Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Making an IMPACT

You haven't heard much this year about IMPACT -- the Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together.  IMPACT is an example of what's known as a CBCO -- congregation-based community organizing -- and we have been actively involved since its founding.  We've had members serve on their Board, participate in their various research and advocacy groups, and we've several times had the largest turnout at the Nehemiah Action (as a percentage of membership).  IMPACT has done, and is doing important work to serve the needs of people in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area.

You haven't heard much about IMPACT this year not because we are no longer invested in this approach to bringing together people from diverse faith communities (28 at last count) to work in common cause for justice.  We are, however, tired.  It has become harder in recent years to generate the interest and enthusiasm of past years, and this has led both to burn-out of volunteers, and more of a feeling of pressure than excitement in the congregation-at-large.  So this year the lay volunteers have taken a sabbatical -- no meetings, no phone trees, no "pushing."

We are still going to have our annual IMPACT-focused worship service (next Sunday, April 9th), and we are still going to encourage people to attend this year's Nehemiah Action (Tuesday, April 25th).  But we're taking a "softer" approach so as to give ourselves a chance to rest, and then regroup (should that be what we want to do).

This year IMPACT has been continuing it's work to see the creation of a residential treatment facility for women, something this area sorely needs.  The local regional jail locks up about 3,150 drug and alcohol addicts each year, and nearly all female inmates have experienced sexual abuse and violence.  Currently there is no local residential option for women, which means women often have to leave their children and their families to get the care they need.  The "people power" that IMPACT has been able to harness has been a prime mover in the creation of such a facility, which will be located near Region Ten's existing facilities on Old Lynchburg Road  (This facility is intended to allow women to bring their young children with them, so that the children can be a part of the recovery process and the women won’t feel stigmatized from seeking help for fear of losing their children.)  The Charlottesville City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors have each pledged to provide $75,000 to the project in their preliminary budgets, and groundbreaking could happen as early as next month, with the center opening by the end of 2017.

This is the kind of thing that IMPACT makes possible.  The Nehemiah Action brings more than a thousand people together, representing hundreds more from their respective congregations, to demonstrate a common commitment to efforts which will make ... well ... a real impact on the lives of real people

While seeing this effort through to completion, this year IMPACT is also looking the problem of the high costs of services and housing for senior citizens.  6,100 seniors in the area struggle to keep a roof over their heads, and those households pay more than 30 percent of their income toward housing costs.  11,800 senior households in the region earn less than $35,000 annually.  By 2024, 25% of the area’s population will be over the age of 65, which means these issues will only become more challenging.  IMPACT is working on developing ways to make local governments prioritize affordable housing for seniors.

The IMPACT service will be on Sunday, April 9th.

The Nehemiah Action Assembly will be on Tuesday, April 25 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Arts Center.