Category Archives: Nonprofit Spotlight

Human trafficking opponent in Houston to launch initiative

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in-our-backyard-human-trafficking

By Tonya Whitaker
Inside The Pew

For seven Super Bowls, Nita Belles has brought attention to the troubling occurrence of human trafficking that takes in-our-backyard-human-traffickingplace during major sporting events. And this year is no different.

Millions are awaiting the big game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons, scheduled to take place in Houston, Texas, the host city of Super Bowl 51, on Sunday, February 5, 2017, but as in previous years, human trafficking is a real concern to many, especially Nita Belles.

Belles is the founder of In Our Backyard (IOB) — http://inourbackyard.org/ — and Jan. 28 she officially announced the launch of the “Convenience Stores Against Trafficking” (CSAT) initiative. She did so during her appearance as keynote speaker at “Vulnerable: A Conference on the Issues of Gender, Race, Poverty & Human Trafficking,” held at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main St. in Houston. The free conference kicked off at 1 p.m.

“The Houston Super Bowl was the right time to launch the campaign,” Belles said. “Houston was very accepting and welcoming of the program. Greater Houston Retailers Association put CSAT materials and training out to 1,900 convenience stores.”

IOB will also work with local law enforcement and other groups responding to the anticipated increased sex trade activity in the Houston area. Days before the launch of the initiative, on Jan. 24, KTRK-TV, the ABC-affiliate in Houston, reported a 21-year-old woman — who said she was brought to Houston specifically for sex trafficking at the Super Bowl — was raped in downtown Houston by a pimp. According to the report, a Good Samaritan rescued the woman and took her to Ben Taub Hospital for treatment.

In addition, Belles said her organization have unveiled a major social media drive aiming to boost awareness of human trafficking during the events surrounding the February 5th game. The anti-human trafficking campaigner said she hopes for a quarter of a million shares of the new Thunderclap video, “Link Arms Across America,” during the first quarter. The short awareness message features former victims holding signs of things they were told by their traffickers.

“Thousands of women, children, and even some men across the country are caught up in the horrors of sex trafficking, convinced that there is no way out, and convenience stores can be a first line of help for these victims,” Belles said. “Businesses like these can be heroes in this fight; we’re so glad for their support.”

Since founding IOB in 2006, Belles has become widely recognized as a leading voice in the fight against human trafficking. A frequent speaker to law enforcement, medical, civic and community groups, she has also been an adviser on anti-trafficking legislation to legislators in several states and authored the authoritative book “In Our Backyard: Human Trafficking in America and What We Can Do to Stop It.”

“Human trafficking happens 24/7, 365 days a year, in every zip code in America,” Belles said. “But working together, we can bring an end to this atrocity.”

Belles said volunteers are being recruited for the event to help canvas convenience stores in the Houston area. Visit the IOB website (http://inourbackyard.org/) to sign up.

Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank receives $1.4M from FEMA

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Special to Inside The Pew

The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank has been able to continue its feeding mission with the help of a nearly $1.4 million FEMA grant.

The grant reimburses expenses to dispose of debris, clean and disinfect property and equipment and restoregreater baton rouge food bank refrigeration and freezing at the Choctaw Drive distribution facility damaged in the August flooding event. It also provides the food bank with a temporary facility to support its essential community service.

The nonprofit stores food at the distribution facility that faith-based and community groups then distribute to pantries, meal sites, homes, shelters and soup kitchens in the Baton Rouge area.

The funds were made available through FEMA’s Public Assistance (PA) program. The program reimburses expenses to eligible local and state government and certain private nonprofit entities in 26 designated parishes to repair or replace disaster-damaged facilities and infrastructure.

The 26 designated parishes eligible for PA funding are Acadia, Ascension, Assumption, Avoyelles, Cameron, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Iberia, Iberville, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, Livingston, Point Coupee, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Vermilion, Washington, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana.

FEMA typically reimburses 75 percent of eligible PA expenses. However, applicants will be reimbursed 90 percent of eligible PA expenses given the magnitude of the August floods. The federal portion is paid directly to the state, which then disburses the funds to the applicants.

