We believe that Salem/Keizer will be the
healthiest community in Oregon - truly the

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Faith-in-Action News

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Salem Free Clinics - John McConville

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IKE Box, SLF partner with CAREcorps

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Dream Center Building Garden at Nuestra Casa

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Evergreen Church 'CaN Center' is HUB of Transformation

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Church blesses neighbors with 'La Casita'

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Mid-Valley Literacy Center and Churches: 'Read On!'

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Habitat for Humanity has Faith in Our Community

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SLF Speaks Out with other Non-Profit Leaders

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Pastor and 'Lightning Rod' Serves South Salem

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Churches Host Homeless Families Inside Churches

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SLF Co-Sponsors Community Connect

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Former SLF'er Serves Veterans at Home
SLF News Archive

The HUB - Tracey - Evergreen

Amanda and Lindsey's Story

SOMA / Dinner on the Green

Holy Cross / La Casita

Capital Park / SENCC


Calvary Chapel

Our Father's Porch

Church In The Park

Brothers in More Ways than One

“Not for college days alone.”

This is the motto of my fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, better known as the Fiji House.  I have fond memories and lifelong friends from my college experience at Oregon State University.  I was there from 1977 to 1982, which were ‘the glory years’ for our basketball team and ‘the gory years’ for our football team.   We won exactly 7 games during my undergraduate days, which makes it so sweet when the Beavers reach (or exceed) that victory total in a single season, which they have done 11 times since 1999.  Even though our team wasn’t winning, the Fijis were always out in force on the   50-yard line to cheer the team on.  Our favorite cheer was “Kick it now!” which is a funny story
for another time.

Among the many Fiji brothers who blessed and impacted me, I want to salute Scott Ashdown and Dave Thompson.  As faithful Christians, they were part of a group dubbed ‘The God Squad’ by the brothers in the house.  There was no malice in that name, but Dave, Scott and the group endured more than a little ribbing for refraining from the party atmosphere that prevailed on the weekends.  As a fellow believer I admired them.  But as a newly-independent college student, I was stretching my boundaries.  When I arrived on campus, I checked out the Episcopal parish to see if it was like my home church, St. Paul’s.  Didn’t click.  Based on my great experience with Young Life at South High, I looked for a similar ministry on campus.  AC Green, the legendary OSU basketball player, was involved in Maranatha Ministries, but they proved to be too charismatic for me.  So I partied.

Scott and Dave kept me close.  They knew when to admonish me, and when to lay back.  They engaged my late-night debates and endured my questioning rants.  They were the sturdy dock to which my boat of faith was tethered, and even if the line got long, they never let it unhitch.  Obviously, God was my ultimate anchor; Scott and Dave were the tools He used.  Two friends, one from Ashland and one from Salem.  Two brothers, one from my pledge class and the other from the class I helped recruit.  Two angels, really, with a mission of ministering to me (and many others).  It’s cool to see how many of our brothers today have a strong faith.  Despite the ribbings, the God Squad blessed.

I am mighty proud to be a Fiji.  My experience at Oregon State—and the Fiji House in particular—molded me and equipped me to be ready for life.  As college students are returning to campus here in Salem and across the country, it’s a good time to pray for them.  For their roommates and friends.  
For their professors and coaches.  I also pray that every student will have a Scott and a Dave in their circle of friends.  And/or be that Scott and that Dave to someone else.  It will have eternal impact.
To that I can testify!

Mighty Proud,

Herm's Hike and DJ's Dash Make the Headlines


Raising three busy boys, I’ve become accustomed to the “change ups,” you know when things come at you, forcing a change in plans.  So it wasn’t surprising when earlier this month I found myself running in the inauguration of “Bridging the Gap Salem Leadership Foundation 10K,” rather than resting at the beach.

The event was yet another example of how local nonprofits and partners are working together to better neighborhood health. The event was orchestrated by Salem Leadership Foundation Lightening Rod DJ Vincent who created a route that connected four schools, three churches, two parks and one neighborhood ministry.  Runners earned time off their finish time if they posed for selfies at each connection, which is a huge benefit the older you get, especially if you are racing sixth-grade cross-country runners.

