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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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


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.

Peacemaker Training Seminar 2015 in Salem

Are you experiencing unresolved conflict with the people in your life? Learn practical ways to restore peace in your relationships by attending "Resolving Everyday Conflict" seminar by Peacemaker Ministries at Salem Alliance Church. The seminar features a powerful video presentation, live lectures, and interactive exercises to practice principles of biblical conflict resolution. The seminar consists of 4 consecutive Monday nights beginning January 19, 2015, in Salem, from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m. Then, two more weeks of optional advanced coaching practicum will follow on February 16 and 23.

The cost for the 4-week seminar is $20, which includes a study guide. Refreshments will be provided. The public is invited. The seminar location is Salem Alliance Church, Cedar Hall, 555 Gaines St. NE, Salem, OR 97301. For more information, directions and registration call 503-581-2129 or visit http://www.salemalliance.org/resources/peacemakers. Online registration can be found by selecting “Peacemaker Seminar Registration” from the left side list. Peacemaker Ministries has provided resources, training, and assistance in biblical conflict resolution for more than 25 years. The international headquarters is located in Billings, Montana. For more information on the program, visit the website http://www.peacemaker.net

Follow up: Paula Fontanini, 503-399-9532, member of Salem Alliance Church Peacemakers Ministry.

With Thanksgiving

November 2014

Years ago there was a dust-up in the community … A front-page article about whether it was appropriate for Young Life volunteers to come onto campus at North Salem High School.  Followed quickly by a vigorous community conversation:  ‘separation of church and state’ on one side and ‘freedom of religion’ on the other.  That’s always a worthy conversation, but the tempers and the rhetoric were heated.  (Similar to the recent situation in West Salem.)

I was talking to a local business/civic leader about the situation.  Her son was a North student. With some voices suggesting that Young Life should be kicked off campus, I asked what she thought.  “My son checked it out and he’s not interested.  We’re not much of a church-going family.”  Uh oh, I thought, as I gingerly asked if she wanted Young Life off campus. “Absolutely not!” she exclaimed. “Young Life’s value to our high schools is gold standard.  They might need to make a few adjustments, but I would never want to see them banned.”  Adjustments were made; relationships and ground rules affirmed; partnerships and positive outcomes retained.

I’ve been volunteering in Salem-Keizer schools for 18 years.  Back then, a little program called ‘Fantastic Fridays’ was setting the stage for church-school collaboration that has grown into scores of partnerships and thousands of volunteers.  It’s been a long history of servanthood, relationships and trust.  The School District—from superintendent to administration to principals to teachers—is committed to ongoing dialogue, relationship and partnership with people of faith. The infrequent hiccups that occur seem to come when there are staff changes at churches and/or schools.  The hiccups, and the headlines, provide good opportunities to assess and affirm.

Good To Be Back

October 2014

It’s good to be back.

I will also declare, it was good to be away.  After 18 years at the helm of Salem Leadership Foundation, it was time for rest.  For recharge.  For Sabbatical.

It was this time last year that I approached our Board and made my request.  The concept of sabbatical is a spiritual one … it is rooted in the word ‘sabbath’ (rest) and the Leviticus-25 principle of ‘sabbath year.’  Every seventh year was a year of rest for the land so it could recharge and be ready for new productivity.  In the modern context, sabbaticals relate more to overseas travel and extended periods of deep study.

I went with the Biblical concept.  I rested.  I unplugged from work (which many thought impossible!).  Our family went on several short trips:  The Wallowas, the beach, Hood Canal near Seattle.  I focused on exercise (daily walking) and made pilgrimages to Mt. Angel Abbey—a pair of practices I am continuing.  I also finished a long-overdue project in our 100-year-old Craftsman bungalow … our master bedroom.  We transformed an attic crawl space into a large dormer bedroom and my job was to outfit the room with vintage trim (baseboards, windows, doorways) that we’d salvaged from an old house before demolition.   Many have said, “that doesn’t sound like rest.”  Cutting-and-painting vintage fir was actually therapeutic for me, and you can’t imagine the peace I gained from finally finishing that project (don’t ask how many years it had been under construction …).

I want to thank our SLF Board for giving me the gift of sabbatical.   Similarly, I want to thank our amazing SLF Staff for keeping the ol’ SLF engine hummin’ during the two months I was away.  Special kudos to DJ Vincent, our South Salem Lightning Rod, who skillfully handled administrative duties for our team.  And to Carrie Maheu, who is mentoring the next generation of Lightning Rods (Kaleb Herring in McKay and Lindsey Walker in Keizer).  We have a great mission, great partners, and a great team at SLF.

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