We are almost 2 months into the fiscal year and there is no sign that the legislature is going to do one of the most fundamental tasks they have as a governing body. We still do not have a budget and the halls of the Capitol were empty today. They appear to have no intention of resolving this impasse any time soon.

Today, Better Choices, a statewide coalition of groups advocating for a fair budget, held a press conference in the rotunda to call on the legislature to do its job and act in the best interests of the Commonwealth.

Alan Jennings, Executive Director of CACLV, was invited to offer his comments at the press conference. Following are his remarks:

Throughout Pennsylvania, non-profits that exist for the sole purpose of serving others are calculating how they will do that work without laying off their underpaid staff or borrowing money. Our staff in Bethlehem is on the verge of tapping our line of credit. We expect to have to borrow more than $300,000 within the next few days. Keep in mind that it is federal money that we are expecting, money that cannot be released without the authority of an adopted state budget.

We don’t do this work to get rich. Many of the people working in the non-profit sector are eligible for the services we provide. Instead, out of a deep sense of obligation, of compassion, of faith, we believe in the notion that, together, collectively, we don’t turn our backs on those left out, left behind.

When women are being beaten by the men in their lives, we create havens of safety. When families can’t pay their bills, we create food banks. When people hear voices nobody else hears, we provide medicine and a sympathetic ear. When people are old and frail, we hold their hands.

It is in that context, then, that we wonder about the calculus that leads our legislative leaders to use tricks to score political points rather than earnestly find a way to pay to respond to the very real needs of their constituents.

As the budget impasse wears on, it seems like the very real needs of Pennsylvanians who are hurting are being cynically disregarded in favor of political games that will do little good for anyone. Too many in the legislature are doing everything they can to justify their own view that government doesn’t work by making sure it can’t work.

Governor Wolf is defying political convention by taking the lead in proposing to raise the revenue we need to invest in ourselves and our communities.

Here is the new calculus: we can take the path to investing in educating a competitive workforce, in creating jobs, in protecting the weakest among us, in strengthening our communities; or we can continue to take the path to nowhere.

My City in Flames

Posted: 28th April 2015 by Alan Jennings in community action
Tags: , , , , ,

by Alan Jennings

Most people who know me know that I am a diehard fan of the Baltimore Orioles. I am from Hagerstown, Maryland. My family could only afford vacations returning home to visit aunts, uncles, grandparents. I learned racism there. It was weird: one of my baseball heroes was

Orioles outfielder Frank Robinson; I never understood why people who looked like my baseball hero were getting beat up by people who looked like my father, simply because of the color of their skin. I remember driving, on the way to old Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street, past the row houses charred by the riots in 1968. Tonight the Orioles game was postponed because Baltimore is in flames again. It is painful, sad, disgusting how little progress has been made in these 40 years.

I am obsessed with fairness. I have spent my life getting between the bully and his target. I have fought like hell trying desperately to make a difference. With a lot of help from so many good people in the Lehigh Valley I have created the Second Harvest Food Bank, the Sixth Street Shelter, helped the marginalized buy their first home, start a business. And, yet, I am despondent over how little progress has been made.

Watching cops shoot black men running for their lives, then planting a Taser at the feet of the dead body – it seems like a modern day lynching. We’ve gotten better at screwing people of color out of the liberty and justice for all that we fool ourselves believing we really care about. We know all the tricks: we use zoning rules to require minimum lot sizes, the only real purpose of which is to exclude; we pay for and govern our so-called public schools in ways that can only be characterized as educational apartheid; we cut funding year after year for programs that can make a difference and then say, “See? Government doesn’t work.”

And we deny we are racist. We get indignant when people of color point out, over and over, the many ways we clearly are. Imagine: you get mistreated, left out, shot in the back and you’re not allowed to point out that you’re being mistreated, left out, shot in the back.

There is no excuse for the looting.  It defies reason that they are looting the best assets in their neighborhood. And focusing on the looting when there are hundreds of people peacefully pointing out that we have very real problems seems almost like it is designed to let ourselves off the hook.

