Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • Fathers and Families Moving Forward in the Land of Enchantment

    The efforts to help dads be better dads got a big boost on August 10 at the second New Mexico Fatherhood Forum. Hosted by the New Mexico Alliance for Fathers and Families at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, this gathering highlighted the efforts of President Obama’s responsible fatherhood initiative and many others.

    The New Mexico Alliance brings together almost 20 organizations and agencies from around the state, in coordination with the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the US Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.  Led by Allan Shedlin, Crispin Clarke, Erwin Rivera, Esther Devall and others, the New Mexico Alliance continues to shine the spotlight on how government policies, community efforts and culture can all contribute to strengthening families through helping fathers.

    This is the second time interested parties from federal, state and local governments, civil society and others have gathered to highlight initiatives to help fathers.  Two years ago, we gathered in rural Valencia for the inaugural meeting.  Since then, the Alliance issued a comprehensive report of their recommendations and the New Mexico State Legislature passed a memorial designating August 10, 2012 as “New Mexico Fathers and Families Day.”  The theme continued to highlight the cultural traditions of Rural America, Hispanic and Native Americans.

  • Students in Camden Inspire Their Community and Share Lessons with HHS Staff

    In July, the HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships had the privilege of meeting with a group of young people who have done more for their community in five months than others might do in a lifetime.  The Student Leaders' Von Nieda Park Task Force of St. Anthony of Padua Church and School in Camden, New Jersey is a group of highly motivated, energized middle school students who were unhappy about what they saw in their community and decided to take action.

    The students shared their passion for making change in their community with staff from the HHS Partnership Center and the Administration for Children and Families.

    First Camden Kids image

    Genesis Santana tells a story about “Our Friend Ron,” a former janitor at St. Anthony of Padua Church and School. (by Heather Wilson/PICO National Network)

    The students’ most recent project was the beautification of Von Nieda Park in Camden, which borders their school and had been given the nickname, "The Most Depressing Park in the Nation."

    In only five months, the students removed graffiti, repaired and painted benches, removed illegally dumped trash and construction debris, installed new swings and basketball nets, constructed two community notice boards, and removed hazardous objects.

  • It Takes a County … to Help Feed Families!

    Bread of Life Food Pantry Volunteers

    In small rural communities like Cedar County, Iowa it takes many people wearing different hats to coordinate a successful food drive effort. This group gleaned for the Bread of Life Food Pantry to help support USDA’s Feds Feed Families campaign.

    USDA employees at the Tipton Service Center in Iowa are making impressive contributions to this year’s Feds Feed Families campaign. USDA Rural Development employee Mike Boyle reported food donations exceeding 750 pounds for the month of June and 1,760 pounds in July – just a portion of what is expected to be distributed throughout Tipton and surrounding eastern Iowa communities as part of the food drive this summer.

    “We’re off to a good start,” said Boyle. “Last season, we donated approximately five tons of food to local non-profits. Our goal now is to top that.”

    What makes these efforts unique is that most of the food pledged comes from a local source, Tipton’s Hardacre Community Garden. Boyle and a small legion of volunteers donate their free time to grow fresh produce for neighbors in need. With hands in the dirt, these gardening enthusiasts cultivate a wide array of healthy fruits and vegetables. What’s grown is donated as part of the People’s Garden Initiative year-round ‘Share Your Harvest’ effort which directly supports the Feds Feed Families Food Drive.

    The immediate recipients of the harvest are local individuals, churches, and nonprofit organizations such as the Cedar Manor nursing care center and the Bread of Life Food Pantry. These donations provide for those who may otherwise be unable to access fresh foods and help to build a healthy community food system.

  • Effective Strategies for Working with Fathers Returning from Prison

    I was pleased to represent the Department of Justice’s Center for Faith-based & Neighborhood Partnerships on a webinar hosted by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.

    I believe strongly that having a responsible father engaged in the life of his children can play a key role in the preventing many serious social issues in our communities. Cities and towns throughout the country are becoming more familiar with the alarming statistics which indicate that father absence can lead to a wide variety of deficiencies in a child’s life. It does not always occur, however research has indicated that father absence can lead to poor academic performance, and in some instances lead to delinquent behaviors.

    It was my distinct pleasure and honor to co-present on this important topic along with:

    • Tassalie McKay of RTI International of Durham, North Carolina
    • Pastor Marvin Charles of D.A.D.S Program of Seattle, Washington

    Each of the presenters discussed the startling statistics around father absence, including the fact that roughly 24 million children live without their biological fathers in their lives (this is more than 1 in 3 children). One in twenty eight children in this nation is living in a circumstance where one of their parents are incarcerated. Tassalie discussed lessons learned from the National Evaluation of the Responsible Fatherhood, Marriage and Family Strengthening Grants for Incarcerated and Reentering Fathers and Their Partners (MFS-IP). Pastor Charles shared some very practical insights into what dads face when returning from prison and the supportive services that they provide at the D.A.D.S. program in Seattle.

  • Honoring the Victims of the Oak Creek Tragedy

    On August 5, 2012, a 40-year-old man entered a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin shortly before Sunday services and opened fire, resulting in the deaths of six people. The investigation into this issue is still ongoing.

    That day, the President convened a call with FBI Director Bob Mueller, Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan to receive an update on the tragic shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. During the briefing, the President directed that the federal government assist as appropriate in the investigation into the shooting. Following that briefing, the President called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, and trustee of the Sikh gurdwara Charanjeet Singh to express his condolences for the lives lost and his concern for those who were injured.

    Also on August 5, the President released the following statement:

    Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.

    On August 6, the President issued a Presidential Proclamation honoring the victims of the tragedy in Oak Creek and ordering that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff until August 10, 2012. And at a bill signing event, the President responded to a question from reporters about the incident:

    If it turns out, as some early reports indicate, that it may have been motivated in some way by the ethnicity of those who were attending the temple, I think the American people immediately recoil against those kinds of attitudes, and I think it will be very important for us to reaffirm once again that, in this country, regardless of what we look like, where we come from, who we worship, we are all one people, and we look after one another and we respect one another.

  • Feed the Future: Together We Can

    USDA was honored to join forces with USAID and Islamic Relief USA to host the department’s 4th annual Iftar celebration. The event welcomed over 170 guests, including representatives from humanitarian organizations, faith-based groups and federal employees.  This year’s Iftar called attention to the importance of reducing food insecurity abroad with the theme “Feed the Future: Together We Can.” Iftar is an evening gathering held each year during Ramadan.  A time of spiritual cleansing in the Islamic faith, Ramadan is when Muslims fast, abstaining from food and water from sunrise until sunset. Iftar is the meal at which Muslims break their fast each night. For many Muslims, fasting is an act of empathy towards those around the world who go hungry not by choice, but instead by circumstance.

    USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah speaks about Feed the Future

    USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah speaks about Feed the Future.

    Darci Vetter, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, kicked off the event and discussed ways in which USDA and USAID programs are working build food security internationally. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID,  emphasized the tremendous support of President Obama in moving forward the Feed the Future initiative and how it is working—everyday—to end global hunger.

    This year, USDA international food assistance will benefit more than 9.7 million people worldwide under the Food for Progress and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition programs. The McGovern-Dole Program focuses on low-income, food-deficit countries that are committed to universal education. In Mali, more than 45,000 children and adults in 120 schools have been fed by a private voluntary organization with help from the USDA program.