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Contributed photography / Josh R. Singh

Josh R. Singh has degrees in physics, psychology and divinity, and while those might seem like disparate areas of study, they all point to what drives him.

"It takes a few minutes to explain, but the overriding theme of it all is a pursuit of understanding the world and how it works," he says.

Since late 2020, Singh has been the director of strategic operations at the Bethlehem Center in Alton Park, filling a newly created role focused on expanding partnerships and outreach. As a key resource for an urban, underserved community, the nonprofit center known as "The Beth" is an ideal place to bring his skills to bear, Singh says.

"My passion is for helping folks align their organization and amplify its impact," he says. "I like to try and have a business mind and a ministry heart."

Born in New York City and raised on Long Island, Singh worked in marketing in Atlanta for a decade before coming to Chattanooga a few years ago to work in ministry. That project led him to a role as director of faith-based and neighborhood partnerships with UnifiED, a community-led coalition of Hamilton County Schools parents, teachers and residents.

In early 2020, Singh started talking with Reggie Smith, the executive director of the Bethlehem Center, about a new role. But then COVID-19 put a pause on any changes.

"A lot of the conversations I was having were on hold, but I kept in touch with Reggie," Singh says. By September, the way had cleared a bit to fill the job, but the challenges of coordinating community outreach and partnerships during a pandemic were considerable, Singh says. But that hasn't curtailed the work, Singh adds.

Josh R. Singh

* Role: Director of Strategic Operations at the Bethlehem Center

* Hometown: New York City

* Age: 33

* Family: Dad to a Staffordshire bull terrier named Topaz

"Last year, we distributed over $120,000 in direct aid to residents and that covered things like rent, utility assistance, emergencies," he says. "We've been able to distribute over 17,000 meals to children and their families individually as opposed to potluck style or community dinners."

The Bethlehem Center has also stood up multiple virtual learning sites where students can go to school online with the support of teachers and in a quiet environment, Singh says.

"Some children in the community, they don't have the infrastructure to succeed online," he says. "We have kids in that program masked up at their little desks 6 feet apart with teachers floating around helping them on their Chromebooks."

This year, there are plans for a five-fold expansion of the center's community garden and Saturday market to add free, preventive health screenings and more local craftspeople selling goods.

"I'm really looking forward to developing our strategy for the rest of the year and going into 2022 as we're able to open up a little bit," Singh says.