Working Together: Los Angeles Red Cross and Our Faith Partners

By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region CEO

Photos by Rudy Lopez

Last Thursday was sunny and warm—a perfect early spring morning.  But I was frowning.  You see, I had to put on a suit.  I don’t often wear suits at Red Cross, but when I get in front of a group of ministers, priests and rabbis, well, this Catholic boy has to put on his Sunday best—even if it’s not Sunday.  As it turned out, putting on the suit and tie weren’t so traumatic and I made to Quiet Cannon, an event hall in Montebello, in under 20 minutes.

In 2012, Red Cross LA has reached out to faith-based leaders for their support.  Led by Osas Otasowie, the Faith-Based Partners Program, a part of our PrepareLA initiative, has worked to create partnerships with churches, synagogues, mosques, parochial schools and other non-profit, faith-based organizations to strengthen community resiliency in Los Angeles. Since 2014, we have focused this work in the city’s most vulnerable communities.

Once a year, we invite leaders from the faith community—some partners, some “prospects” for partnership—to an ecumenical breakfast to commune over our work and its guiding principles.  This year’s Sunrise Gathering: An Annual Prayer Breakfast focused on deepening the engagement of faith partners in the resilience of their communities. It’s theme, Working Together, was on display the whole morning!

The breakfast at Quiet Cannon began with time for attendees to meet one another, then a program that focused on Red Cross work, highlighting key partnership successes over the year. I was honored to both attend and speak to the 100 attendees (representing 48 faith communities) on why partnering with Red Cross was transformative to communities.  I left the banquet room more confident than ever before that working together is exactly what the Red Cross Los Angeles Region and our faith based partners are destined for.

Many partnerships were highlighted at the breakfast.  One of the most notable continues to be the partnership with Crenshaw Christian Center Communities.  Their commitment to step up during recent disasters in the southeast—those devastating back-to back hurricanes—made a huge difference. But, Crenshaw Christian Center is not only a faith-based partner sending members to deploy to national disasters. They are also a member of a volunteer program called Ready When the Time Comes. Through Ready When the Time Comes, corporations and faith-based organizations alike, can organize a base of community volunteers to be ready to assist with local disasters like housefires. During the month of September 2017 alone, Crenshaw Cristian Center set the bar high, with 70 additional members committing to volunteer with the Red Cross, as a part of our Ready When the Time Comes program.

Of course, there were many other Red Cross faith partners of note. Another partner recognized at the event was Mercy Worldwide. They have had an enormous impact in helping Red Cross LA reach our goals for installing free smoke alarms in the homes of needy families. There bringing dozens of diverse, inspired volunteers committed to the public’s safety has transformed our work in many neighborhoods.

Certainly, one of the highlights of the event was the morning’s keynote speaker. Dr. Michael Mata. A professor at Azusa Pacific’s Koreatown campus, he has designed and administered community and faith-based programs for over 30 years, particularly in the areas of community development, congregational redevelopment, intercultural programs, organizational and leadership development, ministry/nonprofit management and community youth development. He spoke about the importance of community engagement to helping citizens in the accrual of “social capital.” His unique background as an ordained minister and vast experience with Urban Ministry brought a relevancy to his words for the crowd. His articulate summation of the challenges in urban communities framed beautifully the challenges we confront everyday with our work to prepare and build more resilient communities.

I couldn’t be more grateful for the commitment and support of our entire faith-based community and all our faith-based partners. And, I look forward to seeing many of the same smiling faces from the Prayer Breakfast at our Sound the Alarm events and Red Cross trainings, throughout the spring.

Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region.

 To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org

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