Desire Street Ministries originated in 1990 in the Desire neighborhood of New Orleans, LA. There, among the “projects” built on a landfill, a Bible Study led to a vibrant after-school and summer youth outreach, a jr/sr high school for 200 young men, a church, a pediatric clinic, and other community development endeavors—with plans to replicate that model in other neighborhoods across the nation.
Hurricane Katrina upended all that in 2005. Over 1200 volunteers helped us clean up 150 neighborhood homes and buildings. At the same time, parents struggling to get their lives back together without necessary resources asked our staff to assume “24-7” care for over half our students. After 4 years of striving to operate a boarding school for teenage boys, the economy forced the school’s closure in 2009.
Statistics show that most leaders in neighborhoods needing revitalization burn out within 5 years, but Desire Street had, by God’s grace, survived 4 times that long. So our knowledge and experience were put to use encouraging and helping others become sustainable, enabling them to thrive for the long-run needed to see transformation. Today we coach and care for ministry leaders in multiple neighborhoods across multiple states and beyond. We walk with leaders through the ups and downs of ministry in neighborhoods where God sees the beauty and is working there to revitalize the community.
To love our neighbor by revitalizing under-resourced neighborhoods through spiritual and community development
Statement of Faith
At Desire Street Ministries, we believe in one God, the creator of all things, who is totally loving and completely holy. We believe the Bible is the word of God, the ultimate authority for what we believe and how we live. We believe all people are image bearers of God, marred by sin and in need of the Savior. We believe salvation is through grace by faith in Jesus Christ, God’s gift. We believe the Holy Spirit enables us to live the holy and fruitful lives God intends. We believe God has a special place in His heart for the poor and broken. He calls us to love, serve and honor what society may consider the “least of these.”
To partner with leaders in developing thriving and sustainable urban ministries
Desire Street Ministries
Desire Street uses a partnership model to mutually encourage, equip and connect ministry leaders. We work intensively with them over 5-7 years in personal, organizational, and spiritual health—helping to increase their capacity to serve and equip others through the often-chaotic maze of life. We also assist in raising social capital networks which will guide and sustain them for longevity and growth.
Upon completion of the partnership, some feel led to join our team as Lead Coaches, pouring into others the way Desire Street poured into them. So our impact continues to grow through our partners, who reach thousands of kids and families living in under-resourced neighborhoods with the systemic problems found there: failing schools, unsafe streets, deteriorated housing, high unemployment, and inadequate health care.
To date, we have reached approximately:
Kids and Families
A Light To Your Feet.
Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Anthony Gordon
Senior Ministry Director
Dana Ponder, CPA
Director of Finance
Director of Leadership Development
Ben Sciacca (pronounced “Shock-a”) has been involved in urban ministry for over 20 years. Today he serves at Desire Street Ministries as the director of leadership development. Prior to DSM he worked at Restoration Academy, a private urban Christian school, for 18 years. While there he ministered as a teacher, a principal, a chaplain, and spent his last four years as the executive director. Ben is an author and a blogger. He wrote Kai’Ro: The Journey of an Urban Pilgrim and Meals from Mars: A Parable of Prejudice and Providence (NavPress, 2017). He speaks at conferences on topics of urban education, racial reconciliation, justice, and the gospel. He received his BA in history from Wheaton College and his masters in educational leadership from Covenant College. He, his wife Sara, and their four children live in inner-city Birmingham, Alabama. You can follow Ben on Twitter @iamJudahBen
Manager of Community Engagement
Development & Local Events Manager
INDEPENDENT VOTING MEMBERS
Jonathan Colehower, Chair
Jonathan Colehower is President and CEO of Quality Holdings, LLC. Prior to that, Mr. Colehower held senior management positions with Manhattan Associates, McKinsey & Company, Optiant and Oracle. He began his career at Accenture.
Mr. Colehower received his MBA from Vanderbilt University and bachelor's degree from the University of Richmond.
He and his wife Debbie and children live in Atlanta, GA.
Member since 2010
Laura LaRosa Clousing
Laura grew up in Orange Park, Florida, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Recreation and Tourism, with a concentration in Event Management at the University of Florida. Laura served on the leadership team for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes during her time at UF. After graduating Laura moved to Atlanta to intern for a year in the development department for Desire Street. She now works as a Human Resources professional at the global corporate headquarters of Carter’s and OshKosh B’gosh in Atlanta, GA.