The wonder of creation: Christian History magazine announces latest issue

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By Michael Austin
Special to Inside The Pew

Worcester, Pa.– Christian History Institute (CHI), publisher of Christian History magazine (CHM), announces its latest issue, titled: The Wonder of Creation: How Christians have responded to God’s ‘book of nature”.  The issue is a long-awaited homage to the grandeur of planet earth through the eyes theologians, church leaders, believers and a growing number of scientists.

CHM issue 119, contains 10 feature articles; a 2,000-year timeline chronology, an archive of rare artwork, photos, a “letters to the editor” section, and an extensive reading list compiled by the CHM editorial staff. The entire magazine is available online and can be read at: www.christianhistoryinstitute.org. The CHM archive collection of 119 issues can be searched, along with books and study-guides, using the website’s search engine feature. The CHM site, including a no-cost magazine subscription, is a study resource offered primarily for the home and homeschoolers, church libraries, middle/high schools, as well as to colleges & universities at no-cost. It is the mission of CHI donors and staff to make this resource as widely and freely available as possible – donations gratefully accepted.

Long before the birth of Jesus Christ, the prophetic words of the Bible honor the Father’s creation as if nature itself were a “second ‘book” of scripture, announcing, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge.’ – Psalm 19:1-2. Throughout history similar reverence has been repeated, as in the words of the monastic Antony (c.251-356) who said, “My book is the nature of created things. In it, when I choose, I can read the words of God.”

The famed American environmentalist and writer, who co-founded America’s Sierra Club, John Muir, said, referring to the simple beauty of a flower, “Now my eyes were opened to their inner beauty, all alike revealing glorious traces of the thoughts of God and leading on and on into the infinite cosmos.”

The impact, beauty and vast unknowns of nature combined with the desire of Christians for knowledge overChristian history magazine the centuries, spawned the disciplines of what we refer to today as formal higher education and learning, expressed through art and the professions.

Christian beliefs combined with the work of influential European believers, such as Johannes Kepler (1571-1630); Francis Bacon (1561-1626); Robert Boyle 1627-1691) and Isaac Newton (1642-1727), to name just a few, helped convert the study of theology and philosophy into an entirely new discipline, eventually called science. For them, this new revolution in thought introduced a new view of nature, a new view of investigation (the scientific method) and a new way to praise God.

Expressing the essence of this issue titled, The Wonder of Creation, managing editor of Christian History, Jennifer Woodruff Tait, said, “Christians have written poetry, prose, hymns and sermons explaining how contemplating God’s wonders led them to a greater love of God. They have created art to capture its beauty; they have worked to farm and tend that which God put into the natural order. And they have reminded us how one of the charges God gave us in the Garden of Eden was to till and keep this world (Gen. 2:15).”

“Christian history has been largely removed from the American public education system that Christian leaders began in the early years of this nation,” said Michael Austin, a Christian commentator. “After years of decline, our public schools no longer teach the Bible’s founding contribution to Western Civilization. Quakers have influenced our culture’s values regarding faith, freedom and mercy. Yet, today, faith in God is being openly questioned and attacked.”

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And the community project began…

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Editor’s note: This is the part final of a series on a collaboration that benefits one north Texas city.

By Lisa V. Cone
Special to Inside The Pew

Imagine being a busy business owner or a CEO running a multi-million dollar company. Would you find the time in your busy schedule to help a church? Help a community? Help restore lives and bring light to so many in darkness.

This group of business leaders in the McKinney, Texas, area did just that by restoring the Word Church. They areFundraisers at the Word Church members of an organization called the C12 Group — a movement of Christian business executives building great businesses for an even greater purpose.

C12 member, Russell Polk, who owns a construction and remodeling company assisted in many of the assessments and construction activities needed to make the critical improvements to The Word Church building. C12 member Jim Schwalls, who owns tax and real estate companies, introduced Pastor Dyson to a banker who arranged a loan and helped negotiate a purchase price for the house. Schwalls explained, “The Word Church was leasing the building with an option to purchase. We unanimously knew purchasing the building and the home on the adjacent lot was the right option,” Schwalls shared. “This was God at work. Everything fell into place.”

The church closed on the house and building in November of 2015. In January 2016, two families moved into the house. The church remodel and restoration project is currently underway.

The Gift of Giving
“I see this spirit of giving and volunteering now spreading to other sectors of the city to include city leaders,” sharedCommunity Volunteers to Fix Home and Church on property Pastor Dyson.

