The National Committee on the Self-Development of People of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved grants totaling $299,650 to 17 self-help projects.

Money for the grants comes from the PC (USA)’s One Great Hour of Sharing offering.

SDOP, funded primarily through the OGHS offering, enables members and non-members of the PC(USA) to establish partnerships with economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people in order to help them achieve sufficiency.

Grants were approved at a meeting of SDOP’s National Committee Sept. 22-24 in Boston.

Projects funded range from a gardening enterprise for Kentucky farmers who are transitioning from tobacco production to a roadside market to a multi-ethnic association of taxi workers in Philadelphia focused on making it easier for employees in their industry to make a living.

Groups awarded funds at the September 22-24 meeting:

  • Women’s All Points Bulletin, Evanston, Ill.: $14,050 to assist women who are victims of violence at the hands of a police officer understand why they were victims, overcome their trauma and work to eradicate police violence especially against women of color.

  • The Boxing Club, Detroit: $15,400 to expand a garage serving as a gym for a group of either unemployed or low-income young amateur and prospective boxers. The additional space will allow more members to use the space for conditioning and training and to have a space to stay off the street and engage in positive activities.

  • Cody/Rouge Visionaries, Detroit: $19,300 for a grief, loss and trauma support project to provide a therapeutic group mechanism to cope with losses, violence and violations specifically geared for members without access to or trust in the traditional mental health system. The members are all unemployed and/or low income people who reside in an area of high unemployment and limited health and mental health resources. Members have been affected by profound trauma that has limited their optimal functioning and have not had access to interventions to address their collective grief. The project will be carried out exclusively by group members, who designed and will be involved in implementing each element of the project.

  • HUD Tenants Coalition, Newark, N.J.: $10,000 to a coalition of tenant leaders from privately owned government-assisted buildings. These leaders meet to share common concerns and exchange information on available technical assistance and training, information and support and to develop individual and collective strategies to improve housing conditions and preserve their buildings as affordable housing.

  • Community Voices Heard, New York: $20,000 to enable the Building the Workforce Campaign to organize individuals on public assistance to advocate for better treatment.  Some individuals with professional skills are on welfare temporarily and are assigned menial work with an equivalent wage of $1/hour no matter their skill level. If they do not fulfill the obligation they are threatened with loss of benefits. Organizing to confront the inequities in the system has empowered the individuals and they have petitioned elected officials in New York City, Albany and Washington to treat disadvantaged communities with dignity and respect.
Steve O’Neill and Cassandra Bensahih of Ex-prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, another community partner.

Steve O’Neill and Cassandra Bensahih (Ex-prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement) —Courtesy of SDOP

  • Ex-prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement, Worcester, Mass.: $20,000 to assist the group with eliminating unnecessary Registry of Motor Vehicle fees, implementing the new state law — Criminal Offender Reform Information (CORI), and changing the Children in Need of Services system. Additionally, group members are advancing an effort to end prison-based gerrymandering in Massachusetts.

  • Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia: $20,000 to enable this multi-ethnic association of taxi workers to transform their industry. They seek workman’s comp, reduction of arbitrary fines, lower costs for leasing medallions and a livable income. They provide benefits to the workers such as access to computers, access to better health care and health insurance, legal help and immigration workshops. The ultimate goal is a union.

  • Elizabeth Education Organizing Committee, Elizabeth, N.J.: $5,000 to a group of parents and former educators who want to confront the failing schools in Elizabeth. They have joined together to break the cycle of poverty and feel that getting education is the key. The majority of the 23,000 students come from immigrant families, and there are 44 languages spoken in Elizabeth, the fourth largest city in New Jersey. The group needs training to do outreach to families and students, especially how to reach different cultures in Elizabeth.

  • Workers’ Dignity Project – Dignidad Obera, Nashville, Tenn.: $20,000 to a volunteer-run membership organization of low-wage Latinos standing against wage theft. Many workers are misclassified as sub-contractor, permitting the employer to deny overtime pay, workers’ compensation and other legal entitlements; such as health benefits and social security.

  • Project Nu Beginning Re-entry, Irmo, S.C.: $20,000 to reduce recidivism by providing one-to-one peer support, job application and interview training. In Richland County, an average of 800 prisoners is released from prison annually. Twenty percent of those released are returned to prison within one year, most for technical violations. One-third of those released return to prison within three years. This project was begun by those involved to keep themselves from being among those statistics.

  • Kentucky Minority Farmers Association, Brandenburg, Ky.: $20,000 to a gardening/vegetable production enterprise for farmers who are transitioning from tobacco production to a roadside market. The farmers in this tobacco-producing area have lost the one crop they depended on and want to remain in the farming business. This project will allow them to provide food for their families, employment, an income and to transition from costly tobacco crops to more productive crops.

  • 9 to 5 Bay Area, San Jose, Calif.: $17,000 to an advocacy project for low-income women to work towards changes in laws and policies that affect them in the workplace. The women will become empowered to voice their opinions on current and pending laws.

  • Women of Wealth (WOW) Personal Development Group, Phoenix, Ariz.: $20,000 to a peer-run group of homeless women in the Central Arizona Shelter Service. The group runs programming centered on self-esteem and empowerment, as well as creative arts, career skills, and health. Group participants also work collectively to help women address their most pressing needs, focusing in particular on family reunification and reentry issues. Much effort is also placed on learning basic skills, getting access to resources, and helping women to gain employment and housing.

  • Community Alliance of Tenants, Portland, Ore.: $20,000. The project confronts the unjust housing policy and empowers low-income people to direct the decisions that impact their lives. The tenants will learn about their rights through monthly meetings and workshops for fair, safe housing; building repairs; and how to protect against prejudice toward people of color and people with disabilities.

  • Arizona Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, Phoenix, Ariz.: $19,250 to help carry out a city- and state-wide campaign against wage theft due to the chronic non-payment of wages for completed work owed to low-wage earners.

  • Hopkins Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd., Stann Creek District, Belize: $19,600 to a cooperative of farmers who are manufacturing and marketing cereal from locally produced grains.

  • Sandy Beach Women’s Cooperative Society Limited, Stann Creek District, Belize: $20,050 to a well-established cooperative of women working to restore their restaurant full-time and re-employ themselves.

Guests invited to the meeting included four SDOP community partners.

Kasheena Ross (left) and Mallory Hanora of Reflect and Strengthen joined SDOP at its September meeting.

Kasheena Ross (left) and Mallory Hanora (Reflect and Strengthen) —Courtesy of SDOP

Castle Square Tenants Organization is composed of Asian-, African- and Hispanic-Americans. Through state and federal loans, the group has retrofitted its housing complex, making it the first existing multifamily building in the United States to achieve this level of energy savings.

Worcester Homeless Action is composed of homeless and formerly homeless individuals who successfully developed a plan for a more humane process of dealing with people released from institutions into communities.  The group is now focusing on the urgent need to create homes for everybody.

Ex-prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement (EPOCA) is working on issues impacting them.

Reflect & Strengthen is a grassroots collective of young working-class women from urban neighborhoods of Boston working on issues such as racism and juvenile detention.