Laura serves on the Board of the Atlanta Gator Club and is a member of National Association of Professional Women. Laura also holds her PHR and SHRMCP certifications. Laura met her husband, Steffan, in Atlanta and they were married on October 14, 2012. They attend Redeemer Church and enjoy going to Gator and Georgia Tech (Steffan’s alma mater) football and basketball games.
Member since 2016
Steve is the CEO of The Impact Partnership, LLC. Impact designs and distributes retirement and insurance products. As the owner of 10 radio studios and a state of the art television studio in its offices in Kennesaw, GA, Impact is the market leader in the use of television, radio, and digital marketing. Further, Steve currently serves on the board for Retirement Wealth Advisors/FormulaFolios. RWA/FFI is the 10th fastest growing privately held company in the US according to the Inc. 500.
Steve has also founded an orphanage and school in Uganda, and co-founded His Hands Church, a non-denominational Christian church in Woodstock, GA. He was the lead pastor from 2007-2014. His Hands now has 1,800 people attending each week with a unique and thriving culture.
Steve and his wife live in Atlanta, GA and have 2 grown children and 3 grandchildren.
Member since 2018
Chris Dardaman is a partner with Heritage Growth Partners LLC. Prior to his joining this firm, Chris spent 25 years as both an entrepreneur and trusted advisor for owners and senior executives of private and public companies. At Heritage, he focuses on identifying and investing in private companies, mentoring entrepreneurs, providing strategic connections and serving as a Board level advisor.
Chris has extensive experience in financial strategy, accounting and succession planning. Previously, he co-founded Brightworth in 1997, a national fee-only wealth management firm based in Atlanta. During Chris’ tenure as CEO from 2003-2014, the firm grew assets under management from $200 million to $1.2 billion, won numerous industry awards and maintained a client retention rate of 98%. While serving as CEO, he also negotiated a transaction to sell a part of the company to a private equity firm and executed a long-term succession plan to transition equity ownership to the next generation of partners. Chris earned his MBA with honors from Emory’s Goizueta School of Business with concentrations in Entrepreneurship, Finance and Leadership. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in Accounting from Mississippi State University and began his career with a Big 5 public accounting firm. Chris spent three years in Dan Sullivan's Toronto-based Strategic Coach program for entrepreneurs around the globe. He completed the IMCA Alternative Investments program at Wharton and the Mergers & Acquisitions executive course at Stanford. Chris is a National Association of Corporate Directors Governance Fellow and has been an Advisory Board member for two NASDAQ listed companies: SEI Investments (SEIC) and
Morningstar (MORN). He is a CPA and a Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst.
Chris and his wife Laura have two children. He is an Eagle Scout and has been a volunteer, board member or consultant for numerous charitable organizations for the past 30 years. Chris is a member of the Atlanta Athletic Club and enjoys golf and travel.
Member since 2016
Anthony Flynn’s story is one of resilience, determination and a resulting selfless desire to invest in others. Born to a 17-year-old single mother in Memphis, TN, Flynn’s early years were marked by upheaval and transition. However several mentors, including two of his teachers, inspired his hunger for education, encouraging him toward college completion and sparking the legacy he aspires to leave behind.
Anthony has spent the last 16 years in the public and private sectors, including leadership with several Fortune 100 giants. Prior to launching Gifted, Anthony served as the CEO of nationally recognized non-profit headquartered in Southern California. He serves on a number of boards and functions as a consultant for a number of non-profits, small businesses and professional athletes. Anthony resides in Atlanta, GA and loves hanging out with his amazing wife, son and daughter. In his spare time, he loves reading, physical fitness and mentoring young leaders.”
Member since 2017
John W. Jackson
John Jackson is Market President for the Midtown Atlanta Region of State Bank & Trust. In banking for over 35 years, John spent 15 years with Bank South focused on retail banking, consumer lending, mortgage lending and commercial lending. In 1991, he moved to SouthTrust as regional manager of East Metro Atlanta, then became regional president in Jacksonville, FL. He co‐founded Bank of Atlanta in December 2004, serving as President and CEO. When it was acquired by State Bank and Trust, Mr. Jackson became Executive VP and Market President for the latter.