Many in the community have been led to be part of a blessing that has a tremendous ripple effect. Husbands, wives, families and local residents are all coming together to work on the church and volunteering to clean the building, paint, help maintain the grounds and donate furniture for fundraisers.

“The Holy Spirit is changing our hearts. The church needed thousands of dollars in electrical repairs and improvements, but the Lord provided. A local electrician donated his time and was even able to have the parts sold to the church at a wholesale price. A new roof was required. A roofing company donated shingles. We needed appliances, they were donated. People are opening their hearts and helping in any way they feel called to help,” explained Schwalls.

C12 Group Chairman, Tom Hawes shared, “C12 members are unique in that they are business owners who make it a priority to honor God in all things. Sharing their business skills and talents, C12 members formed an advisory group to The Word Church providing strategic direction, financial insights and business guidance. Truly, their businesses are serving a greater purpose.”

Rising Up to Meet the Community Needs

Pastor Dyson believes that C12 was a God-send and knows that they would not be able to meet the needs of the community and fix the church if it wasn’t for the expertise and business acumen of this group. “They helped us with the details of financing the new building, helped us put a transitional home together for single mothers –all within a budget. In every area of this church, we have been touched by these blessings and partnership,” Dyson said.

The Word Church also helps individuals on the streets or those facing difficult times. Pastor Dyson shared the story about an east McKinney resident who is fighting cancer. She is facing enormous health care bills and since she is sick, can no longer work and pay her rent. Many individuals have donated money, food and clothes on her behalf. A C12 member created a benevolence fund within his company and has offered to donate part of the fund to help this woman pay her bills. Others are working with the insurance companies to help her get the best heath care benefits.

A Source of Light and Inspiration
“As business owners the big question we ask is how can we use our business to do what God wants us to do in our community. How can we get involved and make a difference?” Cuccia explained.

The intangible gifts are what makes this project so unique. Beyond paint, furniture and a new roof, the generosity comes in the form of volunteers creating marketing plans, organizing fundraisers and coat drives, and drafting strategic plans for The Word Church.

“The people in east McKinney do not need a hand out, they need a hand up,” said Pastor Dyson. “They need work, coaching, training, guidance and someone who truly cares.” Providing a hand-up in life and connecting them with Christ is the vision of this church and Pastor Dyson looks forward to being part of this amazing journey.

Hawes shared, “This is such an uplifting story shows how men and women of different backgrounds, vocations and circumstances can unite to serve the community together. We are honored to work with The Word Church and to remember that we all have something to contribute. When members of the community pull together for a united cause, the power and inspiration becomes unstoppable.”

Photo cutlines (photos courtesy of Lisa V. Cone):

Top: Fundraisers at the Word Church

Bottom: Group of community volunteers to fix a home and church on property

Lisa V. Cone is a writer for The C12 Group, America’s leading roundtable for Christian CEOs and owners dedicated to building great business for a greater purpose. She resides in Austin, and provides marketing and communications strategic support for non-profits and growing businesses across the country in various industries. 

God at work: When community comes together, great things happen

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Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on a collaboration that benefits one north Texas city.

By Lisa V. Cone
Special to Inside The Pew

Do you believe that giving is contagious? A group of McKinney, Texas, business owners and community leadersThe Word Church Repairs certainly do. Their generosity and charitable spirit not only helped people, but their giving has spurred a ripple effect of generosity across the community.

It all began with a small church that hosts worship services from an old building on the east side of McKinney — an area impacted by economic hardships and poverty. Many of the area’s residents struggle to find jobs and provide the basic necessities for their families. In the middle of so much darkness, The Word Church has been a source of hope, restoration, and light. Men, women and families come to the church not only to worship, but to receive a warm meal, clothes and even a place to sleep. In addition, the church offers job training programs, money management skills, counseling, job referrals and other resources to help those who need guidance and a hand-up.

“The goal for this church is to create a place where people in need can heal, be restored and connect with their families, their community, and, most importantly, with God. Our church hosts worship services and Bible study groups, but we want to be even more to those in need. A house on the adjacent lot provides transitional housing for single mothers and the working poor who are trying to make ends meet. We want to be a resource for the community while sharing the love of Christ,” explained The Word Church Pastor, Robert Dyson.

