Thursday, April 30, 2009
To coincide with Mother’s Day, Colgate-Palmolive launched a campaign on April 20th called ‘Share Mom’s Love’ that features an online contest to support summer feeding programs in select cities in the U.S.
NKN is part of a national network of summer feeding programs around the country that also help to ensure that at-risk children who receive lunch through federal, school-based feeding programs during the school year continue to receive free, nutritious meals when school is out.
Here's the good news! Colgate-Palmolive has decided to take a stand and work with Share Our Strength to identify one site/sponsor in ten different cities that have the chance to receive funding to support their work – and CDM is the selected sponsor in our city!
The three cities with the most votes will receive generous funding from Colgate-Palmolive.
Please help us today! Go online to vote to ensure that we are one of the top three cities chosen – and thus recipients of much needed additional funding for our work! You will also have a chance to win a trip for two plus dinner with Colgate-Palmolive personalities.
This Mother’s Day, share mom’s love and help end childhood hunger.
And, if you don't mind, let me know when you've cast your vote.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I get it about alternative energy sources.
Really, I do.
I get it.
Hey, I'm as patriotic as the next guy.
I've been advocating for green job training for underemployed and unemployed inner city workers. If you've been here, you've read what I've written.
But, I've got my limits here!
Today I read a prediction that soon GM, if it survives, will stop manufacturing the Corvette.
Tell me it ain't true!
What will America be without the 'Vette?
This is more than I can imagine right now.
What do you think?
It is long past time for reform.
The D.R.E.A.M. Act provides the relief that these students seek and that the nation deserves. The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would allow the children of undocumented children, brought here with no say in the decision, who exhibit good moral character and who graduate high school and go on to college or military service, to remain in the United States.
Here's testimony from just such a student. We need young people like him to remain in the country. Frankly, we've invested too much already to see him leave us!
Take a moment right now to write your member of the U. S. House of Representatives and to both of your U. S. Senators. Tell them you support the D.R.E.A.M. Act and you expect them to do the same!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
CDM WorkPaths, under the direction of Gerald Britt and led by Andrea Bills, provides hard and soft skills training of various kinds for students interested in improving their ability to land better jobs.
What follows provides a live look into the world of WorkPaths. The video captures part of the excitement of graduation day for our latest construction trades class.
We are most fortunate to have great partners like the Construction Education Foundation, OAI, North Lake College, Riverside Church of Christ, Texas Capital Bank and many, many others who help deliver the goods to our students! I wish you could have been there last Thursday.
We are more committed than ever before to pursue the creation of more employment readiness products for the community.
Monday, April 27, 2009
It was quite a morning to say the least.
Thanks to new DNA technology and to his own obvious courage and integrity, Mr. Watkins has been responsible for the exoneration of almost 30 wrongly convicted Dallas County residents.
Over the past year or so, Central Dallas Ministries, thanks largely to the leadership and commitment of Gerald Britt, has been privileged to work closely with the Innocence Project of Texas, the non-profit advocacy group representing falsely accused and convicted inmates, and with the men who have been released from prison after decades in prison.
The group of exonerees meets in one of our buildings on a monthly basis for group support and work. We've been fortunate to be able to stand with these men as they work hard to rebuild their lives.
The video that follows is the testimony of just one of our friends who has been through and unthinkable ordeal.
One of our core values at CDM is "justice." Working with these men is a pure play in this regard.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
While I typically don't give this sort of data much thought, I've had an experience that stretches over three years now that has been very instructive.
About this time three years ago, I received a call from the Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The leaders there told me that they were trying to design a plan to manage the changes occurring in their congregation. They invited me to come up for a day of conversation. I suggested that I bring John Greenan, the Executive Director of the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation along for the day. They readily agreed.
Forty years ago, the church had been on the "cutting edge" of church growth. Under the leadership of a dynamic minister, and thanks to a very successful strategic plan for outreach, Garnett grew to have thousands of members.
But, things and times changed, so that by the 1990s the church experienced sharp decline in numbers, funding and morale. By 2006, the church was down to about 500 members with others continuing to leave its membership. And, the church did not seem to be successful in attracting new members, a problem most churches experience today.
The day John and I spent with a group of the church's leaders turned out to be fairly remarkable. To be frank, I don't think I've ever seen a group of people more frustrated, concerned or depressed. We sat in a very large mall area outside a very large sanctuary (and there was much talk about how to use or change the huge space which proved a real "downer" on Sundays due to the relatively small crowd in attendance). We formed a discussion circle. Twenty minutes into the conversation I noticed that everyone seemed to speak in hushed tones, much like in a funeral parlor. Defeat tried hard to define the discussion.
Of course, we were outsiders without the history, the recent conflict or the responsibility for planning, debt or programming, so we didn't' feel the same as our hosts. Our advantage was that we didn't know what they knew. We didn't have their experience, a real advantage, especially for our thought processes.