John is a DeKalb County native, a graduate of the University of Georgia and serves on the boards of the Winship Cancer Institute, Covenant House of Georgia, The Carter Center Board of Councilors, and Kaiser Permanente.
John and his wife, Sandra, reside in Fayette County. They have two grown daughters.
Member since 2016
Mark A. Peeples is the owner of MAP Development, LLC and has been in real estate development and leasing for over 26 years. As of January 2017, MAP Development continues to manage 150,000 +/- square feet of self-developed retail projects.
While much of his career has been centered around real estate, Mark's personal passion has been in ministry. He is a member of Redeemer Community Church and serves on numerous boards including Professional Athletes Outreach (PAO), Lifeline Children’s Services, Desire Street Ministries, J.H. Ranch, Ministry Ventures, and ARK Real Estate Investments. He has been a part of planting churches internationally, and he has been instrumental in various projects across Africa focused on widow and orphan care.
Mark has been married to Nancy Peeples for 28 years and is the father of two, Lauren, age 24 and Anna Cate, age 21. Mark is an avid hunter and outdoorsman, and his other interests include golf and traveling.
Member since 2017
James L. Phillips, Jr.
James L. “Jim” Phillips, Jr. is a native of Atlanta, GA. He attended Druid Hills Elementary and High School and graduated from the University of Georgia in 1967 with a BBA degree. After serving as a 2nd and 1st Lieutenant in the U.S Army for two years, he
earned his MBA from Georgia State.
Jim entered the life insurance business in 1970 and soon thereafter married his wife, Sally. They have two children and three grandchildren, with two more on the way. Jim became a Christian in 1973 and attends Buckhead Church.
Member since 2010
Richard Ridgway is Senior Vice President in the Jackson office of CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm. Coming from a family who has been in the real estate industry in Jackson since 1890, Richard has participated in several
facets of the industry including development, brokerage, appraisals and management.
Richard completed his BS in Business Administration at Millsaps College, and earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence at MississippiCollege School of Law. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Reformed Theological Seminary and a ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS.
Richard and his wife, Melissa, have been married 38 years and have four children and seven grandchildren, with an eighth due soon.
Member since 2004
Eric Thigpen, Vice Chair
Mr. Thigpen serves as Executive Director of Academic Support for Gwinnett County Public Schools. He formerly served as Principal of South Gwinnett High School, and has worked for the school district since 2005 as a math teacher, assistant principal and principal.
Prior to joining the Gwinnett County Public Schools team, Mr. Thigpen worked in several other school districts in the state of Georgia including: Newton, Coweta, and Decatur. In addition, he worked as a campus minister with Campus Outreach at Morehouse College and coached football at Presbyterian College.
As principal of South Gwinnett High School, Mr. Thigpen provides leadership for approximately 2,500 students and 250 faculty and staff members. He also serves as the South Gwinnett Cluster leader which consists of 4 elementary and 2 middle schools that feed into South Gwinnett High School. In addition, he provided transformation leadership for the recently established Academy at South Gwinnett, a hands on and individual approach to student learning.
A graduate of the Gwinnett County Public Schools Aspiring Principal Program, Mr. Thigpen is very active in his community. He serves on the City of Snellville’s Economic Development Board, the Northeast Georgia Council for Boys Scouts of America Executive Board, Executive Member of Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Human Resources Advisory Board, and the Director of Christian Education for his local church. A believer in servant leadership, Mr. Thigpen was awarded Principal of the Year by the Area I PTA of the Gwinnett Council.
NON-VOTING STAFF MEMBERS
Danny Wuerffel is executive director of Desire Street Ministries and a former American college and professional football athlete who played quarterback for the University of Florida and the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins. While at the University of Florida, Wuerffel led the Gators to four SEC Championships and the
university’s very first National Football Title. He won the 1996 Heisman Trophy, the William V. Campbell Award, (formerly known as the Draddy award for the Nation’s top student-athlete) and set 17 NCAA and University of Florida records. He graduated with high honors earning his bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. In 2013, Wuerffel was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
The New Orleans Saints drafted Wuerffel in 1997. After three years with the Saints, he played with the NFL’s European league, winning the World Bowl Championship and was selected as the league’s MVP by the European media. Wuerffel then went on to play one season with the Green Bay Packers followed by the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins before retiring his
professional football career in 2004.
