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

"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.


This Is Why We Help Churches Do Their Thing

You’ve heard us rave about “The HUB,” the amazing bicycle-repair ministry that we featured at last June’s Fancy Dessert.  It’s a wonderful example of what can happen when a church learns about the needs of our community, and then follows God’s call to action.  But I shudder when I consider that The HUB might not have developed …

Evergreen Presbyterian is a CaN Center.  A Church serving as a Neighborhood Center.  There are more than 50 of them now, and SLF has had the privilege of co-funding 21 of them for a three-year period.  They do the work; we help with money, cheerleading, networking and technical support.  From day one, 12 years ago, SLF determined we would always follow the church and their passion for serving the neighborhood.  Yes, we would offer ideas, templates and best practices.  But we would never force a church to do a program that we (or our funders) might prefer.

In recent years, grant funders (foundations, trusts and agencies) have tightened their requirements around outcomes.  They need to know their dollars are going to specific projects with specific outcomes.  At SLF, we’ve been successful with a broad spectrum of funders for the CaN Centers Program and the Community Progress Teams (CPTs).  But sometimes the ‘specific outcomes’ require that all (or many) of the CaN Centers run identical programs.  For example, youth literacy.  There are big dollars out there for helping kindergartners be “school ready” and third-graders to “read at grade level.” These are great outcomes!   But not all CaN Centers have chosen youth literacy as their focus.  And while some have, they don’t run identical curricula or program formats.


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 …

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.

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.

CaN Graduation

January - February 2011

On February 2, ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ will be playing over the speakers. 
February?  Ain’t that a little early for a graduation ceremony?  For the schools, yes. 
For the CaN Centers, no! 

Each year, SLF looks to engage with two new ‘CaN Center’ sites on a three-year funding journey. 
We help churches expand their neighbor-serving strategies, which typically include after-school programs, English classes, community gardens, foster-family supports, gym sports, homework time, food banks, outreach to homeless, etc.  Really phenomenal stuff … eminating from church facilities.

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