Communities of Hope - The Journey

Why Does Communities of Hope Exist? Where Are We Going? How Do We Get There?

Communities of Hope – The Journey

The creation of Communities of Hope, a faith-based nonprofit, resulted from my journey of discernment and discovery as to how I might best serve in God’s kingdom. God was with me throughout this journey, placing amazing people and experiences in my path, only asking that I open my heart and mind to the possibilities ahead. During this journey, I engaged in a process of examining my life experiences in church, business, and community. I found that one common theme, particularly in the examination of my recent experiences, surfaced again and again – growing anxiety and despair and the absence of hope. During my many years of living in small, economically challenged communities, I experienced first-hand this growing sense of anxiety, despair, and hopelessness, both within the economically challenged communities and within the communities of faith. I noted that in churches, in particular, this loss of hope brought about increased tension and conflict, both within the congregations, as well as between congregations and clergy staff; futile, self-directed attempts by lay leadership to develop new programs (or resurrect old programs) to stem the tide of negative change; and, congregations trending toward self-preservation and an inward focus.

Communities of Hope works to bring about positive change by facilitating processes that move congregations from places of tension and conflict to vibrant communities of authentic and healthy relationships; from places of self-directed leadership to communities of discernment and discovery that are open to God’s direction for being and serving; and, from congregations focused on self-preservation to collaborative communities of faith working together to serve their neighbors and overall community.

In carrying out its charitable mission, the staff of Communities of Hope leads interactive workshops and educational programs and facilitates group coaching sessions at local churches, denominational judicatories, seminaries and divinity schools and other faith-based organizations.

Harkening back to Ezekiel, I believe that God can bring life back to these dry bones. However hopeless a situation appears, God’s life-giving spirit is there. There is a need to shine God’s light into places of darkness and desolation; a call to share God’s hope and possibility in places of despair. This hope is not one of simply wishing, but rather a hope that defines your very being. A hope that envisions and acts upon the potential for positive change, even in the face of presumed impossibility. As Bill Leonard, former dean of the Wake Forest University School of Divinity stated so beautifully, “Hope as inconceivable as a stone-cold Galilean laid out in a borrowed tomb waiting on Sunday morning for the audacious grace of God.”

Forrest Truitt
Executive Director



Dr. Leanna Blevins
Leanna Blevins serves as Assistant Vice President of Health Sciences Education at Virginia Tech – Carilion in Roanoke, VA. She received her M.Ed. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Her research and work includes focusing on engaging rural and underserved communities and improving access to both higher education and healthcare.  Ms. Blevins has served as a director and board chair at numerous nonprofit organizations, including Smart Beginnings of Martinsville Henry County and Southside Virginia Response Center, an organization devoted to serving victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and homelessness.

Martha Ford
Martha Ford, a graduate of the University of North Carolina – Greensboro, serves as Chief Financial Officer of McMichael Mills, Inc. in Mayodan, NC and previously served as Controller of Vintage Yarns, Inc. in Eden, NC. She has served her church as treasurer, worship leader, and Sunday School teacher. Ms. Ford is active in programs of mission and outreach through her church and other faith-based nonprofit organizations.

John Gandy
John Gandy is Managing Partner of Gandy CPA Group in Myrtle Beach, SC. He received his MBA from Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management. Mr. Gandy serves on the Board of Visitors of Coastal Carolina University’s Wall College of Business Administration and served as a ruling elder for 3 terms on the governing board of his church.

Rev. Michael Harrison
Michael Harrison is Lead Pastor of Community Fellowship Church in Collinsville, VA. Rev. Harrison received his M.Div. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He serves as a director on the boards of Acts 4 Ministries and the West Piedmont Housing Coalition in Martinsville, VA and serves as director of the Community Dream Center in Collinsville, VA.

Rev. Debbie Layman
Debbie Layman serves as Associate Pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. Rev. Layman received her M. Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. She has served as a director on the board of A Woman’s Place and is actively involved with a number of local nonprofit organizations.




Forrest Truitt
Forrest Truitt is the founder of Communities of Hope, Inc. and serves as its Executive Director. Mr. Truitt has over 30 years of experience in executive management roles in both privately and publicly held corporations. He received his B.S degree from Wofford College, his MBA from Wake Forest University’s Babcock Graduate School of Management and has studied at Union Presbyterian Seminary and Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, where he received his certification in Nonprofit Faith Based Leadership. Mr. Truitt currently serves as a member of the Board of Visitors of Wake Forest University School of Divinity and on the Presbytery of the Peaks Leadership Development Committee. He formerly served as a director and board chair of Southside Virginia Response Center and as a director on the board of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Mr. Truitt served as a ruling elder for 3 terms on the governing board of First Presbyterian Church in Martinsville, VA and served 2 terms on the church council of Leaksville United Methodist Church in Eden, NC.

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