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How a woman with a vision turned an empty parking lot into a thriving business district

Dr. Jamesetta Ferguson, founder of MOLO Village, said she was inspired by a mission trip to Africa to create a community resource in the Russell neighborhood.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When Dr. Jamesetta Ferguson was growing up, she didn't know she would turn the empty parking lot across from her aunt's house in Beecher Terrace into a thriving block.

Ferguson is the President and CEO of MOLO Village, a grassroots organization providing community, resources and services to Louisville's Russell neighborhood.

Before her idea for the village was realized, Ferguson traveled to Africa on a mission trip, where her vision became clear. While on the trip. she spoke to a minister with a large congregation who shared how his resourcefulness led to his success.

She said the minister told her that he used what he had, which sparked an idea.

"I had the mindset prior to that, that we had this historical building next door but we were not using the entire building,” she said. “So, when I came back, we changed our attitudes to use what we got. God would not bless us more until we start using what God had provided for us already.”

When she returned from Africa, her team started serving about a thousand people a week through MOLO Village. The word "MOLO" means "welcome home" in Xhousa, a South African dialect.

In addition to outreach, the MOLO Village helps meet the needs of the community through a clothing ministry, Dare to Care, a recovery ministry, and services for seniors and young people.

"We had everything in that building," she said. "We no longer worried about the condition of the building. It wasn't that it was falling down - it just needed some repair."

In early 2006, Ferguson was welcomed to St. Peter's United Church of Christ and was later named the lead pastor of the congregation. But she was met with some opposition when she arrived.

"At that point, there were 15 German-American senior adults at the church. Of that 15, one left 'cause he did not want to worship with a person that [looked] like me," Ferguson said.

Credit: WHAS11

Even though she could not speak German, she said she still had an appreciation for their culture because of her father. Ferguson said he was the first student at the Louisville Municipal College to major in German.

They went into planning and created partnerships to figure out how to utilize the city block they owned. It was ultimately an effort to resurrect the community.

Ferguson said they decided to take the east parking lot of the church to develop the Village @ West Jefferson. She said it's the first new construction on West Jefferson St. in over 30 years.

She's made huge strides, but Ferguson said she's far from being done. Her next plan to is renovate the building that houses St. Peter's United Church of Christ.

The MOLO Village is located at 1219 W. Jefferson Street in West Louisville.

Contact WHAS11’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.


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