Catholic Campaign For Human Development Awards 20 Grants Totaling $115,000 To Atlanta Area Projects
Published: November 11, 2004
ATLANTA—The Catholic Campaign for Human Development announced the distribution of $115,000 to support 20 projects that address the root causes of poverty in the Atlanta area. CCHD, the anti-poverty initiative of the Catholic bishops of the United States, is one of the largest privately funded community development programs initiated and controlled by the poor. National grants for 2004 total nearly $9 million for projects in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
CCHD receives its funds from individual Catholics who donate to a nationwide church collection each year. In Atlanta this collection will be taken on Nov. 21. One quarter of the parish collection is retained and distributed locally to self-help projects in North Georgia. Three-fourths is sent to the national CCHD office for distribution to projects that demonstrate a compelling need and present clear goals and objectives to break the cycle of poverty through community-based initiatives led by people living in poverty. In the Archdiocese of Atlanta the CCHD grants are processed through Catholic Social Services’ Parish & Community Ministry office.
This year projects being funded in the Atlanta Archdiocese range from a Somali community radio station focusing on health and other educational programming and community issues, to the Tierra de Paz project to have minority teens plant fruits and vegetables for residents and neighbors to prevent gang activity and develop a skill.
Sister Joyce Ann Hertzig, OP, coordinator of CSS Parish & Community Ministry, was encouraged to see many of the parishes seeking funding for projects helping Hispanic people with English language skills and school readiness for children. She is now working with them to develop programs. “Parish grants are really targeting Latino outreach—that is what we are dealing with in the church. That is significant. This awareness is wonderful, and the outreach is what is needed.”
She said all funded projects, which are selected by a CCHD committee, focus on helping groups to help themselves and become self-sustaining so that they can continue their work themselves after they receive seed money. They also empower low-income people in leadership with opportunities to learn skills like how to prepare a budget, hold a meeting and other organizational responsibilities. Eventually CCHD hopes more projects will focus on advocacy, but “you’ve got to take baby steps along the way,” Sister Hertzig said.
“This certainly is one way to help those who are closest at hand to help themselves,” she continued. “This is a wonderful way to break that cycle so that they could move on out of it. They could be able to have an income, to know what services they have access to, they would be able to reach out to the community. They would contribute back to the community through their group organizing.”
One of those projects being funded for the fourth time through a CCHD grant is the People of Hope Cooperative of Athens, formed after 108 families were evicted from their Garden Springs Mobile Home Park in 2001 when the owner sold the land to a developer of housing geared for University of Georgia students. They first partnered with a coalition of churches and community organizations including Catholic Social Services to raise money to help all families relocate, providing 78 of the families with $2,500, and also raised awareness of the need for more low-income housing. Since then some of the families have organized to form the People of Hope Cooperative with the goal to create their own mobile home cooperative where residents themselves can address park needs and not risk being evicted. They have 25 families who have committed to move into the future park, with room for 40. The Athens/Clarke County Human and Economic Development Department is paying the salary of two part-time POH employees, and the group is working to raise $200,000 and then ask foundations and HED to help match it. They eventually need to raise $600,000 and have bought and won zoning approval for 17 acres on Freeman Drive for the park, which is located near the bus line and in walking distance to the grocery store, county health center and Athens Family and Children’s Services department. Maureen O’Brien, POH land development coordinator, said they got turned down by HED for a development grant this year but were advised to come back after they’ve raised more money.
“Now we’re spending more time on raising $200,000 in the community, so we can say to foundations we have gotten this much and help us match it. I think we’re doing a lot to try and increase our exposure in our community so when we go back to Athens/Clarke County government to match for another $200,000 we’ll look better,” she said. “I’m very optimistic. It’s not a matter of how it’s going to happen. It’s when it’s going to happen … It’s going to take awhile to build the park, but the people are getting better and better about learning more and managing the money and saving for that. It’s going to be a beautiful park.”
Athens’ Oconee Street United Methodist Church recently donated to the project and issued a “church challenge” for others to do likewise; in two weeks they raised over $7,000. All of the board members besides O’Brien and Juana Gnecco, outreach coordinator, are community members, and POH meetings are held monthly on organizing and planning for the park. Members have been receiving training to go out to speak to the community and in areas like personal finance, relating to other cultures and housing issues. They are holding fund-raisers by selling goods in local flea markets, collecting and selling used formal wear, and developing a micro-business where the teens are working through the Georgia Real Enterprises to design specialized labels for bottled water. They will hold gospel concerts in January. They got a grant through The Sapelo Foundation where children will be guided to make a play reflecting the POH story to share with the community as a fund-raiser. The drama will address the need for affordable low-income housing “and the plight of those who don’t have stable land with mobile homes, reflecting the story of People of Hope through the kids and the community,” O’Brien said.
