A Promising Partnership - Follow Up

On April 24 after worship, a group of us met in the Fellowship Hall for a town hall meeting to discuss a potential partnership with Vallejo Together to help their work with the un-housed population in Vallejo. Some of us had participated in the monthly Zoom meetings of the Vallejo Together Interfaith Coalition on Homelessness and brought a report to the congregation. Suzanne Awalt gave a great history and overview of Vallejo Together and their work. While the organization has been in existence for over a decade, it incorporated as a non-profit in 2019. Among the programs which are sponsored by Vallejo Together, the Interfaith Coalition stands out as a great way for us at First Christian Church to get involved. We had a productive discussion of what this partnership may look like moving forward. We are already doing work to help the homeless in Vallejo. We have our little pantry where people can get food, health and hygiene items, and even clothes. We grow food in our garden which is donated to various soup kitchens like the Sparrow Project and Faith Food Fridays. We do an annual collection during Advent of new socks and underwear as well as gently used coats for people in need. But, what else can we do?

We have great resources, but as was discussed at the town hall meeting, realistically we don’t have a huge amount of manpower. But, we have a great building. Is there a way to use our building more? Can we host a mobile shower event once a quarter? Could we host occasional educational meetings on tenants rights? Part of ending the homeless problem is preventing people from losing their homes to begin with. Can we encourage our members to participate in Vallejo Together events like homeless camp cleanups? Could we make an annual financial contribution, similar to what we do now with Common Ground?

If we enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Vallejo Together, we would officially enter into a partnership with them. They would help spread the word about what we do. We would help do the same for them. We would also agree to do more with their organization. They are hoping to have MOUs with multiple congregations as part of their fundraising efforts (having these official partnerships helps Vallejo Together when applying for grant money). Coming out of the meeting, it was decided that Allison Mezzera would draw up a draft MOU to present to Admin Council at their May meeting for their consideration. Stay tuned for more information on this continuing effort.



A Promising Partnership

Do you grieve the increasing numbers of unsheltered individuals and families in our communities, some of whom are assaulted, murdered, their possessions ravaged? Are you feeling helpless and frustrated that a workable, sustainable safety net for our vulnerable, unhoused neighbors seems beyond our grasp? We have some good and hopeful news to report.
           
First Christian Church Vallejo is one of several organizations and faith communities in conversation with Vallejo Together, seeking solutions for serving the unhoused population in our community. Founded in 2010, and a non-profit since 2019, the mission of Vallejo Together is “to foster change, awaken hope and offer opportunities to neighbors and families impacted by homelessness and related crises.” Rev. Dionne Carter is the current Executive Director. Rev. Carter is passionate about serving her community. She has established a weekly virtual Homeless Roundtable for community leaders and other stakeholders, and monthly Interfaith Coalition meetings. Members of FCCV have participated in both forums. On March 19, 2022 several members of our congregation attended a virtual meeting of the Interfaith Coalition. This Coalition is an active response to Vallejo Together’s stated goal of “bringing community residents, stakeholders, public and private organizations together in collaborative partnerships for sustainable solutions.”
           
One aspect of the work of Vallejo Together is community education on the root causes of homelessness and the need for multi-layered, humane responses to complex situations. At the March 19 meeting we viewed a video on Homelessness as a Public Health Issue. We heard a heartfelt testimony from Joey, who is active with the “Lived Experience” community. Joey shared his story of living for two years as an unsheltered person at the Vallejo Public Library. He related how he had to learn to engage with predators and law enforcement for self-protection. Today, Joey is a strong advocate for homeless persons and a partner with Vallejo Together. He spoke eloquently about “code words” used to describe and dismiss homeless individuals, words such as, “smelly,” “dirty,” “unclean”. We also heard from Vallejo Together Board Member Victoria who works at Stephan Manor School. She noted that there are at least 100 school children living in automobiles or in other non-permanent and tenuous housing situations. There is a current effort within the School District to locate, secure, and stable parking for those whose only shelter is a car or RV.                          

Vallejo Together is seeking to engage in Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with partner organizations. The MOUs will specify roles and responsibilities of Vallejo Together and its partners, for example, providing on-site services and volunteers for community outreach, supplying resources for the “Mobile Basic Needs Program,” supporting the Interfaith Council and its initiatives, and evaluating Council activities.
           
FCCV is exploring the possibility of creating an MOU with Vallejo Together. To that end, we invite our congregation to a Town Hall style meeting following worship on Sunday, April 24, 2022 in the Fellowship Hall. Please bring lunch and join us for discussion of this important ministry opportunity. The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss a formal partnership with Vallejo Together and to answer questions and brainstorm ideas about what a partnership could look like.
           
Any questions can be addressed to Pastor Christy, Jon or Allison Mezzera, Glenda Goode, or Suzanne Awalt.


Special Studay Coming

DON'T MISS OUT!!!!!

"Saving Jesus Redux " is a 12-session video exploration of a credible Jesus for the 21st Century. It's about the relevance of Jesus for us today. This new study begins on Monday evening, January 10th at 7 pm on Zoom only.  Christy will send out the Zoom link weekly.

