KVO Attends Rally for Racial Justice in Portland

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KVO and member groups drove down to Payson Park in Portland’s Back Bay to stand in solidarity with hundreds of others against racism.

From the “Oppose White Supremacy: Coming Together For Racial Justice” Facebook event page:

“What a beautiful day to gather! And what a beautiful, powerful demonstration in Boston yesterday, where more than 40,000 people standing up for racial justice dwarfed the handful of white supremacists and neo-Nazis demonstrating in the Boston Common.

While the “Free Speech” protesters yesterday were small in number, we know the reach of white supremacy goes wide and deep. We hope today’s gathering in Maine can be another powerful demonstration in opposition to white supremacy; a moment of reckoning about the history and present-day reality of racism in our state and nation; and reflect a collective commitment to liberation. This is an opportunity to face the truths of our past, and our present, and to step towards our future.”

Below are the groups who co-sponsored the gathering:

NAACP Maine, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, Maine Women’s Lobby, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, Congregation Beth El of Bangor, Temple Beth El of Portland, Equality Maine, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Democratic Party, Greater Portland Greens, Somali Bantu Association, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services, Maine Equal Justice Partners, Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care, Kennebec Valley Organization, Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America, Maine Episcopal Network for Justice, March Forth, Maine Initiatives, Maine Small Business Coalition, Maine State Nurses Association, New Mainers PAC, Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine, Prevention. Action. Change, Suit Up Maine, USM Socialists, First Parish Portland, USM Women & Gender Studies Program, USM Chapter of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine, Bend the Arc Greater Portland, Progressive Portland, Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, Somali Community Center of Maine, Southern Maine Industrial Workers of the World, Preble Street, Peace Action Maine, Maine Conservation Voters, Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition, New England Arab American Organization, and Community Financial Literacy, Greater Portland SURJ, Vajra Dakini Nunnery, Sierra Club Maine, Maine Veterans for Peace, New Mainers Tenants’ Association, Maine Votes, Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network, Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church, Catholic Charities Maine

KVO at State House Vigil Against Hate- Solidarity Rally

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Some of the photos from the Maine State House rally, held in response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, VA. Local press estimated that 150 attended, including KVO and member congregations.

From the Facebook event page:

“Stand with us against the rising tide of racism, nationalism and white supremacy highlighted this past weekend in Charlottesville. Show support for our brothers and sisters around the country who are resisting hate and coming together in love and compassion.”

Similar rallies and vigils were held in Portland, Sanford, Skowhegan, Rockland, Bar Harbor, Machias, Bangor, Cumberland, Norway, Gouldsboro, Belfast and Brunswick. Almost 700 rallies were held across the country.

KVO Meets With Pittsfield’s Blue Women Group

KVO was recently invited to attend the July gathering of the Blue Women, a local Pittsfield group that formed over a dozen years ago to meet monthly and discuss political and local community issues. Among the other attendees were members of Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network (MUUSAN). From their “About” page:

“The Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network (MUUSAN) is a statewide advocacy and public policy network anchored in our Unitarian Universalist faith and animated by its principles. This legislative ministry links Maine’s 25 Unitarian Universalist congregations to promote just, humane laws and policies in keeping with our UUA Seven Principles. We welcome as partners and collaborators all those who share our values.

In 2012, Maine became the 17th state to create a State Advocacy Network. At work today in 25 states, SANs are the fastest-growing arm of Unitarian Universalism nationwide, and for good reason.”

Many thanks to all for your hospitality, friendship and lively discussions!

KVO at IVP Summer 2017 Organizing Institute

Last weekend, KVO’s new Lead Organizer Andi Parkinson attended the InterValley Project Leadership and Organizer Training in N Andover, MA (see photos). From their page:

    Organizing Skills for New and Experienced Leaders

“The InterValley Project is conducting an Organizing Institute for leaders of Berkshire Interfaith Organizing, Kennebec Valley Organization, Merrimack Valley Project, Naugatuck Valley Project, Northeast Kingdom Organizing Project, Pioneer Valley Project, Rhode Island Organizing Project, United Valley Interfaith Project, and allied organizations organizing for justice in New England. The institute will offer leaders of religious congregations, labor unions and community groups the chance to learn new skills necessary to build powerful regional community organizations, while building relationships with each other. The workshops will be conducted by organizers from IVP and IVP member organizations.”