We listened a lot.
At the end of the day, we offered two suggestions.
First, we advised that the church should form a separate non-profit organization. The church would then deed to the new organization all of its assets and liabilities. Next, the church could lease back from the non-profit only the space it needed for its smaller present operations. The non-profit could then create a community service oriented, meeting center business to further reduce debt while bringing life back to the property.
Second, we looked outside the building to the church's 35 acres of undeveloped property. We urged the group to consider using the property for the development of senior housing and/or mixed-income housing along with a possible mixed-use component. In addition to being able to gain some profit, a new community could be built up all around the church property and all sorts of ministry efforts could be brought to the new development.
The ideas seemed a bit, well, "out there." but we left feeling we had given it our best shot. Still, I noticed that by the end of the day the volume had cranked up. Clearly, the group was out of the funeral mood!
Last Saturday and Sunday, I returned to the church to receive an update from the leaders and to see what had happened.
I was blown away!
The church formed a legal limited partnership resulting in the creation of the Green Country Event Center. The place was a beehive of activity! On Saturday evening, I witnessed the wedding ceremony of an Hispanic couple attended by over 200 guests. That same evening, a large group of Pakistani women, all Muslim, gathered in traditional dress for a bridal reception with all of their traditions in play. In the auditorium a church conference had been going on since the previous Thursday. The facility's large commercial kitchen houses a new catering business operated by one of the church's members and provides meals for the groups who need them.
Earlier that day I toured the entire facility and noted that various organizations now leased offices and ran community education, child care, counseling and faith services from the once quiet buildings. And, the center is profitable, allowing the church to retire its debt as it plans for even better days.
Possibly, most important of all, the new event center signals to the entire Tulsa community that the Garnett Church is there for everyone. The center is quickly becoming a major, community crossroads for the entire city. The church finds itself ministering and serving on a daily basis and new folks are showing up to join in the new found significance.
During my weekend, we talked about housing development as the next step. I'll be happy to return in another year or two to see what else has happened for the good.
Here's a church responding to changing circumstances with creativity, effectiveness and an incredibly welcoming heart for everyone in Tulsa.
Church as hospitality center and gathering place. . .now there is a novel idea!
Saturday, April 25, 2009
His special focus deals with the use of rape as a weapon of war.
In particular, Torgovnik reports on the infamous Hutu militia groups known as the Interahamwe, their terror tactics and the survivors of the outrage.
The women Torgovnik befriends experienced this nightmare 15 years ago, just about the time I came to Central Dallas Ministries. After discovering his important work, both in terms of photo journalism and pro-active intervention, I felt the need to share what I had found.
Any work on behalf of human rights is work that resonates with us.
You can watch the report and explore a most impressive site here.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Texas Governor Rick Perry got everyone fired up last week at a tax day "tea party." You can read The Dallas Morning News report on the event and the Governor's involvement in it here.
Talk about something that makes you go "hmmmm"?
The last time a state leader talked about secession was right before the Civil War when South Carolina took steps to lead the entire South out of the Union. The breach in the fabric of the Republic that followed in 1861 had been preceded in 1832 by the so-called Nullification Crisis, a conflict based largely on differences of opinion about federal protective tariffs and economic policy at the time, with a obvious connection to the institution of slavery.
I'm wondering how this talk of and sympathy for secession as a state fits into any guidelines for "how to be patriotic" as citizens at the beginning of the 21st century?
It also seems most curious, but possibly not so outlandish on second thought, when one considers how the State of Texas ranks on "quality of life" issues for those at the bottom of the economy.
I understand that Jay Leno had some fun at our Governor's expense last week (watch the monologue here). No doubt a sure sign that Mr. Perry has made the "big time" on the national political stage!
Ain't politics something?
This post is dedicated to the memory of Morris Franklin James (April 24, 1920-December 16, 2007). We love you, daddy. Rest in peace.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
As I say, I grew up there.
In something of an unusual development, I also returned to serve as senior minister at the church for 14 years from 1980 until 1994 when I move to Central Dallas Ministries.
I've always had an unusual relationship with "church" in general--more on that later, maybe. But, this church has seemed to always major on acceptance and love, inclusion and high-touch ministry to people in trouble. No, not every member, but certainly the vast majority and almost always the leadership.
On Easter Sunday this year the church experienced what must have been an incredibly inspirational celebration of "lives resurrected." We witness a lot of the same sort of reality in the lives of the people we touch here at CDM. The two settings are very different. The renewed hope and determination to move forward, very much the same.
Take a look at what's been captured on YouTube. As always, reactions are welcomed.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Published: April 18, 2009
“Glorify your name,” the island women sang, as they swayed in a cut sandstone church. I was overwhelmed by a riot of color, an emotional swell that carried me to sea.
