Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why all the fuss about IMPACT?

Back in October I posted the text of a talk I gave at an IMPACT event.  In it I essentially told everyone there that I was not really all that interested in, nor committed to, IMPACT in and of itself.  I know that there are those in our congregation who have heard the call to participate in one of the listening circles in the fall and, even more, to attend the big Nehemiah Action in the spring as a call to come out in support of IMPACT. 

IMPACT, for those who don't know, is the Interfaith Ministry Promoting Actions by Congregations Together, and is an example of congregation based community organizing.  Approximately 27 faith communities from the Charlottesville area -- Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, and others -- come together as IMPACT in order to put "people power" behind efforts to make real changes in our community that will ... well ... make an impact and increase justice.

Yet what sometimes gets lost is that IMPACT is just the tool, just the vehicle, for this work.  Those listening circles?  They help this collection of communities focus on an issue that is real, and pressing, and that has possible solutions.  The Nehemiah Action?  Besides being the largest public gathering in the Charlottesville area and the largest interfaith gathering in central Virginia, it is the way we can demonstrate the number of people who stand in solidarity to support the solution that's been identified.  In between is the research process in which volunteers from these varied faith communities work together to clarify the issue at hand and to develop workable solutions.

Many from our congregation have been part of these research teams over the years.  (And there's a place for you if you're interested in working to address concerns regarding elder care or to develop residential treatment options for formerly incarcerated women dealing with drug dependency.)  They can attest both to the power of interfaith coalition building -- especially, perhaps, the relationships that can develop in the process -- and how rewarding it is to be part of identifying both a real problem and a real solution.

And that is why I said I was not all that interested in IMPACT.  What interests me, and what I think should interest you, is the experience of building relationships across a whole host of differences in order to address issues of injustice in our community.  That is why we'll be asking you to attend the Nehemiah Action.  Not because it's important that we support IMPACT, but because it's important that we support elders in our community who are suffering injustices, and because it's an issue of justice that formerly incarcerated women with drug and alcohol problems have the option to receive treatment here, in their own community, rather than having to leave their homes (and often their children) to seek support.  And what IMPACT offers is a method, a vehicle, for making a concrete difference and for each of us to be a part of that solution ... even if all we do is show up one night a year to demonstrate just how many people care and are willing to come together with others who sometimes share very little other than this commitment to justice.

This list of past issues and solutions is impressive.  They demonstrate what "people power" can do.  Keep your ears open for updates on the work being done this year so that when the call goes out to come to the Nehemiah Action you'll know that it's not to support IMPACT for its own sake.  It's to take part in making a difference.

The John Paul Jones Arena filling up with justice seekers from 27 different faith communities in a show of solidarity at the annual Nehemiah Action, this year scheduled for May 3rd.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

IMPACT Update #2

The issue area that rose to the top from this year's listening circles is elder care.  Our congregations’ elders and their caregivers struggle to find affordable care, cover their monthly living expenses and live alone without nearby help or care. So far, IMPACT’s Elder Care committee has met with five local experts to understand what’s happening in these areas. We’ve learned so far that nearly 1 out of 10 elders make less than $11,000 per year (JABA). Many elders struggle to afford the right care because they make too much for Medicaid but can’t afford to pay out of pocket (City DSS). Nearly 1 out of 4 elders live alone (JABA). The most reported cases of elder abuse are self neglect, which is often a result from living alone (County DSS). IMPACT is continuing to look into transportation, details about reports of abuse, and what’s happening in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. At the February Research Committee Meeting on February 18, we will create a problem statement to focus our efforts so that together, we can turn around the unfairness and suffering faced by our elders!

Specific Info and Next Steps

  • So far there have been 5 Research Visits with JABA, Senior Center, Gelbman Law, Albemarle and City DSS which houses adult services and protective services
  • 24% of elders live alone (JABA)
  • 11% of elders make less than $11K per year (JABA)
  • Multiple forms of elder abuse include neglect, self neglect physical, sexual and mental abuse, and financial exploitation (County DSS)
  • #1 form of elder abuse is self neglect for the county (County DSS)
  • Many are not criminal offenses so police may not always fully investigate situations (Gelbman Law)
  • Many of the places we went to are worried about affordable housing transportation, the lack of attention to the aging population in city and county strategic planning, and seniors who make just over the limit for Medicaid but still can’t afford good healthcare (City DSS)
  • We are waiting to receive data from the City and County DSS data on reports of elder abuse, as well as types and amounts of benefits do elders have received over the past 5 years
  • Next we’re meeting with:
1.     Blue Ridge PACE
2.     Geriatric Association
3.     Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission
4.     Charlottesville Area Community Foundation Aging Committee
5.     JAUNT
6.     Alzheimer’s Association
7.     JABA Ombudsman
8.     Housing Authority(s) (call)

