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Upcoming Events

Please join us for any of these upcoming ESTHER and related events!

  • To learn more about a particular event, click on its title
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Tuesday, April 23, 2024 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm
ESTHER Communications Committee Meeting Zoom Meeting
Tuesday, April 23, 2024 - 7:00pm - 8:30pm
ESTHER Environmental Justice Task Force Meeting Zoom meeting
Wednesday, April 24, 2024 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
ESTHER Executive Committee Zoom Meeting
Monday, May 6, 2024 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
ESTHER Transformational Justice Task Force St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 140 South Green Bay Road, Neenah
Tuesday, May 7, 2024 - 6:00am
May 7: Viewing and Discussion of the Film "Invisible Class" First Congregational United Church of Christ, 724 E. South River Rd. Appleton

How I Lost BadgerCare and What Happened Next

Testimony given by Joyce Frohn at the Poor People’s Campaign March in Madison, WI, on March 2, 2024. Thank you, Joyce, for sharing your testimony with ESTHER in this blog post.

2024 Poor People’s March Wisconsin

In December of 2023, I knew that I might be losing BadgerCare.

I should first explain why I was on BadgerCare. My husband is on disability. He has an auto-immune disease that makes him not only unable to work but also in pain almost all the time. I am also a caregiver for my elderly parents who are in senior living and can’t move to assisted living until financial matters beyond my control are finished. Since I need to make sure they take their pills twice a day, I can’t take most jobs. I’m trying to make a living as a freelance writer, but that income is neither sufficient nor predictable.

During the pandemic, both my college student daughter and I could stay on BadgerCare. But as the post-pandemic “unwinding” began we were both worried. What pushed me over the limit was one simple thing: my husband’s disability check was increased.

That increase—$200 a month—wasn’t enough to cover the house taxes that went up, the fuel bill that went up or even the grocery bill that went up. But it was enough to kick me off BadgerCare.

“The Poor People’s Congress, A Moral Call for Revival” occurred. What was it like?

In Washington, D.C. from June 19th to the 23rd “The Poor People’s Congress, A Moral Call for Revival” occurred. What was it like?

         All of it was wonderful, through it was woven facts so serious and stories so powerful that those who attended are different than when we got on that plane in Milwaukee.

       This is called the “Third Moral Reconstruction”. The first one was the one that rewrote the Southern Constitutions to have more rights and guaranties than many Northern ones. That ended in bloodshed and tax cuts that left the government unable to fulfill its duties and generations of voter suppression.

      The second Reconstruction was the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s. There were great gains until it ended with violence, the end of many public amenities in the South, and massive tax cuts. What are Conservatives preaching now? Tax cuts and restricting voting. The kickback is always worst when poor people are united, not divided by race. That was the history lesson.

        “Lift from the bottom. Leave no one behind.” Bishop Barber said, “If you aren’t willing for everyone to be helped. You aren’t part of this movement.” Which explain why we were from so many states, races, sexualities, and every other variety of human diversity.

      The economics lesson was clear. Poverty is the fourth leading cause of death in the US. No other democracy has a poverty rate like this, especially the childhood poverty rate. The poverty rate is shockingly racialized. The white rate of poverty is almost as low as England; it is the rates of poverty among other racial groups that leads to the US having a poverty rate higher than Costa Rica’s.

       The biggest thing we learned was the chant. “Forward Together. Not One Step Back”. What this means is that if the poor people of America and those that are one minor accident from becoming poor stuck together; they would be one third of voting Americans. That makes poor people one of the biggest voting blocks in America.

      We assembled in front of the Supreme Court to hear testimony, not to march. We heard from one woman from Nebraska who ate on alternating days with her husband eating on the days she didn’t. At least until food stamps gave her more money, because she was in the last trimester of pregnancy. At the hospital, doctors scolded her for not taking care of herself and the baby.

      Another woman was a successful teacher, owned her own house. American success story: until she got cancer, ran out of sick days, was fired and lost her insurance. She went into the hospital for a mastectomy, and was discharged to a homeless shelter. Her house was sold to pay medical bills.

       Each story was clear, poverty is systemic. Poverty is unjust. Poverty is not a personal issue. It is a policy choice.

 

Post written by 

Joyce Frohn

 

ESTHER Office Administrator Job Opening Announcement

Office Administrator

at ESTHER (Empowerment, Solidarity, Truth, Hope, Equity, Reform)

ESTHER is an interfaith social-justice organization. We are grassroots and non-profit, focusing our work in the Fox Valley region of Wisconsin.

