The JFK Center in East End

The Handy Blues Fest starts next week and today was Children’s Art Camp and Umbrella Workshop at the John F. Kennedy Community Center at Vine and Alvasia Streets. The JFK Center is a city owned facility that is an important assest in the East End of Henderson. The staff and facilities are exceptional and they provide a variety of programs for kids and adults in community.

Here is a quote from the web about today’s activity…..

Here is a sampling of what the kids will be doing….making newspaper hats, bead bracelets, decorating sunglasses, noise makers, as well as other items.  The umbrella workshop is also included on this day. You may bring an umbrella with you or some will be provided. The umbrellas will be decorated with flowers, ric-rac, beads and anything else that can be hot glued to an umbrella! These umbrellas can be used at the Street Strut Parade that will be held on Saturday, June 9th at 10:00 A.M. on the east side of Central Park in downtown Henderson, KY. http://www.downtownhenderson.org/childrens-art-camp-umbrella-workshop/

Here are a few pictures of today’s event…

Are we making progress?

There are 6 teams in the Engage Henderson process that are tackling the 6 big priorities that were identified by the community.

Are we making progress?

Here are some updates:

  • East End Survey – The neighborhood has been divided into 31 grids, to identify where there are abandoned or dilapidated homes, vacant lots, broken sidewalks, homes that need new or repaired roofs, lots where there is trash that needs to be picked up,etc.  This survey data is being dropped into a mapping database, so that we can identify specific areas that need the most attention and where volunteer labor can have the greatest impact….by simply looking at a map. We would like to have this done by the end of April.
  • Summer Block Party – The volunteer survey will give us an inventory of the condition of the neighborhood, but progress won’t happen without involvement of the very people we are trying to help.  A summer block party is being planned to provide food and fun,but more importantly ENGAGE neighbors in the East End vision. Survey results, a drawing/renderiong of a possible ‘future’ East End ‘look’ with bike paths, a Community Center, an Historic/Arts District, and other ‘possibilities’ will be showcased to get reactions from East End residents.  A Leadership team has been recruited for this event and planning on where and when is underway.
  • WiFi – an application for a grant money to fund one WiFi node in the Arts/Historic District has been submitted to the State of Kentucky.  This technology would provide one more ‘draw’ for people to visit the ‘East End Arts/Historic District’.
  • Community Garden – the City of Henderson is looking at a piece of property in the middle of the East End to establish a Community Garden that would be available for planting next Spring.  A native Hendersonian ‘Master Gardner’ has volunteered to lead this effort….so that East-enders who want to be ENGAGED in gardening make this happen….not outsiders.
  • Crime Prevention – East End has experienced higher rates of both violent and property crime than the City of Henderson and state of Kentucky…..by significant  margins.  The City of Henderson Police Department is providing crime reporting data to the Engage Henderson mapping databse, so that a few pocket areas of the highest crime can be identified and new strategies for prevention and law enforcement can be tested.  This information is intended to be shared at the Summer Block Party.
  • Increasing Home Ownership – When a neighborhood loses a high rate of owner occupancy, it often leads to decline.  To explore innovative ways to boost homeownership in selected areas of the East End, an initiative is underway with a consortium of Communtiy/Regional banks to offer mortage loans for rehabilitated properties.  It is the expectation that these properties would often be purchased in poor condition and then upgraded/repaired to like new condition.

Teams are evaluating kids programs, opportunities at South Heights to build on the school’s success and there is a team planning a trip to Paducah to look at their success in developing an arts district in an older neighborhood.

We also are working with USI to deploy facilitators for the teams and to help us with project management. Stay tuned.

Want to be on a team. Email engagehenderson@gmail.com.

Chronic or Crisis, Perspectives on Poverty

Chronic or Crisis

From Bob Lupton, FCS Urban Ministries and author of Toxic Charity

 crisis requires emergency intervention;

       A chronic problem requires development.

Address a crisis need with a crisis intervention,

       And lives are saved.

Address a chronic need with a crisis intervention,

       And people are harmed. 

Have you noticed that many of the same people return week after week for free food from our food pantries?  Ever wondered whether our handouts were really helping or merely perpetuating a dependent lifestyle?  Admitting and verbalizing these observations, at the risk of appearing heartless, is the essential first step toward truly effective service.

The key to effective service is accurately matching the need with the appropriate intervention.

The universal need for food is a good place to begin.  Starvation is a crisis issue; hunger is a chronic issue.  When famine sweeps a land, or a tsunami devastates coastal cities, starvation becomes an urgent, life-and-death situation.  Emergency food supplies must be rushed in without delay.  But in a stable nation with abundant supplies of food and adequate government food subsidies, occasional hunger – not starvation – is the reality that faces the less advantaged.  Food insecurity is a chronic, not crisis, poverty issue.

Food security is what free-food advocates talk about these days.  That means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.  The poor in our country, roughly 15% of our population, are food-insecure at least some time during the year.  Even though four out of five of these households receive food from the government, there are times when their cupboards are bare.

But food-insecurity is not a crisis issue. It is a function of chronic poverty.  Unlike during the great depression of the 1930’s when one in four of our workers stood in bread lines with no government safety net to rescue them, today more than 90% of our workforce is employed and our public subsidies are ample.  Hunger is not our problem.  Poor nutrition perhaps, but not hunger.  Food insecurity is a chronic poverty issue and chronic problems require altogether different strategies from crisis problems.

Starvation is a crisis need;  Hunger is a chronic issue.

Address hunger (chronic) with a free feeding program (crisis); And unhealthy dependency occurs.

As our hearts constrain us to intervene on behalf of our needy neighbors, we certainly want our responses to be effective.  And to be truly effective we must match the need with the appropriate response.  Distributing free food (an emergency response) is seldom an appropriate response to those facing chronic food-insecurity.  It may seem compassionate at the moment but in all likelihood it will prove to be more hurtful than helpful.

But isn’t it a crisis when a family does not know where their next meal is coming from?    Admittedly, this is a crisis of a sort, the type of crisis that spurs one to action.  Hunger is a powerful motivator.  It stretches budgets.  It drives creativity.  It forces choices.  It accepts peanut butter sandwiches over McDonald’s big-meals, cool-aide over coke, beans and rice over potato chips and dip.  Food insecurity may not be all bad.

Lest we become hard-hearted and err on the judgmental side, however, let’s proactively pursue some helpful responses to chronic hunger.  Of course, one of the best antidotes to food insecurity is decent employment.  Adequate income provides adequate food.  And, as ancient Talmudic wisdom contends, the highest form of charity is to provide a man a job.  Employment training and job creation is obviously a major shift from the food pantry paradigm but it is certainly one that should be considered.  Another alternative more directly related to food is the food cooperative – a “buying club” model that gives members legitimate access to surplus food through non-profit or church structures.  Another is a bartering system that exchanges food (and other commodities) for work performed in the community.  Rather than dependency-fostering emergency responses, these and other development strategies strengthen the capacity of people in need to assume greater measure of control and self-sufficiency over their own lives.

Compassion is essential but not sufficient – the mind as well as the heart must be engaged.

The Golden Rule of empowering service:

Never do for others what they have the capacity to do for themselves.

Bob Lupton, April 2012