The race brought together 45 sponsors and 55 volunteers to raise $29,000 for the foundation and support their work that includes programs like School Serve.

It followed in the footsteps of SLF Lightening Rod Herm’s Hike last fall where Herm recruited pledges from West Salem community partner and neighbors as he hiked much of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The beauty behind these neighborhood-centric movements is they build collaboration and relationships between churches, schools, business partners and city neighborhood associations, which result in a plethora of connections that support improved health and academic outcomes in the neighborhood.

Kids connect with reading buddies, middle schools recruit mentors and high schools recruit volunteers for their Aspire programs, which help prepare students for the college application process. By building community events that center around activity and healthy eating, it’s a win for everyone.

If It Wasn't For Bob Patterson and Habitat ...

August 2015

“We’ll be talking…”  He never used the familiar phrases: goodbye, see ya later, or farewell.  
It was always “We’ll be talking…” 

Bob Patterson, a retired teacher and superintendent, was the board chairman of the East King County chapter of Habitat for Humanity when I met him in the late 1980s.  One of our homebuilder clients, Conner Homes, had asked our team at Arst Public Relations to seek publicity for their $2,500 donation to Habitat.  Inspired by the scriptures, I came up with a ‘loaves-and-fishes’ campaign that helped the Eastside community triple that $2,500 into $7,500, as well as garner some significant media coverage for both Habitat and Conner Homes.  Afterwards, Bob Patterson came to my office to personally thank me for the effort.   And to pop me a question.  “So Sam, what will you do next to help Habitat?” 
It was a fair question, but it caught me off guard. “Um, well,” I stammered, “I’ll have to see whether Mr. Connor is willing to have me do any more work for you guys.” 

Bob gently probed, “So you have to be paid for your time in order to help our ministry?”  I wasn’t offended; we did a lot of free work for non-profits.  But nothing as comprehensive as the Conner campaign.  “Well,” I offered, “I did have a house-painting company in college so I could probably help paint some Habitat houses.”  But Bob didn’t need more painters.  He needed someone who could organize the meetings with prospective neighbors where Habitat wanted to build homes.  On the affluent east side of Lake Washington (Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond) there were pronounced prejudices against low-income people and low-income homes.  Habitat was frequently battled by neighborhoods that didn’t want ‘chicken shacks’ (as one angry neighbor put it) being built next door.  So I became the advance man who worked with neighborhood associations and subdivision developers to help them understand the true facts about Habitat, specifically: 1) the families were gainfully employed, 2) the houses were owner-occupied, not rentals or subsidized housing, and 3) only two percent of Habitat families defaulted on their 20-year mortgages.  Over the next seven years, our chapter of Habitat grew from two homes to 35.  (To date, that chapter has built more than 390 homes!)

I’m so grateful Bob popped that question.  Both my vocational direction and my spiritual direction were molded during the years I volunteered with Habitat.  I began landing more church and ministry clients for our firm, including a huge (paid) job with Overlake Christian Church to help them success-fully site a new campus despite considerable community opposition.  (It’s a long and great story!)  When I started my own firm, my biggest client was World Vision as they moved from California to establish their headquarters in Federal Way.  All of these events leading me into position to be able to say ‘yes’ when the Salem Leadership Foundation came calling in 1996.  None of this would be possible if Bob Patterson hadn’t challenged me in his blunt and yet affable way.  He was a visionary, a mentor, a tenacious advocate for justice, and a friend.  So it was with great sadness that I opened the envelope from his wife Shirley containing the program from Bob’s recent memorial service.  My grief turned into a grin when I pictured Bob with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternity.     

