Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Blog

  • USDA Commemorates the “New Year of the Trees”

    USDA Commemorates the “New Year of the Trees”

    United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman (left), next to the freshly planted Dawn Redwood for the Celebration of Tu B’Shevat “The New Year of the Trees” event. February 8, 2012. (by Lance Cheung)

    It is written in the Talmud – a central text of Judaism – that ‘just as my parents planted for me, so I will plant for my children.’ Here at USDA, we’re planting trees across the country and in Israel to bring the wide-ranging benefits of trees, both ecological and spiritual, to future generations.

    Today, USDA Natural Resources and Environment Under Secretary Harris Sherman planted a tree next to the USDA’s Washington DC headquarters in commemoration of Tu B’Shevat, “The New Year of the Trees.” This event brought together the local Jewish community and government leaders alike to share their common bond of conserving our natural resources and leaving a healthier world for the next generation.

    Also in attendance were Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Terry Bellamy, Director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation.  Rabbi Levi Shemtov offered remarks, and students from Washington DC’s Jewish Primary Day School. The local school children were able to partake in the holiday and learn about the importance of urban trees

    students join USDA Commemorating the “New Year of the Trees”

    3rd Grade Class of the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capitol sing “the Almond Tree is Blossoming” to the attendees, during the Celebration of Tu B’Shevat “The New Year of the Trees” event February 8, 2012. (by Lance Cheung)

    After planting the dawn redwood, Sherman took the opportunity to highlight the importance of urban trees in both Israel and the United States. Sherman oversees the U.S. Forest Service, an agency that has more than a century of experience in managing America’s national forests and helping to sustain the nation’s forests for the benefit of generations to come. This week, other Obama Administration officials planted trees in Arizona , Colorado, and Israel as part of this commemoration.

    USDA has been working with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on many forest-related issues—for Israel and other parts of the Middle East face many similar challenges in that arena.

    Ultimately, we must continue to work together to protect our urban green spaces for future generations.  Our partnership with JNF has produced great results, and we look forward to working with them for many years to come.

    Tree planting USDA Commemorates the “New Year of the Trees”

    United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Under Secretary Natural Resources and Environment Harris Sherman (left), District Department of Transportation Director Terry Bellamy (2nd from right), White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley (right) begin to apply a layer of mulch to the freshly planted Dawn Redwood for the Celebration of Tu B’Shevat “The New Year of the Trees” event on the District of Columbia western lawn next to the USDA Headquarters, Whitten Building at 14th Street and Independence Ave SW, Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, February 8, 2012. February 8, 2012. (by Lance Cheung)

    Max Finberg serves as Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

  • Conference Call for Faith-based and Non-Profit Organizations: the President's Budget Proposal

    On Thursday, February 16th at 2:30 p.m. EST, please join Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; John Kelly, Senior Policy Advisor for the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Jonathan Greenblatt, Director of the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation; and Paul Monteiro, Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement for a conference call to discuss President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget.  This call will highlight the Obama Administration’s budget priorities and provide an opportunity for you to ask questions.

    WHAT: White House Budget Update

    WHEN: Thursday, February 16th

    Start Time: 2:30 p.m. EST

    Dial In: (866) 259-1024
    Passcode Title: White House Budget Update

    This call is off the record and not for press purposes. Please RSVP here to join us and learn more.

    Michael Wear serves as Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of The White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Faith and Communities

    Today, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the Communities on the Move video challenge! Your faith-based or community group is invited to create an inspiring video about your efforts to reverse the trend of childhood obesity. The challenge recognizes community efforts that promote healthy lifestyles for kids in three areas: by encouraging nutritious eating through USDA’s MyPlate icon, increasing physical activity, and by ensuring access to healthy, affordable foods.

    “America’s faith communities play a crucial role in guiding and strengthening not only our spiritual health, but our emotional and physical health as well,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “Over the past two years, I’ve been inspired by all of the faith leaders and congregations who have taken action to get active and eat healthier, and so we’re launching our Let’s Move! video contest to highlight some of the best examples.  I know there’s so much incredible work being done – and I can’t wait to hear some of these stories first-hand at the White House.”

    The video challenge is an opportunity share your community’s story or to inspire your community to begin writing one! Tell us about how you are empowering families, congregations, and communities to make better choices to improve the health of our nation’s children. Winners will be invited to Washington, D.C. for a Let’s Move! event where they will have a special opportunity to showcase their video.