The basic format for each (approximate hour) session includes conversation around a 30-minute video, provided readings and a guided discussion. There are 12 major themes for the study. The first week's theme is an Intro: Jesus Through the Ages. Other themes include for example: "What Can We Know About Jesus (And How)?" "Jesus' Ministry of Compassion." And, "Why Jesus is Worth Saving." All 12 themes look interesting and thought provoking.

So join us on Zoom, Monday evening January 10th at 7 pm. 

Conversation on the Unhoused Population in Vallejo

On Thanksgiving Sunday, Patrick, an unhoused neighbor of ours was found killed on our doorstep. Many of us were not only heartbroken at the situation, but also carry guilt over not having the resources to help this gentlemen long before this occurred. We know that we could only do what was in our power, which was not much, but it doesn't have to be this way. This horrible incident has awakened our souls to the fact that we can no longer be silent and complacent on the issue of homelessness. It is dangerous and inhumane to sit back while people are on the street without the safety of shelter. The only way to move forward is to turn this situation into something positive. So what is a good first step?

On January 9th after the church service we will be meeting with Dionne Carter, the new Executive Director of the organization Vallejo Together, to discuss options for us to become more involved in helping our unhoused community. Vallejo Together's mission is to foster change, awaken hope and offer opportunities to neighbors and families impacted by homelessness and related crises. They fulfill this mission by bringing together and collaborating with community members, leaders and organizations to provide vital services and solutions.

We met with Dionne a couple weeks ago and found out about some dynamic projects they are working on. There are several ways we might be able to help. There is volunteering with one of the local shelters or food distributors. There is an Interfaith Council being formed between area churches in an effort to support each other. There are training sessions available to learn about who our homeless population is, and how to interact humanely with them. Vallejo Together will also be working on long term solutions on finding stable affordable living situations for the homeless community. Common Ground has been attending meetings regarding this as well. There is a real energy in Vallejo Together right now, and we should not let it pass us by.                                                                                                  

Bakeoff Report

The Great Common Ground Bake Off Dessert Auction is complete! The planning committee would like thank everyone who baked, donated, ate, cleaned, and played bingo! All of your help has paid off and we raised over $1700!

This money will go into the general fund which will help pay the salaries, teaching, training and insight of our organizers and for our membership in IAF. Common Ground is owned and run by us, its members. We are the leaders and the ones who decide on the issues we want to work on. We need to sustain our power-building activities so we can expand on what we have already achieved and to continue our work in the future. 


There is always time to donate more! Perhaps you were out bid on a dessert? Well, you can still donate that amount to the fund. Or maybe you just want to make a personal commitment to our work. Please go to http://www.commongroundiaf.org/donate to make a contribution!

If we want to continue this work, we must keep building our community power. We have all the momentum right now so let's keep it up!

So what's next?

On December 9, from 6 to 8 pm at the HUB in Vallejo, we will have our last Leaders Meeting of 2021, where we will concentrate on planning the January delegates assembly. We will also have a nice send off party for Lizzy Gore, who has been our Organizer for the last 3 years, as she heads to continue her work in San Antonio, TX.

Thank you all again!

Virtual Faire Returns

Our ecumenical Global Holiday Faire committee made the decision to once again only have a virtual online Faire this year. While we discussed various ways to have the Faire in person with as many safety protocols in place, the concerns over the health of our shoppers and volunteers pushed us to cancel the in person portion of the Faire. But like last year, the virtual Faire is open! Visit globalholidayfaire.org now!

Last year, we raised over $8,700 with our online effort. Let's top it this year. On the website, in addition to all the organizations that were there last year, you will also find the links to two new groups, Project Have Hope and Azizi Life, two wonderful fair trade organizations. That brings our total to seven great places to shop for gifts for everyone on your list. For the person who has everything, you will also find two opportunities for alternative giving through Heifer International and Arbor Day Foundation. And be sure to look at the bottom of the page for information on how to support some local Vallejo charities which need the help at this time.

We are collecting donations for three of these groups — The dePaul Women's Center, The Amador St. Hope Center, and Genesis House. Covid has hit all of these organizations hard. If you want to make a donation to the Faire (100% of your generous donation will be split evenly between these 3), you have several options. There is a Donate button on the Faire website under the Neighbors in Need box. You can also donate through Tithe.ly, just make sure to select Global Holiday Faire under the Give To pull down menu. You can also send a check into the church. Make your check out to First Christian Church, memo it Global Holiday Faire.

A flier for the Faire went out to the Google Group. Please forward it to everyone you know. Post it on your social media. Print some out and hand them out to people. Without a physical in person presence, we need to get the word out about the website to as many people as we can. Please encourage your friends, family, coworkers and neighbors to skip Amazon for their online shopping this Holiday Season!

Also, the website isn't done yet. Check back regularly for updates as new organizations and coupon codes will hopefully be added soon! Thank you in advance for helping to make this Virtual Holiday Faire a huge success!