Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • History Is a Great Teacher

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from See the original post here.

    Rev. David Myers, left, Senior Advisor to the FEMA Administrator/Director Center of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, speaks to First Baptist Church Pastor Joshua Monda

    Rev. David Myers, left, Senior Advisor to the FEMA Administrator/Director Center of Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships, speaks to First Baptist Church Pastor Joshua Monda who is helping some of his parishioners with cleanup in areas impacted by the recent tornadoes. Myers met with Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster groups to discuss responses to the disaster and discuss coordination and collaboration between partners, Washington, Ill., December 5, 2013. FEMA photo by Jocelyn Augustino.

    History is a great teacher. 

    Associate Pastor Ben Davidson of Bethany Community Church learned a valuable lesson during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that benefitted him and his congregation the morning of Nov. 17, 2013, when a powerful tornado tore through Washington IL. 

    His quick thinking reminds me when disasters occur; having a plan can save lives and help pivot a community toward a strong recovery. I have learned this lesson many times through the faith leaders I’ve engaged as director of the DHS Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships.

    On Sunday morning Pastor Davidson was preparing to begin his adult Sunday school class, when he received an emergency phone call.  A tornado had touched down and their church was in its path.

    Immediately he and the staff worked to move the congregation --particularly the children -- to their designated shelter in the church location and they began to pray together as the storm passed through their community. 

  • Tune In: White House Diwali Celebration

    First Lady Michelle Obama dances with students during Diwali

    President Barack Obama watches as First Lady Michelle Obama dances with students during a Diwali candle lighting and performance at Holy Name HIgh School in Mumbai, India, Nov. 7, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    Tomorrow, the White House will celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, for the fifth time since President Obama took office. This year, First Lady Michelle Obama will provide remarks and light the diya, or lamp.

    Watch the First Lady’s remarks live at  starting at 4:00 p.m. EST

    And check out this statement from President Obama on the Observance of Diwali.

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Philadelphia Fights Hunger Through Academic, Faith and Community Partnerships

    The Director of USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Norah Deluhery, eats lunch with kids

    The Director of USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Norah Deluhery, eats lunch with kids at a Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Nutritional Development Services (NDS) summer food service site. The Center maintains integral relationships with partners like NDS to ensure disadvantaged children don’t go hungry when school is out.

    The City of Brotherly Love puts its motto into practice. I saw this firsthand when I travelled to Philadelphia to meet with a network of community leaders who partner with USDA through its Summer Food Service Program. With this program, USDA subsidizes nutritious summer lunches for students who need them and works with community partners to deliver those meals.

    In Philadelphia, about 22% of children live in households that have trouble putting enough food on the table for every member of the family. That means when school is out, and school meals are not available, many kids are vulnerable. The Summer Food Service Program plays a critical role in making sure kids have access to nutritious meals so that they can begin the school year well nourished and alert. My friend and former director of the White House’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives during the George W. Bush Administration, Professor John DiIulio, invited me to Philadelphia where he currently works at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fox Leadership Program.

  • Taking Action to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery

    Last year, President Obama articulated an ambitious and multifaceted agenda to combat human trafficking in his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative. This week, the Administration took two important steps to advance that agenda. 

    In 2012, the President charged the Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships with making recommendations for strengthening the partnerships the federal government forms with community organizations, both religious and secular, to prevent and combat trafficking. The Advisory Council delivered its report of recommendations, “Building Partnerships to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery,” to the President in April 2012. 

    In partial fulfillment of those recommendations, we welcomed more than one hundred leaders to the White House this week for a day-long convening focused on human trafficking. The gathering included heads of religious denominations, rabbis and nuns, CEOs of large non-profits such as the United Way and Girl Scouts, foundation leaders, along with human trafficking survivors and experts, all united in their interest to join forces to eradicate modern-day slavery. Participants discussed ways their organizations can work together to raise awareness and educate the public, identify victims, expand services for survivors and eliminate slavery in the goods and products we consume. We look forward to continuing to work with this group in coming days.

  • Insights from the Long-Term Unemployed

    Ed. note: This is crossposted from Work in Progress, the official blog of the Department of Labor. See the original post here.

    Earlier this year, I wrote about the innovative work of community-based job clubs across the country that work specifically with mid- to senior-level baby boomer professionals who have been unemployed for six months, a year − sometimes even longer. These support groups provide networking opportunities, job search tips and fellowship to individuals, most of whom have never before been out of work for an extended period of time.

    To better understand and address the needs of these job seekers, Eric Seleznow, the new acting assistant secretary of labor for employment and training, myself and other leaders from across the Labor Department recently sat down with about 20 long-term unemployed professionals who attend similar job clubs in the Washington metro area. Our aim was to learn more about their experiences, including how they meet their financial obligations, how their job searches progress and how they upgrade their skills. We also wanted their insights into what types of services and supports would help them the most in returning to work.

    The stories were both heartbreaking and hopeful. Some of the workers said they are struggling to support adult children and aging parents. Others who have been out of work for more than two years said they are dipping into their children’s college funds and 401k savings plans to make ends meet, as their Unemployment Insurance benefits expired long ago.

    Many of the workers are still adapting to a new era of hiring dominated by the Internet, applicant tracking software and social networking sites. Some expressed hesitation at taking jobs with pay cuts of as much as 50 to 75 percent, for fear of never regaining their past earnings. They are anxious about – but open to – relocating or switching careers entirely.

  • Partnerships that Reflect Our Laws and Values

    Today the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued new guidance advising federal agencies on how to implement President Obama’s Executive Order 13559. That order lays out key principles for federal agencies to follow while forming partnerships with faith-based and other neighborhood organizations.  This guidance will help agencies to ensure that these partnerships respect religious freedom guarantees and work effectively for faith-based and other community providers, and the people in need they serve.

    Executive Order 13559 is based on recommendations made by the President’s first Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood PartnershipsThese recommendations were crafted by a diverse group of leaders, including those representing the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Incarnate Word Foundation, the Interfaith Alliance, the Institutional Religious Freedom Alliance, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Despite their differences, these groups united around a call for certain reforms of the partnerships the federal government forms with religious and secular non-profits.  

    These reforms include:

    • Ensuring that decisions about federal grants are not made of the basis of an organization’s religious affiliation, or because of a lack of any religious affiliation.
    • Increasing transparency by posting online regulations, guidance documents, and policies that have implications for faith-based and other neighborhood organizations, along with a list of organizations receiving Federal financial assistance.
    • Providing clearer guidance regarding the principle that any explicitly religious activities must be separated, in time or location, from programs that receive direct federal support.  This protects beneficiaries’ rights and the ability of religious organizations to offer privately funded religious activities as well as federally funded ones.  Religious organizations also will be assured that they may continue practices like selecting board members on a religious basis, and still receive federal funding for eligible activities.