Last Sunday, the choirmaster was jumping out of his skin ... stormy then still, playful then tender, on the most upright of pianos and melodies. He sang his invocations in a beautiful oaken tenor with a freckle-faced boy at his side playing conga and tambourine as if it was a full drum kit. The parish sang to the rafters songs of praise to a God that apparently surrendered His voice to ours.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monica and Jose were brought to the US by their parents when they were just children. Like their parents, Monica and Jose have no approved documentation to stay in the country. But, they have been here almost all of their lives. No documentation, that is, until recently.
That's the good news.
The federal immigration court recently ruled that both of these fine young people, now almost 20-years-old, may remain in the US until April 2010. Their status is pending until that time.
In the meantime, we are hoping that the long awaited DREAM Act will be enacted into law. [For more details on the DREAM Act simply use the "Search" tool above!]
This summer a national film tour is planned to roll out the documentary, "An Unfinished DREAM."
Check out the film's trailer below:
Thanks to the leadership of Leslie Grubbs, the children of Lincoln Heights Courts are receiving wonderful pre-school education opportunites!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Working from the base at Lincoln Heights Courts, a public housing development on the west side, UC-SA recently purchased a very "troubled" house that will be transformed into a center of community hope.
I thought you would enjoy "seeing" things for yourself!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
The judges, the audience, everyone was literally blown away by this Scottish woman's vocal ability.
Everyone pre-judged her based on her appearance. No one expected anything from her. Everyone dismissed her with laughs and cat-calls.
We do it all the time, don't we?
We do it on the basis of class, race, looks, body size. . .the list goes on and on.
Shame on us all for not assuming the very best of each other and everyone we meet.
Thanks, Susan Boyle. We all needed what you delivered. Forgive us.
Forgive us, Lord for not believing in those things you've placed in us all.
Watch Susan again right here.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
“You sharin’ with us, Muley Graves?”
Muley fidgeted in embarrassment. “I ain’t got no choice in the matter.”
He stopped on the ungracious sound of his words.
“That ain’t like I mean it. That ain’t. I mean” – he stumbled – “what I mean, if a fella’s got somepin to eat an’ another fella’s hungry – why, the first fella ain’t got no choice.”
Friday, April 17, 2009
We began with a very strong leader, Leslie Kelsie-Grubbs and a challenging location--the Lincoln Heights Courts public housing development located on the tough west side of the city.
Since the beginning days, growth, progress and real change has occurred, thanks to the work of Leslie and her very capable team.
I'll be posting video updates so that you can appreciate what has been accomplished with much more one the way!
Community development at its best!
To learn more and/or to become a partner, go to the website.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Here's a sample:
Raise your hand if you've ever seen a person who you thought was homeless. I can see that all hands are up!
I'll be 61 years old this week and when I was young, the situation was not as it is now. In my youth, the vast majority of people who were homeless were men. There were very few women and even less children who were homeless.In the old days, we called those homeless men words like, "hobos" or worse. We envisioned them "riding the rails," jumping on and off railroad freight cars and living a life that they chose, free of cares and woes. At that time, the homeless life was romanticized and movies were made, such as "Emperor of the North" staring Lee Marvin, which depicted homeless men enjoying life to the fullest without any reflection on their possible responsibilities to society.
Today, this is not the picture of homelessness.
Want to take a look at the current "picture"? Read her incredibly helpful update here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
When confronted with witness testimony on the problems Chinese-American Texans currently face at the polls and the increased difficulties they could expect to encounter under a voter ID law now being debated, Rep. Brown said, "Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese - I understand it's a rather difficult language - do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?"
Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish quotes from the U. S. Senate ratified Treaty of Tripoli (1796-1797).
Here are a few lines from Article 11 of the treaty:As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Check out Sullivan's post here.
Quote without comment: It is important for you to control your own drawbridge. There must be times when you keep your bridge drawn and have the opportunity to be alone or only with those to whom you feel close. Never allow yourself to become public property, where anyone can walk in and out at will. You might think that you are being generous in giving access to anyone who wants to enter or leave, but you will soon find yourself losing your soul. - Henri Nouwen (as posted by my good friend, Mike Cope)
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Monday, April 13, 2009
She is the most important leader in the Dolphin Heights neighborhood just east of Fair Park. The new-found health and hope now being experienced in her community is due largely to her personal efforts over the past several years.
We've had the honor to work with her on an exciting mutual project over the past several weeks. She is something else!
Thank God for Anna Hill and for grassroots leaders like her all across our community. Anna Hill and others like her are key players in the work of community renewal.
Read more about this important leader and cherished partner here.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Where are we to stand and what are we to do when it comes to the marginalized, the oppressed and those who are routinely taken advantage of? What has this to do with being church in our world today?
