The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) has approved grants totaling $133,270 to 11 self-help projects in the United States. The money is from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.

The national SDOP, which met here Sept. 18-21, enables members and non-members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to form partnerships with oppressed and disadvantaged people in order to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

The funded projects and grants:

  • Tenemos que Reclamar y Unidos Salvar la Tierra-South LA (T.R.U.S.T. South LA), Los Angeles, Calif.: $15,000 for this financial opportunity project that will enable T.R.U.S.T. South LA members interested in working to clean up their credit, establish credit, pay down debt, and to start savings. T.R.U.S.T. South LA is legally controlled by group members, who must be neighboring working-class residents.
  •  Community Financial Literacy (CFL), Portland, Maine: $15,000 for creation of a comprehensive workforce development program for refugees and immigrants matching their skills with best employment opportunities. The members are committed to learning how to be more marketable for employment. They will form a partnership with identified industries and assist in designing a job readiness program for themselves and other immigrants mainly from East Africa.
  • Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), Providence, R.I.: $15,000 for a campaign by and for tenants and homeowners to stop foreclosures and evictions through organizing, direct actions, legislative actions, and educating themselves and others about issues, rights, recourses, and developing leadership skills.
  •  VOTE (Voice of the Ex-Offender), New Orleans: $15,000 for a group of well organized ex-offenders, some of whom are living in a transition home and working together to improve their lives and support their families. They received training in entrepreneurship and marketing and are now ready to move on with a co-op. The project will be a training tool for dozens of men providing them with sustainable income.
  • The Battery Repurposing & Recycling Project, Clarkston, Ga.: $18,255 to create a worker owned cooperative micro-enterprise business that will provide new employment opportunities and economic sustainability for low income residents of the group. All are residents of Clarkston, Georgia including refugee and immigrant small business owners.
  • South Hayward Parish, Hayward, Calif.: $10,000 to assist the active peer leadership group of 12 members who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless with computer skills development, urban farming, art and jewelry creation, reusable bag manufacturing and catering. Group members control the project. The peer to peer training business has ties with local non-profit and faith community partners that provide mentorship and support including employing group members.
  •  Kake Tribal Heritage Foundation (Clean environment for Healthy Families Demonstration Project), Juneau, Alaska: $10,000 to help Kake villagers clean up this village. The all community clean up will include disposing of old cars and scrap metal.

The following four projects are to be funded contingent upon additional documentation being submitted:

  • Lanvale Towers/Canal Courts Tenant Association, Baltimore, Md.: $15,000 to enable this group of residents that have come together to create an onsite computer training program that will allow them to have basic microsoft training.
  • Pratt Towers, Inc., Brooklyn, N.Y.: $15,000 to assist the residents of this building cooperative in making an intergenrational playground safe and accessible to all residents of Pratt Towers.The current pathway leading to the playground as well as the garden and benches are uneven, cracked and not wheelchair accessible.
  • Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center: $5,000 (in addition to a $20,000 grant awarded to the center in 2013) to assist this group of men and women that have come together to form the Staley B. Keith Social Justice Center, an organization working to empower young black men to resist the marginalization of their communities.  Three 12 week training programs have been planned and they include self empowerment, systems change advocacy and mentorship.
  •  Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment: $15,000 to assist this coalition of several grassroots groups. They include Acoma and Laguna Pueblos, community people of the affected area, Navajo Nation, the Post 71 Uranium Workers, and ranchers who have been adversely affected by the Uranium mining industry. The San Juan Basin area lacks basic rights to electricity and running water because of radioactive contamination of the land, air and ground water and its residents have been impacted in large numbers with chronic/life threatening medical conditions.

Other activities included a Sept. 18 young adult panel consisting of PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteers (YAV’s). They engaged national committee members in conversation on issues that they are engaged in that are pertinent to Los Angeles and the church. The YAVs shared how they see their role as young adults within PC (USA). DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach & Reflection), the Presbyterian Church (USA) YAV Los Angeles site staff was also represented.

On Sept. 19 Eric Law from the Kaleidoscope Institute facilitated cultural awareness training for National Committee members and Xiomara Corpeño from Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) presented on the topic of immigration in Los Angeles.

The National Committee met at Knox Presbyterian Church Sept. 18-19. The church’s pastor Reginald Ragland is a former National SDOP committee member.

On Sept. 20, Immanuel Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles hosted SDOP’s 3rd Community Partnership Day, a learning gathering planned by a team from Pacific and Cascades Presbyteries; National Black Presbyterian Caucus (LA chapter); National SDOP and a SDOP community partner to engage Presbyterians and communities of need in conversations on lessening poverty in south Los Angeles.

SDOP community partners (funded projects) led a discussion, participated in several exhibit booths and led a workshop presentation. Workshop topics included Doing Mission Locally and Globally led by Pacific Presbytery and National SDOP, Forging Collaborative Partnerships in the LA Community led by SDOP partners and a session on How to Apply for a Grant led by National SDOP and Liberty Hill Foundation. A former YAV and the Director of the YAV site (DOOR) also led a session. National Committee members also participated in a learning visit to south central LA led by SDOP partner T.R.U.S.T. South LA.

Meeting guests included Linda Culbertson, executive presbyter for Pacific Presbytery, Elizabeth Gibbs Zehnder, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church and Sara Lisherness, director of Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. On Sunday (Sept. 21) National SDOP committee members visited with area congregations and participated in minutes for mission.