2009 Summary

Austin Interfaith “Let justice pour down like waters”….Amos 5:24 1301 S. IH 35, Suite 313 Austin, Texas 78741 Phone (512) 916-0100 Fax (512) 916-0251 December 30, 2009 Dear Austin Interfaith Clergy, Leaders, and Supporters: We wish you and your families a Happy New Year as we enter 2010. We especially want to recognize all the hard work that you have done to make 2009 an important and successful year for Austin Interfaith. In 2009, our organization along with the Texas IAF sister organizations, worked with Comptroller Susan Combs to create and pass the $10 million JET Fund for successful long term job training programs. Capital IDEA received two of the first JET funds this fall…$500,000 for the Austin area and $250,000 to start a satellite of Capital IDEA in collaboration with our sister organization TMO in Houston. The collaboration of Austin Interfaith congregations and schools was featured in a landmark study by the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University. In the first nationwide study to measure the impact of education organizing, Austin Interfaith’s work in AISD schools was shown to have a dramatic impact on test scores, professional culture, parent-teacher collaboration, and resources for all low income schools. Their final conclusion was that all low-income schools in AISD benefited from the programs and resources created by Austin Interfaith. As you can see from the list of accomplishments in this letter, in 2009 Austin Interfaith with an organizational budget of under $250,000, leveraged $18million in funding for original programs it has created through its organizing. That is a return of 72 to 1 for programs like ESL, Prime Time After School Program, water infrastructure at Santa Barbara Catholic Church, the Summer Youth Employment Program and Capital IDEA. This does not include our advocacy for existing programs and initiatives like CHIP, AISD employee compensation, and statewide funding for schools. Austin Interfaith itself does not accept public money, and is funded primarily through institutional member dues, corporate investment, and foundation support. Austin Interfaith also held a successful Economic Summit with the Central Texas Business Community in February, as well as an Accountability Session in April which again was the largest event of the municipal election season. This work, and the resulting accomplishments, was the result of hundreds of one-on-one relational meetings, house meetings, research actions, training sessions, civic academies, and meetings with public officials. Two issues have come to the forefront in 2009 and will be major initiatives in 2010. Austin Interfaith has begun an intensive collaboration on immigration organizing with the Catholic Diocese of Austin. This is in response to increasing political pressure on immigrant families trying to work and live in Central Texas. Additionally, the issue of Living Wages is at the center of our work given the economic situation and growing inequality in Austin. Specifically, Austin Interfaith is working to hold the Mayor and all City Council members to their pre-election commitments that companies receiving public tax subsidies to move to Austin must provide jobs that pay living wages of $18/hr with benefits, a career track, and have a strategy to hire locally. Again, we wish to recognize your investment in Austin Interfaith, in terms of your institution’s leadership development, financial investment, and time. Obviously this commitment has paid off for Austin and the Central Texas region as a whole. But renewing our commitment to this work is more important now than ever. Austin has a poverty rate, child poverty rate, and uninsured rate that is higher than the national average. Travis County has the fifth highest inequality in the country. And although we have worked with Santa Barbara Catholic Church to raise over $600,000 in public and private investment in water infrastructure, over 30 families are still without running water because of government delays. We must continue to challenge ourselves to have the imagination, perseverance, and tenacity to organize effectively for the families in our communities. This happens through in an investment in leadership and an investment in people. We look forward to continuing this important work together in 2010. Please put on your calendar the following two important events coming up in the New Year: 1. On Saturday, January 9th 2010 the TX IAF will hold an Economic Conference in San Antonio starting at 10am and ending at 3pm. (Leaders will be traveling down on a bus. Please check with the Austin Interfaith office for further information) 2. On Tuesday, February 23rd at 7pm Austin Interfaith will hold its delegates assembly. Location to be announced. Again, congratulations on organizing effectively for all families in Central Texas. Sincerely, Austin Interfaith Executive Team
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800 leaders turn out for April Accountability Session

In the largest event of the local election season, Austin Interfaith leaders turned out in force to set the agenda for candidates running for Austin City Council and AISD and ACC boards.

