Cliftondale UMC Partnership with GUMF Helps Church Fulfill Its Mission

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Since its founding in 1964, Cliftondale UMC in College Park has run the race with endurance, pressing forward, ever mindful of its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

“Cliftondale has a heart for service and mission, and it shows in our actions. Since my arrival in July 2020, we’ve served over 2,000 families through food distributions and COVID testing and by serving as a COVID vaccination site,” said the Rev. Dr. Theophilus Stanford, pastor of Cliftondale UMC. “I’ve shared with the congregation that I feel a part of God’s vision for our church is that our name is synonymous with Cliftondale, the community. When people think of Cliftondale, the community, they should think of Cliftondale UMC for no other reason than knowing that if there’s a need, we desire to connect with them to fill that need in homes, the community, and in the surrounding schools. We hope to reach the world in new and different ways so that transformation is possible and even desired.”

The Georgia United Methodist Foundation has had the privilege of running alongside Cliftondale UMC, offering support, encouragement, and faith-based financial solutions to help this congregation achieve its dreams for ministry. Cliftondale UMC established an endowment fund after completing GUMF’s Legacy Ministry Training in 2019.

“We learned early on through our relationship with GUMF that they are looking out for the church’s well-being and how the church can be an integral part of the community and in the life of its members,” said Don Winston, Cliftondale UMC Foundation director and board chair. “From matching scholarships for our students to the endowment fund and now a loan, there are a lot of partnership opportunities that GUMF provides our church. And since GUMF is full partners with the Conference, we are going to be full partners with GUMF.”

Earlier this year, Winston worked closely with Jim Pope, GUMF director of lending, and Lori Tucker, GUMF loan administrator, to obtain a loan to expand the church’s parking area and repave its existing parking lot. The capital improvements will be a win-win for the church and the community.

“When the church is full, we don’t have enough parking spaces. And as we look at alternative ways of doing church and focus on missional activities that will make a difference in the community like food drives, health fairs, and wills seminars, we need ample parking,” Winston said. “Our community is growing by leaps and bounds. We also plan to do more things like develop recreational programs for youth and serve as a voting precinct that will allow the community to use the space.”

Jim, who has over 40 years of banking experience, adds, “Their loan is structured as a construction to permanent loan with a 20-year amortization. One of the advantages of borrowing from GUMF is there is no prepayment penalty for additional payments if the church chooses to have a capital campaign. Additionally, GUMF is a nonprofit organization that does not charge intangible tax on its loans.”

Winston identifies the benefits of partnering with GUMF on this loan. “We wanted a lender we could trust that was looking out for our interests,” Winston said. “I’ve closed quite a few loans, and one of the advantages is that it is easier dealing with GUMF than a commercial lender because of the favorable treatment United Methodist churches receive. Jim and Lori made the process seamless and easy. In addition, their loan rates were lower than most of the other institutions. Another outcome of our relationship with GUMF is that they helped us update the church’s deeds and legal documents at no extra charge.

The partnership with GUMF has helped us immensely as we navigate the church’s business and deal with its legacy programs. We have to make sure that the money is there in perpetuity and used in a way that perpetuates the mission and the vision of the church. Cliftondale UMC Foundation board members feel good we partnered with GUMF and didn’t borrow money from a bank. If churches have a need, I recommend GUMF as the go-to-place.”