LEAN MLK Day event sheds light on urgent Nevada needs

Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada thanks everyone who helped with our event on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — all who attended, all who responded to our appeal for donations, all who stuffed backpacks, and the businesses and individuals who provided food. We especially thank our outstanding speakers, and Office Depot for the generous discount on school supplies.

Nevada Chief Justice James Hardesty speaks at LEAN's Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday event at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Reno, Jan. 19, 2015.

Nevada Chief Justice James Hardesty speaks at LEAN’s Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday event at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Reno, Jan. 19, 2015.

Volunteers prepare school materials for backpack stuffing at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Jan. 19, 2015

Volunteers prepare school materials for backpack stuffing at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Jan. 19, 2015

LEAN’s event on the King holiday was to learn about issues that will be coming up in the 2015 legislative session, and to do the “Backpack Challenge,” designed to demonstrate to legislators that our schools need proper funding. Those who attended heard speakers, some in Las Vegas, some in Reno, connected by video cast.

James Hardesty, Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court, was the featured speaker. He began by giving credit to the faith community for its advocacy in past years for rehabilitation and re-entry programs. He said it has had the effect of changing the culture at the Nevada Department of Corrections. Justice Hardesty described the work of the Nevada Commission on Administration of Justice, and shared some items the Commission will propose to the Legislature. Among those are uniform assessment tools, so that regardless where in the state one is, the same criteria will determine whether a person is fit to release on bail, or whether that person should be paroled. The Commission would like more money allocated to Drug Court and Mental Health Court.

Mr. Mike Raponi spoke about education. He is director of the State of Nevada Office of Career Readiness, Adult Learning, and Educational Options. Some exciting programs are gearing up to train Nevada’s workforce for the technical jobs of the future. Built into the program are incentives to stay in school and graduate on time.

Mr. Shane Piccinini spoke in Reno on behalf of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. As the public policy advocate for the Food Bank, his agenda is ensuring that federal funding for food programs is not cut. It might be surprising that at the state level, there is sometimes resistance to federal food programs. There are start-up costs and matching-funds requirements that some legislators reject. Who knew there is a Governor’s Council on Food Security? This group is working with the Legislature to remove barriers to federal help for hungry people, especially school children.

The Reverend Lionel Starkes, chair of the Union of Black Episcopalians, spoke in Las Vegas. He recalled some of the inspiring words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He linked Dr. King’s words and actions to the biblical charge to proclaim freedom to the captives. He noted that many remain captive today—to racism, economic and educational inequality, and that it is incumbent on us in the faith community to continue to work for equality for all.

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Fill a Backpack for a Nevada Legislator

By Sheila Freed

The December issue of The Lutheran magazine featured an article about Advent, and how much we miss if we plunge right into the busyness of Christmas right after Thanksgiving. But the thing that struck me most in the article was an illustration by the author, Gertrud Mueller Nelson. Now that we are in the season of Epiphany, the image seems particularly appropriate. It shows the Holy Family in modern dress. Baby Jesus is sitting in a shopping cart. The family is bundled up against the weather, and father, unshaven and with a backpack on his back, pushes the cart past urban high-rises. An angel flies overhead. This could represent the flight into Egypt. But I think there is more to it than that.

Jesus came for the poor, the homeless, the dispossessed of every age, and they are very much with us today. We who do Advocacy talk about the difference between Charity and Advocacy, and we recognize that both are important. Charity is about direct aid to those in need, and Advocacy is about making structural changes in society so the causes of need go away. 

Lutheran-Episcopal Ministry in Nevada (LEAN) will have an event on January 19, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, involving both charity and dvocacy. It’s the perfect time to learn about issues that will be on the agenda of the 2015 Nevada Legislature. Since public school funding is a major issue as always, LEAN will be doing Charity as well. It’s our way of telling legislators we’re concerned about schools and we want them to be, too. Your help is needed.

All new and returning state senators and assembly members have been invited. Those who attend will assemble backpacks filled with school supplies. The backpacks will be given to a low-income school of the legislator’s choice. We’re doing this in January, the middle of the school year, because many children and teachers have used all the supplies they started with in the fall, and there isn’t money to buy more. If you’re living out of a shopping cart, buying notebook paper isn’t likely to be your highest priority, but doing well in school is the way up and out. That is why we’re asking you to consider donating to this effort. Our Advocate, Rev. Mike Patterson, has arranged with Office Depot to buy supplies at a huge discount, so donations will go a long way. Donations can be sent to LEAN at the address above, or through your church office, marked “LEAN backpacks.”

If you prefer to donate items instead of cash, please use this list as a guide: Pencils, pencil bags, ballpoint pens, glue sticks, crayons, colored pencils, highlighters, 3-ring binders, spiral notebooks, erasers, pocket folders, sticky notes, copy paper, lined paper.

If there are questions about this project or about LEAN, please contact Rev. Mike Patterson (mp4675@att.net), or your Parish Communicators.