Posts Tagged kansas city

Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri: It’s Not Just for Lawyers

By Blake Heath, Chair of the Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri

Since September of 2011, I have had the privilege of serving as the chair for the newly formed Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri (YPB).  The goal of the YPB is to support the mission and programs of Legal Aid of Western Missouri through social events, fundraising initiatives, and community outreach efforts.  Many people are unfamiliar with the work that Legal Aid does or they assume that the organization is just a bunch of lawyers so there is no need or way for them to get involved.  The YPB hopes to spread the message of what Legal Aid does and to change the perception that the organization is just for lawyers.   Below is more information about the YPB and a brief description of some of the work we have done and will be doing in the future.

In December of 2010, the staff at Legal Aid put together a small focus group of various young professionals in the Kansas City area to explore ways Legal Aid could raise awareness about the mission of Legal Aid, recruit volunteers, and raise financial support.  Legal Aid recognized that older more established attorneys made up the majority of its volunteer and financial support base.  Legal Aid wanted to expand that base to younger individuals, and Legal Aid wanted to find support outside the legal profession.  After several more meetings, the YPB was officially formed to help Legal Aid recruit young professionals willing to further the mission of Legal Aid.

While Legal Aid’s primary purpose is to provide access to the legal system for clients who are normally shutout of the legal system, the work has a much deeper impact on our community.  For instance, Legal Aid is a leader in converting abandoned properties in the urban core of Kansas City into occupied, high quality housing.  Every year, their Economic Development team works with the City and other not-for-profit agencies to bring litigation that brings 80-100 abandoned properties up to code.  Legal Aid’s work in obtaining Protective Orders and divorces for hundreds of victims of domestic violence every year has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of stopping the cycle of violence.  And, every year they get hundreds of people who are permanently and totally disabled access to long-term, pro-active medical care by getting them onto Medicaid when their benefits have been wrongly denied or terminated.

To help support these programs and the mission of Legal Aid, the YPB has been active since its formation in September of 2011.  We have participated in the annual Party with a Purpose, held informational sessions where Legal Aid staff attorneys described their practice areas, assisted with the construction of a one-of-its-kind playground for children with disabilities, and participated in the Run for Justice 5K put on by the Lawyers Association of Kansas City.  In addition to these events, we will be sponsoring a charity bingo event this summer, we have tables for our members at the Legal Aid Justice for All luncheon, we will promote and participate in Legal Aid’s annual golf tournament, and in the fall we will travel to rural Lafayette County Missouri to volunteer with Legal Aid’s Migrant Farm Workers Project Monday Night Outreach.

If you would like to find out more about the YPB or any of our upcoming events, then please feel free to contact me at blake@boughlawfirm.com.  You can also find us on Facebook at Young Professionals Board of Legal Aid of Western Missouri.

Leave a Comment

A letter of farewell from Sr. Jeanne Christensen

Dear Friends,

In 2006, the Kansas City Olive Branch was launched by Michael Humphrey and Dan Meyers, members of the Salvadoran Faith Accompaniment Group, who were concerned about the continuity of the work of the Diocesan Peace and Justice Office.  This concern arose because both Fr. Frank Schuele and I were leaving the office.  I was humbled and pleased that they wanted to continue providing a strong resource to the peace and justice community in the greater Kansas City area.  With the help of dedicated individuals who served on the Visioning Board,   KC Olive Branch became a virtual reality.  Over the years religious women and men’s communities and individual donors have provided financial support.  Many have offered their ideas, encouragement, informational resources, and/or written articles.

In 2008, after both Mike and Dan experienced career changes, I became editor and successfully fulfilled that role only with the outstanding assistance of Clare Murphy Shaw – web mistress par excellent!!  Over the last several weeks, Mike, Clare and I have exchanged emails regarding the future of KC Olive Branch – the conversation was initiated when I expressed my need to resign as editor due to my additional ministry responsibilities.  I am continuing my Mercy community justice ministry from Kansas City, so you will still see me around.

I will miss my involvement with this wonderful virtual peace and justice community.  June 2012 will be the last edition that I edit.  How KC Olive Branch moves into the future is still being discussed.  If you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to send them to Clare, Michael or me; and I will see they get included in the conversation.

I hope that KC Olive Branch has been helpful and perhaps inspiring to you.  Thank you for being part of our community, working to make the world a more peaceful and just place for all.

Peace and blessings.

Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Comments (1)

The Affordable Care Act

March 27, 2012

By:  Jeanne Christensen, RSM

Editor of KC Olive Branch and Justice Coordinator, Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community

The Affordable Care Act was passed as a reform law that would require all insurance plans to cover preventive care at no cost.  This included free check-ups, free mammograms, immunizations and other basic services.  This is important because many women cannot afford these basic preventive health care services; and it saves lives and money –- for families, for businesses, for government, for everybody.  It is a lot cheaper to prevent an illness than to treat one.

It included, based on a recommendation from the experts at the Institute of Medicine, women’s preventive care should include coverage of contraceptive services such as birth control.  In addition to family planning, doctors often prescribe contraception as a way to reduce the risks of ovarian and other cancers, and treat a variety of different ailments.

Because some religious institutions, particularly those affiliated with the Catholic Church, have a religious objection to directly providing insurance that covers contraceptive services for their employees, the original bill exempted all churches from this requirement -– an exemption that eight states didn’t already have.

In February, 2012, compromise rule was enacted.  Under the compromise rule, women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraceptive services, no matter where they work.  So that core principle remains.  But if a woman’s employer is a charity or a hospital that has a religious objection to providing contraceptive services as part of their health plan, the insurance company -– not the hospital, not the charity -– will be required to reach out and offer the woman contraceptive care free of charge, without co-pays and without hassles.

The result will be that religious organizations won’t have to pay for these services, and no religious institution will have to provide these services directly.  These employers will not have to pay for, or provide, contraceptive services.  But women who work at these institutions will have access to free contraceptive services their insurance companies pay for; and they’ll no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars a year that could go towards paying the rent or buying groceries.

Religious liberty will be protected, and a law that requires free preventive care will not discriminate against women.   We live in a pluralistic society where we’re not going to agree on every single issue, or share every belief.  That doesn’t mean that we have to choose between individual liberty and basic fairness for all Americans.

To overturn the Affordable Care Act to rid it of the contraception mandate, for which there is now a workable compromise, will endanger thousands of Americans.  Those already covered under the Affordable Care Act will lose their coverage.  This includes children up to age 26 who are now able to remain on their parents’ insurance, children with pre-existing conditions, restrictions to participation in Medicaid programs and the like.  It would further penalize the most vulnerable among us.  Many not-for-profit organizations who serve the poor support the Affordable Care Act for this reason.  Is it not our moral responsibility to provide for the most vulnerable among us?

 

 

Leave a Comment

An Invitation to hear Father Roy Bourgeois in Kansas City

Note:  the following is taken from a letter sent by local event organizers to Call to Action (CTA) members and others. The letter was sent to CTA members and others known to be open to goodness and courage in the Kansas City metropolitan area.  For goodness and courage are surely the combination that Father Roy Bourgeois, MM brings to every place he visits with his message that Catholic women who are called to priestly ordination should not be denied that Sacrament.  As Father Roy says, “To deny ordination to women is sexism, and sexism, like racism, is a sin.” 

As you know, Father Bourgeois has put at risk his priesthood, his inclusion in the Catholic community, his standing as a member of the Maryknoll Order, his reputation– just about everything of value that he holds dear — to bear witness to this message, which his conscience has compelled him to promulgate.  For his efforts, he has been threatened by the Vatican with excommunication, expulsion from Maryknoll, removal from the priesthood, and likely other forms of censure and/or exclusion.  He is resisting with all the powers of Canon Law, with the Rev. Thomas Doyle as his counsel.  His defense is primacy of conscience.  We might ask is his fight our fight?

Father Roy will spend the weekend of April 26-27 in the Heart of America.  Organizers of his visit are hoping to get him a spot on Steve Kraske’s Up to Date on April 27.   An op-ed piece has been submitted to the KC Star as well as a blurb for the Faith Calendar.  This calendar notice should appear the Saturday before the event on April 27.

Father Roy will speak at Colonial Church of Prairie Village under CTA sponsorship on Friday evening, April 27, at 7:00 p.m. and at First Congregational Church in Topeka at 9:00 a.m. April 28 at the invitation of Catholics for Renewal there. We will also be showing the powerful new documentary, Pink Smoke Over the Vatican, both places.  This is a documentary about women’s ordination as priests.

For additional information, call 913-432-3675.

Leave a Comment

Aim4Peace: Who are they and what is their mission?

Editor’s Note:  Information for this article was taken from Aim4Peace website, brochure, and from conversation at the screening of the film, “The Interrupter.”

 Aim4Peace Mission

Aim4Peace aims to increase the community’s ability to handle disputes nonviolently.  Aim4Peace is the movement to stop the shooting and killing.

