Who would you vote for today?

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If you were to vote today, who is your choice?

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Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Just as with Ray Strahl I also arranged an in depth meeting with Emmanuel Allen, candidate for the Ocotillo city council district seat. Once again, I did not know Emmanuel and had only seen him at city events. And once again, an hour interview turned into several hours.

Mr. Allen was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up there as well.  His Mom worked in the insurance industry but her life’s passion was fostering children so in addition to Emmanuel’s  sister, twin brothers, a step brother and a step sister there were always foster children too. Emmanuel’s Step Dad was a police officer and spent time as a special agent with the state of Wisconsin and with the Drug Enforcement Agency. His Step Dad was also a pastor and gave Emmanuel his first love of pastoral work.

Emmanuel graduated from Oak Creek High School in Wisconsin. He was a basketball player which made him quite popular with the young ladies. He had lots of friends and was a natural born leader. He worked hard at his studies and was a good kid. His only downfall was his dislike of his history classes. And that is where Mr. Reed comes in. Mr. Reed was his history teacher and mentored Emmanuel. At one time Emmanuel wanted to be a rapper and knowing that Mr. Reed challenged him. Mr. Reed told Emmanuel that if he could create a rap song that encompassed all of the semester’s course material he would give Emmanuel an ‘A’ and he would not have to take the final exam. Emmanuel earned that ‘A’ and his rap song was so impressive it was used by Mr. Reed every year to motivate each new crop of students.

After high school graduation Emmanuel went to Milwaukee Area Technical College to learn computer science. While there he also worked for Zerox. Emmanuel soon realized that he had no passion or patience sitting at a desk fiddling with computers all day.

Then Emmanuel received a wakeup call that would forever chart the course of his life. Several of his good friends were murdered or died. One in a traffic accident and one was shot while working at his Dad’s business. Those deaths were the catalysts for his entry into the Grace Christian College Seminary. Emmanuel was in an accelerated program and worked hard at his studies. It was there that he met his wife, Belinda. They were married shortly after both graduated from the Seminary.

Emmanuel tells the story of meeting his future wife. Mutual friends had arranged for them to meet at an indoor amusement park. Emmanuel and his brother showed up and neither knew who the girl Emmanuel was supposed to meet was. Emmanuel was not having a particularly good day when this girl approached him and said, “It looks like you’re having a bad day. Do you care to talk about it?” Emmanuel poured out his whole life story to this stranger, this girl he had never met before, only to learn that she was the girl his friends had arranged for him to meet. He thought she would never have anything to do with him after pouring out his soul to her but he was wrong. Belinda turned out to be a really good listener and what she heard did not dissuade her from Emmanuel. They have now been married for 17 years. They have one son, Christian.

After graduation Emmanuel and Belinda started a printing business. He said he worked the hardest he ever had in his life but it prepared him for the business world. He learned how to run and sustain a successful business.

In 2008 the national recession hit and just as with many other small businesses Emmanuel and Belinda literally closed their shop. Emmanuel’s Step Dad wanted him to take over pastoring his church but something was happening to Emmanuel. He was having constant dreams about moving and even had a date, January of 2009. But where? Where was he to move? He happened to notice a box, a box that had sat around forever but was generally ignored, which contained his wife’s hair dryer. On the outside of the box were the words “Destination Glendale Arizona.” He had a sign. He and Belinda were moving to Glendale, Arizona. It was a move embodied in faith. They gave everything they possessed away planning to start fresh.

They found a condo to rent in Glendale and quickly joined the Christ Community Church. The relationships they built among that faith community enabled Emmanuel to do what he always felt he must – establish his own church, Breakthrough Life Church. In the beginning he rented various spaces for his services finally landing at a small storefront at 59th Avenue and Glendale Avenue in 2012. It was there that he began his service in Glendale working with the Orchard Glen neighborhood in cleaning up the area. Two years later, in 2014, he reopened the abandoned O’Neil Community Center and began his work of serving the children of the O’Neil area.

Emmanuel’s philosophy is simple to state yet challenging to achieve. He believes in bringing people of all races, creeds and color together to create new hope. He says we all want the same things: a safe community, recreational and educational opportunities for our kids, and a renewal of the sense of neighborhood. Through working with the children he has been able to reach their parents building trust, credibility, transparency and a greater understanding of one another.

For years the city has unsuccessfully tried to build bridges with various communities in the Ocotillo district. It has failed time and time again. Emmanuel Allen is that bridge. He is here at the right time and the right place. He reminds me of former Councilmember Bob Hoffman, often considered the conscience of the council. Bob had earned the trust and confidence of the community he represented as Emmanuel Allen has done. Having a conscience of the council is good. Having someone who has earned the trust and respect of a part of our community often ignored is good. Having someone with the ability to effectuate change is good.  Emmanuel Allen is the right choice for the Ocotillo district at a time when it needs more attention than ever. I endorse Emmanuel Allen and hope if you are a Ocotillo district voter you will consider giving him your vote on your Early Ballot or at the polls on August 28th. Thank you.

© Joyce Clark, 2018         

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