Tuesday, June 1, 2010

All Saints' saint ends a quarter-century of community connections in Pasadena

from the Pasadena Star-News
PASADENA - [source link] -- Twenty-five years ago, Lorna Miller joined the new Office for Creative Connections at All Saints Episcopal Church.

It was the socially active church's 100th anniversary gift to a city Miller said was then "in pain," struggling for answers to economic inequity, gang violence and lack of affordable housing.
Now, retiring after a quarter-century and 20 years as OCC's director, Miller acknowledged those problems haven't gone away.

But, she said, it doesn't mean nothing has changed.

"I think we have made a difference - I would hope we have," Miller said.

It's a long list. Everything from Young & Healthy - now with more than 275 volunteer medical professionals providing free care to uninsured children - to Day One's substance-abuse prevention programs, the Dropout Committee, Police Relations Committee, kids' Culture Shock retreat on multiculturalism, Theater Camp for at-risk youth, Muir Mentoring program and Visions 20/20 addressing gang violence. Not to mention the $14 million grant awarded to OCC by the James Irvine Foundation to head the Communities Organizing Resources to Advance Learning (CORAL) Initiative in Pasadena, the first of five cities in California.

"It's a success story that demonstrates the impact of All Saints Church on the Pasadena community and demonstrates Lorna's effectiveness in pursuing a mission adopted 25 years ago," said Mayor Bill Bogaard, one of many civic leaders who attended Miller's farewell at the church on Thursday.

Pasadena is a "complicated" city, Bogaard said, still with tremendous disparities, and with a diversity that's both a "huge asset" and a challenge.
"The need for private participation in addressing the community's needs is as great, or greater, today than ever before because of the private sector's limited resources," Bogaard said.
Then as now, the OCC's technique was to listen to residents, report the findings back to the community and finally connect people and resources.

The Rev. Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, called the experiment "wildly successful."

"And Lorna has become an emblem for listening imaginatively and creatively, and helping the resources in the city become even more effective," Bacon said.
"That office has continued to incubate new and fruitful programs to address intractable problems in Pasadena and beyond," he said. "The premise is that, if creative people of goodwill in Pasadena come together, there are no problems that cannot be solved."
Miller, 65, said the OCC at All Saints continues to look for new approaches to community problems.
But, she said, they will stay with the key technique: listening to those closest to the problems then "connecting people around the issues" dividing the city.
Miller, co-author of "Survivors: An Oral History of the Armenian Genocide," said she will stay involved in international projects in retirement, including continuing her work in Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide of the 1990s.

"I want to spend some time traveling and I'm open to seeing where I can best use my skills," she said. "But I will really miss the stimulation and creativity that comes from bringing people together around a particular problem, sharing resources to come up with a solution."

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