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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Join ‘Backpack Challenge’ on MLK Day

Save the morning of January 19, 2015 to attend a unique event sponsored by Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN).   We all know the Education Initiative, Question 3, failed in the November election. Governor Sandoval has said he has a plan to fund public education, but he has disclosed no details. The LEAN event will give our Legislators an opportunity to do something tangible for education.

Watch Rev. Mike Patterson’s video on this special event here.

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 go to a Title I (low income) school of the Legislator’s choice, and the backpack will include the name of that Legislator.

We hope this will be a fun exercise that will remind Legislators of the need to seriously address education funding.   We particularly want to highlight the needs of Title I schools, which are chronically without resources. There’s a reason we’re doing a school supplies project in January. Many of our congregations assemble school backpacks in September, but by January, heading into the second half of the school year, most of those supplies have been used. This leaves teachers purchasing basic supplies from their own pockets. So in order to pull off this “challenge to Legislators,” we need your help. Please consider donating five, ten, or twenty dollars to buy the supplies to go in the backpacks. Our Director of Advocacy, Rev. Mike Patterson, has arranged to buy supplies at a huge discount from a local office supply store, so your donation will go a long way. Checks can be sent to LEAN c/o St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, PO Box 737, Sparks NV 89432, or given to your Parish Communicator.

The gathering will feature more than stuffing backpacks. James Hardesty, Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, will speak. Also on the agenda is a representative from Union of black Episcopalians, and a speaker from the State Board of Education. The event will occur simultaneously at Community Lutheran Church in Las Vegas and Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Reno, connected by video conference.   A representative of Northern Nevada Food Bank will speak in Reno, and a representative of Three Squares will speak in Las Vegas.

Members of all Episcopal and Lutheran congregations are urged to attend. The event begins at 10:00 am, and lunch will be provided. Please RSVP to mp4675@att.net.