Held on April 20 at St. Ignatius, Martyr Catholic Church in South Austin , leaders shared their stories of pressures they and their families are facing in the areas of health care, employment, education, ESL, immigration status, relations with the police, and traffic concerns.

Firm commitments were made by candidates to vote for increased funding and support for these initiatives that help bring people into the middle class and keep them there. Leaders collected over 5,000 signatures on agendas of issues. In a strong showing of organized political power, leaders from Austin Interfaith institutions gathered over 5,000 signatures on local and organizational agendas of issues from their institutional members and from the public. These signatures were used to help turn out the vote in the local May elections.

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First house gets running water in Plainview Estates

Santa Barbara leaders have succeeded in getting the first of a total of forty families in the Hornsby Bend area fully connected to running water.

Last year over $400,000 in infrastructure was invested in the project to get running water for the families, some of whom had been without water for five years,. By organizing residents to work together with the utility company, applications were approved, pipes laid on properties, and meters activated to start the water flowing! The community is now focused on organizing to get the financial resources needed for the remaining families to get their water too.

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Welcome to new member institutions!

Three new members have joined Austin Interfaith since the start of the year. 

Congregation Kol Halev:  a Jewish congregation with a focus on community that meets at the Dell Jewish Community Center in Northwest Austin :

ACC/AFT (Austin Community College American Federation of Teachers Union):  
local branch 6249 of the national and state federation of teachers and represents all non-administrative employees of Austin Community College . 

Simpson United Methodist Church :  a historically African-American, central East Austin congregation established in 1880 that has played a significant role in the city for over 100 years.

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Austin Interfaith conducts Research Actions on Health Care, Education, Workforce, and Police Relations

Dozens of leaders held over forty conversations in the first months of the year with policy makers, academics, community leaders, and public officials to learn in detail about these issue areas. Relationships, knowledge, and analysis gained in these meetings informed the action strategies and questions asked to candidates at the April Accountability Session.

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Austin Interfaith holds Capital IDEA orientations that reach over 1,000 Austinites

Austin Interfaith leaders and Capital IDEA staff collaborated to host two rounds of orientations at Mt. Olive Baptist Church , Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, Dolores Catholic Church, St. Albert the Great Catholic Church, and San Jose Catholic Church in February and June.

A particular success was the doubling of the number of men who attended the orientations. This success was due in part to the new Ambassadors program that targets minority men for participation in Capital IDEA.

 

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Leadership training in Spanish co-hosted with the Catholic Diocese

50 leaders from Catholic parishes throughout Austin gathered at Dolores Catholic Church for a half-day of intensive leadership training.

Spanish-speaking Austin Interfaith leaders collaborated with Gil Leija, Director of Hispanic Ministry for the Diocese, to conduct the session and support leadership among immigrants and Spanish-speakers in Catholic churches.

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Collaborations established with the University of Texas at Austin

Austin Interfaith was a community partner in a spring semester graduate course that focused on health disparities in central Texas .

Two leaders were enrolled in the course itself and Austin Interfaith collaborated with the professors and students to host a public education workshop for Spanish speakers at Dolores Catholic Church and to present at the international Abriendo Brecha: Activist Scholarship Conference. In addition, an undergraduate anthropology student interned with Austin Interfaith to support research and organizing efforts around health care issues.

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House meeting and individual meeting campaigns continue at institutions across Austin

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church's social justice ministry has recently completed a house meeting campaign at their church and St. Catherine of Sienna Church's Community Concerns and Advocacy group is beginning house meetings around health care issues in their parish community. New member Congregation Kol Halev has begun an individual meeting campaign, and institutions such as San Jose, Dolores, and St. Ignatius are using the summer months for individual meeting campaigns as well.

These are the conversations that make it possible to know the people in our communities, stay in tune with the pressures that regular Austinites are facing, and ground plans for action to address them.

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St. Ignatius and San Jose leaders work with County Clerk on early voting sites

When a popular and highly utilized early voting location at the HEB on South Congress and Oltorf was unexpectedly moved, southside leaders organized to work with County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, HEB employees, the media, and member institutions to minimize the negative effect on voter turnout at this location. They helped publicize the new early voting location and, as a result, increased turnout at the new location in the final days of early voting.

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