The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of St. Petersburg broke ground on its new Legacy Center at 800 22nd St. S on Sept 18. Photos courtesy of Boyzell Hosey.
BY J.A. JONES, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — When the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of St. Petersburg’s (IMA-SP) building at 2901 First Ave. S was active over the course of more than two decades, the building offered space for tutoring, a food pantry, and a clothing closet.
But by 2018, the building sat vacant and unused for several years, and IMA members, many in their 70s and older, were aware that new energy was necessary. Several board members approached Rev. J.C. Pritchett II, senior pastor of Faith Church, about running to become IMA’s board president.
Pritchett told them, “If I run, and I’m elected, there’s gonna be white people, and gay people, and Jews and Muslims.” He was looking to the future and driven by a need to reactivate the IMA’s former community impact and help make a difference in St. Pete.
“You cannot do social justice work and coalition building and be broad in your alliances with just African-American clergy.”
He did get elected and immediately set about reaching out to faith and community leaders to build the “broad” alliances that would help move the needle on several social justice issues the IMA decided it was committed to working on.
Additionally, a renaming ceremony christened the building “The Legacy Center” in 2019. It became a place that offered housing to the needy and a place for food pantries to distribute from and opened a Neighborhood Tech Hub through the Digital Inclusion St. Pete initiative.
Pritchett’s time among faith leaders in Washington, D.C., strongly impacted his belief that faith leaders should be active in the justice issues of their communities. He saw men and women of the cloth “doing business, in academia, doing policy, and doing protests — and it was really incredible to watch.”
Upon his return to St. Petersburg, where he’d spent his childhood, he knew the call upon his life would be played out in real-time, on the street, actively in the community, as well as bringing dire issues to the tables where secular leadership sat.
Today, the IMA is involved in several pressing issues impacting St. Pete and Pinellas, including ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, voter education and turnout, reducing gun violence, and addressing the opioid crisis.
But Pritchett can name several more that he believes faith leaders should be concerned with, such as preparing communities for an imminent natural disaster like hurricanes and human disasters, like active shootings. He also lists jobs, housing, and transportation as significant issues that must be addressed for all communities to be properly taken care of.
“These are all issues that faith leaders have to be involved in beyond ‘going to heaven’ because our people have to live here before they go to heaven. And to catch hell here, while on the way to heaven, is not exactly what Jesus is talking about when he says that he came that we may have life and have it more abundantly.”
Now, more impact via IMA is on the horizon. When growing debt and an aging structure demanded that the IMA sell the property on First Avenue South to leverage resources as good community stewards, the group was prepared to hunker down in a shared space on Ninth Avenue South. But apparently, God had other plans.
Pritchett was walking by the piece of land at 800 22nd St. S when the real estate broker set down a “for sale” sign. God spoke, and he listened. The IMA purchased the property the same day – and it will be the new location of The Legacy Center.
It will also be the first new construction on the Deuces since St. Petersburg College opened the Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center in 2015.
And while Pritchett said they weren’t looking for this kind of project, placement of the Legacy Center on the historic Deuces makes sense. Social media posts share plans for offices, housing, and parking. A computer lab and space for nonprofits and event use round out the project.
“The Carter G. Woodson, Manhattan Casino, Deuces Live office, and SPC are our neighbors…and we are pleased to be there,” he shared.
To learn more about the Interdenominational Alliance of St. Pete, visit ima-sp.com.
To reach J.A. Jones, email firstname.lastname@example.org