The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People (SDOP) has approved grants totaling $240,000 to 13 self-help projects in the United States.

The money is from the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. 

Projects range from assisting community residents that have come together to improve their English language, computer and technical job skills in Canton, Ga.; to a business cooperative formed by a group of ex-offenders to serve as a means of self-employment through providing year round lawn care to their customers; to supporting a group of people in recovery from mental illness who wish to support each other with advocacy and life skills training.

SDOP enables members and non-members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to form partnerships with economically poor, oppressed and disadvantaged people in order to help them achieve self-sufficiency.

Grants were approved at SDOP's national committee meeting here Sept. 17-19.

The projects and grants:

  • African Christian Community Center, Dayton, Ohio, $20,000, to help empower African refugees in their resettlement efforts in American culture.  ESL classes and employment counseling are two of the major components of the project.
  • 818 Yard Patrol, Dayton, Ohio, $20,000 – This group of ex-offenders has formed a business cooperative to serve as a means of self employment.  The project is to provide year round lawn care to their customers.
  • Sisters Overcoming Abusive Relationships (SOAR), Warwick, R.I., $10,000 – By coming together, members of this group founded and run by domestic violence survivors seek to help themselves as well as others in similar situations by improving the systems of response, protection, and support for victims or survivors of domestic violence.
  • Brooklyn Women’s Truth Commission Project, Brooklyn, N.Y., $20,000, – Members of this group are involved in bringing to the forefront the injustices that African American women and other minorities receive from the police and how to deal with their actions when confronted with such injustices. 
  • A Second Cup, Pittsburgh, Pa. $20,000, to assist in the improvement of an existing coffee shop and creation of a community cooperative. Using produce from a community garden, group members will partake in healthy cooking lessons. The project will also include parenting classes, home repair and financial management.
  • Community Education Project, Holyoke, Mass., $10,000, – This community theater group of low-income members provides education and empowerment for its members, their families and its community by envisioning, creating, writing, producing, and participating/performing in original plays dealing with issues common in their community. These include domestic violence, incarceration and alcohol/drug abuse. The plays are presented on community access TV and other venues.
  • Glenwood Self Help Group, Glenwood, Ga., $20,000 – a group of Glenwood residents have come together to start a small appliance and vehicle fix-it shop.
  • East African Student Group, Atlanta, Ga. $20,000, for equipment purchase to support a screen printing enterprise by a group of East African students. The students plan to market to area college students and schools and work with them to print college and school club shirts.
  • Uniting Communities in Georgia, Canton, Ga. $20,000 – Members of this group of low-income people have come together to educate themselves in the English language, US culture and history and to acquire training in computer and technical job skills.
  • Art of Recovery, Las Cuces, N.M. $20,000 – By coming together, members of this group of people recovering from mental illness will support each other with life skills training that includes art therapy such as jewelry making and woodworking.
  • Rescate Office Group, Canoga Park, Calif. $20,000 – This group of low-income Hispanic residents plans to remodel a section of the Rescate Family Center to use as a handicap restroom and exam treatment center.
  • Idaho Community Action Network, Boise, Idaho $20,000 – Members of this group of low-income families participating in the Idaho Community Action Network’s food program will receive training in the storing and preservation of food. Participants will also learn how to advocate for their needs, become more self-sufficient and learn healthier dietary practices.
  • Duality Group, Los Angeles, Calif., $20,000 – These low-income at risk youth will engage in a project that will combine steel sculpture welding and graffiti to create work to be displayed in public installations or in galleries. Through this process, group members will learn marketable job skills including welding and business management.

40th anniversary celebration

SDOP also celebrated its 40th anniversary using the theme “Celebrate Hope ... bring forth justice to nations.” The Rev. St. Paul Epps, director of SDP from 1970-1980, led the worship service that opened the celebration.

In addition to Epps, joining National SDOP Committee members were members from the Synod of Trinity, Philadelphia, Lehigh, and Donegal presbyteries' SDOP committees. Philadelphia was chosen as the celebration site to acknowledge and honor the Synod of the Trinity and the Presbytery of Philadelphia for their participation in the SDOP ministry for most of its 40-year history. The festivities were held at First Presbyterian Church, Germantown.

Sharing in the celebration were several organizations funded many years ago by SDOP:

William Merritt from the National Black United Fund, funded in 1972, noted that many of the original leaders have passed on but because of their tireless efforts and because of mainly church groups believing in them in the early years, the National Black United Fund now includes 17 affiliates across the United States. 

Their primary focus remains enhancing well being of children, improving life skills of families and individuals, and increased giving to support community change.  They do this by promoting financial literacy, home ownership, and business development opportunities, by supporting youth achievement through community service and education, and by being engaged in social justice and social change organizations.

Nelson Carrasquillo, general director of Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA), funded in 1985 and again in 1987, noted that from the beginning CATA has been a migrant farmworker organization that is governed by and comprised of farm workers.  They remain actively engaged in the struggle for better working and living conditions for farm workers.

From Taller Puertorriqueno, funded in 1978, Carmen Febo-SanMiguel noted that her organization has evolved from a grassroots Puerto Rican graphic arts community center to a world-class institution that celebrates the arts of Puerto Rico, Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Taller Puertorriqueño was established in 1974 by Latino artists and activists in the North Kensington area of Philadelphia. They created a community-based graphic arts workshop that continues to provide cultural training and uses the arts as a vehicle for social change.

Representatives from at least 10 other SDOP-funded community groups also joined the meeting. They included the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, a multi-ethnic membership based organization dedicated to transforming the taxi industry and improving working conditions through organizing and advocacy; a group of recovering addicts who have formed "The Alumni Group" to seek to maintain their recovery through mentoring each other and others just coming out of rehab; and the Uber Street Food Co-op, dedicated to creating a community garden from which area residents will receive fresh and healthy food and where area children will be taught about nutritionally healthy food and how to grow it.