    Students at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary Promote Healthy Living

    Students at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary promote health living. February 11, 2012.

    To help you get started, we’ve put together a MyPlate Community Toolkit that has simple messages you can communicate to energize your community and organize others to join you. It’s also filled with stories of how people across the country have been moving towards a healthier future.  

  • In the State of the Union, It’s About Values

    President Barack Obama Delivers The State Of The Union Address

    President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 24, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    There was a lot for the faith community in President Obama’s State of the Union speech last night, a lot that spoke to our values.  See some of my favorite passages below, and check out the entire speech at


    Values in the economy

    • “An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded.”
    • “[T]he basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.”
    • “In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn't afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people's money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn't have the authority to stop the bad behavior. It was wrong.”
    • “Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie's tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant. I want every American looking for work to have the same opportunity as Jackie did. Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.”

    Values in education

    • A great teacher can offer an escape from poverty to the child who dreams beyond his circumstance. Every person in this chamber can point to a teacher who changed the trajectory of their lives. Most teachers work tirelessly, with modest pay, sometimes digging into their own pocket for school supplies - just to make a difference.”
    • “Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let's offer schools a deal. Give them the resources to keep good teachers on the job, and reward the best ones. In return, grant schools flexibility: To teach with creativity and passion; to stop teaching to the test; and to replace teachers who just aren't helping kids learn.”

  • On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Honoring "Drum Majors for Service"

    Each day in cities and towns across our country, countless Americans are living out Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy through their service to others.  In his famous speech on The Drum Major Instinct, Dr. King said that it isn't "a desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade, a desire to be first" that should define greatness, but rather, "everybody can be great...because everybody can serve."

    On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and throughout the year, we are proud that the Obama Administration's Corporation for National and Community Service in conjunction with will be highlighting "Drum Majors for Service," volunteers who perform extraordinary everyday acts of service, but who seldom receive recognition. This is an exciting new way to honor those who are living out Dr.  King's legacy each day of their lives.

    Today, is highlighting 88 year-old retired Chicago transit worker and ex-Marine Theodore Peters, a true Drum Major for Service. Check it out here, and keep checking back for more stories of Drum Majors for Service.

    Joshua DuBois serves as Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

  • Health Care Conference Calls Changing Lives, Engaging Thousands

    For people like Sam, the HHS Partnership Center’s conference calls on the health care reform law, have helped connect them to affordable, quality health care coverage despite unemployment and a major pre-existing condition. In May, Sam was unemployed, could not afford health insurance and then experienced a massive heart attack. He survived his heart attack but now has a significant pre-existing condition that insurance companies either refuse to cover or cover at a very high cost.

    Sam was on one of the interactive conference calls sponsored by the U.S. Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships where he learned about the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, PCIP. He learned that he was eligible for affordable health care coverage that will cover all of his medical needs, including his pre-existing cardiac care. He went to for more information and now has the health care coverage he needs.

    in 2012, the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will continue its series of interactive conference calls for faith and community leaders explaining the benefits and provisions of the new health care law. Over 800 people registered for a call on the Affordable Care Act and Behavioral Health. The call was so popular, it is being held again in early February.  To date, more than 5,000 faith and community leaders have participated in the HHS Partnership Center’s conference call series.

    You can join the calls too!  To register for these calls, click on the links below. Please join us so that you can share the new health care information with members of your congregation and community!

    Lines are opened for questions at the end of every call, giving listeners calling in from across the United States a unique opportunity to interact directly with HHS staff and ask questions they may have about the Affordable Care Act.

    On January 19, the Center will also host a live, interactive tour of The tour will highlight the site’s many resources to help people take control of their health, access affordable health care coverage in their communities, and understand how the law is being implemented in different states.

    To learn more about future interactive conference calls on the Affordable Care Act, sign up for the HHS Partnership Center newsletter at

    In January and February, conference calls will take place on: 

    January 19, 3:00 pm ESTTour of

    January 24, 2:00 pm EST–  ACA 101 (in Spanish)

    January 31, 12:30 pm EST–  ACA 101

    February 2, 12:30 pm EST–  ACA and Behavioral Health

    February 28, 2:00 pm EST–  ACA 101 (in Spanish)