View from the Pew
To atheists’ chagrin, Bush program does good
Every time the president's Faith-Based Initiative pops up in the news, it stimulates yards of blather and blog from religious groups, anti-religion advocates and purported voices of reason on the subject of separation of church and state.
How To Get The Word Out
"Breaking Through the Noise: Successful Communications for Nonprofit Organizations" is a free workshop for nonprofit faith-based and community organizations. It is sponsored by Hawaii Moving Forward, a partnership of University of Hawaii Center on the Family and Hawaiian Island Ministries and is funded by a grant from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Speaker: Frank Cho, senior vice president, Communications Pacific
Where: Ala Moana Hotel
When: 8:30-11:30 a.m. Aug. 9
Registration deadline: Aug. 2
That's a peek at a religion writer's e-mail two weeks ago when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a lawsuit by plaintiffs trying to stop the Bush administration from giving money to religious groups providing social services.
The details of the Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation case can be found elsewhere, as can the multifaceted debate about the First Amendment language about establishment of religion, the intentions of the Founding Fathers and the religious bent of the current leader of the free world.
What we're here to tell you is that a trickle from this particular federal spigot -- which will likely run dry when the White House changes occupants -- does reach church and community groups in Hawaii and benefits needy people here.
The Associated Press reported last week that $2.1 billion was awarded to religious charities across the country in fiscal year 2005, a 7 percent increase from the previous year. The money is disseminated by seven federal government departments.
The University of Hawaii Center on the Family has received $3.25 million in the past three years from the Department of Health and Human Services' Compassion Capital project. The center has provided training, mentoring and funds to 57 nonprofit organizations, including 22 church-connected groups, that are providing food or shelter for homeless people, services for homebound seniors, support for prisoners re-entering the community, and other outreach to needy people.
"We are one of only two programs in the nation that have been funded for three times," said Sylvia Yuen, director of the Center on the Family. "It's a very competitive process. We serve as an intermediary entity," she said.
The UH "capacity-building" program provides training to help nonsectarian community groups as well as religious charitable organizations get their acts together. Besides workshops on financial management, strategic planning and leadership training, there are mentors, such as a professional accountant, available one on one.
As Yuen puts it, "We help you with structure to do the good you intended and wanted to do. You hear from experts who say you're starting off strong, but unless you manage them, you will lose those volunteers. You learn that unless you have systems in place, you won't be able to manage your programs and sustain them. You begin to see it is wonderful to bring in grants, but you have to be accountable. Unless you learn to manage the financials, you will be in a pickle of trouble."
Opponents of the faith-based funding raise the alarm that the person who receives help from a church group will be forced to swallow a religious doctrine as the price for a free lunch. Another fear is that a church will get rich and thrive with federal funding.
Yuen said it is not happening. "They cannot use the money to buy Bibles. They cannot say, 'Let us pray before you eat.' If an organization said they want to hire a staff person, we say, 'Sorry, you're not allowed to use the money that way.'
"All of them have to sign a statement that they understand and commit that they will not do proselytizing."
Most of the local groups are getting money grants in the $13,000-to-$15,000 range, said Yuen. Not to worry about enriching a church.
One recipient is a Hauula Christian church with several years' history of feeding the homeless. The Ohana Family of the Living God recently made headlines as it erected six large portable tents called yurts to shelter homeless people through a $600,000 state grant. The nondenominational church will receive a $14,000 faith-based grant next month, money for a consultant to help set up a computer system.
Pastor Sadrian Chee said, "We want to build our capacity to track the outcomes of people we serve, something the faith community doesn't normally do. We want to make sure our policies, programs and procedures are error free. We want to build our program to be a model for other groups that are afraid to get into it."
Chee has attended White House conferences on the faith-based program in Washington, D.C., and in Seattle "to get information, to make sure we are walking the right path. There has to be separation of church and state.
"The faith community has services which no other agency can provide," Chee said. "We can help after someone comes out of prison or rehab. We can help families. We help people sustain sobriety and get back in the home. That's priceless."