After this op-ed runs, read the comments people post. People hiding in the shadows will make ugly, despicable comments. Your coworkers will say things to you that they must know they shouldn’t say but they won’t be able to help themselves. I will get emails from friends who will be outraged by what I’ve written.

They know enough to know it is a bad thing to be racist. But they don’t know enough to realize how racist they are. In fact, my friend, Ed DeGrace, says denying there is racism is the new form of racism.

Folks, we can do better. We can be better. You can stay in Lala Land or you can stand up. You can turn your back or you can face the truth. You can take more or you can give more.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But nothing will change if each of us doesn’t search our souls looking for a way to douse the flames of hatred that are just too damned real. When will we stop blaming the victims? How many times do you have to have the door slammed in your face? How many times do you have to be kicked when you’re down before you take to the streets? Time’s up, America.  It’s time we hugged the stranger, loved our neighbor, understood oppression, unlearned racism, fessed up to our role, asked for forgiveness and found a way to be better people.

By: Delia Marrero

I have grown as a person living in poverty, watching a system that creates a cycle of dependency with very few passages for escape. This system promotes stereotypes and generalizations. The conditions that are associated with poverty vary. It is set up in such a manner that children living in poverty receive a second-rate education based on their geographic location and eating sub-standard meals with little or no nutritional value. Neighborhoods lack resources, education rates are low and escape is rare. Low-income neighborhoods are clustered with individuals who have been born and raised in poverty. Every day is a struggle.

Poverty is a persistent aspect of human existence, of my existence. Riddled with inequality and strife, poverty has provided me with a unique set of personal conflicts that follow me throughout my life. I live just making ends meet on a daily basis while raising my children. I work fulltime and still can’t afford my own place to live. I am motivated by the desire to provide my children with better opportunities in life, but all too often I see that their opportunities are limited by my economic standing.

I am a high school dropout, a single teenage mother and a welfare recipient. I am employed, have earned an Associate’s degree and am a college student working towards a Bachelor’s degree – and I am poor. There are times when I am ashamed of myself. There are moments when I break down because I can’t get out of this persistent rut. It has made me feel as though my potential will always be overshadowed by my social standing. I feel the grip of poverty and it holds on tight.

I live in a world that casts aside potential based on economic status. I see people who are caged in their surroundings and left to their own devices.

I have always had a job, sometimes two, all while raising my daughters and going to school. For 10 years I have worked hard trying to do the right thing, and for 10 years poverty has broken my spirit and trampled my stride. Over the years I have seen my income increase but it has not increased enough to remove me from the clutches of poverty.

Education though has provided me with an effective tool to combat poverty. I have been able to increase my earning potential over the years through my education. I have opened my eyes to the injustices of poverty, the inequalities that affect communities and the harsh realities that many families live in. This is the life I have lived.

Poverty is exhausting, and it takes a lot of hard work, desire and persistence to break free from its grasp.

About the author:

Delia Marrero is a full-time employee at CACLV with the Weatherization program, which helps community members lower living costs by weatherizing homes through services such as furnace repairs, caulking, insulation and weather-stripping.

Thirty Grants Given to Celebrate BJ’s Wholesale Club’s 30th Anniversary and Increase Local Capacity 

Allentown, PA. September 11, 2014 – Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania announced Monday they’ll be one of 30 food banks to be awarded grants this September from BJ’s Charitable Foundation. The foundation is distributing grants in celebration of BJ’s Wholesale Club’s 30th anniversary. A member of the Feeding America network, Second Harvest Food Bank is among those awarded gifts to increase the food storage capacity for local anti-hunger organizations.

While food banks often have immense space and storage to provide product for the food pantries and shelters they support, these smaller partner organizations and charities often have limited equipment abilities. Limited equipment hinders their ability to serve the community. By providing anti-hunger partners like food pantries, shelters and meal programs with the necessary equipment, they can transport and store a larger amount of perishable items and thus distribute more food to local families struggling with food insecurity.