If these issues are important to you, consider being a part of the research team!  You can talk with Rev. Wik or Sarah Peasley, or contact IMPACT's Lead Organizer, Josh Scott, via email at:

Monday, January 25, 2016

IMPACT Update #1

Most people think of the work of IMPACT as the listening circles in the fall, and the Nehemiah Action in the spring.  And it's true that we do make a major push to get as many folks involved in both of those as possible.  But in between there's a whole lot going on:  there are committed volunteers who work to take the issue that was identified during the listening circles, discover its dimensions, and then develop a proposed solution in concert with local officials and other parties.  It's this proposal that is presented at the Action (which is coming up in early May).

This year there are two issues being worked on -- the first was initiated last year, and has to do with Crime and Drugs.  Here's an update of where things stand:

Did you know that our jail locks up about 3,150 drug and alcohol addicts every year?  And that nearly all women in jail have also experienced sexual abuse and violence? An alternative to jail for these victims is residential treatment but there are no local options for women. At the 2015 Nehemiah Action, with the power of over 1,000 people, IMPACT got Region Ten, City Assistant Manager and County Assistant Executive to make a plan to address this gap for women.

Since the Nehemiah Action, Region Ten shared their plans to open a facility that will serve 50 women and up to 100 of their children per year by April 2017. IMPACT now looks to secure the funding from the City Council and Albemarle Board of Supervisors to make this treatment a reality. On February 1st at 6:30pm, we will present Region Ten’s plans and share our stories of grief to City Council so that they will allocate $37,500 for the first year of treatment! We plan to do the same with the Albemarle Board of Supervisors on February 3rd. We will also update current allies and find new ones to build broader community support!

Our goal is care not punishment!

Specific Info and Next Steps

  • Region Ten has submitted a request for $37,500 from the City and the County to fund its West Street residential recovery center for women for its first year, 2017
  • IMPACT has decided to continue supporting Region Ten’s plans for the 8 bed facility, which can serve 50 women per year and up to 100 children
  • IMPACT members will attend the upcoming City Council and County Board of Supervisors meetings to share testimonies, stories, and our research in order to get our requests in front of them early
  • IMPACT will also recruit and affirm allies in the community starting with:
    o   City and County Police
    o   Offender Aid and Restoration
    o   Good News Jail Ministry
    o   Georgia’s Healing House
    Important dates

o   City Council: 1st and 3rd Monday @ 7pm
§   Feb 1: City Council Public Comment
§  Feb 16: Council Public Comment
o   Board of Supervisors: 1st Wednesdays and 2nd Wednesday @ 6pm
§  Feb 3: BOS Public Comment
§  Feb 10: BOS Public Comment

Sunday, January 17, 2016

PAUN Resists Rampant Gun Violence

Each Sunday we hear from the pulpit, "there is a lot going on in this lively community." Some of it receives a fair amount of attention -- IMPACT, PACEM, the recently spotlighted IHS Meal Packet ministry, our work around racial justice.  Some of it operates a little bit under the radar.  This is the story of one such group.

PAUN ... you have probably seen them standing behind a table in the Social Hall following a Sunday service.  Our Peace Action/United Nation group works diligently to keep the rest of us aware of issues going on in our nation and our world that touch on issues of peace and/or the work of the United Nations.  Yet disseminating information isn't all that they do.

A number of TJMC folk will be heading to Richmond on Monday, January 18th to be part of a rally for responsible gun laws.  It will be taking place on the grounds of the Virginia General Assembly, starting at 2:00 pm near the watch tower.  Governor McAullife will be addressing the crowd.

The event is being sponsored by Virginia's branch of Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense (as well as other groups).  Our delegation will be joining other folk from Charlottesville from the Charlottesville Coalition for Gun Violence Prevention.  The Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship are also participating. 

Showing up.  Being counted.  Coming together with others to demonstrate that our values are not just nice words but have the power of real people behind them.  It's said that when law makers and other shapers of policies see one person they assume there are at least ten more who support them.  That means a group of 100 is like 1,000 people saying both in words and presence that gun violence has reached epidemic, pandemic, proportions and cannot be allowed to continue.  

That's powerful.  That is part of the work that PAUN does in and through our congregation.