I ran into lifelong West Sider Latasha Parchman, the recently elected president of the Douglas Park Advisory Council, on Oct. 15 at an anti-violence rally held outside of Deer Rehabilitation Services, 3936 W. Roosevelt Rd., in North Lawndale. When asked to talk about her motivation, she mentioned her church.

My life changed on Aug. 29, 1999. That’s when I rejoined the Mount Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 2625 W. Ogden Ave., where my pastor is Rev. Larry L. Branch, Sr.

I have a strong passion for people and for helping them, and helping my community. When you see a dying community like Lawndale, it’s about what you can do, what type of strategic planning and redevelopment you can bring to your community. It’s about how you can develop people.

I’m a great example. I didn’t graduate high school. It wasn’t until I got back into the church that I [got my GED] and received my associate’s degree. Then, I went and got my bachelor’s degree and three master’s. I’m working on my doctorate degree now.

But before I got back into church, I couldn’t accomplish anything. My life was depressed. I was having babies. I wanted to give up sometimes.

On returning to Mt. Bethlehem

One morning, I just got up with a desire to go to church. I believe God spoke to me. And when I went back, things just felt different. I felt that there was a hold on my life. Even when I said no, God said yes. Like, when I got my bachelor’s, I was like, ‘I’m done.’ But God told me, ‘Go further.’

My pastor and church family gave me the kind of encouragement that my family didn’t give me. I owe my life and dedication to my church. I am the prototype of my church. Since I have that inside of me, I need to share it with others. Today, I know what I’m here to do. It’s to give back to my community.