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

An Invitation to the Fancy Dessert

Giving Thanks for my Friend Rockin' Robby Kasino

He wanted to be a radio disc-jockey with his bachelor’s degree in broadcast media from the University of Northern Iowa. His alter-ego was Rockin’ Robby Kasino, and he had a novel in the works. He loved animals, especially dogs. Animals don’t criticize, he once told me. They love you unconditionally.

I met my friend Rick Levitt at Grant Community School in 1999. We were volunteers in the Fantastic Fridays afterschool program, which set the stage for the many fine afterschool programs in place today. Rick signed up as a general volunteer, but had big ideas for a radio class and a Karaoke class. He was always on time and very dependable. He was awkward socially, which created some cautions and concerns. But you could always count on Rick … until the drinking started. Rick was a teetotaler when we first met—his girlfriend had significant addiction issues and he didn’t want to follow the same path. But when she broke up with him, and broke his heart, he turned to the bottle to ease his pain.


It turns out Rick had mental-health issues and deep hurts, which were made worse by his drinking. He had a complex family history, which included a loving mom but fathers who were lousy dads. He longed for positive role models and friends who would see past the awkward (and increasingly angry) attitudes. Despite my inclination to lean away from Rick and his dysfunctions, I felt the Lord urging me to lean in. At first I had the misguided and prideful notion that somehow I would help solve Rick's problems. It took a while, but I began to realize that God was working on both of us.


SLF Fancy Dessert - June 24, 2016

SLF Fancy Dessert
June 24, 2016
6:55 PM
Our 20th Anniversary Celebration

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Practice (Serve) then Preach (Politics)

With politics dominating the headlines and the newscasts, I’ve been thinking about a meeting I had several years ago. The community organizer from Portland was putting together a faith-based coalition, and he wanted to identify the key players in Salem. SLF is always willing to help, especially when the topic is churches serving neighbors in need. We chatted. We shared stories. It was affirmed that Salem-Keizer is ahead of the curve when it comes to ‘church and state’ working together. I also learned that the spectrum (Mainline, Evangelical, Catholic) of churches who are working restore shalom (peace and well-being) here is much broader and deeper than most communities.

Suddenly, he jolted me with a question: “What is SLF’s political agenda?” I told him about our Vision (Salem becomes healthiest community in Oregon) and our Mission (people-of-faith and people-of-goodwill collaborating). “That’s great,” he said, “but what’s your political agenda?” I explained that we have strong working relationships with elected officials and government agencies. Still, he persisted. “How many activists do you deploy to galvanize the grassroots? How many marches have you organized at the Capitol? How much legislation have you formulated with lawmakers?” Um, none, I answered haltingly. “Then how can you have any influence?” he asked. “How can you help the poor if you don’t have a political agenda?”

Safe Families -- Your Family -- Can Make a Difference

Jennifer and I were privileged to be a ‘safe family’ before there was a Safe Families for Children. It was 2004.  Our boys were students at Grant School right across the street. We were volunteering there (still are!).  SLF was soon to be a partner in the “No Meth/Yes Foster Care” initiative that would transform the community in so many ways—a legacy that still has impacts and influences today.

One of Samuel’s best friends was named Crystal*. We got to know her and her family through the rhythms and intersections of grade school. Her parents were nice, but something was wrong. Crystal was coming to school late, often hungry, in clothes that were increasingly mussed. Mom was often late to pick her up from the after-school program; sometimes she was on edge and volatile. We soon learned that meth, pot and alcohol were plaguing both parents, who had recently split up. (*Not her real name)


One day Mom was at our door. High. Someone had reported her and DHS was investigating. The estranged Dad was unfit to take custody. The girls were headed for foster care, and the whole “No Meth/Yes Foster Care” concept went from ‘macro’ to ‘micro’ for us in 48 hours. In order to keep the girls together and Crystal in her neighborhood school, DHS and Mom were looking for a Grant-area family to take the girls in – maybe for a few weeks, maybe for a few months. Mom asked Jennifer and I to be that family. She signed a make-shift permission slip giving us authority to make certain decisions. We were fingerprinted and quick-certified by DHS, and the girls came to live with us.

RainFest 5.0 is an "Ace" -- Fore!

Thanks to everyone who helped make the 5th-annual RainFest Golf Challenge a huge success.        We're pleased to announce that, through the commitment of 557 sponsors, more than $83,300 has been pledged to support SLF's 50+ neighborhood partnerships.

Leap Monday, February 29, was a great day is all respects but one ... the turnout was great, the food was hot, the competition fierce ... but we had to endure terrible weather: Cloudy and cold all day but only a few raindrops! Somehow, the 48 intrepid golfers survived.  We want to offer a special thanks to historic Salem Golf Club, which generously partners with SLF and extends both professionalism and hospitality to our crazy little winter-time event.

On behalf of Salem Leadership Foundation (SLF), we thank our golfers and sponsors for their investment in programs and partnerships that positively impact kids, families and neighborhoods across Salem-Keizer -- more thank 10,000 people last year.  We are honored to have teed it up with so many generous partners.