Another recipient of faith-based funding is Project Dana, which began 18 years ago as a Honolulu Buddhist temple's support service to seniors living at home. It now operates from 31 Buddhist and Christian churches on four major islands, with more than 750 trained volunteers visiting homebound people, providing free transportation and support in the home.
Project Dana used a 2003 grant "to train their staff to make sure they were providing cutting-edge services. It prepared them to bring their model to the neighbor islands," said Yuen.
The interfaith effort will get a new grant this year to enhance its help for seniors, said director Rose Nakamura. "People tell our volunteers that they fell, or they are afraid to go out because they might fall. We will use the funds to launch a home safety assessment and education program. There are things they can do to be careful to prevent falls."
Is there proselytizing going on in these programs? I haven't heard of it. But if so, I'd like to hear about it.
Is there enrichment happening? Ask the beneficiary of hot food, safe shelter, a sympathetic listener, an energetic supporter. Or ask any volunteer at the end of the day. As Chee said, they aren't measuring it in dollars.
Compassion In Action
Hawaii faith-based organizations that will receive federal funds through the current Compassion Capital grant coordinated by the University of Hawaii Center on the Family:
Catholic Charities Hawaii, Honolulu
Mission/services: Assists elders in need and families/individuals transitioning from welfare to work
Capacity-building grant focus: Develop financial management capacity through development and implementation of a customized financial management system
Kauai Bible Church, Lawai, Kauai
Mission/services: Provides prevention and recreational services to at-risk youth
Capacity-building grant focus: Participate in Fellows Program training workshop and technical assistance addressing various capacity-building areas
Lighthouse Ministries "Ke Ola Hou," Oahu
Mission/services: Mentors at-risk youth in the context of their culture and community
Capacity-building grant focus: Develop financial management and data tracking systems; conduct board development and training; participate in strategic development planning activities
Office for Social Ministry, Catholic Diocese of Honolulu
Mission/services: Provides a range of outreach and support services to at-risk populations statewide
Capacity-building grant focus: Develop stronger operating structures, improve and expand client services, increase volunteer management capacity, implement program evaluation
Ohana, Family of the Living God
Mission/services: Helps to serve the homeless and indigents on Oahu
Capacity-building grant focus: Implement improvements to financial management and data tracking systems, and conduct site environment evaluation
St. Anthony of Padua Church, Kailua
Mission/services: Provides community outreach and support services to elders and at-risk populations
Capacity-building grant focus: Develop stronger operating structures, improve and expand client services, and implement volunteer management system
St. Joseph Church Youth Ministry, Hilo, Hawaii
Mission/services: Mentors youth and young adults
Capacity-building grant focus: Participate in Fellows Program training workshops and consultation
Victory Ohana Prison Fellowship Inc., Oahu
Mission/services: Helps those in need transition back into the community as productive members of society
Capacity-building grant focus: Conduct staff training and development, and develop strategic plan
A Track Record of Assistance
Religious organizations that previously received Compassion Capital funding:
Aloha Church Assembly of God
Project description: Technical training for underprivileged youth and young adults
Central Union Church of Honolulu
Project description: Social Outreach, job training and placement services to the homeless and those transitioning off welfare
The Episcopal Church in Hawaii, Christ Church
Project description: Career Resource Center serving adults transitioning from welfare to work
Faith Against Drugs
Project description: Sober, safe, secure, transitional housing for recovering alcoholic addicts, post-incarcerated persons, poor and homeless persons
Feed My Sheep Inc.
Project description: Food pantry program
Grace Bible Church Honolulu
Project description: Feeding the hungry
Moiliili Hongwanji Mission, Project Dana
Project description: Interfaith volunteer caregivers program supporting frail elderly and disabled individuals with emotional and social assistance
Paradise Chapel Assembly of God Church
Project description: Services for low-income and underresourced community members of the Waianae Coast
Springs of Living Water
Project description: Training and services to develop and enhance self-reliance and self-sufficiency in individuals transitioning from welfare to work
St. Theresa Church
Project description: Feeding the homeless
Wailuku Door of Faith Church
Project description: Prison teleconferencing ministry providing communication between prisoners and their families