We’ll be talking …


July 2015

FANCY DESSERT CELEBRATES ‘CITY AS NEIGHBORHOOD.’ They packed-out the Salem Convention Center last Friday, June 26, to enjoy the 2015 edition of the SLF Fancy Dessert.  More than 750 folks cozied together to hear how SLF and its partners are impacting kids, families and neighborhoods across Salem-Keizer.  Over the course of the evening we were able to demonstrate the power of SLF’s ‘Leverage Value’ through Lightning Rods (our field staff), CaN Centers (Churches serving as Neighborhood Centers), and CPTs (Community Partnership Teams).  A dollar donated to our ministry turns into thousands through SLF leverage.  As always, the highlight of the evening was the ‘Neighbor Stories’ that we captured and conveyed on film.  This year we featured:  1) Hope Station , 2) South Salem Connect CPT, and 3) The Northwest HUB, a ministry of CaN Center Evergreen Presbyterian.  (Contact us for a free DVD of the stories.

Hope Station.  We produced this story for the 2010 Fancy Dessert and brought it back for an update.  After airing the original video story, Pastor Marci Mattoso took us on a virtual tour of the new warehouse (three times larger than before) and the dignified “shopping experience” co-op by which working families can pay $30/month and volunteer their time in exchange for $200 in groceries, clothing and household items.  More than 200 low-income families a year—those who have jobs and make too much to qualify for welfare—are served at Hope Station, which was birthed out of Salem First Church of the Nazarene. 


The First Fancy Dessert was a Dinner

September 7, 1996.  I had driven down to Salem from Seattle as Jennifer was packing our belongings for the big move a few weeks later.  I pulled into the Pringle Parkade and made my way to the old Alessandro’s Restaurant, heading upstairs to the small banquet room.  Thirty couples were gathered for the very first event hosted by the fledgling Salem Leadership Foundation.

I was greeted by board president Dick Lucco, the pastor at Trinity Covenant Church.  He introduced me to Robert Lupton from the Atlanta Resource Foundation, our featured speaker.  My childhood friends Martin Barrett and Peter Chamberlain—the pair responsible for recruiting me from Seattle—gave me high-fives and hugs.  Among the couples gathered were many that I’d known growing up in Salem, as well as folks who have become treasured friends and partners since then … 60 ‘early adopters’ and  ‘original investors’ in the notion that people-of-faith and people-of-goodwill could bless a city.

Faith in Neighborhood Transformation, Part II

Last month I wrote about the amazing revitalization taking place in the Grant/Highland district of north Salem, particularly along Broadway.  We’ve come a long way since 1996, when there was a blueprint in place (the North Downtown Plan) but very little faith that its vision would come to pass.  Thanks to a core group of believing people and partners, a street of boarded-up buildings and empty lots has become a sector of cultural and entrepreneurial vitality.

In addition to the neighborhood association, the city, local developers, and the bevy of businesses that I cited last month, there are also several non-profits to thank.  They, too, had faith in our neighborhood and have positioned themselves to serve.  Even though things are improving, the families and residents of our neighborhood continue to face many challenges: poverty, broken relationships, addictions, ill health, homelessness, abuse and abandonment.

So here’s a salute to the Boys & Girls Club, Family Building Blocks, Salem Free Clinics, Jason Lee Food Bank, the Baby Boutique, LifePath recovery ministries, the Center for Community Innovation,  the SKEF Tutoring Center and Enrichment Academy at Grant, Liberty House, HOST Youth Shelter, the Recovery Outreach Center, Marion-Polk Food Share, Salvation Army, ARCHES, Oxford Houses, Adventist Community Services, and Shelly’s Place transitional housing.

Having Faith in Neighborhood Transformation

They laughed at me and called me crazy.  “It’ll never happen in our lifetime.”

When we bought our house in the Grant Neighborhood in 1998, I could see great things for north-central Salem.  Especially along Broadway.  There was a blueprint in place, the North Downtown Plan, which called for street-front shops, restaurants, a mix of housing, social services, the historical rehab of old structures, and new construction.  Having lived in similar districts in urban Seattle, I could see a coffee shop, a theater, night spots, apartments-above-shops and vibrant businesses that would bring jobs and economic vitality to a diverse and challenged neighborhood.  I was a zealous believer.

“Sam, that’s the bad side of town.  It’ll never develop into anything positive.”

The plan was ambitious, yes.  At that time, Broadway was a blighted area with vacant buildings, used car lots, empty parcels and snarky businesses like the ‘Fast Loan’ (300% interest!) shop and dingy convenience stores.  There were a few bright spots, like Boon’s/McMenamins on the south end and Capital Press on the north.  But it was a tough district, no question.  High crime, poverty, gangs.