The group is also developing a DVD and has a new Web site, www.peopleofhope.us. The county is extending their sewer line to the north end of the county and gave POH future permission to pump their sewage over a hill to the existing sewer line, O’Brien said. “They’ve never allowed anybody else to do it. They consider the project valuable.”
Sister Hertzig said the low-income cooperative mobile home park would be the first in the Southeast. “They continue to be together, to organize and work with one another both in fund-raising and getting together. They have stayed focused on that goal to be able to develop that cooperative.”
Outreach coordinator Gnecco believes that the project will be an important step toward economic development for low-income people in the community.
“The need for affordable housing in Athens-Clarke County will not abate anytime soon,” she said. “By bravely negotiating the unfamiliar process of establishing the first resident-controlled, homeowner-occupied mobile home community in Georgia, they are establishing a blueprint and a reservoir of knowledge that can be drawn upon by other groups and by future generations in Athens and elsewhere.”
The need to address the root causes of poverty is greater than ever, as the latest U.S. Census Bureau data reports 34.9 million Americans are living below the poverty line. This is the third straight year that there has been an increase—12.1 percent in 2002 to 12.5 percent in 2003. There are 2.6 million Americans who work full-time but do not earn enough to raise themselves out of poverty. Hardest hit, according to the Census Bureau, were women and children. By the end of 2003, 12.9 million children lived in poverty. One in six children in America lives in poverty but more distressing is the statistic for Atlanta which indicates two of every five children live in poverty. In Georgia over 1 million people or 13 percent of the residents live in poverty.
According to Father Robert J. Vitillo, CCHD executive director, “The new Census numbers are a wake-up call to all Americans, poor and non-poor alike. We must work together, with typical American spirit and creativity, to develop more effective policies which will eradicate the root causes of poverty in the wealthiest of nations.”
Many families are poor not because of lack of initiative or effort but because of changing economic conditions, cultural differences, or lack of education. CCHD grants help community organizations work toward long-term solutions to remove barriers that prevent breaking the cycle of poverty. The campaign was established in 1969 and is the Catholic bishops’ response to the need to help people in their attempt to “get out of the state of poverty.”
CCHD encourages Catholics to put “faith in action” and observe what’s happening in their neighborhood. Meet with others who are concerned about issues affecting the poor but who are also willing to create new approaches with the low-income groups to remove apparent barriers.
January 3 is the deadline for community groups to make an application for a local grant for 2005. For more grant information contact Sister Joyce Ann Hertzig at (404) 885-7208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To donate to People of Hope, visit www.peopleofhope.us. They may be reached at (706) 546-5051.
2004-2005 CCHD National Grantees From the Archdiocese of Atlanta - Awarded in June 2004
In Athens, People of Hope, Inc. (second-year grantee) received a grant of $22,000.
In Atlanta, Georgia Avenue Coming Together, Inc. (GACT), received a $10,000 feasibility study grant (one-time grant). Envisioned by some African-American women, GACT provides an opportunity to bring together residents and newcomers to the neighborhood being affected by gentrification. Two cooperatively owned businesses, a grocery store and restaurant, are being anticipated. The feasibility study will allow members of the coop to strategically plan, develop next steps, review market and industry research and analysis, and do some political networking in the neighborhood. The restaurant will be a family-oriented restaurant serving nutritious foods with a “family” recipe flavor. Members have already developed a food co-op serving over 200 families. This project will be a venture to establish a business in the neighborhood, employ members, pay a living wage, and provide for interactions of all residents in the area.
In Clarkston, the Sagal Somali Radio Station (third-year grantee) received $30,000. Sagal Somali is a radio station that broadcasts in Somali to the Somali community in Decatur. Their focus is to encourage and promote civic involvement by having voter registration drives, health information, talk shows in Somali with local community leaders, and live community forums.
In Gainesville, the Newtown Florist Club, Inc. (second-year grantee) received $20,000. The Newtown Florist Club is comprised of low-income community residents of Gainesville’s Newtown neighborhood. The organization is lobbying for EPA protections for their neighborhood, which is situated over a toxic dump and near to toxic emitting factories. The project focuses on collaborating with the Latino community in Gainesville to share knowledge and form alliances for change for Gainesville’s low-income population.
Local Grants Awarded May 2004
In Athens, the Recruitment of Latinos: Athens Living Wage Coalition received $4,000. This is an outreach organizing effort to the Athens Latino population regarding the living wage issues, drivers’ licenses, health benefits and other pertinent economics issues. The grant enables a Latino community organizer to educate, recruit and involve Latino representation in decisions of the coalition. Academic, professional and community leaders share research, organizing strategies and support.
