“I am a former welfare recipient […] I actually got a GED and was still raising my family of seven children” said Cassandra Barham, Organizer at the Contact Center. “So here I am. I’m a success. And I want people to know that there is a way to be a success out there.”
The Contact Center of Cincinnati, Ohio is a two-time grantee that has used Mary’s Pence funding for their community organizing work. The first Mary’s Pence grant supported successful efforts to change Ohio law regarding Kinship Care. Over the course of the last year, Mary’s Pence funds have supported the Contact Center’s efforts to dismantle ineffective policies that hold back SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) users, especially regarding income and jobs.
In their 2018 year-end wrap up, the Contact Center shared this reflection:
This year we are proud of our members taking action for Food Security to help stop cuts to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as food stamps). The House Freedom Caucus did not succeed in their plans to throw 2 million and more human beings off of their lifeline to food security! That is a major victory in itself during these times. Special thanks to Community Change Action and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative for partnering with us to protect America’s Safety Net, along with grassroots groups across America all the way to Alaska! This is truly a peoples movement that we are proud to be part of, demonstrating the power of community organizing!
In February, the Contact Center began promoting a public comment campaign to oppose an Executive Decree forcing a harsh work requirement for SNAP recipients without children. SNAP requirements already limit benefits for childless adults who are unemployed or underemployed to three months out of every three years unless they can prove they are working an average of 20 hours per week. The proposed rule would additionally take away benefits from approximately 755,000 low-income individuals.
In addition to funding, Mary’s Pence also provides capacity building opportunities that the Contact Center has participated in. The inaugural grantee retreat was held in September 2018 in Farmington, Minnesota. Cassandra attended this three day event along with a Contact Center board member Theresa Taul. At the retreat, Cassandra and Theresa were able to connect with women leaders from other Mary’s Pence grantees and record this video about their work.
On February 22, Cassandra also attended a teleconference with nine other grantee representatives in which board member Carol Fendt, PhD facilitated a conversation about evaluation. Grantees were shown how to create a logic model of their programs in order to help inform their evaluation practices and to help better communicate their work to supporters and funders. The teleconference was so popular that Mary’s Pence will host a follow-up session in April, which will dig deeper into logic model development and focus on evaluation practices.
The Contact Center started in 1968 with a focus on ending poverty and since then has continued to work on issues around race, gender equality and justice. As a low-income citizens’ organization the Contact Center works to build the leadership and civic participation skills of those who are oftentimes left out of mainstream society and the political process. Members are provided with opportunities to develop leadership skills so that low-income individuals have a voice in influencing policy decisions that impact their own lives.
Learn more about the Mary’s Pence Grants program.