Rev. Charles Elliott (center) with Jesus and A Job Director Sherla Martin and Executive Assitant Derrick Duncan. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Rev. Charles Elliott, the longtime pastor of King Solomon Baptist Missionary Church, thinks he has the solution to the problems of recidivism and homelessness in Louisville – Jesus and A Job.

The Jesus and A Job Group is a workforce development program Elliott founded in 2000. For more than a decade, it was simply an outreach committee at King Solomon, but in 2015 Jesus and A Job developed into a separate nonprofit under the leadership of Elliott’s daughter, Darlene Johnson.

The program helps ex-felons develop construction skills by having them work on abandoned properties for needy families.

On Dec. 31, Jesus and A Job kicked off a capital campaign to finance the renovation of 100 houses in 2019.

Elliott said he would be making appearances throughout the state to raise awareness and find support for the project.

“If I can get 150,000 people to donate $20, that would be $3 million. That’s what we will use to acquire and fix up these houses. There are a little over 2,000 abandoned houses in Louisville. We also hope to get private people who own houses in the city to donate them. That’s part of my goal, too,” the minister added.

Derrick Duncan, the executive assistant for Jesus and A Job, said his organization had more than 500 people in its database. Some of them are working on the new Passport Health Plan campus and the YMCA on West Broadway.

Duncan said teaching marketable skills to ex-felons gives them an incentive to stay on the straight and narrow path.

“These jobs probably pay double what these individuals have made before they got into construction. That’s why the 100 houses are important. We are giving people a legal way to support their families and gain wealth. Not only will underserved individuals get training, but we hope to get some of them in these houses,” Duncan added.

Elliott told Insider that Jesus and A Job had possession of 12 homes in west Louisville that were donated for the project. This includes one at 2615 Magazine St., which is being dedicated to the memory of George Burney, a King Solomon member who organized Louisville’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Motorcade on Broadway for three decades until his death in 2017.

Jesus and A Job is renovating this home at 2615 Magazine St. in honor of George Burney, longtime organizer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade. | Photo by Michael L. Jones

Elliott, an Alabama native, organized the first MLK motorcade in 1983 after President Ronald Reagan made the Civil Rights leaders’ birthday a national holiday.

Before he joined King Solomon in 1961, Elliott was the youth coordinator for the famous Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that made King a household name. Elliott turned the celebration over to Burney following the first motorcade, but the minister has taken a larger role in planning the event since Burney’s death.

At this year’s MLK motorcade, he said, he will be asking participants to support Jesus and A Job with a donation. He said he will also be asking the crowd to help elect officials who will support criminal justice reform and other legislation that will help the poor.

“I’m pulling together the teacher’s association, the ministers and labor. We are going to do that on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, unite our forces together. I think it ties in with the dream. Dr. King was dreaming about what we could all do together. That’s what Jesus and A Job is about,” he said.

Elliott said his vision for Jesus and A Job is an outgrowth of his Civil Rights work. He said he plans to use his movement-building experience to expand the workforce development program nationally.

“When I was a young preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. selected me as the chairman of his organization here in Louisville to set up chapters all over the United States,” Elliott said. “I want to do Jesus and A Job the same way. I want to have chapters set up that will recruit people that will lift the insecurities of the poor. That was what King’s dream was about, bringing us together.”

Michael L. Jones
Michael L. Jones, a freelance journalist and author, covers communities for Insider Louisville. His latest book "Louisville Jug Music: From Earl McDonald to the National Jubilee" (History Press) received the 2014 Samuel Thomas Book Award from the Louisville Historical League. In addition to his contributions to Insider, his writing appears regularly in LEO Weekly, Louisville Magazine, Food & Dining – Louisville Edition, and Who’s Who Louisville: African American Profiles. He also sits on the board of directors of the National Jug Band Jubilee. Jones and his wife, Melissa Amos-Jones, a physical therapist, live in the Kenwood Hills neighborhood near Iroquois Park.