President’s Corner: The Genesis of Faith Network

By Faith Network of the East Bay | April 29th,2016

In 1988 the Roth family arrived in Oakland where I was called to serve as pastor of First Covenant Church, and soon we started a weekly gathering to pray for the Shalom of Oakland. A growing number of people from several congregations were coming together to pray for the peace, prosperity, health and wholeness of the city we were called to serve. Several years later, retired Oakland teacher Mary Shaw recruited me and other First Covenant members to serve as Oakland Readers.

In 2000 Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Dennis Chaconis invited clergy to Mills College where he gave us a State of the Schools report and concluded with a bold and surprising challenge: “We need you and your congregations to adopt a neighborhood school!” Little did he or I know that a seed was planted that day that would grow into Faith Network, officially launched as a public benefit nonprofit in July of 2001.

Two days after the horrific 9/11 terrorist attack – Board Chair Jon Blankmeyer and I were introduced to Burbank Elementary Principal Roberta Teller by former Burbank teacher, Norman Brooks. Ms. Teller greeted us with warm hugs, saying “I want my school to be a safe place,”and then began sharing her “Volunteer Wish List.”

By mid-October, volunteers from four nearby churches were serving as tutors, playground lunch buddies, teacher appreciation hosts, library helpers and ESL class leaders. Burbank became a template for future school partnerships.
Fastforward 15 years: Today over 300 volunteers, 20 congregations and 38 community partners offer an array of services to 36 schools that address the public education crisis close to home here in Oakland and the East Bay.

To help Faith Network stay strong we need your help. The education crisis will not go away any time soon. That’s why we need to be here today and tomorrow for our most vulnerable at-promise children. Your monthly, annual and multi-year financial support will ensure Faith Network can go deeper and wider, so that Hope for Children Now will continue spreading throughout Oakland, the East Bay and beyond.

For the children,
Randy