The West / Southwest Industrial Areas Foundation is a network of broad-based institutional organizations building power to revitalize our democracy for constructive social and economic change. We are part of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation's first and largest network of community organizations.
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Read below for recent victories. Click here for more extensive News Coverage.
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In response to calls for change by their workers and Coloradans for the Common Good, the Jefferson County School Board approved a $3/hr increase to the minimum wage of all Educational Support Professionals (ESP). Nearby, the Denver Federation ratified a contract that increases the minimum wage to $20/hr for para-educators and over $18/hr for nutrition employees. This equates to tens of millions of dollars for working families in the metro area, and required coordinated action between unionized educators and Coloradans for the Common Good.
Last fall, CCG leaders organized an accountability assembly, leveraging commitments from every JeffCo School Board candidate at the time to support wage increases for ESPs if elected. When it became clear more pressure was needed, leaders returned to the JeffCo Board this spring.
At the same time, CCG organized a rally at Valdez Elementary with over 350 educators, parents, and community members to push for wage increases in Denver Public Schools (DPS). Leaders soon followed up with a press conference where the DPS Board President, Vice President, and an additional school board member committed to increasing wages.
[Photo Credits: (Top) Olivia Sun, Colorado Sun; (Right) Helen Richardson, The Denver Post]
Denver, Jefferson County School Districts Raise Hourly Wages for Support Staff Struggling to Afford Food and Housing, Colorado Sun [pdf]
This week, Polk County Supervisors approved AMOS' proposal to invest $1.8 million in ARPA funds to diversify and retain mental health providers through a scholarship and loan forgiveness program. This win is the result of over 10 months of organizing work including:
- Hundreds of conversations in Mental Health Civic Academies that surfaced workforce needs, including to fully staff the Children's Mental Health Crisis system AMOS worked so hard to secure
- A 'Mental Health Provider Summit' in December to understand providers' specific workforce needs and barriers
- 100+ AMOS leaders contacting Polk County supervisors in support of AMOS' mental health workforce proposal
- 4 AMOS leaders testifying at a Polk County Supervisors meeting to share the need for this investment, particularly for refugee and immigrant communities
- AMOS representation at mental health task force meetings by a First Unitarian leader
AMOS leaders plan to continue to work with Polk County to ensure that the funds are administered to maximize accessibility and impact.
Building on a strategy initiated by Dallas Area Interfaith, parish leaders at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church issued parish identification cards to parishioners. The document allows immigrant parishioners to identify themselves to authorities, including law enforcement and county health officials, and was developed in partnership with the Catholic Diocese of Dallas and local law police departments. Revista Catolica captured the most recent parish ID event on film.
Parish IDs Issued at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church with the Support of DAI, Revista Cátolica [video in Spanish]
Together West Michigan is a nonpartisan partnership of 20 local, faith-based and community groups.
The coalition listened to more than 1,000 people over a three-month period this past spring to identify the top concerns, which were laid out at an event on Thursday.
At the event, community members held a march, then listened to the ways in which the issues are affecting families.
One mother said her family could only afford to send their older children to daycare this summer because of their tax return.
“We are grateful that it worked out this time, but it worked out because of a miracle and a miracle is not a strategy,” said Alaina Dobkowski. “Families should not have to rely on a miracle for this to work. I know that my family is not alone in these challenges. Many families are struggling.”
Organizers say the area has a long history of philanthropy and charity, but falls short when it comes to justice and equity.
“Often times people and organizations have the tendency to try and plan for individuals and circumstances,” said Rev. Willie A. Gholtson II, Together West Michigan co-chair. “We believe that at the core of our existence is to listen to what is going on in our community so we make sure that we’re meeting their needs.”
[Photo Credit: Joel Bissell, MLive]
'We Must Do Better:' Hundreds Gather in Grand Rapids to Discuss Neighborhood Safety, Other Topics, M Live
New Coalition Calls on Community to Support Substantive Change, FOX 17 [pdf]
What Happens When 20 Local Orgs Team Up to Improve Justice and Equity in Their Region? Find Out Tomorrow, The Gander
‘Ambassadors of Their Lives:’ Group Tackles Housing, Childcare, Key Issues in GR, FOX 17 [pdf]
Hundreds to Gather in Downtown Grand Rapids for Coalition’s Walk and Talk Justice, Equity, MLive [pdf]
The Morning Show: Together West Michigan, WGVU Public Media (NPR)
Complete Assembly Footage, Together West Michigan
"When COVID-19 came to California, the California organizations of the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s largest and longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations, immediately sprang into action. They began organizing virtual meetings at the local level — hundreds of community members gathering every week primarily to share how they were doing....