As an Easter Meditation, I offer the following clip from the classic 1954 film, On the Waterfront.
Anxious to know your ideas after you watch it.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
My first post on the subject estimated $30 million annually to grow the fund that would benefit housing production for our poorest citizens. A number of people called my numbers "funny," inaccurate and flat bogus!
To clarify, the estimate is based on work from two sources.
First, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts provided the Legislative Budget Board the following estimates of new income to be collected from the proposed recording fee by budget years:
Second, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs provided a more conservative estimate of what might be expected from the new plan. They determined that the state would realize approximately $24 million annually.
Take your pick. The impact of Senator West's solid plan will be substantial and would provide a relatively painless plan to grow this much needed fund.
Read more about this issue in the Op-Ed essay published by The Dallas Morning News last week.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
If you care about seeing the DREAM Act passed into law, don't miss this event!
Would you live in a home like these?
So, what do you think?
Monday, April 06, 2009
This is for all of the proud and nutty grandparents out there who love nothing better than just watching, being with and loving their grandchildren.
Wyatt, my oldest grandson at 5, plays about everything if a ball and a team are involved. This clip is from a recent soccer match.
I just had to show you!
Oh, and BTW, Wyatt wears number 7 on every team he's on. The "Mick" would be proud.
[Just an aside: I realized early on that there is a big difference between "having to say something" and "having something to say"!]
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce this kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality.
I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.
–C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1952/2001), 86.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Pope Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris , #49
The distinction is important.
Unfortunately, the difference between works of charity and struggles for justice is usually lost on people, especially people of faith.
There is a fundamental difference that must be understood and embraced if we are to make any sustainable progress.
For a clear delineation of this important distinction in very clear terms, take a look here.
Reactions, as always, welcome.
“Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Friday, April 03, 2009
Steinbeck won a Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for his efforts. Not a bad book to be reading in 2009.
Helpful background for Steinbeck's award winning work can be viewed here.
Randy Mayeux is our book synopsis guru and, as usual, he did a masterful job with the book.
The movie trailer for the 1940 film version of the novel is worth watching.
Speaking of our monthly book club, here is a glimpse into that experience. Our meetings create a dedicated space for conversation about important ideas, values and questions related to justice, urban concerns and the struggle of the poor in this nation and around the world. Every month, participants enjoy a simple meal, receive two pages of the key quotes from the book of the month, along with an outline of the contents. We hear a synopsis before engaging in a lively discussion.
If you are in Dallas on the first Thursday of each month, you need to check it out!
Looking out through the fence grid that keeps us inside as we are going up can be a real trip.
One thing I know for sure is that I don't want to have a career in the window washing business. Actually, the men on the moving platform are restoring the exterior panels on our buidling.
This one is just for the fun of it.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Having our offices in the middle of the community will "keep us honest" while allowing us to remain in close contact with the people and their opinions.
Take a look!
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
The surprising annoucement was made today.
Check out Mr. Limbaugh's comments on the opportunity.
You may remember that this is the property we placed under contract with plans to redevelop following a mixed-income, mixed-use plan. About 50 units of the almost 300 in our plan were to be reserved for homeless persons.
Frankly, the original plan was tremendous!
The preliminary score on our Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)application to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs was among the highest in the entire state.
As we talked to the community, we worked hard to adapt our original plans to accommodate concerns of the Cedars Neighborhood Association.
But, in the end, the neighbors voted us down.
We then backed away and worked hard with the building owners to engage them in a manner that would allow them to join in the LITHC process to re-do the property and produce much-needed affordable housing, but with no provision for permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless.
Clearly, our plans to provide housing for homeless persons proved to be the "deal killer" with the neighborhood group. Even though they talked about unit sizes and mix, about our inexperience as developers (never mind that the CityWalk @ Akard project was about the most complex, difficult deal in Dallas history!), about lots of things, but the underlying fear was clearly the provision in our project for the homeless. "Too many SRO units!" is what we heard quietly, behind the scenes, especially after our public meetings were done.
Okay, so forgive me providing all that background.
Fast forward to last Saturday night at the Plaza Inn.
Two recent parolees from the Texas Department of Corrections break in to the Plaza Inn building. The vandals likely were looking to carry out whatever they could lay their hands on to sell.
Outside the building, on the street were three homeless neighbors trying to simply keep warm.
They witnessed the thieves enter the building.
What did these "homeless people" do?
They did exactly what I would have done. They called the police and reported the break-in.
The police arrived, arrested the criminals and protected the property.
I learned of this development from the property owner on Monday.
The very people so many of us fear turn out to be good neighbors with the same concerns and basic values as most of us share.
Lots to learn here. Lots to give us pause.
All of our apartments are great homes right Downtown for the people who work there and want to live nearby.
I wish you could see them.
Maybe this will help you get a better view of the development!