The Emmanuel Center started in the most common of places – a game of touch football on a strip of dry dirt and dead grass. It was 1989, and the Rev. Colenzo J. Hubbard and his late wife Debra were recently called to minister to a poor neighborhood in South Memphis – one of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation. That game started as a simple way for Rev. and Mrs. Hubbard to pass a warm autumn afternoon with five young congregants. What followed was more than an afternoon of fun – it was the start of one of the strongest inner city ministries Memphis has ever seen.
Father Hubbard’s strong background in administrative organization coupled with his tireless dedication in creating new opportunities to offer the word of the Lord, have became the backbone of this ministry. The primary focus of this ministry has been – and continues to be – to assist children and adults in the public housing developments and surrounding community in the areas of evangelism, education, social services, community relations and sports.
The Emmanuel Center was born as Emmanuel Episcopal Center an outreach of the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee for its first 24 years.
In 2004, Charles Gerber along with Father Hubbard and his now-deceased wife, Debra, became founding Board Members of Promise Academy Charter School. The school was housed for the first two years in an Episcopal Church in Frayser. Promise Academy now has two locations; one being at the old Hollywood Elementary School in North Memphis, and the other location at Spring Hill Elementary in Raleigh. The Emmanuel Center conducts the after-school activities at both Promise Academy locations (Hollywood and Spring Hill) as well as at the Center location on St. Paul Avenue.
The Ministry Takes on New Life
As of January 1, 2016, the Emmanuel Center, Inc. is operating under its own 501(c)3. The Emmanuel Center still maintains a partnership with Memphis Leadership Foundation (MLF), which provides administrative and human resources support.