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A Year of the DEEDS

DEEDS, NOT WORDS. It’s an old phrase that cuts to the chase. I remember it being spoken by an elderly relative who was not impressed with certain opinions and ideas that were being expressed by young, idealistic smart-alecs who did not have enough life experience yet to test or even get close to accomplishing the ideas.  She would shake her finger in your direction and stun you with a steely glance that made it clear that humanity didn’t have time for your nonsense. She was a modern-day apostle James, essentially saying, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17) Show me, don’t tell me.

For faith-centered Community Benefit Organizations like the CCT, it’s essential to be able to document deeds done, rather than merely listing the lofty goals we often spell out for ourselves in the clouds. So let’s have some accountability. What did we in the CCT say we cared about in 2016? What did we do about the things we said we cared about?

WORDS: We said we cared about the poverty and unemployment of our region, and postulated that faith institutions could be an asset that, if mobilized, contributed to economic healing in the lives of the most vulnerable. DEEDS:  Through our Spark Tank social enterprise process we helped catalyze 10 new social enterprises employing people with barriers. This now brings the total of social enterprises launched through this process to 32 since we began just four years ago.  This garnered international attention as a British journal published a case study focusing on our local efforts.

WORDS:  We said we cared about the 168 Spanish-speaking churches, 95% of the pastors of which are being led by pastors who because of there bi-vocational status or language barriers have never had the benefit of theological or leadership training. DEEDS:  We trained and graduated 19 new leaders through our year-long Certificado program delivered in Spanish, bringing the total number of graduates now to 55.  The final component of this program is training in community transformation.

WORDS:  We said we cared about the lack of educational attainment in our city because of how it is negatively influencing employability and the social fabric. DEEDS:  We helped start two new GED study clubs at local churches and ministries, a modest addition to the two we started previously. But this means there are now four new places in the city where people can finish their high school education equivalency at a higher success rate than adult schools.

WORDS:  We said we cared about the economic exploitation of vulnerable residents living in poor neighborhoods who are preyed upon by predatory lending institutions. DEEDS: We trained our 60thfacilitator for the faith and finances financial literacy curriculum, and last year some of them held eight courses throughout the city. Our goal is to place a course in or near every concentrated poverty census track.

WORDS:  We said we cared about empowering neighborhood residents to discover and develop their assets and solve problems in their communities. DEEDS:  We worked collaboratively with two other faith based community benefit organizations to train 200 local leaders in asset based community development.

WORDS: We said we cared about assisting faith based Community Benefit Organizations to work better with city agencies to contribute to lasting transformation. DEEDS:  We dispatched two teams of researchers to work in the areas of Anti-Human Trafficking efforts, and the work of Community Development Corporations. These teams took stock of where we are in each of these arenas, outlined best practices utilized across the country, and made informed recommendations to the next Mayoral administration about steps that could be taken this year. These projects were accomplished as part of the Fresno Public Policy Initiative.

I don’t know if it is a function of my age, or if I am suppressing the fear I felt at her boney finger, but I can’t remember who the relative was – a grandmother, an aunt. I have since learned that the phrase was popularized by Alice Paul, a suffragist born in 1885 to Quaker parents who spent her life working for equal rights for women. I do know that I am now grateful for something that helps me cut through the mountain of words that seem to characterize this occupation, and calls us to keep our eye on the prize. I will never forget the phrase: Deeds, not words.

May that characterize 2017 for us as well.


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