| Program: || Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee, Richmond, CA |
| Contact(s): || Rev. Don Stahlhut, Director: (510) 232-9783 |
| Purpose: || To develop effective community leaders and create a vehicle for the improvement of the quality of life throughout the county |
Concerned about racism, poverty, gang violence, health care access, and a failing education system, community residents from Contra Costa County invited organizers from the Pacific Institute for Community Organization (PICO) to help initiate a congregation-based community organizing effort. (PICO, also highlighted as a Promising Practice by the President's Initiative on Race, is a national organizing network with 29 organizations in 65 cities.) During 1993, PICO organizers met with 300 pastors and lay leaders representing 10 denominations to share with them the PICO model of building a multi-faith, multiethnic organization. The organizers then conducted training sessions for 150 pastors and community leaders and formed a leadership team to build a federation of religious congregations. In 1994, the Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (CCISCO) was founded to restore a sense of community in Contra Costa cities and teach people how to address and resolve the issues that concern them most.
CCISCO's goal is to empower, unite and give voice to poor and moderate-income families so they can enhance the quality of life for themselves and other Contra Costa residents. A federation of 32 religious congregations from 10 denominations with active local organizing committees in every low/moderate income city in the county, CCISCO directly involves over 25,000 families and has a core of experienced leaders directing the work of the organization. CCISCO works to train members of these various congregations to be effective community leaders. At regular weekly and monthly sessions, CCISCO staff, local religious leaders and experienced lay leaders head workshops that empower community leaders through leadership training. These community members are taught to use their new skills to lobby for important changes that affect their neighborhoods and surrounding communities.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
CCISCO is the only county-wide federation that is successfully building bridges across faith, race and economic lines. As an affiliate of the PICO Network, CCISCO is connected with 28 other organizations, spanning 10 states and 60 cities from California and New York. Over the span of a year, CCISCO has conducted more than 1,000 one-to-one meetings to identify problems affecting low-income people, held 60 research meetings to identify issues related to these problems and organized five successful community actions that have generated commitments for improvements totaling over $18 million. The Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee has trained community members who have gone on to lobby for the building of a middle school, a youth center and after-school homework clubs in the county.