HAYWARD -- Bishop Jerry W. Macklin has never given up on South Hayward.
When drug dealers moved into the area in the late 1980s, Macklin's then-growing Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ considered moving. Instead, the congregation stayed, buying nearby rundown houses and apartments, transforming them into attractive, affordable homes.
"We decided to take on the task of turning our neighborhood around," Macklin said.
The church upgraded more than 100 housing units, some in partnership with developers, and constructed new buildings. A few houses Glad Tidings bought were converted into rooms for the church, which now has about 2,000 members. "We decided to build a new church in the midst of this negative environment that would become an anchor of the neighborhood," he said. The church and housing now spread over four blocks near Tyrrell Avenue and Tennyson Road.
"The neighborhood took on hope," the minister said.
Macklin, born in San Mateo, and his wife, Vanessa Macklin, decided in 1978 to cofound a church in Hayward. The minister would invite people he met on the street to a home-cooked meal and Bible study in the Macklin home. As the congregation grew, they held services in another church before moving to Tennyson in 1981.
Macklin credits his wife and the congregation with the church's success.
"I get the program started, and then people take it over. They're the ones doing it; I just get out of the way," he said.
Macklin's pride in what his congregation has accomplished was evident on a tour a few days before Christmas. He pointed out neatly kept buildings with trimmed lawns. Glad Tidings members financed most of the purchases, Macklin said.
"It's been a major investment here, but church members have done it themselves," he said. "It hasn't been easy, but a lot of people have helped out."
The soft-spoken pastor with an easy smile stopped and greeted everyone. At a line of people waiting for food donations, he hugged several, asking about their health and families.
The food is distributed at the church's White House, a once-condemned building converted into meeting space. "This house got me an invitation to the White House," he said, laughing.
Glad Tidings hosted an information forum held by the Obama administration a few years ago. One of the president's staff members saw the White House sign and asked the bishop to pose for a picture next to it.
"'I'm going to send this to the president right now,' he said. And I thought, 'Yeah, right, sure you are,'" Macklin recalled.
An invitation to a White House breakfast for ministers arrived within a month. And when Macklin was introduced to Obama, the president said, "Oh, I know you. You're the one with your own White House."
As bishop, Macklin oversees about 60 churches throughout Northern California, and also holds a national office. Recipient of many awards, he most recently was named Hayward volunteer of the year.
As he walked along Tyrrell Avenue while showing a visitor the area, he stopped to pick up a piece of litter. "We hold our neighborhood to a higher level of accountability," he said.
Macklin stopped a couple walking down the street. "Are you coming to our dinner tonight?" he asked, telling them about the Christmas dinner church members were hosting for the neighborhood. "You tell them the bishop sent you."
The church has a teen center, a seniors program and transitional housing. As schools have cut back programs, church members have established a youth orchestra and a field trip program to take neighborhood kids to museums and other venues on weekends and school breaks. This fall, Glad Tidings began Welcome Home, a program to help men just released from jail. "We're trying our best to get them back on track," Macklin said.
The church's next projects are a medical clinic, and a health center named after Chester McGlockton, a former Raiders player and Glad Tidings member who died in 2011.
John Taylor, a longtime church member and Hayward school board trustee, said the bishop's leadership has turned things around in the neighborhood. "The community wouldn't be what it is today if it wasn't for Bishop Macklin being a visionary," Taylor said.
Macklin is quick to point out that Glad Tidings has not worked alone, but has collaborated with government, schools and nonprofit agencies. He is working with Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle on the Tennyson Corridor Initiative to bring vocational training and social services to the area.
Valle said Macklin is "not only a visionary, he's a man who gets things done. He doesn't like to hold meetings for the sake of holding meetings; he has a way of motivating people."
But there is one thing Macklin has not been able to accomplish -- yet.
For years, he has lobbied the city to change Tyrrell Avenue's name. "It used to be a challenged street nobody wanted to live on or drive down. A new name would give people the opportunity to live on a new street. I don't have a suggested name, just not Tyrrell."
He also is asking the school district to rename rebuilt Tyrrell Elementary School. "We have a brand-new school; we should give it a new name, new hope."
Claim to fame: As pastor of Glad Tidings Church of God in Christ, he has worked to transform the troubled South Hayward neighborhood.
Quote: "I believe in this community; I believe it has promise. It just needs direction, and I believe this church can provide that direction."
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