In the summer of 2021, the California IAF organized an action. Six hundred leaders from over 100 parishes and community-based institutions gathered together virtually to call on the state to extend its eviction moratorium and reform its housing relief program....
The organizing work of the California IAF around housing has revealed two truths that should be held in tension with one another. First, government must do more to address the housing crisis. Public policy and investment are necessary to make housing more affordable.
But, second, government can often be disconnected with how things are working in communities. Effective government depends on the local expertise contained by those who are seeking a decent home. Solving the housing crisis in California hinges on the involvement of our parishes continuously working to ensure that government intervention matches the local needs of our people."
[In Photo: Bishop Oscar Cantú of the Diocese of San Jose. Photo Credit: Tyler Osburn, CNS]
The Fight for Fair Housing in California, and How the Industrial Areas Foundation Helped Residents, The Dialog [pdf]
The latest video by the (Tony Hawk Foundation) Skatepark Project highlight stories of community transformation in and from the installation of the Lauridsen Skatepark in Des Moines, Iowa.
"There was a dogged persistence in skaters trying to land whatever they were trying to learn," notes IAF organizer Paul Turner. "In terms of advocacy, it's kind of the same."
The full story, told by Turner and AMOS leader Jan Hill, can be read in the Des Moines Register.
Des Moines Lauridsen Skatepark: Tracing a 17-year Journey, From a Nuisance to a Metro Treasure, Des Moines Register [pdf]
Story Behind America's Largest Skatepark, RIDE Channel [video]
After two weeks of intensive mobilizing by COPA (Communities Organized for relational Power in Action), leaders secured a nine-month, $1.59M extension of the VIDA community health worker (CHW) program in Monterey County. The 4-1 vote by the County Board of Supervisors extended the VIDA program at current levels to the end of 2022, preventing a reduction from 48 to 18 CHWs by the end of the month.
Prior to the vote, COPA leaders met with their district supervisors, telling stories about the impact of VIDA and asking that they support the extension.
At an online event drawing over 100 leaders, two County Supervisors and allies including the Community Foundation of Monterey County and the Grape Growers & Vintners Association, leaders taught attendees about the effectiveness of the program.
Fr. Lucas, a priest from King City, shared how he narrowly avoided infecting 200 parishioners at a weekend retreat because Maricela Acevedo, one of the CHWs, and a member of his parish persuaded him to test everyone prior. When one of the women on the kitchen crew was found to be positive, Maricela went to her house to test other family members.
Another woman, who speaks only Mixteco (an indigenous language in Mexico) got her questions about the vaccines answered only because one of the CHWs, Claudia, speaks both Mixteco and Spanish. Claudia not only helped the woman register for a vaccination appointment, she came to the house when called weeks later to administer rapid tests and help infected family members quarantine.
COPA first proposed the VIDA program to the Monterey County Supervisors, who voted unanimously in December of 2020 to allocate $4.9M to hire 100 CHWs. VIDA is administered by the Community Foundation of Monterey County.
[Photo Credit: Daniel Dreifuss, Monterey Weekly]
As It Heads to the Board of Supervisors to Request Additional Funds, Here's How the VIDA Project has Impacted People's Lives, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
Local Organizations Seek County Support to Extend VIDA Community Health Worker Program, Monterey County Weekly [pdf]
"The Diocese of Monterey is in the beginning stages of the synod, training parish groups to go out and listen to the experiences of everyone, including those on the margins. Bishop Garcia and Deacon David Ford, who is leading the process in the diocese, both have experience working with community organizing groups in the past. They were quick to enlist their help with the synod.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” said Bishop Garcia, who had been meeting with Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, or COPA, since he arrived in Monterey. COPA is an association of community organizers based in California. “There are already some processes out there,” the bishop said. COPA “does a really good job of getting the pulse of the people. We’ve been really happy about how, at least initially, it’s going.”
Diocesan leaders planned to host five separate regional meetings to train leaders throughout the diocese about how to carry out the synod at their parish. Bishop Garcia invited pastors to attend along with a group of parishioners who would lead the synod at their church."
