The other day I had the privilege of attending a community meeting in a low-income neighborhood in our county. There was a different buzz in the room that day. While there were many concerned nonprofit experts and supportive government officials at the table, what impressed me most were the women from the community who stood up and told their own stories of success, named challenges they faced, and shared with the group their priorities.
Their priorities will sound familiar to many middle class families: a good education for their children; safety in their neighborhood; and the opportunity to work so they can improve their families’ wellbeing. One of the big challenges mentioned was keeping their kids safe from gangs.
Several women spoke of graduating from a micro-enterprise training course and their plans to start small businesses in the neighborhood. Hearing the women speak, I felt honored to be part of this community and proud to represent Catholic Charities.
For, you see, the meeting had been organized by Catholic Charities staff as part of the Franklin-McKinley Children’s Initiative. Our partnership with the Santee neighborhood, the Franklin-McKinley School District, the City of San Jose, the County Office of Education, First Five, the County Social Services Agency, the Probation Department, Second Harvest Food Bank, and the Women’s Initiative for Self Employment (and many others) is finally bearing fruit. Academic achievement is up. Children are attending Kinder Academies. Parents are speaking up on behalf of their families. And women are learning to start their own businesses.
This community initiative is just one example of Catholic Charities’ role of convening community partners to meet urgent human needs, especially for families affected by poverty. Our three-fold mission of quality service, advocacy that transforms society, and convening comes from the 100-year history of Catholic Charities USA. We know that tackling poverty is too big a job for any one agency. It will take the whole community, rolling up our sleeves, finding creative solutions, and trusting the wisdom of the women who care deeply for their families.
All the best!
Greg Kepferle, CEO