“We are thrilled to have been awarded one of the 30th anniversary grants by BJ’s Charitable Foundation,” said Ann McManus, Director of Second Harvest.  “Because of this grant, we will be able to work with our local partners to help them obtain more healthful foods and ensure that food makes it into the hands of more Lehigh Valley neighbors in need.”

Second Harvest Food Bank will utilize the award to provide more than 20 of its partner agencies with additional freezer and refrigerator equipment and foresees a 50% increase in the distribution of perishable product by those agencies, including fresh produce, dairy, and meats.

“BJ’s Wholesale Club is proud to reach our 30-year milestone and share our enthusiasm by expanding our role in the fight against hunger,” said Gary Sutton, Regional Operations Manager of BJ’s Wholesale Club.  “Supporting Second Harvest Food Bank and their local agencies’ need for capacity building will ensure that perishable food can reach the people who need it most in our own backyard.

The BJ’s Charitable Foundation $21,000 grant to Second Harvest Food Bank is being awarded during September as the non-profit is also observing Hunger Action Month™. Hunger Action Month is a nationwide campaign, founded by the leading domestic hunger-relief organization Feeding America, to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger in America.  Second Harvest Food Bank will be working within the community on a variety of local Hunger Action Month activities.

The added local capacity provided by this grant comes on the heels of the national Hunger in America 2014 study announcement that one in seven Americans, more than 46 million people including 12 million children, rely on food pantries and meal service programs.

 About Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley & Northeast Pennsylvania

Second Harvest Food Bank distributes food and grocery product to more than 72,000 people in need each month through a network of more than 200 member agencies in Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, and Wayne counties.  These agencies include emergency pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, child-care and rehabilitation centers.  Last year, Second Harvest distributed nearly 7 million pounds of food to people in need through these organizations.  As part of its mission, the Food Bank also provides resources for education and advocacy to end hunger.

Second Harvest Food Bank is a program of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley (CACLV) and is a member of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank network and largest hunger relief organization.

About BJ’s Wholesale Club

BJ’s is dedicated to providing Members with high-quality, brand-name food and merchandise at prices that are significantly lower than supermarkets, supercenters, department stores, drug stores and specialty retail stores.  BJ’s carries the most product variety of any Membership club with more than 7,000 items, including supermarket-sized staples, USDA Choice meats and stock-up items, as well as all-natural and organic products. BJ’s is the only membership club to accept all manufacturers’ coupons and for greater convenience, offers the most payment options including EBT.

Headquartered in Westborough, Massachusetts, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Inc. is a leading operator of warehouse clubs in the eastern United States.  The Company currently operates 203 clubs and in 15 eastern states.  Learn more and shop online at www.BJs.com or, for exclusive content visit Facebook.com/bjswholesaleclub and Twitter.com/bjswholesale.

About BJ’s Charitable Foundation

BJ’s Charitable Foundation was established with the mission to enrich every community BJ’s Wholesale Clubs serve. The Foundation supports nonprofit organizations that primarily benefit the underprivileged in the area of basic needs (hunger prevention, self-sufficiency, education and health). For more information about BJ’s Charitable Foundation, please visit, www.bjs.com/charity/.

 Contact: Sharon Alexander, (610)434-0875, salexander@caclv.org 

Contractors will weatherize 20 homes to generate new interest in saving money on energy costs
as winter approaches.

Date:       August 13, 2014
Time:       10:30 AM
Location:  1600 Hastings Road, Bethlehem 

With the harsh winter behind us still giving people the shivers and the next winter approaching, it is a good time to think about how to save money on heating costs. The Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, PPL Electric Utilities and the network of partners weatherizing homes in the Lehigh Valley will put on an impressive display of resources this week to showcase the benefits of improving the energy efficiency of homes.

Representatives of PPL Electric Utilities, CACLV and the residents who will have their homes weatherized will speak about the service and how to apply.

At the location and time listed above, the two groups will line up contractors and their trucks, new refrigerators and water heaters and more as they prepare to start weatherizing homes. PPL and CACLV representatives will discuss the program’s eligibility requirements, measures that are applied to the homes, how to sign up for the program and more.