In Orchard’s 25 years of ministry work, we have seen many changes. We have helped our ministry partners respond, serve and engage with the most relevant issues of our day. This requires our team to help provide relevant resources, ideas, and spiritual support in a constantly changing world around us.
As we continue to reflect on Orchard’s 25-year history, we cannot forget the most significant changes that Orchard has encountered. In 2015 our current Executive Director, Jonathan Goode, came on board at Orchard. The primary goal for this leadership change was to ensure that Orchard could continue to move forward after 20 years of incredible foundational work. Right out of the gate, Jonathan had a significant ripple effect amongst the staff. In 2017, Orchard launched into a new era. We rebranded from Atlanta Community Ministries to Orchard. We hired a Communications Director to help shape our message. Within a few short years, we would launch our Partners program. Changes such as these were not easy, and our team has often felt the weight of this responsibility. Yet, these changes have helped to move Orchard to continued growth. These changes allowed us to merge with the LEAD Institute and shape some of the most outstanding non-profit curriculum available through the Orchard Institute.
Former staff member, Tula Blackwelder, shared with us her thoughts on the significant changes within Orchard’s history. Before she came on board at Orchard in 2005, Tula worked in the Atlanta non-profit sector for a decade, serving with both Atlanta Home Builders and Literacy Action. Her heart has always been one of service and volunteering with causes that she finds valuable. When Tula found Orchard, however, she immediately was drawn to the work of serving within a faith-based organization. “It was important to me because of my faith and I could see their work easily aligning with that.” Tula was a part of a small team of three staff members when she began in 2006. After almost 15 years of service with Orchard, she saw the organization grow more than most and continues to serve our team today.
Tula is one example of the incredible heart that is behind the work that is done within Orchard. Her passion for serving ministry partners is what has been able to help bring us to where we are today. Staff members such as herself are why this ministry continues to thrive. Our team is willing to try new things, grow professionally, and keep asking how we can be better and how we can serve those around us more effectively. She stated, “Change is change. The change was necessary! But the heart of Orchard was still there: Orchard helps non-profits do God’s work. That is the bottom line!” We think it speaks volumes that after years of serving on staff, Tula, is willing to serve on Orchard’s Board and we are thankful for her commitment to our team.
Even among the changes we encounter and the growth we have had, one thing will never change: everyone needs Jesus and we get to use our work to help that vision become a reality. Our stakeholders see that need and help us make it a reality by generously giving to our work. Without the help of those who continue to support Orchard, even amongst all the change, we would not be able to help make Christ be known by the action of His followers.