[Photo Credit:Diocese of Monterey]
A California Bishop Invited Community Organizers to Help with the Synod. So Far, It’s Working, America the Jesuit Review [pdf]
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP) and St. Francis Xavier Catholic leaders leveraged more than $5 million to improve neighborhood safety in the Maryvale region of Phoenix following a year-long organizing effort.
In Spring 2021, leaders from St. Francis Xavier began a house meeting campaign to develop a team of leaders to learn about issues affecting Maryvale families. Leaders heard stories about unlit neighborhoods, gang activity, and dangerous streets. They moved to meet with City of Phoenix council members from districts 4 & 5 to secure commitments from them to address these issues.
By the summer of 2021, VIP and St. Francis Xavier leaders secured more than 30 new street lamps in the same sites VIP leaders had identified as needing lighting and where crime was an issue.
In early 2022, the Phoenix City Council voted to approve more than $5 million dollars to create a safety corridor along 27th Avenue -- installing new lighting and traffic cameras, implementing street safety features and assigning added officers to address ongoing vandalism and gang activity. At the time of the vote, Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor recognized VIP for its work in bringing this issue to the City's attention and making this project a possibility.
[In photo, St. Francis Xavier and VIP leader Catalina Aldaco announces the win at VIP's leaders assembly.]
Phoenix Considers Safety and Crime Prevention Project for 27th Avenue Corridor, KJZZ [pdf]
Phoenix Approves $5M Safety Plan Targeting 27th Ave., 12 News
Valley Interfaith Project (VIP), along with allied organizations, temporarily averted a $1 billion funding crisis for Arizona public schools. A decades-old spending limit would have required school districts to abide by 1980 spending levels without legislative action. Normally, the legislature would vote to override the limit as a routine procedure. However, partisan brinkmanship, amidst a closely divided legislature, led to individual legislators withholding their votes.
While school district budgets were based on funding that the Legislature had approved last year, this arbitrary spending limit, if left unchecked, would have resulted in massive budget cuts as soon as April 1, 2022. The cuts would have amounted to $1.2 billion statewide, resulting in widespread layoffs or school closures.
VIP leaders met with individual legislators and mobilized a flood of constituent phone calls in key areas. On February 21st, only one week before the statutory deadline, the Senate followed the House's lead and voted to allow school districts to exceed the arbitrary spending limit for the current school year.
While leaders celebrated the last-minute fix, the long-term outlook has Arizona revisiting this crisis every year until voters can repeal the outdated spending limit. VIP leaders hosted a leaders assembly with two senators to explore a more permanent resolution.
[In photo: Revs. Brooke Isingoma and Martha Seaman discuss the spending limit with State Senators Tyler Pace and Sean Bowie.]
"Arizona Senate Votes to Raise Education Spending Limit, Avoiding Big School Funding Cuts," Arizona Republic [pdf]
With sadness, we report the loss of Michael Clements, longtime IAF organizer. He served as organizer with TMO and predecessor organizations of One-LA during a career that spanned four decades.
After supporting farm workers [with United Farm Workers of America], Clements joined the Industrial Areas Foundation, the longest-standing network of local faith and community-based organizations in the nation, and moved to Houston to work for the organization... [Back in California], Clements crossed paths with Fred Ross, Sr....
Said Fred Ross, Jr., a Bay Area-based social justice organizer: “My father respected Mike and saw him as one of the up-and- coming organizers back in 1985.”
Said [Cardinal Roger] Mahony, “He was the epitome of a great community organizer backed up by his wonderful Catholic faith, especially the social teachings of the church, which he knew inside and out from the Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum in 1891 all the way to Pope Francis today.”
[Photo Credit: Scott Smeltzer, Los Angeles Times]
On the Passing of IAF Boardmember Bishop Douglas Miles
by Ernesto Cortes, Jr.
The passing of Bishop Miles is a great loss to all of us. We shared the earth with him for far too short a time.
He modeled character and leadership, while at the same time teaching those who were marginalized how to be their own agents. Of him it could be said that he invited all the challenges of Matthew 25: to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, break free the captives and take in the stranger.
He was a man of faith and a full human being. He embodied Pope Francis’ notion of being a political person. And he was our friend.