In Atlanta, Project Girl$: Enchanted Closet received $2,000. In this project economically disadvantaged teen girls are assigned a mentor who will provide ongoing education and support. Quarterly presentations on financial management and workforce and career skills are given with defined outcome measures for the program.
In Clarkesville, Head Start Accessibility Habersham: Family Resource Cooperative received $4,000. This collaborative effort by Hispanic immigrant parents in conjunction with other school and community organizations will assist in making Head Start PK programs accessible. It will help 20 families with language and transportation barriers, educate parents on the value of education and provide children with the opportunity for educational success.
In Decatur, Alleviating Poverty: Women’s Watch Afrika received $4,000. This project aims at providing community education to 450 women on the importance of tools to alleviate poverty. Goals include improving the lives of women in poverty and planning for community organization, which will further involvement of women in advocacy issues related to economics, health, and social status, especially of women new to this country.
In Lithonia, Hope Training Institute Hope Life International Ministries received $4,000. The institute’s goal is to provide African refugees with the technical skills suitable for employment. Both youth and adults will participate in six week-long computer skills sessions. Connections with local churches with refugee populations, Department of Human Resources and Labor Department will be maintained.
In Marietta, Tierra de Paz: Seamless Garment Catholic Worker received $4,000. Tierra de Paz is a community garden project in a low-income neighborhood of 100 houses. Hispanic and African-American teens will work together to grow fruits and vegetables for residents and neighbors. Neighborhood association and effort is intended to lessen at-risk behaviors, which have recently surfaced. Youth will develop gardening skills and environmentally friendly gardening techniques.
In Newnan, Welcome to Community Classroom: CLICK Coweta County received $2,000. This project establishes a model community classroom for non-English-speaking (Hispanic) residents to acclimate them towards citizenship and naturalization. Hispanic involvement at several key locations will promote ESL/GED/vocation training. Weekly classes focus on banking, labor, education and immigration. High school students give child care service and homework help.
Parish Grants Awarded October 2004
In Athens, St. Joseph Church received $1,000. The funding supports educational resources to work with Latinos living in the Pinewood South and Tallassee Villa trailer park communities. Programs include religious education, learning English, tutoring for elementary students and teens and cultural transition activities for youth. An Alcoholics Anonymous group organization has already been started.
In Clarkesville, St. Mark Church received $1,000. The grant supports board training in communication and consensus building and development for low-income members of the Habersham Family Resource Cooperative. The cooperative gives local Hispanic families a decisive voice in identifying their needs and devising ways to meet them.
In Dallas, St. Vincent de Paul Church received $1,000. An action plan for “Families in Crisis” is being organized by the St. Vincent de Paul Society. It includes follow-up with low-income persons for the purpose of training and workshop opportunities. Workshop opportunities include financial management, energy conservation and family safety. Networking with other agencies and institutions will be developed.
In Gainesville, St. Michael Church received $1,000. “La Marcha por la Paz” (The Peace March) is a collaborative activity of Latino, African-American and Anglo persons to increase community awareness of equal rights for each person. The project will use the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letters and skill-building sessions on communication with people of different racial/cultural backgrounds to plan the march.
In Jonesboro, St. Philip Benizi Church received $1,000. Their Survival English program helps immigrants to escape poverty and assert their human rights. Through the program participants become familiar with available community services. Visiting presenters address topics such as housing, education, transportation, worker’s rights, health care and workplace safety.
In Norcross, St. Patrick Church received $1,000. This parish uses the language program Successful Start to support Hispanic early learners so that they will meet greater success in future classroom experiences. Families will be strengthened through communication by the program staff and participants.
In Rome, St. Mary Church received $1,000. Their ESOL program with support for cultural adjustment is run by volunteers for adult learners and is coordinated with a reading program for children of the same learners. An opportunity is provided for acquiring a GED certificate.
In Roswell, St. Peter Chanel Church received $1,000. A parish team will be trained with Homestretch and work with a homeless family as they journey toward affordable housing. Homestretch recognizes homeless families in a community and provides transitional housing, supportive services and skill development. The church team receives training while members of the group acquire an increased awareness of poverty and its causes and effects.
In Stone Mountain, Corpus Christi Church received $1,000. The parish is using Project EXCEL, a study skills outreach program to Sudanese refugee youth. In collaboration with Africa’s Children’s Fund and the Corpus Christi Youth Sports program, participants gain academic confidence and interest in educational success. Transportation needs will be addressed.