The Rev. Ivan Pitts, who arrived at New Hope Baptist Church in May, 2002, is stepping down to take over a new congregation at the Second Baptist Church of Santa Ana, Ca.
He will be living about 50 minutes from where he grew up in the South Central Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts.
"What we really did was establish a ministry of community service working with a diverse population and needs," said Rev. Pitts, 44, who is married with four children. The family is also raising their niece. New Hope expanded in 2010, roughly doubling its space. "We established the practice of a church that would try to help anyone with anything."
"He'll be a wonderful asset to any community," said Ingrid Alvarez-Dimarzo, executive director of the Hispanic Center of Greater Danbury. "He's young. He's energetic and a likeable person to work with. It's not hard to imagine a lot of opportunities coming his way."
Rev. Pitts said if a person comes to New Hope with a problem and the church refers that person elsewhere, New Hope's policy is to call up and ask if the person received help. He said trying to do something doesn't mean it's always accomplished, but New Hope, which is located on the Rev. Aaron Samuels Blvd., (named after a previous minister) has expanded its offerings, which now include a food pantry that serves 500 families a month and an after school tutoring program that helps 30 children.
Rev. Pitts said Santa Ana is part of Orange County, and while some ocean communities of Orange County are wealthy, many others are impoverished.
"Santa Ana has an emerging Hispanic population. It's very similar to Danbury," Rev. Pitts said. He said this move is part of his calling, and he accomplished his mission at New Hope. He said by moving to Santa Ana and working at the Second Baptist Church, he will be in the right place that God has chosen for him.
It is also about 50 minutes from his mother, brothers and sisters and his wife's family.
"All of our family is West Coast," Rev. Pitts said. "By no means was this an easy decision, but it was the right decision. I thought I'd retire in Danbury."
"Danbury will miss him," said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. "He had a very quiet way of making inquiries and he could be understanding about how the bureaucracy works. This is a great next step for him."