Acting on faith:

The Sacramento Community Keeps its Commitment to Oak Park

It is amazing what people can accomplish when they work together. Looking back over the last two years, the progress made by the Building Unity effort in Oak Park is both impressive and a tribute to the will and faith of our community.

As many will recall, three thousand members of the Sacramento community came together at Memorial Auditorium on the first anniversary of September 11th for a night of remembrance and an interfaith musical celebration. The first Call for Unity built upon a long history of communication and cooperation among the religiously and ethnically diverse communities in the Sacramento area.

Volunteers rehabilitate the home of a disabled woman on April 24.

Photo By Jill Wagner

The coalition of Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians of all denominations and many others working toward the event wanted to take advantage of the growing momentum and solidarity to serve the community together. On that first anniversary, we as a community pledged to work together to improve others’ lives by revitalizing the Oak Park neighborhood. In concert with the Interfaith Service Bureau, Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together and many other faith-based, non-profit, community, government and business partners, we committed to creating safe, affordable housing in one of Sacramento’s most underserved neighborhoods.

In order to stabilize the neighborhood, we set a goal to increase homeownership in Oak Park to fifty-percent, which translates into approximately 800 new owner-occupied units. This is being accomplished in manifold ways: by building low-income Habitat for Humanity homes on vacant lots; by preserving current homeownership and low-income housing stock by renovating the homes of elderly, low-income and disabled residents with Rebuilding Together; by working with low-income residents to increase first-time homeownership through education and outreach efforts; and by working with landlords to bring rental units up to code and support the nuisance abatement efforts necessary to make the neighborhood a safe place for children to grow up.

The Building Unity project was formed without creating any new organizational structure. Rather, by serving as an umbrella for existing organizations, Building Unity seeks to facilitate cooperation and the sharing of resources between stakeholders in Oak Park. Without a budget or bureaucracy, and with a great deal of volunteer time and effort, Building Unity has made outstanding progress towards its goals.

Representatives and workers from Labor Ready present a $15,000 check to Building Unity in March.

Photo By Jill Wagner

Anyone touring Oak Park will see many of the projects currently underway. With Building Unity’s support, Habitat for Humanity has increased its yearly housing production, from two houses a year to nine now under construction or in process in Oak Park through various community partnerships. An additional 19 lots are pending construction or acquisition.

Rebuilding Together has been able to increase its renovations from 20 to 95 houses each year. SHRA, the Renaissance Project, and Rebuilding Together have completed 20 home renovations in the Renaissance area of Oak Park. AmeriCorps completed 16 more houses in Oak Park this July. Group Workcamps and Rebuilding Together renovated an additional 36 homes in Oak Park and Del Paso this summer, and will do the same next summer.

St. HOPE is creating positive change through the mixed-use redevelopment project on Broadway, as well as PS7, Sacramento High School and St. HOPE Academy. KaBOOM! built two playgrounds with The Home Depot, one for St. HOPE Academy at PS7, and the second for St. HOPE Preschool with the help of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps.

Volunteers from The Home Depot helped build this KaBOOM! playground in Oak Park.

Photo By Jill Wagner

The City of Sacramento finalized changes to its permitting process and fee structure for infill housing, and appointed its own Infill Manager, Lucinda Willcox, to supervise the efforts. Private developers are utilizing this streamlined and more cost-efficient process, and tapping into new subsidies to build infill housing on numerous empty lots in Oak Park.

Spiritual Life Center, Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Sikh Temple of West Sacramento, Trinity Cathedral, Gethsemane Lutheran Church, St. Mark’s Methodist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Bayside Covenant Church, the United Methodist Church of Oak Park, Brahma Kumaris Meditation Center, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and Sacramento Area League of Associated Muslims have begun building Habitat homes through various interfaith partnerships.

US Bancorp Foundation, Coldwell Banker, SMUD, the Sierra Club, Arata Bros. Trust, staffers for the California State Republican and Democratic Legislators together, Labor Ready and Allied/Nationwide Insurance have all contributed or committed to helping build homes.

For more than forty consecutive weeks, the “Building Unity in Oak Park” page has appeared in the Sacramento News & Review, providing information and much deserved recognition to residents and the many community groups, non-profit organizations, government agencies and business partners working to revitalize Oak Park. As awareness of the project has increased, so has community participation and volunteer efforts. Organizations have reported substantial support for and utilization of their services as a result of appearing on the page.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is currently building a Habitat home in partnership with Citibank, providing yet another example of the diverse and complementary strengths of the Building Unity coalition. The interfaith community efforts of one particular member of the LDS Church are also being recognized at the Call for Unity event.

For the second year in a row, we are presenting the Building Unity Award for Outstanding Contributions to Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation. Rev. Faith Whitmore, of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, will present the award to Richard Montgomery, Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints during the Call for Unity concert. The following pages honor Mr. Montgomery’s many years of service to interfaith values in Sacramento, and highlight generally the outstanding service and commitment to the community of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Through Building Unity and the Call for Unity event, we are creating a new identity for Sacramento as a community that works together in faith and action.