And even as their building was falling down around them, The Word Church was steadfast to heal and restore those in the community from the inside out. But to provide even more resources, the church building and house were in desperate need of repairs that were beyond what the congregation could provide on its own.

A Community United

Enter the C12 Group of Collin/Denton, a peer advisory forum for Christian CEOs and owners committed to building great businesses for a greater purpose. C12 members focus on critical business topics to strengthen their businesses while finding ways to honor God through ministry. This network of men and women who all own or lead a business in the area became aware of The Word Church eighteen months ago. The church’s needs were apparent. C12 members decided that applying their skills, time and energy was a way to bless their local community — and the outcome is beyond what anyone could have imagined.

C12 member, Sam Cuccia who owns a telecommunications consulting company, is one of the nearly dozen C12 members who have been part of the team helping The Word Church. From his perspective, it all started with a prompting from God. Cuccia recalls hearing a sermon at his church, Christ Fellowship Church, when Pastor Bruce Miller (also a C12 member) shared stories and a video clip documenting the poverty and heartache in McKinney’s east side.

“McKinney, Texas was named the best place to live in America by Money magazine. But if you travel to the east side, it is a different story. How can this be happening in my city and I don’t even know it? It shook me,” explained Cuccia. “After witnessing photos of poverty and loss, I wanted to do something, but I just wasn’t sure what to do. Perhaps this was the vision from God I was supposed to follow.” And so he did.

Brokenness Repaired

After speaking with his church, Cuccia was advised to meet with 3e McKinney, a ministry that brings care, hope andThe Word Church Stands Strong transformation to the city through the collaborative efforts of many churches. He learned about The Word Church and how Dyson wanted to make a difference to the east side. Cuccia soon discovered how this church was providing worship and support services to residents, but was having a difficult time operating out of their aging, dilapidated building.

“That’s when I asked fellow C12 member, Russell Polk, who owns a construction and remodeling company to come with me to meet with leaders of The Word Church,” Cuccia explained. The critical needs and opportunities were immediately clear. With a passion in their hearts to help, Polk and Cuccia discussed the opportunity to assist the church with all the C12 Groups in Collin and Denton counties. Many other members felt the same tug on their hearts and asked how they could help.

C12 members went to the church to meet with Dyson and his leaders. He immediately witnessed the power of giving through the C12 Group and calls them the catalyst for change.

“These men and women are busy running their own businesses but, they so selflessly donate their time, financial contributions and talents with repairing the building,” Dyson said. “They are hands on, in the trenches getting it done, working side by side, all while relationships are being created and strengthened.

“Giving, honoring God and blessing others through time and talents is exactly what these men and women are doing. We have a building that was falling apart, but this building is a source of guidance and healing for our community. If we can restore this building, then we can restore more people.”

And the Project Began….

Find out the details of the project, how the community got involved and the outcome of dozens of charitable hearts in part two.

Photo cutlines (courtesy of Lisa V. Cone):

Top: Volunteers renovate The Word Church in McKinney, Texas.

Bottom: Sign attached to church shows “The Word” stands strong. 

Lisa V. Cone is a writer for The C12 Group, America’s leading roundtable for Christian CEOs and owners dedicated to building great business for a greater purpose. She resides in Austin, and provides marketing and communications strategic support for non-profits and growing businesses across the country in various industries. 

Louisiana among 8 states to benefit from AmeriCorps, DRA partnership

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Corporation for national and community service

Special to Inside The Pew

A new partnership for national service, DeltaCorps, will help address economic and social needs of local communities in the eight states of the Mississippi River Delta region, leaders from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) and Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that administers AmeriCorps.

Announced July 14, DRA and AmeriCorps plan to deploy the first group of DeltaCorps members in fall 2016 to each of the eight states of the DRA footprint: Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. This deployment will coincide with a national commemoration of the one-millionth participant to serve in AmeriCorps.

This partnership, valued at $1.6 million, will deploy up to 100 AmeriCorps members to the Delta region over the next year.

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DeltaCorps: a program of AmeriCorps and the Delta Regional Authority will deploy AmeriCorps members to local organizations to help them improve economic opportunity in their communities. DeltaCorps members will serve with nonprofit organizations that have distinguished themselves as powerful catalysts for change in the Delta region. The program will utilize a diverse portfolio of models that develop stronger local economies through workforce training, health and wellness, emergency preparedness, and additional focus areas.