How Aim4Peace Works

Aim4Peace is an evidence-based health approach to reduce shootings and homicides. Aim4Peace uses highly trained violence interrupters and outreach staff, public education campaigns, Neighborhood Action Teams and community mobilization to reverse the violence epidemic in Kansas City, Missouri. Aim4Peace focuses on the neighborhood factors that most often contribute to violent crime, helping those who are considered at highest risk of committing offenses due to their living or employment situation.

About Aim4Peace
The Aim4Peace program began in 2008 and was originally based on the Ceasefire: Stop the Shooting project in Chicago. Aim4Peace currently focuses on the Police Department’s East Patrol Division, one of Kansas City’s highest crime neighborhoods.  They model behavior modification techniques for those individuals who are ready to change. With continued success the plan will be implemented throughout the City in the future. Aim4Peace is committed to making neighborhoods safer. The Aim4Peace: Violence Prevention Project is a division of the Kansas City, Missouri Health Depart­ment. They are focused on Kansas City’s highest crime neighborhoods.

Services
Aim4Peace sponsors all the programs below.
The Aim4Peace Life Skills Learning Program works to prevent school delinquency and drop-outs, supporting community actions to keep students in school. Aim4Peace offers both community and school-based courses:

  • Life Skills courses (grades 5-12 and ages 19-40)
  • Delinquency prevention
  • Personal development
  • Education about the dangers of involvement in gangs and/or street organizations

The Job Readiness and Anger Management programs are four-week courses held every month. Job Readiness helps participants prepare for obstacles that can happen when they enter the workforce, providing tips for keeping and maintaining steady employment. The Anger Management course focuses on problem solving, communication skills, personal qualities, money management and budgeting, and work ethics. These courses are open to the community.
Through the Job Fair Initiative, Aim4Peace has helped more than 400 residents seeking employment by connecting them with local employers and specialized skill or trade educational institutions. At the events, Aim4Peace also provided information on housing assistance and resume building, conducted mock interviews and linked attendees with local social service agencies.

Through the Hospital Prevention Program, workers respond to gunshot and violence-related trauma situations, intervene in conflicts and aim to prevent further violence. Working with emergency department staff, Aim4Peace reaches out to community members who are most at risk of being involved in future shootings.

Other Aim4Peace participant services include:
Customized one-on-one case management using risk reduction plans to offer long-term solutions to help clients step out of the high-risk lifestyles

  • Workforce counseling
  • Youth, adult and parent mentoring
  • Advocacy and support
  • Human and social support services
  • Transportation to classes, job interviews and employment
  • Access to employment resources and educational institutions

The Aim4Peace mission is to increase the capacity of the community to handle its own disputes and empower citizens through community mobilization to peacefully resolve their conflicts.  The group is based on Ceasefire, an anti-violent crime organization in Chicago.  Aim4Peace is a community-based violence prevention program that uses data-driven interventions to reduce retaliatory and gang-related violence.

Aim4Peace has sponsored the powerful and inspiring film “The Interrupters.”  This film tells the moving and surprising story of three Chicago CeaseFire ‘violence interrupt­ers’ who with bravado, humility and even humor try to protect their communities from the violence they once employed.   A staffer at Kartemquin Films, the promoter of this documentary, said:  “This film spotlights the passionate efforts of three violence interrupters over the course of a year.”

As a national partner of the CeaseFire program, Aim4Peace is based on the same model replicated in the movie. For more information about Aim4Peace and the film “The Interrupt­ers,” please contact Aim4Peace at the addresses below.

For more information, visit www.kcmo.org/aim4peace, call 816-513-7902, or write aim4peace@kcmo.org. You can also view a powerful video here.

Comments (2)

Why I Sit and Eat with our Guests: A Reflection on Breaking Bread at Holy Family House

by Rachel Hoffman

Thursday, January 20, 2011

“And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19

As Christians, we strive to follow in the example of Jesus during the Last Supper – as he shared himself deeply in the breaking of the bread.  I am bold in saying that we attempt to the do same during supper time at Holy Family House.  We spend hours planning menus, sorting food, rinsing fruit and veggies, cooking meals, serving meals, and enjoying the fruits of our labor.  Indeed, our work centers on this sacred act of eating- this is how we recognize each other.  I have learned that sharing a common meal, sitting down face to face with a volunteer or guest, is the easiest way to see Christ in another.  This is when I hear about a new job or place to stay, an ill friend or relative, worries and joys.

