Nov. 5, 2019 – Albuquerque, NM A collaborative of eight churches in the Nob Hill area has launched an initiative to address the needs of people experiencing the effects of poverty who seek help at their doors.
With support from the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County, ABQ FaithWorks Collaborative harnesses the resources of its congregations, the expertise of Heading Home and other agencies, and a full-time social services coordinator to work alongside clergy and church volunteers to connect people with longer-term help, such as counseling, housing and jobs.
"Faith communities are often the front line of helping those in need," says Rev. Sue Joiner, pastor at First Congregational United Church of Christ, and FaithWorks board president. “ABQ FaithWorks congregations have a vision of working together to improve our ability to serve our communities in crisis."
FaithWorks, through its supporting congregations, acts in an advisory capacity to fill gaps in the social service net for those in need of help, and expands existing services to meet the needs of the actual numbers of people in the community who aren’t being served. The program hopes to provide a model for other faith groups across Albuquerque to establish similar programs.
"I see this as a valuable collaboration, not only among the faith groups, but also between the public and private sectors," said Bernallilo Country Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins, who contributed $5,000 from her discretionary fund to the new organization, and championed an additional $15,000 in funding from the Commission.
The City of Albuquerque has granted FaithWorks $40,000, and an additional $10,000 in housing vouchers. Each supporting congregation contributes $5,000 annually to the non-profit organization. The New Mexico Conference of Churches provides fiscal agency.
Inspired by a similar faith association in Washington, D.C., the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, clergy from the Nob Hill congregations began meeting two years ago to plan how a cooperative approach to meeting pressing human service needs could work in Albuquerque. After obtaining non-profit status and establishing a board of directors, FaithWorks officially launched in June when it hired Valerie Griego to be its social services coordinator.
Griego, a licensed master social worker, is a New Mexico native who has worked with diverse populations on crisis teams with the severely mentally ill, with children of all ages, and in medical case management, school social work and legal arenas. Griego helps people connect to resources, strengthening existing relationships and fostering new ones. Heading Home provides Griego clinical supervision.
"Heading Home knows that it takes a community to address housing challenges. We are proud to be a part of this nonprofit/faith/government/business collaborative approach to helping people in need," says Director Dennis Plummer.
FaithWorks also participates in community programs such as the New Mexico Faith Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Albuquerque Interfaith, and Family Promise.
The supporting congregations in the ABQ FaithWorks Collaborative are St. Andrew Presbyterian, First Congregational UCC, St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal, St. Mark’s Episcopal, Monte Vista Christian, First Unitarian, Albuquerque Mennonite, and University Heights United Methodist/First United Methodist Community of Hope.