A dozen organizations were recognized for helping the underserved on Oct. 17. Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, and Chuck Fernandez, CEO of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, are on the right.
"Your investment in Genesis has allowed me to do great things."
— Devon Allen
All: MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE
A dozen organizations that work for justice for underserved people — advocating for employment, health care, child care, housing and education — in Alameda and Contra Costa counties were honored at a luncheon Oct. 17 and received their grant awards from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
"The 12 groups do amazing work that transforms people's lives and transforms the communities in which we live," said Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, in thanking the award winners. "The work you do empowers our brothers and sisters who are struggling to take control of their lives and lift themselves out of poverty. You're carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ."
Four groups received local grants; two received technical assistance grants; and six received national grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which is the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops.
"These grants we are presenting today are thanks to the generosity of people throughout the whole United States, who give money each November for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development," Bishop Barber said.
All the grants are funded by the national collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. From that annual collection — this year's will be taken up Nov. 22-23 in the Diocese of Oakland — 25 percent is designated to remain in the diocese as local grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.
The CCHD collection in the diocese raises about $150,000, the bishop said. The actual grants made to organizations in the two counties is larger than the amount contributed, said Marc McKimmey, who coordinates CCHD activities for the diocese. Six organizations received national grants ranging from $45,000 to $60,000.
Parishes in the Diocese of Oakland will take up the annual collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at Masses on Nov. 22 and 23.
"They've been tremendously good to the Diocese of Oakland, and to our causes," the bishop said.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, more than 46.5 million Americans are walking a thin line between eviction and home, between hunger and health, between unemployment and work, between anxiety and stability. The poverty line for a family of four is $23,283 a year.
The organizations receiving awards are all working with low-income people, helping to improve their lives through employment opportunities, and even helping some people move into homes of their own.
The largest grant went to the Oakland Community Land Trust, which buys and rehabilitates foreclosed houses and helps low-income people become homeowners. The nonprofit is also developing a program to train young people to work on those houses, thus providing much-needed employment opportunities.
Jen Collins, a homeowner representative on the board, had "been saving for years," she said, for a home for her family. The 1922 Craftsman they now own has new wiring, and energy-efficient windows and appliances. The land trust retains ownership of the land; the family has a 99-year land lease, and an affordable mortgage payment.
As a group representing award-winner Genesis Interfaith Community Organizing accepted its $45,000 award, one of its members stepped forward.
Wearing a bright blue T-shirt emblazoned with the group's name, Devon Allen, a 23-year-old college student, told the gathering who the group's campaign to secure free bus passes for students would benefit.
"I myself take AC Transit and BART," he said. "If you can't afford the bus fare, it makes it hard to go to school."
Parent Voices, an Oakland group of low-income parents that advocates for child care for those who need it to go to school or work, dedicated its award to the memory of its member Rebecca Viera, who was killed in a shooting in Oakland last year.
The local CCHD committee honored Gwen Watson, a parishioner at Christ the King in Pleasant Hill, with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
"You've blessed us by putting your faith into action," Bishop Barber said.
Watson's award, which was presented by John Watkins, diocesan coordinator for life and justice, focused on several of Watson's achievements, most notably in establishing the Winter Nights shelter in Contra Costa County 10 years ago and serving as its volunteer executive director until this year.
"I accept on behalf of my beloved community, parishioners, clergy and staff at Christ the King," she said, naming several parish groups in Faith in Action ministries, such as social justice, St. Vincent de Paul, Hope conference, interfaith groups and JustFaith groups.
"This award is all about relationships," she said. "None of us do this work alone." These relationships, she said, "show we belong to each other and want to improve the lives of those who suffer injustice."
Local grant recipients
Kmhmú-Laotian Pastoral Center, Diocese of Oakland
Funds young adult leadership program
Latino Ministry, Diocese of Oakland
Funds workshops that include organizing, violence prevention and communication
United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County
Funds Senior Project for Institutional Change
Youth Spirit Artworks
Funds young people who produce commercial studio art and murals
National grant recipients
Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (CCISCO)
Funds impacting policies that expand education, training and employment for those with multiple employment barriers
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
Funds staff who will do community organizing, education and leadership development
Gamaliel of California
Funds going from a quarter-time director to a full-time director
Genesis Interfaith Community Organizing
Funds leadership training opportunities for its low-income leaders
Oakland Community Land Trust
Funds capacity building, organizational development and developing programs to train young people to rehab foreclosed homes and acquire vacant land for urban agriculture
Parent Voices Oakland
Funds training of parent leaders in advocacy and action to expand child-care subsidies for low-income families
Technical assistance grants
Community Resources for Independent Living
Funds consultant to develop Disability Action Network
South Hayward Parish
Funds the development of business plan to grow Homeless Angels, which trains homeless people to produce and market artwork and conduct food catering services, into a self-sustaining social purpose enterprise
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