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Building community, sharing hope, and standing for justice since 2004

A Huge Transit Victory keeps buses moving in the Fox Cities and Green Bay Area!

We did it! This is huge!

Nearly one year ago, ESTHER and JOSHUA brought together 250 people of faith, religious leaders, and concerned citizens at First English Lutheran Church in Appleton to call for our federal legislators to make a commitment to solve the major funding crisis facing the greater Fox Cities and Green Bay areas.  Congressmen Reid Ribble and Tom Petri committed on that day to work for a solution before we would lose up to half of our existing transit service. 

Today, a bill was signed into effect that solved the immediate transit crisis...just in the nick of time!

The issue: The 2010 census showed that the Fox Cities and Green Bay regions have grown to a population greater than 200,000 each.  According to federal transit funding, transit systems operating in regions with populations over this mark cannot use the allocated funding for operating expenses, only for capital or maintenance expenses.  Because Valley Transit and Green Bay Metro is efficient, the majority of its cost is in operations, not capital. This would have meant a loss of up to $1.5 million for each transit system in yearly operational funding, which would lead to massive cuts to service.

What did we do? ESTHER and JOSHUA leaders shared what the potential impact of losing service would mean to seniors, students, people with disabilities, and many others that do not or cannot drive vehicles.  Leadership trainings were offered to help those that would be impacted by the loss to begin to take action. We met with our legislators, collected more than 1,000 petitions and delivered them to our legislators, and traveled to Washington DC to share the impact with members of Congress. 

Our legislators heard the message. Both Congressmen Petri and Ribble serve on the House Transportation Committee and pushed leadership to include a solution to our transit crisis, an issue that impacts more than 150 other transit systems across the country.  Senator Herb Kohl stepped forward to call for a strong language in the senate version of the transportation bill.  There were times where we were not confident that a solution would move forward.  Because of the persistence of our leaders and elected officials a bill was passed through Congress on June 30th and today, President Obama signed the bill into effect!

What did we win? Transit systems with less than 75 buses running during the busiest part of the day, can use up to 75% of federal assistance for operating expenses.  Transit systems that run between 76-100 buses at peak hour can flex up to 50% of funding.  This covers both transit systems (Valley Transit runs 20 buses at peak hour) as well as others in Wisconsin.

Thank you! We would like to thank the dedicated leaders on our transportation task force.  Thank you to Congressman Petri, Congressman Ribble, and Senator Kohl for fighting for a solution on this issue. Thank you also to the many community leaders and residents that showed your support, reached out to your elected officials, and spoke out at forums and hearings.

We celebrate this huge victory today!! Tomorrow, we will work for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to secure local decision-making and sustainable funding for public transit in the greater Fox Cities.

ESTHER Helps 100 More Immigrants to Learn Their Rights

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Nearly 100 people attended an ESTHER-sponsored “Know Your Rights" training session on July 1 at St. Mary’s Church in Omro. Certified immigration lawyers were on hand to educate the immigrant population about their basic human rights. Concerns about transportation and law enforcement were raised by the participants.

It also was a time of celebration in the wake of President Obama’s recent executive order to allow temporary residency to people who came here before age 16. They can apply for work permits and not worry about deportation.

This event brings the total number of people that ESTHER has trained this year in their basic rights to over 250.

Stephanie, ESTHER Organizer, named to Oshkosh Northwestern's 4 under 40 emerging leaders


Stephanie Gyldenvand, ESTHER organizer, receives recognition for her strong leadership and justice work through ESTHER and other community involvement!


Voices of Hope Forces Us to Take a Stand

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Sometimes a work of art presents a moral question so starkly that we cannot avoid confronting it, and  ESTHER’s “Voices of Hope: Life Stories of Latinos” is such a work. It throws the moral and legal issues associated with immigration into high relief, and it forces us to take a stand. This reader’s theater presentation directed by Kris Clouthier is based on interviews from Peter Geniesse’s book Illegal: NAFTA Refugees Forced to Flee.

