Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Bread Thread

Bread for the World is celebrating its 34th birthday this year. Normally, 34 is not a milestone year. Milestone years are normally reserved for 25 or 50. Or you could make the case for 35 and 40. But I feel compelled to put a special marker on year 34.

From my standpoint, there is no major event or "happenstance" prompting me to celebrate this year, but a series of "small" meetings during the past year. Call them "connection" or "reconnection" vignettes, either in person or through cyberspace (specifically that wonderful networking medium called Facebook)

Most of these folks I knew through Bread for the World many years ago but had lost touch. Others I didn't know, but discovered they had a Bread connection. Still others, are Bread people with whom I have stayed in touch, but had not seen in a while.

(And I note that
Bread did celebrate Year 34 by unveiling its new logo).

Here are a couple of my stories:

The Office (Pasadena)
Ok, I borrowed the title from the popular television show. But this not about Michael Scott or Dwight Schrute or Jim or Pam. This is about how about a chance meeting related to Bread for the World's office in California.

On the last weekend of August, I volunteered to set up a Bread for the World/ONE Campaign display at Matthew 25, a conference to promote opportunities and highlight the service and social-justice work of churches and organizations in the Albuquerque-based Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande.

One of the special guests at the conference was the director of the Seattle office of Episcopal Relief and Development. He had been introduced as a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, and I knew a couple of folks who graduated from that institution.

As I went up to his display table to introduce myself, he immediately noted that he was once a staff member of Bread for the World.

As it turned out, this fellow was Brian Sellers-Petersen, who was instrumental in convincing Bread to put the new western regional office in Pasadena and not in Los Angeles proper back in the 1980s.

To make matters even more interesting, Brian asked me if I had heard from his former co-worker in that office, Emily Abbott. As a matter of fact, just a couple of weeks ago, Emily and her husband Zachary hosted me at their home in Altadena! I was in California in mid-August for a work-related trip and a few days of vacation.

Anyway, Emily was the regional organizer for the "Rest of the West (including New Mexico)" at the same time that Brian was covering California. And just like Brian, Zachary was a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary. Above is a picture of Emily and Zachary that I took at a great botanical garden called The Huntington.

But I would be remiss if I left out two of the current staffers at the Pasadena office, with whom I had a great lunch during my recent trip to California: Holly Hight and David Gist. Ricardo Moreno, Bread's organizer for Latino Relations, also works out of that office. Above is a picture of Holly and David. By the way, Holly's husband, Joel Short, is also a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Tracks all Over Facebook
Those of us who have experienced the social networking medium known as Facebook are well aware that it can be both a trap and an opportunity. The big danger is that it entices you to waste a lot of time surfing through your friend's groups and photographs. Conversely, this is a medium that is very useful for organizing. For example, I've created three groups that have relevance to our justice work in New Mexico: Bread for the World-New Mexico, The ONE Albuquerque-New Mexico, and Albuquerque Fair Trade City.

Facebook has also allowed me to reconnect or make an acquaintance with several folks with whom I share a history with Bread for the World. First, let me mention Bob Schminkey, who was one of my regional organizers when I still lived in Kansas City. Bob and I have a common vice: we root for the Los Angeles Dodgers (and because of it, we're suffering this season). Speaking of Bob, I became acquainted with one of his Facebook friends, Cynthia Biddlecomb, when she joined the Bread for the World-New Mexico group on Facebook. As it turns out, Cynthia was once a summer intern for Bread.

I also recently reconnected via Facebook with Kim Bobo, who once headed the Organizing department at Bread. Kim, who is executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice, has become such an authority on organizing that there an entry on Wikipedia for her.

Another significant new friend on Facebook is Steve Eulberg, a Lutheran pastor I knew in Kansas City. Steve, a Bread member, was the one who presided over the wedding ceremony when Karen and I got married on Sept. 1, 1990. His wife, Pastor Connie Winter-Eulberg, is also a Facebook friend. Connie sang at our wedding.

And I've also made contact on Facebook with two people, with whom I served on the Bread board: Connie Jaarsma Marty and Rebekah Jordan. Below is a picture of Connie from way back (notice the difference between that logo and the new logo, which Holly and David are holding in the picture above).

Connie and her husband John (also a Facebook friend), were at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., at the same as my wife Karen. John is a state senator in Minnesota.

Other Facebook reacquaintances include fellow Bread members or staffers I knew either back in Kansas City or here in Albuquerque or from a national gathering in Washington: Sherry Thompsen, Edie Lott, Zelinda Welch, Julie Brewer, Marco Grimaldo...

And several New Mexico Bread members are on Facebook: Kari Bachmann, Jon Bulthuis, Bob Riley, among others...

So in the spirit of those new acquaintances and reaquaintances, I say Happy 34th birthday, Bread for the World!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hunger and the Congressional Elections

Picture this... You're at a town hall meeting with Darren White or Martin Heinrich or Harry Teague or Ed Tinsley or Ben Ray Lujan, Dan East, Carol Miller, Dan Simmons or Tom Udall or Steve Pearce. If you know who all or most of these people are, you are ready to join Beat Hunger NM.

As a part of BEAT Hunger NM, you'll be speaking up to House and Senate candidates about hunger and poverty at town hall meetings and community events - a tactic commonly known as "bird-dogging."

Sign up for BEAT Hunger NM to receive updates on candidate events near you.

Here's how it works...

The candidate finishes her stump speech, and now it's time for Q & A. Your heart is racing as you stand up to the microphone in the aisle... You introduce yourself, and ask your question about what she will do about the 35 million people in our country who are hungry or at risk of hunger... The candidate responds - maybe with an answer you like, maybe not. Your friend in the audience captures the whole thing on video and will post it on YouTube in about an hour. The candidate leaves the meeting knowing that this is an issue she must address if elected.

We will track when many candidates for the House and Senate hold public events and notify you once you've signed up for BEAT Hunger NM. Ideally, two or three (or more) BEAT Hunger NM members will be able to attend a town hall meeting - there's real strength in numbers. We will also help you along the way with tips on how to ask questions effectively, how to organize a group of people beforehand, how to document your experience, and how to follow-up with the campaign.

We invite your creativity too. We'll need guest bloggers, and we welcome short videos of question and answers to post on our Web site. BEAT Hunger '08 participants may also raise issues in the media, meet with candidates for office, and take other actions to let candidates know they have a constituency that cares about hunger. The sky is the limit.

We have set teams in all three congressional districts. In District 2 in southern New Mexico, our coordinator is LaVerne Kaufman, with the help of Ellen Young. In District 3, our coordinator is Bro. Jim Brown, with the assistance from Heidi Ernst Jones and Jane Hanna. Carlos Navarro is coordinating efforts in District 1 and the Senate campaigns. But we're just a handful of people and we need your help.

Thank you for taking the time to learn about this exciting new initiative. Our mission at Bread for the World is to urge our nation's decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad. With your efforts and God's help, we can move one step closer to realizing this vision.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Second Graders Urge Congress to Address Global Poverty

Colleen Davidson was one of the members of St. Bede's Episcopal Church in Santa Fe who participated in the church's Offering of Letters this year. As she was writing her letter, she decided to talk to her students about global poverty. As a result, her class decided to write a collective letter to Rep. Tom Udall. Below is the letter. (Click on the images to enlarge them)