This is part of our series, “Banking on Change,” which showcases local entrepreneurs who are creating a positive impact in their community. The series spotlights one local business each month. Above illustration: Shiloh Temple Bishop Richard Howell and his wife Bettye Howell by Justine Lecouffe.
Shiloh Temple’s Bishop Richard Howell has ministered at the North Minneapolis church for almost four decades. And while much has changed in 40 years, one thing remains the same: Bishop Howell and his congregation have continued to look out for those in need in the Twin Cities and, as he puts it, the church’s “doors are always open.”
Coming off of bustling Broadway into the quiet, sprawling lobby of Shiloh Temple Off Site Link, the first thing you notice is that welcoming spirit, in the form of laughter and smiles throughout the building. After 73 years of moving and evolving — from South Minneapolis to a West Bank basement to Robbinsdale — the Shiloh Temple has been anchored on its own half of a city block since 2004. The church is a vibrant and visible symbol of hope for community members.
Howell’s partner and wife of 47 years Bettye Howell formally came on board to co-pastor in 1999 following a successful career in banking and stock brokering. That combined experience, and the strength of the Shiloh Temple community, allowed the couple to build its current facility, establishing an essential and enormous cultural pillar in North Minneapolis.
Bishop Howell credits the church’s resilience, and its growth, to Bettye’s business acumen and breadth of experience.
“I worked my way up from teller to branch manager, and at one point they said, ‘You know, you’re really good at sales,’” said Bettye Howell. “So next, even with two kids at home, I found myself taking the Series 7 test, and all of a sudden I’m a stockbroker. I loved my time in that world, and that knowledge has been so critical to our growth and success here at Shiloh.”
Over its 90-year history, Shiloh has been a dependable resource for its congregation, but over the last year, the demand for those resources has never been greater.
Through the pandemic and the protests following the murder of George Floyd, the community has come together, via the halls of Shiloh, to build a massive coalition of volunteers, creating and sustaining programs to provide critical services for all neighbors and citizens in need. Acting as both a testing and vaccination site for Covid-19, the church delivered more than 300 Pfizer shots, and continues to provide information and services.
“The sheer generosity has almost been overwhelming. Our community continually rises to the challenges, and we are humbled weekly by the giving and benevolence,” Bishop Howell said.
The Shiloh Temple food shelf grew exponentially in the summer of 2020, and the donations have yet to slow down. Between 10 and 30 volunteers fill the shelves each week and distribute nearly 4,000 meals every month.
“What’s really moving is that many of our volunteers are people who need help themselves, but they still always show up to help. That’s what keeps us motivated to keep going. We’re all in this together,” said Bettye Howell.
The church also acts as a safe space to mourn. The Howells know that this is Shiloh’s responsibility – to carry the grieving, and to be a rock of comfort and hope when loved ones pass on.
“Funerals are perhaps our most important function in the community, and all too common. We’re a safe place for mourning, and we offer counseling, prayer, and support of any kind. We live in difficult times, and Shiloh Temple is at the center of the healing, and the hurting,” said Bishop Howell.
And while the Temple provides a comforting place to mourn, it also acts as a safe space for the community to rally support for social justice initiatives, demanding a safer future for all citizens.
Bettye Howell says the daycare services at Shiloh Temple are also critical. Every day the staff cares not only for the children, but provides counseling, education, and mentorship for young parents. Education programs run all year, helping participants get their GED diploma, learn essential skills to build a thriving family, and cope with the pressures of parenthood. With roughly 60 kids in the program, Shiloh Temple’s impact on the community is felt daily.
Bishop Howell emphasized Shiloh Temple’s anger management and outreach programs in development that look to prevent violence in the community, and lay down strategies and tactics for breaking those cycles with opportunities and shared wisdom. These programs, along with weekday morning prayer groups, serve at least three to four dozen citizens every week.
And the church continues to think of new ways to support the community.
“The goal for this year is to create a division for entrepreneurs, a place for our young people where they can see themselves and their peers creating their own place in the world, and making a good living,” said Bishop Howell. “We absolutely must break these cycles, and to do so we must provide opportunity and show them the way to success.”