“Voices of Hope” tells the stories of several Latino immigrants. Among them are two young women who are high school seniors in Appleton, Wisconsin. Both of the women are good students. Both are leaders in their graduating classes. Both hope to attend the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, but one will be able pay in-state tuition and receive scholarship help, while the other must pay out-of-state tuition and is ineligible for scholarships.  One is able to get a driver’s license that enables her to drive to Oshkosh. The other is not.  They are different because one of them was born here of an undocumented mother who was pregnant when she arrived, while the other was brought here as an infant.  Thus, one is a legal citizen, while the other is an illegal alien because her parents came here after she was born.  Is this just?

“Voices of Hope” skewers us on the point of this question.  From one point of view, we can say that this is a country of laws and the law must take precedence.  The student who is here illegally cannot claim the rights of a legal resident of Wisconsin.  If this causes her pain, that is unfortunate, but her parents should have thought of that before they brought her here.

On the other hand, we also believe that the law should be just.  The girl who is here illegally has the same human rights as anyone else, and we should not punish her for a crime she did not commit merely because her status – which she did not choose – is illegal.  We can go further. We can say that the girl’s parents came here to work in response to our economy’s clear demand for workers.  Through the parents’ work, the economy grew, and we all benefited. How can we accept such benefits from a system that causes this girl’s suffering?  Do we not have a responsibility to change the system to alleviate the suffering?

“Voices of Hope” brings these questions alive for us and forces us to take a stand.

The final performance of "Voices of Hope" will take place on Tuesday April 24, 2012 at 7 PM at the Appleton Public Library.

ESTHER Treatment Instead of Prison, 11x15 Task Force

ESTHER will kick off its Treatment Instead of Prison Task Force that will work on offering alternatives to incarceration in our community.  This task force will also be part of the 11x15 campaign, for more informaiton about this new initiative, visit


What: ESTHER TIP Task Force

When: Monday, May 7th

Time: 6:30-8:00 PM

Where: St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Neenah (140 South Green Bay Rd)

All intereseted in taking action to bring more justice to the state corrections system through this monthly task force are encouraged to attend and participate. 


This task force will meet the first Monday of each month from 6:30-8:00 PM at St. Mark's Luthearn Church in Neenah.

We did it!

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We won a public hearing for a Fox Cities RTA bill!

A public hearing has been scheduled with the Senate Transportation Committee for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) for the greater Fox Cities region (SB456)!

We need your help! ESTHER will be arranging a carpool to Madison for the hearing that will be held on Thursday, March 8th at the state capitol.  A time has not been given for the hearing. We will keep you posted on the time of the hearing and the and location for our carpool.

Time is running out. This session is scheduled to end in March. There IS NOT going to be another floor period scheduled for the rest of the year. This is our last chance to get something through at the state level this year. Without the flexibility afforded by a RTA, public transportation in the Fox Cities is likely to cease to exist by 2013.

What: Fox Cities RTA Public Hearing

When: Thursday, March 8th at 10:00 AM

Where: State Capitol in Room 411 South

Carpool Leaves: 7:45 AM from First Congregational UCC in Appleton (724 East South River Street)

Carpool Returns: Before 4:00 PM (estimated time) most likely earlier.

Let us know if you will be part of the carpool, call Stephanie at 920-216-0891. Additional information will be provided for those attending the hearing on Thursday as we depart Appleton for the State Capitol in Madison. 


Can't make it to Madison?  Your voice is still important.  Please these three members of the Senate Transportation Committee to share with them how critical the RTA is to our community. Call now! A few important points are listed below.

Senator Lazich (chair of committee): (800) 334-1442

Senator Leibham: (vice chair of committee): (888) 295-8750

Senator Lasee: (608) 266-3512

A few simple points about what a Fox Cities Regional Transit Authority (RTA) would do:

  1. Create a vibrant, modern transit system is a fundamental part of a successful and sustainable economy in the greater Fox Cities.
  2. Allow for a permanent regional transit authority in the greater Fox Cities is critical to providing regional coordination, creating a united voice across the region, and advancing efficient regional linkages for jobs and economic growth.
  3. Provide a dedicated funding source for transit to provide adequate, stable funding for transit and prevent significant cuts in service.
  4. The dedicated sales tax voted on locally by the community of up to but not greater than 0.5% for transit will provide property tax relief by removing local transit costs from the property tax.


Public transit is important to too many in our community. Let's work together to keep our buses moving.

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