“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world [or Oakland]. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
Several months ago, challenged by the question, what more can Skyline church do about homelessness crisis in Oakland, we hosted the Pacific Boys Academy in a worship service/concert to benefit the homeless here in Oakland. We raised over $1300, and split the proceeds between St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mary’s. But even more, we raised awareness! Far more than we imagined!
One of the choir members, William, who’s also a 6th grader at Bentley school, was hugely inspired by this service. In particular, he was moved by the video I created, based on the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and set to the song, “What if God was One of Us?” William asked me that day to be his mentor on a Passion project for the homeless entitled, I See You. I said yes. So, the following Saturday, a group of us made sandwiches, visited the encampment at 12th and E 23rd and had conversations with some of the folks living there.
I remember one conversation in particular. We met a woman in her 60‘s, in a wheel chair because of her debilitating arthritis. She shared her story with us. She was a cancer survivor, had a daughter, who was a drug user, with four kids. With all the rains this past winter she came down with pneumonia and was hospitalized at Highland Hospital. She had been living in a tent with her husband for about a year. She and her husband became recipients of the first TuffShed on that encampment that very day.
Here’s what William is doing with his talents to help us to see this woman, and so many other men, women & children, here in Oakland.
He would like to have our support in investing wisely to support these families and in coordinating future visits to the encampment. Let me know if you’re interested in getting involved.
Thank you to William and his family, to the Bentley school, to Pacific Boy’s Academy, to Charlie and Aiden, and to Skyline, for recognizing our common humanity.
with love, Pastor Laurie
Here’s his email to me, which includes his Passion Project, video concert and request for support.
Hi Reverend Manning!
I wanted to let you know that my Passion Project for the homeless, “I See You!” is complete and went very well. Although I did not spend as much time as I wanted with you (totally my fault), you had a VERY BIG impact on my project. Seeing your presentation, sharing your videos and research with me, making sandwiches, and going to the homeless camp were all things that helped shape my project.Attached is the actual PowerPoint presentation I gave to an audience of 100 people (I was very nervous!). Below is the “virtual concert” email I used to solicit funds for my project. I raised over $1,300 in cash and another $285 in gift cards to buy food and supplies for the homeless!I promised those who gave me money that I would spend every dollar raised on food and supplies for the homeless. Can you help me identify/confirm a date and organize a delivery of food to the place we went before? I don’t think I can just show up with food 🤔. I also don’t think I can spend all of the money on one meal, so do you know of other homeless places that need food or supplies, or can I go back a few times?Thank you so much again! I really appreciate your help and look forward to seeing you at church soon. We are coming back. When we were doing research to make my PowerPoint presentation, my Mom saw that you used to be at Riverside Church in New York. That is her old church and she is pretty sure she remembers your time there. That made her very happy 😊.From,William
Dear Friends and Family,I am working on a passion project entitled, “I SEE YOU”. As part of our middle school curriculum, we are encouraged to explore issues that we are passionate about, and brainstorm ways that we can make a difference. I am passionate about music, and I care about the homeless. Even as a kindergartener, when visiting places with my parents, I wanted to stop and talk to the people I would see laying on the street or sitting outside of restaurants with their children or pets. When I did this, they would smile.Sometimes a problem seems so big that we can’t imagine we can do anything about it. But we can. There is one thing that every person can do, and it doesn’t cost anything. If you don’t have a dollar to give, or food and clothes to donate, or time to volunteer, you can do the one thing that is completely within your power, but is so often overlooked. You can refuse to let homeless people be invisible to you.Homeless people have become so commonplace that we don’t even see them. Every day people walk by them without even acknowledging their existence. To not acknowledge another human being is inhumane. We need to be reminded that the homeless are like us—human—and could even be us. Maybe they lost their job, had serious medical bills they couldn’t pay, experienced stress or mental illness as a veteran — all things that could happen in our families. Sometimes what they need most is the very thing we have to give; a warm smile, a hello, a greeting, a gesture that says, “I SEE YOU!”I am using my love of music to raise funds, via a virtual concert, for two purposes:1) To donate a meal to the homeless camp at 12th and 24th in Oakland that I identified with the help of my mentor, Reverend Laurie Manning;2) To purchase the “I See You” bands that I created and will share freely with my friends and family to remind us all to be kind to the homeless people we see on the streets.I do not have a “not for profit,” (hopefully one day I will!) so your donation is NOT tax deductible, but 100% of the proceeds will go to the meal for the homeless (the more money, the more food!) and the “I SEE YOU” bands.If you would like to view my online concert, please click here.William Sillers Passion Project_I See You power point presentation.Please share my email with others you think will support my cause.Gratefully,William S.Bentley School6th Grade