Immediately following his football career, Wuerffel joined Desire Street Ministries in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, a nonprofit with a mission to revitalize one of America’s most impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development. Wuerffel became executive director in 2006 and under his direction, Desire Street Ministries moved its headquarters to Atlanta and expanded its outreach beyond New Orleans to impact hundreds of children and
families living in other southern inner cities.
A passionate and popular speaker, Wuerffel shares how his experiences playing football have influenced his life in his book, “Danny Wuerffel’s Tales from the Gator Swamp: Reflections of Faith and Football.” Born in Pensacola, Florida, Wuerffel grew up as the son of an Air Force Chaplain, living all over the country as well as three years in Spain. He now calls Atlanta his
home with his wife, Jessica; two sons, Jonah and Joshua; and a daughter, Macy.
JAMES GADSBY, SECR.
James Gadsby was previously Director of Information Technology for The Home Depot, Inc. based in Atlanta, Georgia. He holds over twenty years of industry leadership in business transformations, project implementations and strategic technology design, application development and deployment. Most recently he served in a CIO role for the company's Home Services business. Among his professional accomplishments, he helped lead the company through a division-wide SAP implementation for The Home Depot Canada – the largest SAP retail transformation in the world. He also previously led the company’s Customer Experience Specialty Systems, including store and online solutions for customer-facing special order and configuration systems. James also has an extensive IT background in inventory management, supply chain, credit processing, and systems internationalization, also leading the company’s IT efforts for entry into the Québec and Argentina markets.
Prior to joining Home Depot, James worked in the Systems Integration Consulting practice of Accenture where he led Load Management & Customer Service solution development and deployment at Florida Power Company.
James earned his undergraduate business degree in Finance at the University of Florida, where he met his wife Elizabeth. He later earned his MBA at Georgia State University. James and Elizabeth live in metro Atlanta where they are active in their church and community. In addition to serving on the Desire Street Ministries Board of Directors prior to joining the staff, he serves as Regional Director on the University of Florida Alumni Association Board of Directors, as Door Holder Captain at Passion City Church, Past Co-president for the Atlanta Gator Club and as a Crew Chief for the annual Peachtree Road Race. Previously he also served on the Boards of Directors for the Georgia Chapter of Americas’ SAP User Group, the Atlanta Gator Club, and North Georgia Walk to Emmaus. James is an Eagle Scout and enjoys family, travel, golf and philanthropy in numerous ministry & civic organizations. He is an avid Florida Gator fan and is most grateful for the immeasurable grace with which Jesus has covered his and Elizabeth’s lives.
Dana Ponder, Treas.
Dana Ponder was born in Texas but grew up in Florida. She graduated from Stetson University and afterward earned her CPA. Dana worked in banking until 1996, with her last position being CFO for Southern Bank Group in Atlanta, GA.
Dana moved into the education sector for 5 years helping a private school turnaround its cash flow and profitability issues. She then joined Brook, McGinnis & Company as an Audit Manager specializing in the not for profit sector, and began a consulting and accounting practice for a select group of private schools and education clients which she continues while on staff with Desire Street.
Dana is a member of the AICPA, and attends Buckhead Church. She and her husband, Bill, have a grown daughter. They also love animals and give a good home to several dogs and cats.
OUR ADVISORY BOARD
Adams and Edens
Regional Development, LLC
Katherine “Jill” Arnold
Homemaker and active on many Boards
Thomas M. Caudell
Retired Business Executive/Equity Partner
President & CEO
Williamson County Convention & Visitors Bureau
KAC Sports Strategies & Events
Jon E. Khachaturian
New Orleans, LA
Chairman, Chief Investment Officer
John A. McNeil, Jr.
Real Estate Consultant
The Peters Company at Keller Williams
King & Spalding
Renovation Baptist Church
New Orleans, LA
Hinshaw and Culbertson, LLP
G. McKittrick Simmons Jr.
Sweetwater Holdings Co.
Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln
Senior Vice President, State Bank & Trust Company
Benjamin M. Wuerffel, CFP®, AIF®
Capital Analysts of Jacksonville, FL, Inc.