It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with the other IVP team groups, both organizers and community leaders, discuss their histories, make important connections and friendships, share past organizer experiences, review training techniques and methods learned in the past, and acquire new skills, as well as to get a good first sense of the important community work each is doing locally. It was an important introduction to the IVP family and a chance to wear multiple hats over the weekend, be it as an organizer or as a new participant- and it was extremely instructive to see how to take a group of approximate 3 dozen people, many of whom had never met before, and through a well constructed agenda of varied workshops, individual and group exercises, teach the participants new leadership skills to take back to their own congregations, organizations and communities.

And the location was pretty nice as well!


KVO Standing With State Employees During Government Shutdown

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Such a beautiful place the Maine State House in Augusta is, with so many stories under its dome. But last weekend, that beauty was marred by the first statewide government shutdown to be experienced in more than 25 years. All non-emergency government functions were closed immediately, prompting state employees to protest in Augusta.

The shutdown, which lasted 3 days, occurred as legislators were unable to unable to come together on a veto proof biannual budget by midnight on June 30. But by Tuesday morning, lawmakers were able to craft legislation eliminating the additional lodging tax hike that Governor LePage found objectionable. Once that provision was removed, the budget bill was signed, ending the shutdown.

KVO, Healthy Waterville To Address Food Insecurity Among Area Elders

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on June 22 that Waterville had been selected as the first in the nation’s ten planned community initiatives, “Healthy Places for Healthy People” planning assistance program. Described as a “new initiative that helps communities leverage health care facilities to foster downtown revitalization and economic growth, improve health and protect the environment”, the scope of these projects are broad-based in vision and long term positive change for the specific community, with the future potential to foster favorable ripple effects to neighboring areas.

Healthy Northern Kennebec coalition partners and interested stakeholders came together on June 26 at the Spectrum Generations Muskie Center for an open community workshop and met the following day for a full day gathering of action planning work sessions at Colby College to lay out the initial Healthy Waterville Action Team (HWAT) subgroups, tasked with identifying areas of need, potential and team members, under direction of EPA technical experts.

KVO was among those selected to receive a mini-grant from Healthy Northern Kennebec, as to aid our work as part of the HWAT transportation subgroup. We will work to develop a partnership among our member congregations and other Waterville area congregations, the Central Maine Gleaners group,Colby College, Sustain Mid-Maine coalition members and KVCAP to explore the feasibility of creating a new program that links fresh locally grown food, congregational and college student volunteers, and KVCAP drivers to deliver fresh food to isolated elders.

We will be conducting interviews with other area agencies identified as potential partners such as Waterville Food Bank in eliminating barriers to area seniors experiencing transportation to fresh food access, and developing strategies to breakdown these barriers.

Some statistics and information of note:

    Maine Food Insecurity Facts

● State Food Insecurity Rates for Ages 60 and older: Maine is above 20% (AARP)
● 23% of seniors experience marginal, low, or very low food security (Maine.gov)
● 14% of Maine seniors experience food insecurity (National Foundation to End Senior Hunger)
● Food insecure older adults are 50% more likely to be diabetic, 60% more likely to have congestive
heart failure, and 3 times more likely to suffer depression (Maine.gov)
● 37% of Maine’s food insecure population does not qualify for public assistance and must rely on the
charity food assistance network (Good Shepard Food Bank)

    Food Insecurity in Kennebec County

● Food insecurity rate (across all age groups): 14.4%
● Number of food insecure people in Kennebec County: 17,440
● Average meal costs: $3.30
● Additional money required to meet food needs: $10,328,000 (Feeding America)