The Launch of MTZ Charities: Impacting People’s Lives

Marcus Allen

Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen, the pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church is leading the effort to build Phase Two on the church’s grounds, which will house MTZ Charities, Inc.

Part 2 of 2

by Jonathan Gramling

Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen has made quite an impact since he came to Madison eight years ago to assume the pastorship of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Allen’s activism in which he looks after the mind, body and soul of people within his church. Mt. Zion has been around for 113 years. And while it has always been involved in charitable works, under Allen’s leadership, those charitable works have been taken to the next level. MTZ Charities, a 501(c)(3) organization was established in 2021. And with the increased activity and multiple programs, the plans for a Phase II expansion of Mt. Zion’s physical infrastructure have been revived.

While the work of MTZ Charities is inspired by the spirit of the congregation — and in many instances their pocketbooks — it is just like other non-profits in Madison. It’s services are open to anyone who needs them.

“The goal is to uplift our community,” Allen said. “MTZ Charities is non-denominational. A lot of people get confused. They hear about our program and they think our programs and services are just for the members of our church. The majority of our programs and services are utilized by members of our community more so than by members of our church. But our programs and services are open to everyone and anyone from whatever side of town they may be from and whatever denomination, faith or other identity that causes separation. We break down those barriers and you can have access to any of our programs.”

As it stands now, the old building is as much of a hindrance as it is a help to providing services.

“We’re trying to build a new building because the facility in which we are running our programs now is outdated,” Allen said. “Technology is big now. AI is tremendous now. With Deana Wright who runs some older adult programs here, one of the programs is Calming Jitters. It helps older adults with knowing how to use computers. In the Fellowship Hall where we normally do our large groups because it is the largest community space that we have, they have surge protectors from one side of the hall to the other. There are only four sockets in the whole sanctuary.”

The old building ain’t what it used to be.

“Our Academic Learning Center is in the basement of the old building,” Allen said. “The pastor who was here in 1960, Pastor Dawson, built most of it by hand. When it rains or when the snow melts, water comes up through the floor.”

And the old facility doesn’t lend itself to privacy.

“With the Behavior Health Clinic that we have, our thought when we first connected with Anesis was we just needed a waiting area and an office because we didn’t know how many people we were going to serve,” Allen recalled. “But now we had to put in partitions in the large hall and they use sound machines when they have other clients come because they have more than one person there at a time.”

Most importantly, Allen forsees the new building facilitating multi-generational community.

“We’ll have multi-use areas for our older adults and our youth and our children,” Allen said. “Our goal is to be multi-generational and have intergenerational activities where older adults can work with young adults and youth and children. That is something that we are trying to be very intentional about. When you come to our facility, a grandparent can also be with a grandchild. We’ll have an industrial-sized kitchen that will go along with our food pantry. Our food pantry is unique. They just don’t bag up food and just hand it to you. We use a shopping style. You are able to walk into our food pantry and then you pick what you want off of our shelves. We want to create something like that. But right now, our food pantry is in the living room of a house. We want to create a bigger space for that to happen. Out food pantry director’s goal is to give out more healthy food options. For that, we need a walk-in refrigerator so that she can store that healthy food. We’ll have a community room that people can use. It can be for small weddings or funerals or community meetings.”

A lot of investment has been going into South Madison lately with the Center for Black Excellence and Culture, the Urban League of Greater Madison and Centro Hispano erecting new buildings. Allen emphasized that their building and the work of MTZ Charities will complement the work of the other organizations and not duplicate and compete with what they are doing.

“We know the impact that this building will have,” Allen said. “We also know that there are a lot of buildings going up on the south side that are very impactful for the betterment for all of our citizens, with the Black Business Hub focused on economics and job creation and entrepreneurship. We have the Center for Black Excellence and Culture that focuses on the culture and the arts. Then we have Centro Hispano focusing on the Latino families. We just want to be a part of what this church had envisioned back in 2004. It is something that we are trying to bring to life now. We’re not in competition with these other buildings. It’s another tool to be able to help the community thrive.”

And it will take a community effort to make Phase II a reality.

“It’s going to be about 36,000 sq. ft,” Allen said. “Right now, we are working with McDonald-Schaeffer to raise funds. The total cost for the project is $16 million. In September 2022, it was $10 million. In October 2022, it was $16 million. Inflation has played a huge role in the cost of our project. We are receiving $1.5 million from Dane County. UIW Health has given us $75,000 towards it. And ABC Housing Ministry with Carmen Porco has given us $138,000. Thriven Health has raised $100,000 with a challenge grant. And from the generosity of the members of the church, we’ve raised about $1.5 million.”

It will take a Village to build Phase II for MTZ Charities and then, in turn, a Village will be raised up through the work of MTZ Charities.

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