WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 13, 1999) — The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the Catholic Church's program to fight poverty in the U.S., today announced $10 million in grants to 306 community-based projects, the highest dollar amount ever awarded in the program's 29-year history.
The grant total, donated dollar by dollar by Catholics across the country in parish collections last year, will make possible projects that create jobs, ensure decent wages, provide affordable housing, improve schools, fight crime and encourage self-sufficiency. The projects are located in 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
"This is grassroots funding to meet grassroots needs," said Father Robert J. Vitillo, CCHD executive director, announcing the 1999 grants. "While some donations are large, many are small, and are from people who give what they can. Individual Catholics have put their dollars into the collection basket because they recognize that not everyone enjoys the same level of dignity and comfort in the United States.
"That the number of dollars to fight poverty totals $10 million is witness to the generosity and good will of people in our country," Father Vitillo said. "Our ability to increase the amount of grants is a direct result of Catholics who grow in their understanding of domestic poverty and respond with their financial support and community involvement." CCHD awarded $8.5 million in grants in 1998.
CCHD is the largest private funder of anti-poverty programs controlled by the poor in the United States. The National Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Campaign in 1970 to bring to life both Scripture and the Church's social teaching through work to end poverty and injustice.
The Catholic bishops gave CCHD two mandates. The first is to raise funds to support organized groups of poor and non-poor people to develop economic strength and influence in the community. The second is to keep awareness high among Catholics of the social and economic problems that exist in the United States as well as to promote new approaches that can help resolve problems and promote solidarity among all children of God.
"These grants make our communities stronger and enable them to attack the causes of poverty and the ills associated with it," said Father Vitillo. "When local leaders are empowered to make tangible changes, then families, neighborhoods and communities thrive. The poor are not a class or a group set apart, they are people with unique dignity, who need a hand up rather than a handout."
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development makes grants on the basis of need rather than religious affiliation. Over its nearly three decades, the Campaign has served as a vehicle for social change, addressing the root causes of poverty and bringing empowerment among those it supports. CCHD-funded groups have been successful in creating jobs, businesses, housing, child care and in bringing needed services to their communities.
"In addition to tangible results, Campaign-funded projects can lead to reduced crime and better education in communities, which are critical markers of progress in impoverished areas. People must live in safe neighborhoods and have equal access to good education in order to realize their highest calling and fulfill their potential," said Father Vitillo. "The Catholic Campaign for Human Development -- as its name implies -- is concerned with people's God-given dignity in addition to the very real problems they face in their daily lives. These grants, which often provide seed money for further community fundraising work, speak to the need for achieving self-sufficiency and learning the skills that our highly organized society requires for survival and success."
Of the 1999 projects, 167 are located in urban settings, 38 are in rural areas, and the remainder are located in suburban areas as well as in regional settings that encompass both urban and rural areas. Forty-three projects are economic in nature and support business and commerce in disadvantaged communities. Several projects address the special needs of farmers, who work in an age-old profession that is vital to the world's food supply.
Of the total number of grants, 112 are awarded to organizations comprised of churches, synagogues and other faith-based organizations. These faith communities have joined together to identify and address community issues that affect all citizens.
A sampling of the 1999 grants provides a glimpse of their breadth:
- In Philadelphia, the Norris Square Civic Association will receive $50,000 to move its successful Mercado community market to a larger, more visible location. At the Mercado, which currently operates six days a week, 10 local, aspiring entrepreneurs offer products and services to city residents that include tropical produce, flowers, herbs and spices, prepared foods and baked goods.
- In Jacksonville, Fla., the Interchurch Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment (ICARE) will receive $50,000 to continue its neighborhood initiatives in the areas of education and youth development. In its first two years of CCHD funding, ICARE secured an accelerated reading program in 11 inner city elementary schools that has now expanded to middle schools, and better police protection at nearly 300 drug and crime hot spots.
- In Chicago, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will receive $40,000 to support its efforts to reverse the decline of affordable housing in the city. The coalition wants to protect public housing residents from becoming homeless by preserving their right to remain in the community and with a guarantee of replacement housing. The work of the coalition has already saved 900 units of public housing.
- In St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, the New Image Foundation, a program that trains low-income women for career-based positions in hotels, retail, government and the private sector, will receive $30,000 for its Women Excel project. The women will learn the entrepreneurial skills needed to start and operate their own home-based businesses. Currently, 65 women have undertaken the training that not only prepares them for careers and starting their own businesses, but instills self-esteem and confidence.
- In Minneapolis, Interfaith Action and the St. Paul Ecumenical Action Coalition (SPEAC) will receive $65,000 to continue their joint Fighting Poverty through Regional Action project that brings together 50 churches and institutions in the St. Paul and Minneapolis metropolitan area to address issues of regional concern, such as housing, economic development, and education. Thus far, the alliance has won $68 million in redevelopment funding, which created 2,000 jobs for the region.
- In New York City, Lower Manhattan Together, a group of 19 participating organizations, will receive $40,000 to continue advocating for community improvements and safety on the lower east side. To date, the group has successfully won a $2.4 million rehabilitation of Seward Park, and can boast of specific enhancements in other parks: new emergency call boxes, bathrooms that are cleaner and safer, and new benches, fences and baseball lights. The group emphasizes membership growth and leadership training.
- In Boston, Youth Move Boston will receive $35,000 to organize six youth councils in low-income communities, each supported by a cluster of four-to-six interfaith churches. The youth councils will organize and empower youth in order to tackle significant issues in the community. Youth Move Boston is a program of the Ten Point Coalition, comprised of 67 churches and 59 affiliated groups committed to mobilizing the Christian community on behalf of African-American and Latino youths at risk for violence, drug abuse and other destructive behaviors.
- In Trimble, Ohio, Rural Action will receive $25,000 to continue its Sustainable Communities Initiative, which organizes, trains, and supports citizens in revitalizing their rural, Appalachian communities. Fourteen grassroots community action teams are in place and have organized a restoration project for a mine-polluted watershed and helped coordinate farmers' marketing their products to local consumers. Rural Action will extend the initiative to three more communities in the Scioto Valley, and expand its membership to include western parts of Appalachian Ohio.
- In Hillsboro, Wis., Family Farm Defenders, a grassroots coalition committed to the creation of farmer-controlled and consumer-oriented food and fiber production, will receive $30,000 for a project with dairy farmers. It plans to organize small cooperatives to bring prices up to cover the cost of production plus a reasonable profit; to educate consumers about hormone-free dairy products; and to organize a national coalition to strengthen the farm-family system of agriculture.
- In San Antonio, Metro Alliance, a multi-racial, interfaith group of 21 congregations and 10 schools, will receive $85,000 for its Metropolitan Expansion program. Church and school leaders from all geographic sectors of the city will work together on community issues including infrastructure, education, job training, and a living wage.
- In Alaska, Shishmaref Traditional Industries, established in 1990 by the Native Village of Shishmaref, will receive $50,000 for its commercial tannery that provides quality tanning of furs and hides in Northwest Alaska for native hunters, trappers, and sewers of crafts and clothing. The grant will be used for new equipment and also will help the village leverage more than $1 million in federal funding for construction of a new tannery facility, one of the few sources of employment for the people of Shishmaref.
- In California, the Association for Children for Enforcement of Support (ACES), a child-support advocacy organization, will receive $30,000 for its Educational Outreach Project. This statewide project will educate disadvantaged families about the legal system and empower them so they can collect the support their children are entitled to, reducing child poverty and welfare dependence.