19 years and counting


It's been 19 years since Salem Leadership Foundation (SLF) began building bridges for faith-in-action. Many things have changed in Salem-Keizer in the past 19 years.  Some good, some not.  We can say with confidence, however, that two things are quite different. 

First, there is no longer a gulf between the Community and the Church Community.  In 1996 it was huge.  The key sectors of our community didn't know how to engage the churches, and the churches were not geared for partnering up.  It was not a hostile environment … but neither the civic leaders nor the clergy considered the churches a viable partner for collaboration.

Second, the churches have grown beyond 'mere charity' and are developing into multi-faceted agents of change.  Back then, getting the churches involved usually meant blankets and food baskets.  Yes, there were strong venues by which people-of-faith could serve, such as Habitat for Humanity, Union Gospel Mission, Catholic Community Services, Salvation Army, Helping Hands.  But there wasn't a broad strategy for citywide servanthood.  Church buildings were dormant except Sundays and Wednesdays.  Church people were serving, but not in the context of church-based outreach.

A message from DJ Vincent, South Salem Lightning Rod

Thank you for supporting me and my family as we celebrated Room in the Inn 2014.  The event pulled together 8 different churches, 42 donors, 50 gift-bag shoppers, 80 guests, and 140 volunteers.  In our efforts to share our love and time with those considered to be the least among us … our experience of joy, hope and love was overwhelming.

For 72 hours at Christmas, we gathered to sing, bake cookies, wrap presents, worship and have family meals together.  For some of our guests, it was their first real Christmas in a long, long time.  Each of our    80 guests has a unique story emanating from one of three phases of life.  One group of 25 folks comes from generational poverty and chronic homelessness. They are experiencing scarcity in their ability to find a safe place to sleep, regular meals, and meaningful relationships.  The second group of 30 people identify with what’s called situational poverty.  These are couples and families living in their cars and motor homes.  They have experienced a crisis in the past year which has disrupted their housing, employment and/or transportation.  These neighbors move from parking lot to parking lot looking for safety, resources and opportunities.  The third group is comprised of 25 people who have moved into housing (yes!) since we started working with them six years ago.  These neighbors have stabilized their housing through jobs or assistance programs.  They still join us for Room in the Inn each Christmas to enjoy belonging and acceptance in a family … and to encourage others who are still out there on the streets.

Time of Advent


I’ve been thinking about that word a lot.  I injured my back and leg Nov. 15.  I wish I could tell you that I was stopping a runaway car or preventing a bank robbery.  I fell on my bum while putting composted leaves in the tomato garden.  Didn’t hurt at the time.  Worked all afternoon.  Felt just fine.  Until the following morning … It’s been a hard journey from such a simple stumble.  In the recovery process, I have encountered many emotions and thoughts.  But the one that keeps emerging is ‘thanks.’

In a world that’s increasingly faster and more competitive, where does gratitude fit?  In an age where screens (TV, phone, computer) often trump faces, is gratitude exchanged?  In a culture where elders and elder values are often minimized, is gratitude passed on?

Jennifer leads an ‘etiquette class’ at Grant School.  It’s an awesome curriculum of learning the sacred art of ‘please’ and ‘you go first’ and ‘thank-you.’  The kids learn basic meal-and-table manners, and then they organize a banquet for family members at the school.  They learn how to plan a menu, send invitations, and demonstrate their new skills over a meal.  Even more, they are learning hospitality, generosity and gratitude.  I sometimes serve as a waiter and I’m impressed with how they are learning and mastering manners.  But I’m also concerned that so many kids—from all cultures and economic backgrounds—don’t inherently know ‘please’ and ‘you go first’ and ‘thank-you.’ 

We just celebrated the official season of Thanksgiving.  I love Thanksgiving.   It has strong origins in the concept of “giving thanks to God.”  And, despite the over-commercialization of our culture, it still calls families together to express thanks and share with others.  Great and Godly ethics, to be sure.

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