But we are at Holy Family House to serve, right?  There isn’t enough food to go around, is there?  I have food at home, can’t I just wait till I get home?  I’m so different than the guests, will we have anything to talk about?  I feel guilty about how much I have and how little the guests have, isn’t it just easier to keep my distance?  Whatever your reasons are- we ask that you take a leap of faith with us and join in the breaking of the bread.  Listening is a form of ministry, there’s plenty of food to go around, just take some salad and sit down if you’re not hungry, and we promise there are plenty of things that you have in common with anyone who walks through our door—we are all human after all!

We at Holy Family House are hoping that people from all walks of life can build relationships with one another, understand in little ways how we each think and feel, enjoy each other’s company and in the words of co-founder Dorothy Day; “build a new society out of the old.”  This means doing things differently than we have in the past, sharing resources and time, and interacting in new ways.

So please, humor us- take a break from serving and sit down in our dining room during supper time.  Strike up a conversation, or eat slowly in silence.  Just be with us and our guests in a new way.   We look forward to breaking bread with you soon.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”  Corinthians 10:16

 

 

                                                             

Leave a Comment

High Interest Rates Drain Local Wealth

By:  Molly Fleming-Pierre

Communities Creating Opportunity Policy and Development Director

“On the one hand, we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act.   One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they journey on life’s highway.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Every day, thousands of families in Missouri struggle to stretch their wages across mounting bills.  Times are tough, within our faith communities we are finding too many families who lack the income to meet their basic needs.  In these difficult times, social service agencies, church emergency assistance funds, and food banks are all but tapped out.  As the financial woes for our working families mount, many Missourians turn to high interest credit, like payday and car title loans, to meet their short term credit needs.

Payday loans are small, short-term loans that are secured by a borrower’s personal check.  Payday loans typically cost $17 for every $100 borrowed and must be repaid in full before the borrower’s next payday—which translates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of 445% for a two-week loan, meaning that many borrowers pay more in fees than they actually borrow. For a “typical” payday loan in Missouri, a borrower completes eight back-to-back transactions before fully repaying an average loan of $300. This accrues $410 in interest fees.

These loans cause a predatory cycle of debt that traps our families into a spiral of recurring high interest fees. Exorbitant interest rates on payday loans ensnare our struggling families into spirals of debt so usurious that a $300 loan for the month’s groceries typically ends up costing our families a whopping $710.[1]  With these rates, the average borrower pays more in interest than the original loan amount.  The triple-digit interest rate is a product of the payday loan’s very unfair design: a loan that is due in full, plus interest and fees, in two short weeks and is secured by access to a family’s banking account.

These high cost loans don’t reflect the family values of our communities, and they dishonor the old adage that hard work and persistence create prosperity.  Even individuals who are able to repay their astronomical payday and car title loan debts are unable to build credit as these lenders refuse to report positively to credit agencies.  Small dollar, high interest borrowers are therefore trapped in a financial subclass that does not allow them to maintain income or build wealth.

There are now over one thousand payday lenders in Missouri, not to mention the hundreds of car title lenders and pawnshops.  That’s more than McDonald’s and Starbucks combined.  While these loans are marked as a short term fix for unexpected expenses, they tend to trap people in debt.  Because the loans (and fees) are due in full within two weeks to a month, the borrower is forced to come up with a sizeable amount of cash in a short time.

Especially in these difficult economic times, we know that Missouri families deserve better.  In order for lending to build assets in our communities, lending products must abide by a fair interest rate.  As an interfaith community, we are building a grassroots base to outlaw the triple digit interest rates that cause the debt rap.  Lowering the APR to a reasonable figure, like 36 percent APR can be accomplished by either lowering the fees charged, or by giving families more time to repay the loan.  In either case, it means a family will be given a fighting chance to succeed, rather than being ensnared in a product that by its very terms makes it almost certain the family will fail.

This month as we celebrate the life and the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we are called to “transform the Jericho Road so that men and women and not constantly beaten and robbed along life’s highway.”  The Jericho Road in Missouri is broken.  Our rural, suburban, and city roads across the state run rampant with predatory lenders that charge triple digit interest, robbing our families of the wages they need to survive.  Faith community efforts are critical to freeing our neighbors from the payday debt trap.  Religious and community groups throughout the state are building a movement to Cap the Rate on these triple-digit interest products.  Visit www.cco.org or www.moresponsiblelending.org to learn how you can get involved.  Together, we can transform the Jericho Road.


[1] The average payday borrower in Missouri has 8 loans each year, most often taken out in back-to-back transactions. They therefore pay $48 in fees eight times, or $384, for what is essentially the original $290 line of credit. These data are from the Center for Responsible Lending.

 

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »