December 2020
First giving honor to God from whom all blessings flow, and then to our ancestors on whose shoulders we stand, for if they had not been, we would not be. These words, shared by Mama Frances Jarnegan on countless occasions, continue to empower me and give me strength and courage to “come in my own way” as was often the direction in church when being invited to speak. So, I begin “in my own way” with an excerpt from the ending of a poem I penned…

would that i had peace--to write a poem--about a flower, a yellow rose bending into sound of saturday morning’s sun. i’d love to write a poem about a flower, to have the luxury to lyrically illustrate the vibrancy of its scent--dance in the depth of its glory, but a tortuous thicket locks me in perpetual garner-floyd-hold.

And I continue “in my own way”, with words that come to mind when reflecting on 2020.

love. possibility. hope. blessing. healing. loss. grief. trauma. fires. fired. perseverance. exhaustion. murder. singing. crying. unprotected. masks. distrust. care. talent. vision. eviction. emergency. love. loss. generous. reckless. reckoning. empathetic. blessing. hope. possibility. grief. trauma. possibility. hope. blessing. flood. inequity. hurricane. oppression. depression. tornado. injustice. blessing. birth. death. fear. despair. preparation. protection. healing. blessing. hope. possibility. love.

We have lived through a lot. The key word is lived. My being able to write this and your being able to read it, bear witness to the fact that we lived. We lived differently…bravely…in community…without community… in fear… in loss… in love. Yet, we live.

In 2020 Deaconess Foundation also lived differently. We transitioned to remote and virtual work. We launched the $2.2 million Equitable Relief and Recovery Fund, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We worked with many of you to respond to the needs of our region, putting children at the center and working toward establishing a reality where “the allocation of power and distribution of resources, benefits, opportunities, and burdens are not predictable by, nor predicated on race”. And we wished Reverend Doctor Starsky Wilson, our transformative leader a fond farewell. Yes, we lived and with God’s grace, we will continue to do so.

So, in this season of prayer and reflection, may the spirit of endurance keep us steadfast on our journey, and in our fight for justice, economic justice, racial justice, identity justice, environmental justice, differently abled justice, health justice…justice...always and in all ways.

May we continue our work for our babies, our children, our youth, for if they are well, we are well. May they be able to live and breathe in a way that frees and inspires them to write poems about flowers.

Wishing you a healthy, inspired, and love-laden 2021!

Peace, blessings and hope,

Cheryl D.S. Walker, Esq.
Interim President & CEO
Deaconess Foundation
Gamaliel of Illinois' mission is to be a multi-issue, multi-racial faith-based network of regional organizations dedicated to building a powerful and effective multi-state, grassroots movement to promote civic engagement, citizenship, community building and public policy for racial, social and economic justice. The network envisions a society in which residents and communities recognize that their well-being depends on the well-being of their entire region and understand that social equity, inclusiveness, and equality of benefits and opportunities for all are a necessary condition of environmental sustainability and economic prosperity. Gamaliel of Illinois is a faith and values-based organization working to ensure that public policy reflects the values of justice, equity and inclusiveness. 
The network is comprised of several organizations throughout Illinois and Iowa, such as: Faith Coalition for the Common Good (FCCG) in Springfield, Gamaliel of Metro Chicago (GMC) in Chicago, United Congregations of Metro East (UCM) in Cahokia and Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) locate in Davenport, Iowa. Gamaliel of Illinois is an affiliate of the Gamaliel National Network which trains community and faith leaders in building political power and creating organizations that unite people of diverse faiths and races.  
Deaconess Foundation provides funding to Gamaliel of Illinois through its Responsive Grant. The grant supports community organizing and mobilizing efforts in St. Clair, Madison and Monroe Counties as a part of a statewide initiative for legislative action to codify broadband access as a public utility so children and families have equitable access to online learning, telehealth services and job opportunities. 
To get involved with Gameliel of Illinois, visit: gamaliel.org/state/illinois/
Deaconess Foundation honors Children’s Sabbath during the month of October when faith communities of every religion across the nation unite to: (1) raise awareness of problems facing children and families in our nation, (2) explore the texts and teachings in religious traditions that call us to nurture and protect children with love and justice, and (3) engage people of faith in immediate and long-term action to nurture, protect, and seek justice for children. Deaconess is called to serve our children through these actions year-round. This December, we invite you to join us in praying for all children as we continue to pursue a more just world for them and their futures.

A Prayer for Children
Ina J. Hughs
We pray for children
Who give us sticky kisses,
Who hop on rocks and chase butterflies,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who've never squeaked across the floor in new sneakers,
Who've never ‘counted potatoes,'
Who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
Who bring us fistfuls of dandelions and sing off key
Who have goldfish funerals, build card-table forts
Who slurp their cereal on purpose
Who put gum in their hair, put sugar in their milk
Who spit toothpaste all over the sink
Who hug us for no reason, who bless us each night.

And we pay for those
Who never get dessert,
Who watch their parents watch them die,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind,
Who can't find any bread to steal,
Who don't have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser,
Whose monsters are real.
We pray for those
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store
And pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed
And never rinse out the tub,
Who get quarters from the tooth fairy
Who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
Who squirm in church and scream on the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at
And whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who aren't spoiled by anybody,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
Who want to be carried,
And for those who must.
For those we never give up on,
And for those who don't have a chance.
For those we smother,
And for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer.
December 2020
This year proved more challenging than anyone could have predicted. In January Deaconess hosted a peer learning session for its Funded Partner organizations with Trista Harris, author of FutureGood: How To Use Futurism to Save the World. Each year, Harris and her team at FutureGood publish predictions for the coming year in the social sector. Two of their predictions for 2020: “Foundations become more digitally savvy” and “Funders help defend democracy.” This year called upon Deaconess to do both.

As we shared with our community in January, our plan in 2020 was to focus on building power by aligning our relationships, resources and results. Our focus became sharper as the world around us changed forever as the year unfolded—from the COVID-19 pandemic to the racial justice movement to the attack on democracy.

  • Early in the year we partnered with the United Church of Christ and 14 St. Louis churches to buy and abolish $12.9 million in medical debt for 11,108 families – much-needed relief in an immensely difficult year for many families.
  • As the pandemic began to impact daily life, we hosted COVID-19 and St. Louis’ Kids: A Virtual Forum to Discuss Impact and Available Resources, connecting parents to the resources they needed most.
  • We launched the COVID-19 Equitable Relief and Recovery Fund, to provide $2.2 million in emergency support to 100 Black-led organizations responding to community need during the pandemic.
  • In collaboration with Missouri Foundation for Health and Forward Through Ferguson, we established the St. Louis Regional Racial Healing Fund to invest in healing community trauma and changing the conditions that reinforce systemic racism. 
  • We broadened our institutional commitments to the movement for racial justice by:
  • granting support to the national organizing and coordinating capacity of the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) coalition in response to their call for $50 million from the philanthropic sector,
  • committing to a four-year, prepaid institutional membership in ABFE: A Philanthropic Initiative for Black Communities (formerly known as Association of Black Foundation Executives), and
  • granting support to strengthen the organizational effectiveness of the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference (SDPC) in support of faith-based advocacy for All Black lives.
  • We committed to achieving a more equitable and accessible philanthropic practice through implementation of recommendations provided following our Power Moves assessment.
  • In the weeks leading up to election day, November 3, our staff team members were encouraged to dedicate four (4) hours per week from paid Foundation time to engage in voter education, registration, and mobilization efforts.
  • Though the Foundation always encourages voting and provides time off to do so, this year Deaconess closed its office on election day, and turned the campus into a hub for partners and volunteers to organize and distribute meals to voters while they waited to cast their ballots.

We are most grateful that even in this challenging year, we have been able to deepen our partnerships and initiate others in the spirit of advancing child well-being. As this year draws to a close, we hope you will join us and our partners in critical efforts to make our commitments to children concrete, sustainable and public in the years ahead.

Funding OpportunitiesVisit our website for an up-to-date list of funding opportunities for 2021. Responsive Grant proposals are due January 29, 2021.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being has remained accessible as movement infrastructure, shifting to virtual and open-air convenings to accommodate the movement’s needs. The use of online convening platforms and full utilization of the open-air campus space has led to Deaconess Center hosting 83 virtual convenings and 16 open air convenings with 25 of those being recurring events. This year, 72 unique organizations submitted convening requests. Overall, an estimated 7,535 individuals attended virtual and/or open-air convenings this year.

To further support the significant work of our partners in their adjustment to virtual platforms, Deaconess Center is striving to provide resources and examples of best practices in virtual convenings. The Goodman Center’s national surveyUnmuted: What works, what doesn’t, and how we can all do better when working together onlineis a useful snapshot of how organizations and participants are adapting and innovating virtual platforms.

Recently the Immigrant Service Providers Network presented a multiday, multisession web-conference on Deaconess Center’s virtual platforms to over 100 service providers and health professionals. Click here to view full recordings of the conference. We look forward to continuing to serve our partners in this capacity into 2021 and welcome opportunities for engagement.

Currently, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being’s indoor and outdoor spaces are closed. Organizations interested in utilizing virtual convening platforms are invited to submit a Virtual Convening Request.

For up-to-date information about Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, including COVID-19 updates, visitdeaconesscenter.org.
December 2020
Defund the Workhouse

The Close the Workhouse Campaign | The St. Louis American

On July 17, the 28-0 unanimous vote by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and the subsequent signing of Ordinance 71217 by Mayor Lyda Krewson was a historic moment. This was a moment when the people of St. Louis, a coalition across age, race, and class, joined together to demand the closure of a hellhole jail that has terrorized generations of Black and Brown people.

For decades, this jail, commonly referred to as “the Workhouse,” has been known for inhumane, unconstitutional conditions, that strip humanity and dignity from people, destroy families and even take lives. The demand to close the Workhouse remains, as does the demand for our elected officials to finally re-envision what public safety looks like and invest in our communities in a meaningful way.

In the 5 months since Ordinance 71217 was signed into law, Krewson has failed to hold her administration accountable for refusing to take the three necessary steps to close the Workhouse by Dec. 31. Read more>>>
December 2020
As temperature drops and virus cases climb, groups file for new Missouri utility disconnection moratorium

Jacob Barker | St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Since testing positive for COVID-19 last week, Mary Boyd has been quarantining at home, unable to take any shifts at the Nature’s Bakery plant where she works near her home in Hazelwood. And that’s left her with a several-hundred dollar electric bill and a looming utility disconnection.

“I don’t get paid for not working,” Boyd said. “If I don’t get paid, my bills don’t get paid.”

Boyd may be off the hook, temporarily — utility assistance charity Heat Up St. Louis has agreed to help out. But her plight, and that of thousands of others like her, has motivated consumer advocates in Missouri to push state regulators to halt utility disconnections until March 31. Coronavirus cases are surging, they argue, and utility disconnections displace residents and increase interactions that could further spread the virus. Read more >>>
January 7: Close The Workhouse Movement Meeting, 6-8 PM. Email closetheworkhouse@gmail.com for more information and to get the link to join.

January 19: Membership Assembly hosted by Metropolitan Congregations United. For more information, click here.

ArchCIty Defenders is seeking interns for Spring and Summer 2021. Learn more and apply here.

Organization for Black Struggle is hiring an Executive Director to carry forward and build on OBS’ 40-year history of multi-issue organizing for Black liberation in the St. Louis region. For more information, email: contactus@obs-stl.org
Do you have an event you'd like to see in this Newsletter? Submit it here!
ICYMI: On November 2, the North Central Plan Steering Committee hosted its second Community-Wide Town Hall. Community members discussed Preliminary Community Goals (Pillars of Community Vision) and envisioned ways to make them a reality. Learn more about the North Central Plan at: northcentralstlplan.com.
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