“Our communities in the Delta region are in need of increased capacity to their existing assets so that they can better address the numerous challenges and harness economic opportunities for Delta workers, families, and businesses. We are looking to the existing, proven model of success in AmeriCorps and investing our resources to deploy interested service members that will help these organizations create jobs, build their local communities, and improve the lives of the 10 million people in the Delta region,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the DRA.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

The added capacity that DeltaCorps brings to community organizations will help them expand and reach into traditionally underserved communities. As DRA recognizes the important role national and community service plays in the economic development of the Delta region, the program also elevates the culture of service and civic engagement in the Delta. Region-focused leadership training for the DeltaCorps members will develop future leaders for the Delta region while also increasing the positive impact young residents can have in supporting their local communities.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Delta Regional Authority, which shares our belief in improving economic opportunity through unique and innovative partnerships like the one we announced today,” said Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “For more than 20 years, AmeriCorps has helped organizations meet critical needs in communities around the nation. Through the new DeltaCorps partnership, AmeriCorps members will continue to address some of the most pressing social and economic challenges facing the Mississippi River Delta Region.”

The Notice of Federal Funding Availability has been posted on both agencies’ websites at DRA.gov/DeltaCorps/ and NationalService.gov/DeltaCorps. The program is accepting applications on a rolling basis. Organizations with existing infrastructure to support the AmeriCorps program are invited to apply for DeltaCorps member slots.

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Prayer vigil brings solace after Dallas police shooting

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By Tonya Andris
Inside The Pew

DALLAS – Mourners of all faiths converged on Thanksgiving Square in Dallas on Friday to pray for the city and individuals directly impacted by the attack on Dallas and Dallas Area Rapid Transportation (DART) police officers. The attack, called the deadliest attack on U.S. law enforcement since 9-11, left five officers dead and seven other officers and two civilians injured.

During his closing prayer, Bishop T.D. Jakes asked for spiritual guidance and asked for men and women to gain courage to take on other people’s burdens.

“If we agree, we can turn this nation around. Our country is laying on the edge of destruction, but just because it is on the edge doesn’t mean it has to fall over. Let that which unites us be greater than that which divides us.

“We were made from one blood. We have different skins. We have different styles. We have different philosophical ideologies, but by one blood that you made all men.”

Local and national leadership, Jakes said, should resemble the same love, compassion, and wisdom of the Almighty.

More hugs

One man in attendance wore his feelings for everyone to see. An unidentified man wore a shirt that read, “Free Hugs.” During an interview with a FOX 4 Dallas reporter, he said “This is what this city needs right now.” He wasn’t alone, as you can see from this video posted on Twitter by Kristen Hampton from WBTV in Charlotte, N.C.

Billy Graham team arrives in Dallas

ASSIST News Services reported Friday the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has been deployed to Dallas less thanBilly Graham RR 24 hours after the mass shooting.

“It’s hard to know what to say in the face of all of the violence we’ve seen in recent days. Our hearts are broken,” said Jack Munday, international director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team in a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team news release.

“Please pray for this entire situation, stretching from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge to Dallas. We’re sending chaplains into Dallas to offer a ministry of presence to a community in crisis.”

Michael Ireland of ASSIST News contributed to this report.

Photos

Main: Crowd gathers in Thanksgiving Square in Dallas for the Interfaith Prayer Vigil on Friday. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Campos.

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tax time, an uncertain time for the homeless

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2016 Tax Deadline and homeless people

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.With tax season and filing time being upon us, I wondered how our Joy Junction guests felt about taxes.

After all, while you can never escape from the long arm of the Internal Revenue Service, so to speak,Homeless people and filing taxes when you’re looking for a place to stay and a meal, taxes tend to take a second place, right?

But there are a number of reasons why homeless people should file, even though anyone making an annual income less than $10,150 as a single person or $20,300 as a married person filling jointly is under the threshold for filing taxes and therefore not required to file a tax return.

My staff asked a few of our guests whether they plan to file this year and for those who do file, how much any potential refund they’ve received helps them out.

When confusion about taxes reigns for those of us who do have a job and a stable living situation, it’s not surprising that uncertainty about filing was prevalent among those homeless guests to whom we spoke.

