BOB ABERNETHY, anchor: Now, the Floyd Flake story -- the amazing success of a New York City pastor and also, now, an Ohio college president who may be the country's leading master at using his political connections to get government grants so his church can develop its neighborhood. A violation of the separation of church and state? Reverend Flake says that discussion has "no value."
Kelly Hudson begins her report in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Reverend FLOYD FLAKE (President, Wilberforce University and Senior Pastor, Allen A.M.E. Church) (To Students): Hi. How're you doing? I'm Floyd Flake, the president ...
KELLY HUDSON: Today Reverend Floyd Flake is welcoming students back to Ohio's Wilberforce University, the flagship school of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Flake was chosen as president for his business and fund-raising prowess. Since arriving two years ago, he has reduced the university's debt from $5.5 million to just $300,000.
Flake himself came to Wilberforce in 1961 as freshman from his home in Houston, Texas.
Rev. FLAKE: I started preaching at 15. I was pastoring at 19. Even as I've had secular jobs, I always had a church. My foundation is spiritual, because I stand on a ground of faith. It is not something I take off and put on and change because I change environments or I change positions or I change professions.
HUDSON: Over the years Flake has held a number of positions while remaining a minister. He now divides his time between Wilberforce and his Allen AME Church in Queens, New York where he has been pastor for 28 years. The politically well-connected minister also served 11 years in the U.S. Congress before stepping down in 1997 to focus more fully on his church.
Reverend Floyd Flake came back to the pulpit because, above all, he is a preacher at heart. He not only believes in ministering to his congregation but to the community, and he's got the record to prove it. Still, he hasn't lost his political savvy. As he nears the age of 60, he says it's imperative that black church leaders do more to build relationships with government.
Rev. FLAKE: You must begin to look at the opportunities that are available in the place where you are. Urban renewal land is in every community. Most communities, though, the leadership sits back until re-gentrification takes place, and then they want to have a protest. Reality is you don't have a protest, you have -- you take ownership.
WAYNE BARRETT (Investigative Reporter, THE VILLAGE VOICE): He's an institution builder who I don't think has any parallel in New York City, black or white. I don't think anybody has transformed the community the way Floyd Flake has.
HUDSON: His first project in 1978 was this complex for senior citizens. Since then Allen AME has grown into a thriving 18,000-member congregation. The church has revived the surrounding community, building 300 two-family homes and a school while running a medical clinic, drug counseling program, and a Head Start preschool.
And they just added these new senior residences. Allen's total assets add up to $92 million. It is the sixth largest private sector employer in all of Queens.
Rev. FLAKE: Nobody can get within 26 blocks of this church and to any property that's for sale and vacant, because if it comes up for sale or is vacant we buy it. We take charge of it; therefore we control what happens in our community.
HUDSON: Allen's congregation provides the seed money for their projects. But Flake's political mastery -- his knowledge of where to find government dollars and his all-important political connections -- allows him to nearly triple their funds.