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“Just Society” grants reward local ideas, projects

April 13, 2011

Twenty-four Jubilee Ministries have received “Building a Just Society” grants of $2,500 each, Chris Johnson, Program Officer for Social and Economic Justice, has announced.

The grants, awarded to programs that have emerged from grassroots community development efforts, are part of the church’s ongoing commitment to supporting initiatives that bubble up from local communities rather than those developed by far-off experts or bureaucracies.

“In the spirit of subsidiarity, doing as much on the local level as possible while doing only those things at the corporate level that can best augment and support local initiatives, we continue to organize our resources in support of Jubilee Ministry at the grassroots level,” Johnson said. “The proposed Building a Just Society grant initiatives we received applications for reflect just that kind of creative thinking. From reading them it is obvious that there is no limit to God’s grace when it comes to being the bearer of a compassionate response to someone in a time of vulnerability and need. And because there is no limit to God’s grace, we have assured that no congregation is exempt from discerning how it is called to marshal its resources as an expression of its own faithfulness as a Christian community.”

Here are the 2011 grant winners, along with a brief summary of how they will use the funds:

  • The Soup Kitchen, a ministry of Church of the Saviour in Hanford, Calif., in the San Joaquin diocese, provides a free lunch six days a week to anyone in need. With the exception of the Salvation Army, which provides breakfast five days a week, there are no other services like it available in Hanford. The ministry now serves about 70,000 meals a year – almost twice as many as it was serving four years ago. The wear and tear on the facility has taken its toll, its appliances are inadequate, and the kitchen desperately needs more cabinets and workspace. This grant will be used to buy food and supplies, freeing up unrestricted donations to be used to modernize the facility.
  • The Coal Country Hangout Youth Center in Northern Cambria, Pa., (Diocese of Pittsburgh), is a full-service youth center launched 15 years ago to address the needs of children in Pennsylvania’s Appalachia. Most of the youth in the area lack computers in their homes and have only limited access to them at school. CCHYC intends to update its computer lab with new computers and software, at a cost of $7,500. The diocese has promised to match the Jubilee Ministry grant, so this will put CCHYC two-thirds of the way toward funding the project.
  • The Naco Wellness Initiative in Bisbee, Ariz. (Diocese of Arizona) is embarking on a new bi-national project to establish Casas Saludables (neighborhood clinics) in the border town of Naco, Sonora, Mexico. These clinics will be located in volunteer homes, where neighborhood residents can receive health education, medical triage services and health and social services. In the absence of familiarity with the most basic foundations of health care, the local population suffers from a massive number of serious and diverse health problems, which could have been prevented in their early stages. But preventive health care isn’t typically a part of northern Mexican culture. Because many of the residents simply don’t see their cultural beliefs reflected in the services provided, they tend to avoid them. These grant funds will be used to purchase medical supplies, train health care workers and produce health education materials that will better reflect the needs and beliefs of this community.
  • Clinica Esperanza y Caridad in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, serves people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Because of the continuing stigma and discrimination associated with this diagnosis, unemployment remains a huge problem for this community. Two local AIDS support groups recently identified ancillary costs, such as transportation and textbooks. as an obstacle for members of this community trying to train themselves to qualify for jobs that are available to them or to start their own businesses. This grant will help enable them to take advantage of technical training programs.
  • Faith and Grace Garden at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Des Moines (Diocese of Iowa) has as its mission to grow and deliver a variety of fresh vegetables to food distribution centers where identification or proof of residency are not required in order to receive food. In 2010, it grew over 3,500 pounds of fresh vegetables, and this yield could double with more fencing and seed. The grant money will provide these also help expand the watering system. Started with the lone support of St. Timothy’s last spring,  the garden had attracted volunteers by fall from 10 area churches, the Des Moines Catholic Worker community, the local high school, the Boy Scouts and the local chapter of Master Gardeners. Volunteers have also made it a point to reach out to the poor and hungry people they serve and to learn about their dietary customs and heritage, so they can grow the vegetables their recipients prefer to eat.