One guy newly homeless said he has never filed.

He added, “I have heard that if you haven’t earned more than $5,000 that you are not able to file taxes. Also the time I did work I never received my W-2 to file taxes. I just don’t know how to file taxes, or what I would need to file as a homeless person.”

However, between Feb. 1 and the end of tax season, Joy Junction is blessed to have Phil’s Tax Service twice weekly provide help for our guests.

Shelter Case Manager Carl Valles said the business has been a blessing.

“Phil’s has great enjoyment and passion providing free tax preparation to the homeless. I also notice their diligence of doing the preparation correctly, and following up with residents who were unable to complete their taxes due to missing documents. They also help resident acquire missing paperwork.”

Valles added, “The residents recognize Phil’s Tax service as friends who provide a most important service to them for free and in a respectful manner.”

Another guy appreciated his refund. “Because the government is helping us from starving. I believe it is a social responsibility of all citizens to care for all other citizens, otherwise it would be chaos.”
In addition, he added, “It is a way of keeping track of the homeless population and how tax dollars are distributed.”

Someone else said he was employed last year and filed taxes.

However, he added, “I was unaware of being able to file taxes as a homeless person. Receiving a refund is better than nothing. We should be thankful for what we receive.”

Another man said he hasn’t filed for five years because he has been unemployed and homeless. He said he tried last year, but was told he didn’t make enough to file.

Someone else said he didn’t believe the refund was much help.

He added, “And without dependents, you did not get that much back.”

Weighing heavily on his mind was this thought, “To get your taxes done they charge a lot, and to do it yourself is too complex. I would have to say that I got more (refund) money being homeless here at Joy Junction then we did last year not being homeless. Also, we had our taxes done for free here at Joy Junction.”

Someone else said, “Now that I’m in New Mexico I wasn’t sure if I was going to file. Phil’s Tax Services came here and did it for free, so I filed. I received $54 from federal taxes and was not (required to file) state taxes, because I have not lived in New Mexico (long enough) to qualify. So, the bottom line is it wasn’t much, but a lot when you do not have much.”

One woman said while she filed taxes last year, she received a letter from the IRS “stating they need proof that I am who I say I am.”

Someone else said she didn’t know the tax laws for the homeless.

While not directly answering the question, one poignant comment was from a guy who was incarcerated for 16 years. His answer went beyond just the filing of taxes and what he thought about (potential) refunds.

“I am new to all these things going on in society … Mentally I am still institutionalized and unable to understand my freedom, and how other people take it for granted. I am just thankful to receive anything at all.”

If you employ homeless workers, here’s a handy guide.

And for those of you who just want to know more about filing your taxes, click here.

Happy filing!

Photo caption: Homeless people gathering on the sidewalk on 6th and San Julian streets in downtown Los Angeles. (Photo by John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News).

 

COGIC Charities gives water, baby formula to Flint residents

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By Grelan Muse Sr.
Inside The Pew

In wake of the ongoing Flint water crisis, the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Charities recently announced it is sending water and ready-made baby formula to Flint residents.

According to a press release, several COGIC churches in Flint will serve as distribution centers providing much-needed water and babyFlint Water formula to thousands of Flint residents for the next couple of months or until supplies are depleted.

“There are more than 60 Church of God in Christ congregations in Flint, Mich. When we heard about the crisis, we immediately began to mobilize and strategize how we as an organization could help our members and residents,” said Charles E. Blake, Sr., COGIC presiding bishop. “The leadership of the Church of God in Christ cannot stand silent as the innocent children of Flint and their parents suffer the ravages of poisonous water. We stand with these parents, and with all the residents, to call for the speedy, permanent restoration of clean, drinking water.”

The following COGIC congregations in Flint will distribute water and infant formula free of charge: Greater Holy Temple COGIC, 6702Flint Deliveries North Dort Highway; Cathedral of Faith COGIC, 6031 DuPont St.; International Inspiration Gospel Ministries COGIC, 901 Brown St.; Pentecostal Tabernacle COGIC, 401 Carton St.; Open Door COGIC, 3925 North Term St.; Lively Stone COGIC, 1023 Pettibone St.; Redeeming Grace Ministries, 802 E. Baltimore Blvd.; Greater New Bethel COGIC, 925 W. Atherton Road; Faith Temple COGIC, 5802 Fleming Road; Born Again Ministries COGIC, 3302 Lewis St.; and New Jerusalem COGIC, 617 Stockdale St.

