to City Hall to store materials, furniture, and appliances.
Brundrett says it’s inexpensive to spruce up a home’s exterior.
“For a couple hundred dollars’ worth of paint and sweat, you can make some minor repairs, put on a couple coats of paint and trim the bushes,” he said. “I’d like to see a paint recycling program, where people bring their unused paint, it all gets mixed together and redistributed.”
The color, by the way, usually comes out as a tan or gray, and Brundrett also thinks a city of Azle logo could go on each can, which might be sold for $1 a gallon.
“The city – if it authorizes a renovations fund – could help pay for materials, and the labor would be donated,” Brundrett said. “Then neighbors will see and be inspired to do the same to their property, if they have the means. We’re looking for the domino effect of neighborhoods taking pride in their properties and keeping them up.”
Other council members have already indicated their interest and willingness to move forward, and Servolution’s pending 501(c)(3) application has been the last remaining hurdle.
Malewiski’s vision includes an entire mall devoted to service to the community.
Utilizing a large space similar to the old K-mart building, he envisions a day when organizations like the Community Caring Center, Eagle Mountain Pregnancy Help Center, Good N.E.W.S., Servolution, and others will be housed under one roof.
“It could be one-stop shopping for those in need.”