  • The G.O.A.L (Great Opportunity of a Lifetime) Project in Spokane is a project of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Spokane. Initially formed to help provide clothing, hygiene articles and accessories for men and women recently released from prison, it has expanded to include job search assistance, including resume and cover letter development, access to web-based employment applications and one-on-one interview coaching. By year’s end, the program will begin to offer life skills classes, including parenting classes and family law legal services. “Acting in ways that envision and promote a broader vision beyond basic sustenance of survival continues to be motivating and positively transformational for all who are affected,” said the Rt. Rev. James E. Waggoner Jr., Bishop of Spokane. “Much of the strength of this program and others related is the constant dialogue and interaction with the community itself in an integrated, respectful and well-informed way.”
  • Through its Mission Partners Program, the Welcome Table at the Church of the Epiphany in Washington D.C. invites young people and church groups to spend a weekend encountering Christ in worship and service with the homeless residents of downtown Washington. The visitors sleep on cots in the church gym from Friday through Sunday, but Epiphany hopes to purchase sturdier bunk beds. It also wants to provide comfortable, convenient restroom facilities to encourage more young people to stay there and learn the blessings of volunteering at The Welcome Table, which hosts about 160 homeless people each Sunday. The new bathrooms will be an $88,000 investment, but this grant is a start. The rest will come from private foundations and from parishioners.
  • Christ Church in downtown Dayton (Diocese of Southern Ohio) has been the birthplace of many service organizations. CityHeart, begun in 2006, seeks to provide for immediate needs, but more importantly, to give people the chance to get back on their feet by learning where to go for opportunities, counseling and assistance. In Dayton, urban flight, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and the degenerating economic status of the city have resulted in a dramatic increase in poor, needy and homeless people in the inner city. Last year, CityHeart received nearly 1,900 requests for help, up from just over 1,500 the year before. Financial help to clients is usually in the $25 to $50 range – enough to purchase a state ID or some bus passes. When the needs are greater, such as money for a large utility bill, the ministry pledges a partial amount. Sometimes clients’ needs are met with a sack lunch or simply a cup of hot coffee, use of the phone or a friendly ear to listen to them in their time of need.
  • Community of Hope Ministries was launched in 2005 by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Spotswood, N.J. and quickly grew to become the prime outreach ministry serving the community. Volunteers there learned of several families headed by unemployed single mothers who were on the verge of being evicted from their homes. The threat of eviction is devastating and destabilizing, and can lead to a transience that affects children’s progress in school and a parent’s job performance. With this grant, COHM will establish a separate ministry, “Naomi’s Hope,” for homeless prevention with a focus on women and children. They will seek to better connect their clients to case management and food ministries, provide for pastoral counseling and mentoring from parishioners, and assist clients with up to $200 to stave off eviction.
  • Even before the onset of the Great Recession, nearly 20 percent of the 11,000 residents of Sterling – the largest town in Logan County, Colorado – had incomes below the poverty level. Cooperating Ministry of Logan County was founded by a group of churches in Sterling, including Prince of Peace Episcopal Church (Diocese of Colorado), to provide emergency resources to families on a short-term basis. The ministry helps with rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, food, clothing, household items and medical equipment. But it also seeks to help clients acquire the life skills they need to emerge from a longer-term cycle of poverty. This grant will be used to help meet the day-to-day expenses clients incur while they are enrolled in a 16-week “Getting Ahead” program or take other appropriate steps to become self-supporting.
  • The pigpen at the Asian Rural Institute in northern Japan, a ministry of  the Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church in Japan, is badly in need of repair. While pigpens aren’t typically at the top of the grant funding list, this one is different. The mission of the ARI is to empower local rural leaders throughout the world with sustainable agricultural practices. One of the forms this mission takes is raising pigs and promoting “Korean style” pigpens. The floor of this pigpen is “bio-dynamic,” comprised of rice husk, soil, rice bran, microorganisms and the pig’s own manure. The pigs turn the floor as they root through and walk around the pen. In winter, this system generates heat to keep pigs warm without the need for electricity. After a time, the floor is replaced and the old flooring makes excellent compost. This system is simple to build and easy to maintain, and seeing this system first-hand is a valuable learning experience for ARI participants. It is essential  that the floor of the pigpen remain dry, but the current roof doesn’t extend far enough to accomplish this. This grant will provide for pigpen renovation as well as more extensive fencing.