For more information about COGIC Charities’ “Water For Flint,” visit www.cogic.org.

Photos:

Top: COGIC Charities has donated water and ready-made baby formula to residents of Flint, Mich. Courtesy of Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press.

Right: Charity donations were delivered by U-Haul trucks and cars.

Copyright © 2016 Inside The Pew. All rights reserved.

Refugees from world’s hot spots share their culture, learn about Christmas in U.S.

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Dallas police officer with refugee

By Dan Wooding
Founder of the ASSIST News Service

DALLAS – With tensions about refugees running at a high point in the United States, a Dallas-based refugee outreach, has arranged for a uniqueRefugee children enjoying their gifts Christmas event for refugees that have settled in its region.

Gateway of Grace, founded by a refugee, has turned the tables on the traditional “helping hand” this Christmas. Instead of serving meals to the displaced in North Texas — the displaced will serve their homemade dishes to North Texans.

“The goodwill we celebrate at Christmas extends to everyone,” said Samira Izadi Page, founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace. “This Christmas, refugees in our communities can give us the gift of meals from their homelands, even as we reach out to them with gifts and an explanation of what Christmas is about.”

According to a news release from Lovell-Fairchild Communications, the event —a Christmas Party for Refugees called “Peace on Earth and Goodwill Toward Mankind” will be held Dec. 18, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Wilshire Baptist Church, 4316 Abrams Road in Dallas.

More than 200 refugees, their families and volunteers will be on hand for a potluck lunch of native food from around the world from countries likeDallas police officer with refugee Burma, Bhutan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Senegal, Sudan, Congo and Syria, to name just a sampling of nations represented. And dishes will range from African rice to Uzbek stew to whatever the families bring.

“Each refugee family receives a gift card, and as live Christmas songs are sung, Santa Claus will share the story of St. Nicholas with children and explain what Christmas is about,” said the news release.

In 2014, of the 70,000 refugees arriving in the U.S., Texas received 11 percent – more than any other state, Page said. She knows their plight well. Her family fled Iran and sought political asylum in the U.S., where she eventually converted to Christianity, attended seminary and founded Gateway of Grace.

“The negative portrayal of refugees these days causes them to feel unwanted, to feel shame, insecurity, anxiety and fear,” she said. “With all that is going on in the world, this year, more than any other time, the message of Christmas is relevant in imparting dignity and worth to refugees. To shareSamira Izadi Page the joy of Christmas with refugees who have never experienced Christmas is a great way of removing some of the fear and anxiety and bringing healing into their lives.”

The event still needs volunteers for transportation and to provide gift cards plus necessary items for the refugee families including winter coats, baby formula and diapers.

To learn more or to volunteer, call Gateway of Grace at 469-324-8825 or go to http://www.gatewayofgrace.org.

Note: Samira Izadi Page is the founder and Executive Director of Gateway of Grace Ministries. She was born and raised in Iran as a Muslim. Samira and her family fled Iran due to persecution and obtained political asylum status in the U.S. Samira converted to Christianity and earned her Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and is currently pursuing her Doctor of Ministry in Missional Church Studies at Perkins at SMU.

Samira has committed her life to bringing the hope and love of Christ to those whose hope, dignity, and humanity have been taken away by oppressive governments and circumstances. She frequently speaks nationally and locally at conferences, churches and other venues on issues of interfaith relations, Islam and Christianity, and refugee outreach. Samira works cross-denominationally with pastors and mission leaders and moves local congregations into new ways of mission and outreach.

VISION of Gateway of Grace:

To see the practical and spiritual needs of refugees in our communities met through compassionate, meaningful, Christ-centered relationships with the local Church

MISSION

To educate, equip, and mobilize the Church to bridge socio-cultural gaps between Christians and refugees so that refugees can know the hope of Christ through words and deeds of compassion.

SERVICES

Gateway helps refugees start over, many of them survivors of severe trauma, with donated furniture, pocket money, groceries, baby showers, job assistance, language lessons, and more. Most important, perhaps, Gateway trains volunteers and churches to adopt refugee families, the point where friendships form and assimilation begins.