Who will step forward to answer the call to be relevant to youth at a time when jobs are scarce, crime rates are up and education is lagging? This was the question asked by religious leaders as nonprofits and faith-based groups met at the Mormon Temple last week at a meeting of the Alameda County Linking Interfaith Groups with Nonprofits (ALIGN), designed to connect businesses, nonprofits and congregations working in area for community advocacy.
The two event organizers, Elder Thomas Brighton with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Ana-Marie Jones, Executive Director of Collaborating Agencies Responding to Disasters (CARD) and Co-Chair of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce Nonprofit Network Group, worked tirelessly to meet with religious organizers and event sponsors securing a site and creating an entirely free event. Their mission was to have both groups come together in the spirit of finding a common ground. Ana-Marie said, “There once was the East Bay Resource Center that supported this type of activity, (and) now there is just Compass Point. But we need more.”
The local area has many opportunities to help the community and work together, said Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who stated that, “Oakland has more churches and nonprofits per capita than any other metropolitan city in the United States”
Workshops covered vital information such as how to use social media, connect with corporate sponsors, do fundraising, prepare for natural disasters and find and keep volunteers.
Speaking at the dinner, Elder Brighton challenged everyone to get youth involved in charitable work, organize a group of seniors to work in the community and offer a social program every year to make members aware of their different programs.
Among those who spoke were Solomon Belette, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, who talked about breaking down silos; Ibrahim Ozcan of Muslim Pacifica Institute, who talked about sharing food during different Islamic fasting events with other religious communities; and Rabbi Andrew Straus of the Oakland Temple Sinai, who said, “Out of the mountain of despair, there is a stone of hope.”
Event planners and sponsors included the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, BART, Alameda County Community Food Bank, CARD, Post News Group, El Mundo Newspaper and Center for Urban Black Studies. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints shared its resources and facility for the event.