  • St. Anna’s Medical Mission, a ministry of St. Anna’s Episcopal Church, (Diocese of Louisiana), is the only organization in New Orleans to provide mobile health services at no cost to. The ministry was recently alerted by the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protection Association to the deplorable conditions confronting stable hands and other racetrack workers in New Orleans. Many of the workers are migrants who suffer in silence because they lack health insurance, transportation, knowledge of available resources and have received minimal health education.  In collaboration with the New Orleans Faith Health Alliance, the ministry will bring its 38-foot mobile medical center to the racetracks to offer screenings for hypertension and diabetes, counseling by a bilingual health educator, and support for those who require follow-up care.
  • For now, there is no cold weather emergency shelter or hot meal ministry in the community of Hood River, Ore. The parishioners of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church (Diocese of Eastern Oregon) feel called to share in the abundance that they have been given. With the assistance of this grant, St. Mark’s will bring its parish kitchen up to commercial grade, so the health department will allow the church to serve meals to the homeless and needy. St. Mark’s will also be one of four churches in the area that will serve as an emergency cold-weather shelter.
  • The Emmanuel Episcopal Center, an outreach ministry of the Diocese of West Tennessee, has been serving Memphis’ economically deprived neighborhoods for 22 years. It offers a diversity of programs for at-risk youth. This grant will support the center’s reading intervention program, part of the Emmanuel Academy After-School program. Most participants come from single-parent homes, and many of these parents are not available or cannot help their children with homework. The young people must fend for themselves after school. This program provides these young people with tutoring as well as a safe environment and positive role models.
  • Almost one in four adults in Cumberland County, Tennessee lacks a high school diploma, yet Cumberland Adult Reading Council in Crossville, sponsored by St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church (Diocese of East Tennessee)  is the only literacy program in the county that focuses specifically on the needs of adults. Launched in 2004, the program is based on one-to-one instruction. At present, there are 42 students in the program, but just 37 tutors, so more need to be recruited, to meet current as well as anticipated needs. The cost to train a tutor is $100. This grant money will provide training for up to 25 more tutors.
  • The Open Door Ministry at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Philadelphia, Ohio (Diocese of Ohio), developed not by plan, but simply because the front door of the church is never locked. The churches in town opened an emergency shelter in 2005 where guests can stay for up to 90 days, but by 2007, it was filled to capacity almost all the time, so the shelter workers began sending overflow guests to Trinity with a pillow and a blanket, knowing that the church would be open. As time passed, the overflow got bigger and the church made all who were sent feel welcome. Today, this small parish of fewer than 100 members currently provides shelter for between six and 20 homeless people every night. They sleep on foam-filled mats in the nave and the undercroft. Parishioners stepped up their donations to cover the increased utility costs and cleaning supplies. They also help guests who can’t afford medicine or who need to replace a photo ID. The church hosts a weekly dinner for its guests. This grant will help keep this ministry going.
  • Amiguitos – meaning “good friends” – helps vulnerable children and families in Veracruz and Penjamo, Mexico, by providing them with meals so they don’t go to school hungry. Other services include homework support, tuition help and assistance with other school expenses, and access to health care, paid work and cultural excursions to expand their horizons and feed their imaginations. Since Hurricane Karl struck Veracruz last September, the number of children arriving at the center there every day has doubled from 65 to 130. These grant funds will be pooled with other donations and will be used wherever the need is greatest.
  • Mision Nuestra Senora de Walsingham (Our Lady of Walsingham) parish in Bogota, Colombia (Iglesia Episcopal en Colombia) became a Jubilee Center in 2002 thanks to a gardening program for poor children living in the community. The center has now developed a labor cooperative made up of single mothers, to operate a microbusiness selling donated or inexpensive goods that could be resold and the profits go to help the poor. This grant will be used to fund travel expenses for the church leaders who are leading this project.
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