A Decade of Accomplishments.
A Future of Possibilities.
Building a Community that Includes All People
SOPHIA’s First Decade of Accomplishments was celebrated April 26, 2014 by 120 people at the Prayer Breakfast and Silent Auction at UW Waukesha.
Multiple speakers shared perspectives of the creation and accomplishments of SOPHIA. Rev. Ron Retherford (retired Methodist pastor) recalled the gathering of Waukesha County clergy in 2003, determining the need for faith-based community organizing in Waukesha. Judith Williams lifted up leaders of early issues. Pastor Amy Becker-Perez boldly and compassionately led the press conference and work on the issue of building workforce housing in New Berlin, amidst challenging, fearful opponents. Dick Manke led the team working with Sheriff Trawicki urging continuation of the program allowing inmates in the Huber Facility to attend church services; working with county supervisors. Rev. Gary Liedtke has led Sacred Walks through downtown Waukesha honoring the works of many agencies and businesses.
Kristy and Mary of Wisconsin Community Services praised SOPHIA for fighting successfully for the Alcohol Treatment Court, the Drug Treatment Court, and working to create and maintain all the supportive intervention programs designed to make Waukesha a safer, healthier place to live. They offered stories and statistics behind the lives saved through these programs.
Joel Gaughan spoke of SOPHIA’s work for justice in New Berlin’s workforce housing. Following Joel’s Letters to the Editor praising and thanking the mayor and City Council for approving a workforce housing proposal, opponents noticed the issue and rallied to urge city leaders to recant their approval. Many statements of opposition were based on fear and misinformation. SOPHIA stood firm and vocal for the need for workforce housing. Ultimately, the Department of Justice stepped in and the city of New Berlin negotiated a compromise to avoid a lawsuit. The workforce housing complex is quite successful – fully occupied and a safe place to live.
John Stedman, WISDOM organizer in Eau Claire, challenged us to envision A Future of Possibilities. We work in a challenging context – seeing the world as it is, working for the world as it should be. He spoke of the need to build community through building bridges, always remembering that as faith-based community, we need to declare what is right and important to us. We are all linked, all support each other. SOPHIA will need to continue to find and build an inclusive community where faith, experience and work collide. John spoke of the generational commitment - the need to build leaders across generations, as the work will continue for decades.
John challenged SOPHIA to build bridges and relationships that will benefit Waukesha for generations to come – SOPHIA must ‘Act for Community, Act with Courage, Call for Justice’. Quoting Paul Wellstone, “Everyone does better when everyone does better.”
SOPHIA President Betty Groenewold called us all to action. She spoke of the first President, Joy McDonald Coltvet who shared what a privilege her presidency had been for her, how it shaped her as a person of faith, a public leader, and a pastor. Joy said we often end up receiving more than we could possibly give. As Kristy and Mary had said, one life saved or transformed makes all the work we do through SOPHIA worthwhile. SOPHIA makes a difference.