We Mourn Together: Bishop Douglas Miles
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news that Bishop Douglas Miles, IAF Co-Chair and BUILD Co-Chair Emeritus, passed away August 3, 2021 after complications from heart surgery.
Bishop was a giant of a man, pastor, leader and friend. For more than 50 years, Bishop Douglas Miles (in photo from left, marching with Pastor Prentice at right) has been on the front-lines of every major social change in Baltimore and every major fight led by IAF.
As longstanding Metro IAF and BUILD Leader Carol Reckling said, “It’s almost unfathomable to grasp Bishop’s reach. One way or another he impacted every one of us."
We were blessed with one of the greatest. We are all part of his legacy. We miss him dearly and are reminded of the words from God to the prophet that Bishop often closed out actions with, "Whom shall I send, and who shall go for us? And the voice of the prophet responded, 'Here am I, send me.’”
Let us continue to answer the call and fight the good fight. As we grieve his loss, may his incredible prophetic voice, brilliant wisdom, deep laughter, and shared memory guide us.
Please hold his dear wife Rose Miles, sons Pastor Dante and Harvey Miles, his entire family, Koinonia Baptist Church and BUILD in your prayers.
Bishop Douglas Miles, Who Advocated for Baltimore's Impoverished Residents and Co-Headed BUILD, Dies, Baltimore Sun [pdf]
Sister Christine Stephens, CDP entered eternal life on July 18, 2019 at the age of 78. She was the younger of two daughters born to Walter Irving and Frances Louise (Bulian) Stephens. She was born December 22, 1940 in Austin, Texas and was given the Baptismal name, Mary Christine. She entered the Congregation of Divine Providence on September 7, 1962 and professed first vows as a Sister of Divine Providence on June 22, 1964. Sister Christine graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics prior to entering Our Lady of the Lake Convent. She later earned a Master of Arts in History from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
Sister Christine attributes her faith formation to her parents who set the example of perseverance and seeking justice for one’s family and community. Her father was a member of the pipe fitters union. This foundation served Sister Christine in her first seven years as a teacher, then as a social worker for eight years, and expanded and deepened when she became an organizer 45 years ago.
Sister Christine did not choose organizing as a ministry, it chose her. She was spotted by her now close friend and mentor, Ernesto Cortés, Jr., who said it was her anger that caught his attention. That was the first time she viewed her anger in a positive light. The work of justice was at the heart of her ministry and her life. Her work with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) was the vehicle to funnel her anger against injustice.
Sister Christine’s commitment to identifying, training and transforming leaders and organizers throughout the country worked to bring millions of dollars for water and waste water to the colonias along the Texas/New Mexico Border, instrumental in developing the Alliance School strategy that impacted hundreds of schools across the country, plus the creation of nationally renowned job training programs modeled after Project QUEST in San Antonio.
Her advocacy work during the past four decades in her various roles, as National IAF Co-Director and Supervisor of organizations across the IAF Network will be greatly missed. Her organizing career began with The Metropolitan Organization (TMO) in Houston where she was a founder, followed by Lead Organizer of C.O.P.S. in San Antonio and Dallas Area Interfaith.
She enjoyed seeing ordinary leaders who worked across multi faith traditions, economic lines and race to do extraordinary things in their communities. She breathed and lived the Gospel values of justice and leaves a legacy to be continued. She had an enduring faith in the values of democracy.
She is survived by her sister Sarah Howell, and all her Sisters of Divine Providence. She is also survived by her niece Angela Duhon (William), their children, Emma and Nathaniel. She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Frances Stephens.
The Rosary and Wake were Thursday, July 25, 2019 and Mass of Resurrection on Friday, July 26, 2019. All services were held in Sacred Heart Chapel, next to Our Lady of the Lake Convent Center in San Antonio, Texas.
In lieu of flowers, you may make a memorial contribution to the Sisters of Divine Providence, 515 S.W. 24th Street, San Antonio, TX 78207-4619.
Tribute to Sister Christine Stephens, Rio Grande Guardian
Stephens was an Early COPS Organizer, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]
Christine Stephens, COPS/Metro Alliance Leader, Remembered for her Faith, Sense of Justice, Rivard Report
Christine Stephens Worked to 'Help Others Advocate for Themselves,' Austin American Statesman [pdf]
Sister Christine Passes Away, Rio Grande Guardian