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

Bill Van Lopik’s Retirement Letter

May 2, 2022

Dear Friends, 

I began working as a community organizer with ESTHER in 2016. My goal was to continue the successes of my predecessors in building a powerful and respected social justice organization in NE Wisconsin. Over the course of the last 6 years ESTHER has indeed grown in terms of budget, membership, task forces, and the issues which we have won. In retrospect, I am the one who has grown and been blessed over the years by the incredible volunteers, donors and leaders who are the lifeblood of the organization. It is within this context that I have decided that now is an appropriate time for me to retire from full-time organizing with ESTHER on July 1.

Community Conversations: A Faithful Response to Renters’ Needs

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Date: 
Monday, May 23, 2022 - 6:00pm
Location: 
Trinity Episcopal Church, 203 Algoma Blvd, Oshkosh

COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS: A Faithful Response to RENTERs’ Needs:In Oshkosh, rental units are expensive and in short supply. 42% of renter households pay more than 30% of their income in rent. Join us for a conversation about renting in Oshkosh and learn how we can have a faithful response to renter's needs. This event is part of ESTHER's Community Conversations Series. We invite all to join! Free Parking and Onsite Childcare Available.


EXPO Empathy Day of Action

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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. 

Shackling of Pregnant Incarcerated Women

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At ESTHER’s most recent Mental Health Task Force meeting, we were joined by two women who educated us on an issue that is currently affecting incarcerated pregnant women. 

One of the women who joined us was Felicia Turner-Walton, who is the CEO and Founder of Healing Our Hearts. This is a non-profit based out of Madison that provides support to those that have experienced loss. This organization is committed to providing an understanding of grief that is centered around black and brown communities. 

The issue they covered during our meeting was the injustice of shackling and how it affects incarcerated pregnant women. Prisons have historically been designed by men, for men. Inmate treatment has therefore not taken into account women’s specific needs. Pregnant inmates are thus shackled while receiving medical care because that is how all inmates are treated. Shackling is an inhumane and dangerous practice as it limits the medical care that can be provided due to the restraints and it puts more stress on the pregnant woman or birthing mother.

When I first learned of this practice during our meeting, I had a mixture of feelings. On one hand, I was shocked to learn about this inhumane practice. On the other hand, I was not surprised as prison systems have historically been created to control black and brown communities. These systems of control therefore do not take into account the specific indignities that pregnant women face and the different treatment they need to receive. 

 

Solar Power Coming to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Calumet has started the process of installing solar panels on their roof. In total, there will be 125 panels and the process should be completed in the next month or two. This project has been in the works for the past three years with extensive planning and fundraising. 

These panels will generate up to 45% of the electrical usage at Prince of Peace and reduce up to 62,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions that would otherwise come from electrical power. 

Prince of Peace is looking forward to the completion of this project and is excited to make their organization more environmentally friendly. This project will be a great addition to the Appleton community. For any more information or questions, contact Ron Jones at rjones3155@gmail.com.

Community Conversations: A Faithful Response to Housing Needs

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We would like to invite you and your congregation to Community Conversations: A Faithful Response to Housing Needs. This event is being co-hosted by Algoma Boulevard United Methodist Church and ESTHER Oshkosh to allow faith community leaders and members to connect and learn more about how we can respond to housing needs in our community.

A bit more about the event: 

  • WhenMonday, April 4, 2022 -  6-7:15 pm
  • Where: Algoma Boulevard United Methodist Church, Oshkosh (building located at the corner of New York and Algoma Blvd - parking and entrance along Algoma Blvd). 
  • Why:  Many of our Oshkosh Community Members are struggling to find safe and affordable housing. Oshkosh is experiencing a rental vacancy rate of less than 2% (a healthy rate would be 5-7%), rental rates and home prices are skyrocketing, eviction moratoriums are ending, and homelessness is increasing. These challenges can be solved if we work together. Faith communities came together many years ago to start a warming shelter in Oshkosh - we can come together again to learn, share resources and take action. 

Please spread the word and by sharing the attached flyer. Join us for this important event!

 

Equity Network Member Meeting: Health Equity and Civic Engagement

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Date: 
Thursday, April 7, 2022 - 6:30pm - 7:45pm
Location: 
Zoom Meeting

Please join the Equity Network and Fox Valley Thrives for a virtual workshop that will connect the dots between health equity and our civic engagement. Lynnsey Erickson and Stephanie Gyldenvand, Community Health Strategists with Winnebago County Health Department, will share about social determinants of health and how upstream factors produce and reproduce health inequities across populations.

Please register in advance to attend this meeting.

Register here

Help spread the word. Download and share the attached flier.

March Forth to Earth Day

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Friday, March 4, 2022 - 5:00pm
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Friday, March 11, 2022 - 5:00pm
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Friday, March 18, 2022 - 5:00pm
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Friday, March 25, 2022 - 5:00pm
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Friday, April 1, 2022 - 5:00pm
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Friday, April 8, 2022 - 5:00pm
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Friday, April 15, 2022 - 5:00pm
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Friday, April 22, 2022 - 5:00pm
Location: 
Houdini Plaza

Starting Friday, March 4, rallies will be held in cities across Wisconsin for eight consecutive weeks as activists unite to demand a more just, equitable, and liveable future. Our time to act is now! JOIN US!

More information, including sign-up links and event schedules, on the March Forth Facebook page.

ESTHER Environmental Justice Task Force is co-sponsoring this event along with dozens of other environmental and climate groups across the state.

Blanket Exercise

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Date: 
Tuesday, April 12, 2022 - 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Location: 
First Congregational U.C.C., 724 E South River St, Appleton

You are invited to participate in an impactful, experiential activity called the Blanket Exercise at First Congregational United Church of Christ, Appleton, on Tuesday, April 12 at 5:00 PM. This activity will foster truth, deeper understandings, and mutual respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. We will learn about the original inhabitants of this area, the U.S. Doctrine of Discovery, and the lasting repercussions that the Indian Boarding Schools have had upon Native Peoples into the present. This is an event you won’t want to miss!

Up to 60 people may participate in the Blanket Exercise. This experience is available to persons aged 13 and older.  Please know that registration is required and can be done online at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSevyTyQTvE1ZGIabtqqjSnlzLQq5q9V4DV3SK1mDzvtCwV8CQ/viewform.  The link is also on the church website.

There will be an optional meal at 5:00 PM in Fellowship Hall before the event. The activity itself will begin promptly at 6:00 PM. 

The meal will be traditional indigenous food catered by Waqsecewan Indigenous Catering, a Native-owned business. For those who attend the meal, please consider providing a freewill donation to offset the cost of the food and to invest in this important work (see below). However, persons unable to contribute monetarily are still invited and encouraged to attend this powerful activity.

Please be aware that you do not need to attend the meal in order to participate in the Blanket Exercise.  We hope you can join us!

Introduction to Community Organizing

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Date: 
Wednesday, April 13, 2022 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
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Wednesday, April 20, 2022 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
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Wednesday, April 27, 2022 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
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Wednesday, May 4, 2022 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
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Wednesday, May 11, 2022 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm
Location: 
Zoom Meeting

Wisdom Wisconsin will be holding a 5 week Zoom series from April 13-May 11 on Introduction to Community Organizing. This is open to everybody and is a great way to learn about organizing.