ESTHER aims to bring together people of faith and communities of faith to build community and to identify and act on issues of injustice. Faith communities covenanting with ESTHER join together based on shared values such as equality and human dignity. We work with congregations and individuals in collaboration with community partners and public officials so that everyone can have a voice and role in bringing about strong and just communities. ESTHER sometimes seeks to mobilize support for or opposition to particular legislation or rule-making; we do not, however, advocate for candidates or parties.

This is a part-time position (approximately 12 hours per week). The starting salary for this position is $10,000.00 to $12,000.00 per year, depending on prior experience.

The purpose of this role is to assist the Lead Organizer and Governing Board with management of general business operations. The tasks of the office administrator will include bookkeeping, office management, and communications coordination. The ideal candidate will be competent in prioritizing and working with little supervision. They will be self-motivated and trustworthy. English fluency is required. Fluency in a second language is not required, but is a plus.

The expected duties of this role include, but are not limited to the following:

Circles of Support Can Help

Community Circles of SupportHelping individuals successfully return to the community after incarceration in prison or jail is the mission of Circles of Support.* Through weekly meetings or individual contacts, volunteers from all walks of life meet with men and women who have been incarcerated to provide support and help to them in dealing with everyday challenges they face in returning to the community. The meetings provide a positive, non-judgmental environment which focusses on individual strengths and the future.

Information about community resources is provided by the participants and volunteers.  Discussions about challenges focus on problem-solving and helping individuals explore effective options that might work for them. Participation is voluntary and there is no cost. Success is celebrated.

A variety of meeting times and places are available in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, and Neenah-Menasha. Participants describe the groups as a “caring family environment,” a place to get useful community resource information, and a non-judgmental, trusting and respectful setting that gives them hope.

Anyone interested in being involved as a participant or volunteer can connect by calling (920) 840-2918 or emailing circlescanhelp@gmail.com.  A volunteer will contact you personally to answer any questions.


*ESTHER is the fiscal sponsor of Circles of Support.

Reflections on the May 13 Blanket Exercise: Remembering (unforgetting) 450 years+ of Indigeneous History

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Indigenous Peoples’ Blanket Exercise

The Blanket Exercise acknowledges what has been buried by honoring the truth.

Blanket Exercise Participants“Opening our eyes and unforgetting the past” was the theme of the recent Blanket Exercise, designed to help participants understand how colonization of the land has impacted the people who lived here before Columbus and other settlers arrived.

On May 13 at First English Lutheran Church on Ballard Road, nearly 70 participants gathered for the Blanket Exercise to build understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Blankets arranged on the floor represented the land before the arrival of Europeans.  Everyone stepped onto blankets that represent the land, and took the role of the Indigenous peoples. As I listened to the history from pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance, I could see the people and the land disappear. At the end of the exercise only a few people remained on the blankets. Going through this visible history of eliminating people and stealing land was an intellectual and emotional experience.

Introducing ESTHER’s new organizer, Katie Olson

Katie OlsonESTHER’s Leadership Board is proud to announce that Katie Olson has been named our new Lead Organizer. Katie brings energy, vision and experience to her work with ESTHER. And, in the words of Gary Crevier, president of ESTHER, her “passion and commitment to doing justice for the poor promises to make a huge impact in the Fox Valley.”

We invite you to read Katie’s own words explaining why this new work excites her and how she plans to approach being ESTHER’s lead organizer:

… To me, the most important part of my new role is to empower the members of ESTHER to be change-makers in our community. Knowing that ESTHER is already a force to be reckoned with, I plan to come in and really listen with my heart to everyone involved with the organization. I will take the time to learn why people are engaged with social justice and use that knowledge to connect with other community members….

"Forward Together - Not One Step Back"

     A 14 hour bus trip is a long enough to learn a few things. The first was the call and response that is the center piece of The Poor People’s March on Washington. Here it is -

“Forward together” and the reply is “Not One Step Back”. It seems so simple. And it is. But it is also the bedrock of the Third Reconstruction of America. The Moral Reconstruction of America.

      The first Reconstruction, right after the Civil War, failed because violence and racism was too popular for many institutions, businesses and people. The Second Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, failed because too many people were willing to hurt their own future, their own families, their own country rather than let other people have freedom and some political power. We’ve seen it in the Senate hearings, in the current Texas RNC platform that calls for secession, in the fact that in the 1960’s small towns all over the South filled in their city pools rather than integrate. So this time we’re taking everyone forward. Our allies and our enemies.