We want to salute our RainFest corporate sponsors (below), many of whom are either playing or supporting (i.e. feeling sorry for) a golfer.  Thanks, to everyone "Fore!" walking with SLF if the neighborhoods of Shalom-Keizer, Oregon.



A Salute to Mentors (thank one today!)

Everyone needs a mentor. Everyone needs to be a mentor. Both historically and spiritually, there is ample evidence for the value of mentors—that caring someone who takes another person under his/her wing and walks alongside them through the seasons of life.

My first mentor was actually a peer. Jim Goodwin was a popular 4th-grader at McKinley Elementary when I made my way there from little Baker School (1st – 3rd grade) with my Fairmount-Hill tribe. The first few weeks of fourth grade were terrifying as we navigated larger hallways, larger classrooms and larger kids. I don’t know what Jim saw in me, but we clicked and he soon became not only my best friend, but my advocate. He had older siblings, so he was experienced in the neighborhood, in sports, in music (Beatles, Guess Who, Credence Clearwater Revival), in road trips (Prineville), and in zest for life. Jim urged me to join his City League baseball team (the Wolverines), which set a course for self-esteem, confidence and success all through my school years. Jim moved to Portland the summer before our  7th grade year at Leslie Jr. High, but he made an impact that has borne fruit for nearly 50 years. Every time I drive past the white Dutch Colonial at High and Rural I think of Jim and the Goodwin family.

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.

A 'CaN-do' Church Births a Movement ... GOAL!

Everyone knows by now that the Portland Timbers won a thrilling nail-biter last month to earn the Major League Soccer (MLS) title. Did you know that two Salem-Keizer schools, Auburn Elementary and Scott Elementary, are co-Champions of GRASSP (Grass Roots After School Soccer Program)? You haven’t seen these young athletes on ESPN (yet!), but they play with everything they’ve got and have tons of fun doing it. GRASSP is a free soccer-and-academic program that was birthed through the CaN Centers Collaboration (video story at www.salemLF.org). It serves more than 200 local 4th- and 5th-grade students every week through soccer and character development. The volunteer coaches teach soccer skills on the field and character skills off the field: servant leadership, pride in school and family, winning with humility, losing with dignity, and teamwork.


SLF RainFest Golf Challenge


The fifth-annual RainFest Golf Challenge will benefit Salem Leadership Foundation (SLF) and our mission to help Salem-Keizer become the healthiest community in Oregon; truly the City of Shalom.

This may sound crazy, and you may think we’re nuts, but WE NEED YOU to play 18 holes of golf  with us on Leap Monday, February 29, and raise some serious bucks for SLF during the time of year we need it most.  It may rain, the wind may howl, the mud may muck … bring it on – FORE!

With hardy participation from 40 volunteers, our goal is to raise $100,000 in the next several weeks to support SLF and our work with churches and partners that helps kids, families, schools and neighborhoods.  We need 40 passionate champions willing to help support SLF and our ‘City-as-Neighborhood’ strategy.  More than 10,000 kids, families and adults were impacted last year.

We are inviting you to participate in RainFest.  We promise this will not take a lot of your time.  We need volunteers who will commit to follow the steps of this proven program, which will raise significant dollars for SLF and its neighborhood partners.  You can even win some great prizes like dinners-for -two, free golf, weekend getaways, and cool golf stuff.

"The Word Became Flesh and Moved Into the Neighborhood."

SLF is an odd duck.  We’re a strong organization, but we don’t own anything.  We don’t have our own programs (we collaborate with churches and myriad partners).  We don’t own a building.  Our strategic plan directs us to promote the success of other non-profits and ministries.  Odd … but cool! SLF’s official mission is to engage people-of-faith and people-of-goodwill to transform Salem-Keizer for good – neighborhood by neighborhood.  But our ‘mission-behind-the-mission’ is to encourage the Body of Christ to rediscover that ‘sacred art of servanthood’ which is outlined in both the Old and New Testaments … and ultimately expressed in the very words, ministry and life of Jesus.  

What a blessing when churches develop person-to-person ministries.  Family-to-family services. 
It all started with Capital Park Church and their neighborhood (‘CaN’) center.  Then Salem Alliance partnered with Grant School in a big way.  Then a dozen churches began hosting homeless families by forming the Interfaith Hospitality Network.  First Methodist served as home base for Congregations Helping People.  More churches became CaN Centers (more than 50 now).  Our Savior’s Lutheran created Foster Parents Night Out.  West Salem Foursquare launched both the Dream Center and the Salem Free Medical Clinic, which is now the cornerstone of Salem Alliance’s ministries at Broadway Commons.  First Baptist opened its building for Upward Basketball and Homeless Connect.  First Nazarene birthed Hope Station (food and clothing co-op for the working poor).  Holy Cross Lutheran turned a little house into La Casita, which has been replicated at two other sites.  Four churches have teamed up to help seven schools through the GRASSP soccer program.  Churches are hosting block parties and joining neighborhood associations.  They’re opening indoor parks and community gardens.  They’re partnering with schools … Do you see the pattern?  Instead of ‘outsourcing’ services to other agencies, local churches are learning how to serve at home.  Instead of sending ‘needy people’ away, congregations are learning how to ‘love their neighbor’ personally.


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