Our History


In 2010, the State of Iowa approached Elim Christian Fellowship Church (Elim) to purchase their building as part of the 2040 Capitol Vision Plan. The Elim property is located across the street, north of the Iowa State Capitol, and is surrounded by other government owned property. The land and building are important to the State as it expands the Capitol grounds to best meet the long term needs both in terms of physical space as well as ground beautification.

This “spark” initiated a discussion with Lutheran Church of Hope (Hope), who have partnered with Elim for over 20 years on mission and ministry initiatives. Hope at the time was considering adding a campus in a northern suburb of Des Moines. The idea under consideration was to build a church facility alongside a new YMCA building, as there were complementary interests and uses in addition to economies of scale in terms of building cost and on going maintenance.

The concept of a shared facility accommodating both a church and YMCA was thought to also be an interesting idea in the urban core of Des Moines. Discussions began in 2013 whereby Elim would “team” with the John R. Grubb Community YMCA (Grubb YMCA) located in a northern urban neighborhood of Des Moines. The base plan was for the State to purchase Elim’s property with proceeds from the sale to be reinvested back into new construction of a facility for Elim along with a new building, or renovation of the existing building, for the Grubb YMCA.

In 2014-15 active discussions began with the State, design firms, Elim, Hope and the Greater Des Moines YMCA. Leaders from each respective organization were then introduced to a successful urban initiative in Minneapolis, MN called Urban Ventures. Urban Ventures has a 25-year successful track record of transforming an area South of downtown that was formerly known at “Murder-apolis” into a thriving renewal area of hope. The “vision” of Urban Ventures began to stir hearts of key leaders to mirror the success proven in Minneapolis in Des Moines.

Beginning in 2015, POP’s volunteer leaders made repeated trips to Urban Ventures and spoke with their “parent” organization, Leadership Foundation, which mentors similar urban renewal initiatives in 70 cities across the U.S. and the world. The vision began to grow beyond the combination of a church and YMCA building to something much bigger that could have a transformational impact on our urban areas in Des Moines.

With this, Pillars of Promise was born.

In 2016, POP formed a nonprofit 501c3 entity. Funds were raised to engage nationally recognized architect design firm RDG, and commercial builder and developer Ryan Companies. Potential partners were identified including John R. Grubb YMCA (sports, education, and health/wellness), Elim Christian Fellowship (character development), Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families (employment / education), Des Moines Public Schools (education), Broadlawns Medical Center (family wellness) and Des Moines Area Religious Council (food and nutrition) to outline feasibility of the creation of shared facility located on approximately 9 acres of city owned land near the existing Grubb YMCA facility (see Addendum 4 – Program Summary). Discussions continue with the State of Iowa, Polk County and the City of Des Moines. In addition many other community leaders, nonprofit and private companies have become engaged as key stakeholders.

Today, the Pillars of Promise leaders meet weekly, and are organized through committee structures to advance POP’s mission on fighting intergenerational poverty in radically new ways in the urban core of Des Moines by bringing together public, private and nonprofit (including faith-based) organizations.