By Jim Bowman
Monday night 10/30 at Ascension, the OP&RF Community of Congregations gathered a panel of 11 people who are trying to make Austin a better place. A highly successful venture, the panel plus discussion, I might say hugely so. Fr. McNally the pastor told the group of 80 or so in the Pine Room that his people had to get extra chairs, a sure sign of big crowd.
And the good-doers (not do-gooders, in the time-honored usage for meddlers and fixers) came off splendidly.
Dr. André L. Hines a mildly spoken, God-fearing black M.D. at Circle Family Health Care Network, spoke of offering a "whole gamut of primary care" and opening a new clinic at Proviso West High School. "We praise God," she said of this development. HIV testing is one of their services. They work to meet "physical, spiritual, and emotional" needs of their patients. She is "excited" about the coming Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) -- about which we can only hope (and pray) that she is not disappointed. They already have "county care," which offers services "all for free. A truly sweet lady.
Edward Coleman delivered an report on the gold-medal "workforce development and business development sustainable living wage" program run by Bethel New Life, where he is Vice President, Community Economic Development. It's a 34-year-old offshoot of Bethel Lutheran Church. He chuckled after saying he's called "the Allstate man," though (he claimed) he knows not why. (Consider the Allstate TV pitchman, of course.) Bethel's twin focus is on manufacturing and construction. What they have done is "good," he said, but does not "transform the community," which he said needs 27,000 new jobs for the now-unemployed, plus jobs for the currently underemployed, for a 53,000-job total. "Enterpreneurship training" is part of this program.
Serethea Reid, president of the two-year-old Central Austin Neighborhood Assn., similarly church-connected, in this case with mostly white Third Unitarian Church, had a nicely composed prepared statement. Her group seeks to "counter the toxic mix" faced by Austin residents. People "don't know" what to do (she named several categories where knowing is crucial), "don't trust" those who do know, can't "buy favor" for themselves. She and her confreres apply a "high therapeutic touch" to the toxic mix. She pointed to Sunday's Chi Trib article for a detailed picture of Austin -- one of several references to the Trib, none with reference to its expose of Ald. Deborah Graham's highly questionable approval of a major city grant to a drug pusher, as reported in this blog. Graham was present in the rear of the hall, sitting with sister Democrat Rep. Camille Lilly.
Chicago Police and Firefighters Training Academy's Lieut. Frank Brim came on superbly. He's also a Reverend and a coach, a fit-looking black man with 23 years in the department, where his duties include introducing young people to police and fire officers and enroll them in the academy. 1,800 kids apply for his program, he said. Half of them survive the background check. Each is urged and taught to "stand up for himself," that is, be responsible individuals. In conjunction with this and integral to it, he runs runs the Garfield Park Little League, which he considers crucial to his work. It's a matter of "baseball as bait," as it was for him as a kid growing up in Robert Taylor Homes.
---- more more more to come --