History

Shortly after serving in World War II, Bev Cosby moved to Washington, DC, where he completed his undergraduate degree at American University. While there he became involved in a church started by his brother, Gordon, named Church of the Savior. Bev had a call and a growing vision that the church should be all inclusive as he witnessed in the Church of The Savior and he envisioned an increased cooperation among all churches. When Bev moved back to Lynchburg, he worked to create the community he envisioned. Initially, Bev, his brother Jack, and other family members, along with Jim Ould and other friends, formed Lynchburg Christian Fellowship (LCF) in 1950; then four years later, formed the Church of the Covenant. In 1966, another of Bev’s brothers, P.G. Cosby, III, was called as the first paid director of LCF. In 1974, LCF changed its name from “Lynchburg Christian Fellowship” to “Lynchburg Covenant¬†Fellowship” to include the Jewish community which was very active with LCF.

Through LCF, one of Bev’s first visions was to provide recreational space in the Boonsboro area. This community was developing rapidly and he wanted to preserve some land where children in the neighborhood could play. Initially, several acres of land were donated by his parents for this purpose. Additional land has been donated and/or purchased over the years to make up the approximately 40 acres still owned by LCF today. LCF held a program for neighborhood children at the Boonsboro Road location, known as the LCF Day Camp. This camp was integrated in the sixties, causing unrest for many.

The sixties were turbulent times in our country because of the opposition to integration. Prince Edward County, Virginia, actually shut down its entire public school system for five years rather than integrate it. The white students continued to receive their education at Prince Edward Academy, a private institution. Events such as this raised the consciousness of those in Lynchburg concerning the needs of inner city children and disadvantaged families.

Seeing the injustice of what was happening in Prince Edward County and elsewhere during this time, four ministers came together to pray and discuss what they could do to meet the needs of the people in Lynchburg’s inner city. In the Spring of 1966, these four ministers, Bev Cosby (Church of the Covenant), Doug Oldenburg (Covenant Presbyterian), James Pannell (Jackson Street United Methodist) and Alex Robertson (St. Paul’s Episcopal) visited Prince Edward County to see first hand a tutorial program for black children.

As a result of their visit and during the summer of that same year, LCF employed Doug Oldenburg as director of its first recreational summer program for inner city children, bringing together fourteen college students to work with the children. Meeting in an old house at 412 Madison Street, which is now the home of LCF, the children were driven back and forth to the Boonsboro Road location in order to use its pool facilities. After the summer program ended, and at the suggestion of the staff, an after-school program began at the house at 412 Madison Street, which included a tutoring program led by volunteers. The staff named this house “Kum-Ba-Yah” after the African folk song and the summer and tutoring programs became known as the Kum-Ba-Yah programs.

In addition to the four charter churches named above, other congregations in the community soon joined as sponsors of Kum-Ba-Yah. A Kum-Ba-Yah Steering Committee was formed with two representatives from every sponsoring congregation meeting monthly with accountability to the LCF Board of Directors. By 1982 Kum-Ba-Yah had 29 sponsoring congregations.

In 1971 the Day Camp on Boonsboro Road and the Kum-Ba-Yah programs merged and LCF administered a day camp program for all children. Camp Kum-Ba-Yah is still in operation there today. Identifying many other needs of the inner city, the Kum-Ba-Yah programs expanded to include the first infant care center in Lynchburg which was located in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Carriage House, sewing classes for women, a program for the visually handicapped, programs that assisted adults with personal needs such as meals, transportation, employment, debt counseling, housing, furniture, and referrals to other agencies which could best assist a family.

Many “task forces” were initiated through Kum-Ba-Yah and LCF to address the crises of the times and the needs of families and their children. Through work and contacts in the inner city area, LCF saw the need for low-income housing and focused its efforts in that area to renovate older homes, converting them into low-income apartments.

In 1982 the Kum-Ba-Yah Steering Committee took the initiative to form two new 501(c)(3) legal entities known as Camp Kum-Ba-Yah and Kum-Ba-Yah Association, spinning off from LCF. In 1991 Kum-Ba-Yah Association changed its name to Interfaith Outreach Association (IOA) to better identify its “interfaith” mission.

IOA (KBY) continued its mission of responding to the needs of our neighbors by developing programs that provided education, guidance and support. IOA is responsible for the spin off of three well known entities today including the Greater Lynchburg Habitat for Humanity, MedsHelp (a prescription program which has joined the Free Clinic of Central Virginia), and the Adult Care Center of Central Virginia.