Events Leading to H2H's Founding
In 2007 Common Ground Montgomery founder, Bryan Kelly, along with his wife, Delta, and four boys believed they have been called to become part of the fabric of Montgomery's Washington Park community for the purpose of its transformation. Bryan and Delta met and married as students at Troy University where they later served on staff with Campus Outreach. Bryan's sports background with at-risk youth, 8 years on staff with a collegiate ministry and his Masters in Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary provided a solid foundation for outreach.
Bryan started with a sports ministry for boys at Carver High School. Delta offered bible studies to their girlfriends. At the same time, Bryan bought a house in Washington Park and asked volunteers to help with its renovation. Bryan asked Mike Bunce to check the condition of several houses before he made his decision. Mike's position as the construction manager at a real estate development called The Waters sounded good but the only real experience Mike had with old houses was a big, falling-down bungalow Mike and his wife, Susan, renovated in the early 1990’s. Mike's advice was intended to be encouraging but it may have sounded ominous to Bryan: virtually all the houses in Washington Park were in terrible condition so he could almost pick blindfolded and come out the same.
Mike and his son helped renovate Bryan’s house and, later, Kevin and Nicole King’s house; Kevin is the Program Director for Common Ground Montgomery and moved into the Washington Park neighborhood along with Bryan. It was at this time that Mike understood immediately that their life-on-life, incarnational approach to ministry was the only thing that could succeed in a neighborhood like Washington Park. Mike admired Bryan and Kevin for their courage and devotion and thus the seed of Mike's involvement in full-time ministry was planted.
It was earlier, in 2004, when Mike reluctantly closed his own company in South Carolina and moved his family to Montgomery to join a real estate development company about to begin building a new town called The Waters. But, in 2008, the economy was collapsing and the real estate bubble was bursting. By early 2009, Mike was informed that, for the first time in his life, he was going to be let go. Rather than shock or pain, however, he felt relief because he had already decided he wanted to move to the west side of Montgomery and be involved in affordable housing. He asked Bryan Kelly if he could envision Mike joining the Common Ground staff to start a housing ministry. Bryan said yes but there were a few conditions: Mike had to raise his own support and they would need to get the IRS to approve housing as an additional activity under Common Ground’s non-profit status.
In May of 2009, Mike became an employee of Common Ground. He put his home on the market and he and his wife resolved to move to Washington Park when possible. In 2010, two big ministry buildings had been renovated and we were ready to focus on housing. The name House to House was chosen to distinguish the housing ministry from the other Common Ground programs.
It was taken from Acts 5:42: “Day after day, in the temple courts, and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ”.
Then, to resolve the IRS non-profit status and to allow Common Ground to focus its mission on the youth of the neighborhood, it was decided that Mike would take House to House and become a separate non-profit organization partnering with CGM. A Board of Directors was assembled and on January 1, 2011, House to House was on its own.