Thursday summit aims to empower families

Alejandra Pulido, right, a CAFe community organizer and volunteer, talks with an unidentified student from New Mexico State University. (Courtesy photo)

Mike Scanlon

Rio Grande Digital

Armed with a needs-list not so different from demands being made in cities across the US and around the world, a community organizing group will show its might Thursday, Nov. 3, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Cathedral.

Organized by the faith-based New Mexico Comunidades en Accion y de Fe, or CAFe, the “Faith & Families Summit” will bring together about 400 people, including a dozen clergy from various religious denominations to cast a spotlight on the needs of southern New Mexico families. The event will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

“It’s very rare to see eight different religious denominations come together under one roof addressing the same issues,” said Peter Ibarbo, CAFe’s communications director. “We want to give them a platform from which to speak and be heard.”

The non-denominational, non-partisan gathering is tackling such issues as home foreclosure reform, expanding college dual-credit opportunities for high school students, job-creation, fortifying government programs aimed at helping lower-income families, immigration reform and holding policy-makers accountable to the community.

“These are all critical issues facing the community,” Ibarbo said, adding that the effort places an emphasis on young people.

“We have a crisis. We need to engage the youth in the community,” he said. “We need them to take part in shaping their future. There’s going to be some students who will give testimonies. This is their opportunity.”

Sara Nolan, executive director of CAFe, addresses a group this summer in Washington, DC. (Courtesy photo)

Unlike some factions of the Occupy movement sweeping the country, the Las Cruces-based grassroots groundswell will be non-disruptive, Ibarbo said. Many of the people attending will be bussed to Las Cruces from southern Doña Ana County.

Sarah Nolan, CAFe’s executive director, said her organization seeks to empower people who often are marginalized to take charge of their own struggle.

“If you’re getting hit with some kind of Medicaid change, don’t expect a handout,” she said. “Get organized. We want to establish a new way of addressing issues through our public officials.”

She said the organization will have a strong focus on what will be effective and helpful for the people of Doña Ana County.

“We do have a really local perspective on issues that affect our communities,” Nolan said.

CAFe, founded in 2009, is part of PICO National Network, which bills itself as “one of the largest grassroots community efforts in the United States.”

Like the Occupy movement, PICO advocates people closing their accounts at big nationwide banks and moving their money to local credit unions or smaller community-based banks.

According to its website, Pico has more than 1,000 member institutions respresenting 1 million families in 150 cities in 17 states.

“Nonpartisan and multicultural, PICO provides an opportunity for people and congregations to translate their faith into action. More than 40 different religious denominations and faith traditions are part of PICO,” the organization says.

PICO’s website can be found at www.piconetwork.org.

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