Over 60 parishioners of St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church attended a Pima County Interfaith Education Civic Academy in which Rev. Leah Sandwell-Weiss and Jane Prescott-Smith delivered background talks on education funding and teachers Shasha Velgos and Katie Fouts, long-time members of the church, shared stories about their schools: Catalina High School and Borton Elementary.
Small group discussions yielded a variety of stories and passionate concern for children and schools. Participants were invited to sign the #Investined petition and start a voting cascade at the close of the meeting.
On school days, the children from St. John's School plan to use the park. After school, Pueblo High School and neighborhood skaters are expected to take over. In the evening, seniors and everyone else hope to walk and play in its environs. Lights won't go out until 10:00pm, when a neighbor will lock the gate and new bathrooms.
Leaders of Pima County Interfaith celebrated the opening of St. John's Park with a ribbon cutting ceremony that recognized the outcome of a unique collaboration between the city, county, and church. The land is leased by St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church to the City. Bond funds generated by the County's Neighborhood Reinvestment Bond paid for most of the development. Conversations to get and keep the ball rolling were catalyzed by Pima County Interfaith, Southern Arizona Interfaith and persistent leaders from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
After passing state legislation that would outlaw health-harming SPICE from neighborhood stores, leaders organized a celebratory mass recognizing the contribution of Tucson Police Department officers who went "over and beyond" in the effort to take the drug off the streets.
Awards were presented to Officers Mendoza, Sanchez, Hernandez, Lead Police Officer Gonzales and Sgt. Simmers. Mayor Rothschild was in attendance for the ceremony, as were other captains and Lieutenants.
Jennie Ahumada and Eliseo Melendrez spoke of the collaboration between St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Tucson Police Department, Southern Arizona Interfaith and the Pima County Health Department that helped educate the community about SPICE and prevent its sale. Msgr. Trevizo led the congregation in blessing the officers.
125 Pima County Interfaith resident leaders of Ward 3 Tucson assembled and secured commitments from primary candidates Felicia Chew, Paul Durham and Tom Tronsdal. The session was organized by Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization, Southern Arizona Interfaith (SAI) and Literacy Connects. All three candidates pledged to support keeping Tucson an Immigrant Welcoming city, to support PCI efforts to fight SPICE and other drugs in Ward 3, and to meet with the organizations if elected.
Candidates Chew and Tronsdal committed to increasing funding for KidCo and JobPath, keeping low-income bus fares at their current level, and protecting the number of bus routes.
Attendees committed to vote, get others to vote, and to knock on doors in Ward 3 neighborhoods. Two "Neighbor to Neighbor - Walk & Call" sessions have already been scheduled.
More than 60 Southern Arizona religious leaders gathered on short notice to sign a joint statement expressing opposition to presidential executive orders banning the admission of select refugees and calling for the construction of a border wall.
Initially convened by Catholic Bishop Gerald Kicanas, with support from Southern Arizona Interfaith and Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization, clergy from Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Sikh backgrounds participated in the preparation of the joint statement. 105 religious leaders from 57 congregations ultimately signed on.
SAI and PCIC leaders are working to organize meetings with Arizona senators and Congressional Representatives.
Southern Arizona Religious Leaders Vow to Support Migrants, Refugees, Arizona Daily Star
Starting with the question, "What happens to democracy if no one shows up?" leaders of Pima County Interfaith probed the long-term consequences of an increasingly common occurrence: incumbents and candidates simply turning down invitations to interact with the public.
Click below to read their Oped:
Opinion: What Happens to a Democracy if No One Shows Up? Arizona Daily Star
After a campaign that included educating County Supervisors about the economic (and life) impact of JobPath workforce development program, leaders of Pima County Interfaith won a 18% increase in funding for the program, from $423 thousand to $500 thousand. Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 for the increase after Pastor Steve Springer of Dove of Peace Lutheran Church and Lindsay Leonard, a JobPath graduate, spoke.
Former students like Patty Popp credit JobPath for helping them bridge the gap between minimum wage work and a living wage career. After training for an associate's degree in radiologic technology, she kept on advancing to her current position as Director of Clinical Operations at Radiology Limited. Her story can be read in the first article below.
Southern Arizona Training Program Lifts Students Out of Minimum Wage, Arizona Daily Star
Long Term Impacts of JobPath Graduates on Pima County, Applied Economics
"St. Philip's in Tucson engages in the political and electoral processes on more than one level. It was a founding member of Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization, a nonprofit advocacy organization that takes action on issues that impact families and communities at the local and regional levels. The advocacy and education have included issues such as gun violence, immigration, environmental economics, education funding, Sandwell-Weiss said.
The group hopes that by providing information and helping people connect those issues to their faith, especially Jesus' call in Matthew 25 to find him while caring for people on the margins of society, "hopefully it will make a more informed electorate and an electorate that will work to make some changes," she said."
Episcopal Congregations Find Ways to Engage in Current Political Cycle, Episcopal News Service
An economic impact study examined almost 400 people who graduated from JobPath in the last five years to track their progress. They found that the vast majority of people who graduated from JobPath still have a job five years later in the Tucson area, and that many have tripled or even quadrupled their pre-training wage.
Said Applied Economics researcher Sarah Murley, "That is a huge increase over a relatively short period of time." JobPath was established by Pima County Interfaith as part of a multi-pronged living wage strategy.
Local Job Training Program Lifts Incomes, Arizona Daily Star
Tucson's JobPath: Most Grads Better Off Than Before, Arizona Public Media
Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert and five key Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization leaders signed the first ever Memorandum of Understanding between the college and interfaith group to promote collaboration around civic engagement, student leadership development, and other mutually beneficial activities. The MOU will be in effect for 5 years.
Monsignor Raul Trevizo, Pastor of St. John the Evangelist and Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese of Tucson, Rev. Sharon Ragland, Senior Pastor of St. Mark's Methodist UMC, Fr. Tom Tureman, S.D.S., Pastor of Most Holy Trinity Catholic, Rev. Delle McCormick, Senior Pastor of Rincon Congregational UCC, and Deaconess Marjie Hrabe, President of the PCICEO Board spoke at the signing ceremony. Rev. Ragland spoke of the importance of Pima to her daughter's success, and Msgr. Trevizo recalled teaching classes at PCC as one of his first jobs after college. All the speakers stressed the importance of students being supported, engaged and successful.