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

     That means we can’t leave anyone behind. If that means that Baptist ministers have to join the campaign for trans rights; that’s what has to happen and on June 18th, it did happen. It means that if union organizers are with a bunch of artists and a paper mâché tank, they are together. It means that disabilities have to be taken into account, that age and accidents have to be provided for.

“Forward Together” “Not Step Back”

     Was the event perfect? No. Were there problems? Oh, yeah. Whenever you have thousands of people, you have problems. But they are an organization that anticipated those problems. It began on the buses, with gift cards to cover meals on the road and even gas to get to the bus. Because they assumed they were attracting poor people.  At the event, there were moveable ramps so that wheelchair users didn’t have to go down a block to go up a curb. Cooling areas for the elderly or overheated. There was glorious chaos. There were problems finding food. Some groups fed their own people first. The sandwiches were cheese or BBQ and some people missed the old hand made turkey or peanut butter. New Mexico had free vegan tacos that could blister a Wisconsin tongue. Ice cream trucks circled the outside. Free food attracts random homeless people. That’s Ok. They too are going forward.

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

     There were speeches by Rev. William Barber II, Yolanda King, music, dancing and representatives from all 50 states talking about their own personal issues in poverty, incarceration, homelessness, lack of healthcare, being gay, being trans, being undocumented, chronically ill. Some of which we missed because our bus got lost. It’s OK. Progress is messy.

     It was fun, trading signs, flags, and pins. Seeing heroes in real life and sneaking off to an ice-cream truck. Trying to meet up with people when cell phones are dead, buses being late. Cleaning up behind us because sanitation workers are people too. Will there be sacrifices in this movement? Yeah, like being last in line for pizza, having sore feet for days, wearing a mask on a 14 hour bus trip. Freedom is worth the cost.

“Forward together” “Not one step back”

     I’ve seen the future IF If --we all come together. A future where there is plenty for all because money isn’t wasted on war and hate. Where we can find food and shelter for all. Where healthcare is a right and no dies by violence.

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

     Remember this when someone says that “those people’s” rights can wait or don’t matter. That can’t be true. Whether Texans or trans we need to go-

“Forward Together” “Not One Step Back”

ESTHER member Joyce Frohn and her daughter Elizabeth attended the "Poor People's March on Washington DC" this past month.

ESTHER Transit Task Force has New Leaders

After many years of remarkable leadership, Connie Kanitz has decided to resign from her leadership of the Transportation Task Force. We are very grateful for the many years that Connie dedicated to leading this group and fighting for accessible public transportation in the Fox Valley and around the state. She has been a tireless and respected leader on issues regarding public transportation.

We are happy to announce that two people have stepped up to lead the group in Connie’s absence. Susan Garcia-Franz is a Public Health Strategist with the Winnebago County Public Health Department as well as a long-time member of the task force. We are so pleased that she has decided to co-facilitate the task force along with Adam Belcorelli. Adam is an associate planner with the East Central Regional Planning Commission and brings extensive experience to the group in building transportation equity and accessibility in the Fox Valley. We are pleased that these talented and experienced individuals have stepped into this role as task force leaders.

One of the issues that we currently are exploring comes from a project currently in place in Portland, Oregon. There is a program there where incarcerated individuals are able to earn their CDL license while in prison. Once they are released they are hired by the regional transit system to work as bus drivers. This serves two purposes. It provides bus drivers to a system that is desperately lacking drivers, and it provides a good job to a returning citizen who is in need of a well-paying job to get back on their feet. The Fox Valley has very similar issues to Portland. Join us as we explore whether a program like this could happen in the Fox Valley.

We have changed when our task force currently meets. We now meet the first Tuesday of every month at 10 am via zoom. Please contact us at office@esther-foxvalley.org to receive the zoom link.

EXPO Empathy Day of Action

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to the state capital in Madison for EXPO’s Empathy Day of Action. We spent the day learning from EXPO leaders, senators, and representatives on Unlock the Vote and AJR 107. Using the information we learned, we got to have conversations with our legislators, representatives, and their staff. We met with those who voted in favor of AJR 107 which is a constitutional amendment that was created after the Waukesha parade tragedy. 

This amendment would change the eligibility and release conditions prior to a conviction. This amendment would also create a stricter cash bail system by making it possible for judges to consider past criminal history when setting bail charges. Setting higher bail charges would punish low-income people and keep more people incarcerated if they cannot pay bail. 

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