March 8, 2023
Faith & Action Spring Conference
Pathways to Promising Employment
Join us March 8th for the Faith & Action Spring Conference to hear from leaders and community members, engage with people working to break the cycle of poverty, and pray for solutions to the poverty and injustice facing our neighbors.
Pathways to Promising Employment
Poverty and employment used to be considered mutually exclusive. Today, however, many Central Indiana residents live in or on the verge of poverty despite being employed, and others struggle to attain employment. It’s a problem too big for individual agencies, congregations, or nonprofits to tackle alone. To find pathways to promising employment, our entire community must work together.
The 2023 Faith & Action Spring Conference will convene subject matter experts, organization leaders, and like-minded community members to help to make that happen. Anchored by keynote speaker Rabbi Sharon Brous, the day will include conversations about work and poverty, the sharing of best practices, and testimonies from community members about their journey to promising employment and stability.
Attendees will hear and discover:
- Best practices on how to respond when neighbors can’t provide for their families, even if they’re working
- Effective approaches to empower young adults who have never had hard work modeled for them
- Solutions to support and equip adults on their journey to promising employment
- Examples of programs that are successfully preparing individuals for jobs
- Ways individuals, faith communities, and organizations can play a meaningful role in breaking the cycle of poverty
Please note that attendance at the Spring Conference is a prerequisite for organizations wanting to apply for a Faith & Action grant. Conference registration closes March 2.
Meet Our Moderator
Sara VanSlambrook is the Chief Impact Officer for United Way of Central Indiana, where she develops and leads programs designed to move struggling families toward self-sufficiency, support the basic needs of vulnerable individuals, and spur social services innovation. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College, she earned master’s degrees in business administration and social administration from Case Western Reserve University.
Preparing Youth for Promising Employment and Economic Mobility
Many young people enter the job market at an extreme disadvantage. They have had few models for hard work and perseverance, they leave school with few practical skills and no work experience, and they don’t have access to the tools they need to connect with jobs they are qualified for.
The panel will address these challenges and topics including:
- The impact that can be made by helping young people navigate the system and gain experience
- The difference a mentor, exposure, and work opportunities can make in a young person’s life to set them up for success
- How social and emotional learning help young people develop character and soft skills employers want
First Afternoon Panel
Equip and Empower Adults for Promising Jobs
The sad reality is that many adults confront endless barriers to meaningful employment, and some who do work (even two jobs!) still can’t provide for their households. The panel will address topics related to the challenges of adult employment in Central Indiana, including:
- How the job market makes it difficult to recover from homelessness, incarceration, and/or generational poverty
- How some are preparing adults for jobs, and connecting residents to the resources, support, skills, and training they need to gain employment opportunities
- The importance of providing adults with navigators and comprehensive services … and hope
- What has worked for individuals overcoming poverty
- How residents persevere to push through roadblocks and barriers
Second Afternoon Panel
Starting the Work at Home
Many congregations work as champions for workplace justice, but are they providing just workplaces? What does it take to live this mission and serve as a model to others? Topics addressed in this session will include:
- Addressing the reality that there are limited jobs that pay a living wage and actions we can take to address it
- Understanding how congregations can act as good employers, providing fair wages and benefits
- The Good Wages Initiative, and why all organizations should consider embracing it
- The opportunities for creating external ministries that provide promising employment, affordable housing, food access, and more
- How to advocate for employment justice in your neighborhood and community
Meet our Panelists and Speakers
Rabbi Sharon Brous
Rabbi Sharon Brous is the senior and founding rabbi of IKAR (www.ikar-la.org), which launched in 2004 with the goal of reinvigorating Jewish tradition and practice and inspiring people of faith to reclaim a moral and prophetic voice. IKAR, one of the fastest growing and most influential Jewish congregations in the country, is credited with sparking a rethinking of religious life in a time of unprecedented disaffection and declining affiliation.
Brous’s 2016 TED talk, “Reclaiming Religion,” has been viewed by more than 1.4 million people and translated into 23 languages. In 2013, she blessed President Obama and Vice President Biden at the Inaugural National Prayer Service, and returned in 2021 to bless President Biden and Vice President Harris, and then to lead the White House Passover Seder that spring. She spoke at the Women’s March in Washington, DC in 2017 and at the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice the following year. Brous was named #1 on the Newsweek/The Daily Beast list of the most influential Rabbis in America, and has been recognized by The Forward and the Jerusalem Post as one of the fifty most influential Jews.
Brous, who graduated from Columbia University and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary, is an Auburn Senior Fellow, sits on the faculty of the Shalom Hartman Institute-North America and REBOOT, and serves on the International Council of the New Israel Fund and the national steering committee for the Poor People’s Campaign.
Sara VanSlambrook is the Chief Impact Officer at United Way of Central Indiana. As a member of the executive team, VanSlambrook is responsible for evolving and executing impact initiatives that are designed to move struggling families toward self-sufficiency, support the basic needs of the community’s most vulnerable individuals, and spur innovation in social services. She leads United Way’s community impact, strategic information, and public policy teams.
Under her leadership, United Way transformed its grantmaking to a results-focused impact strategy. She established a framework for United Way’s work in the community that guides implementation and has led the organization through multiple strategic plans to focus efforts and achieve greater impact. Most recently, VanSlambrook led the administration of the COVID-19 Community Economic Relief Fund (C-CERF) to bring more than $23 million in grants to 200 organizations serving people impacted by COVID in a little more than 100 days in the midst of the pandemic.
VanSlambrook joined United Way of Central Indiana in 2016 as Director of Great Families 2020, the initiative aimed at integrating education and employment services to help stabilize and improve the lives of struggling families in five Indianapolis neighborhoods. In 2017, she was promoted to Senior Director of Community Impact and led United Way’s planning process for its new strategic framework. VanSlambrook was subsequently promoted to Vice President of Community Impact before taking on her current role. Prior to her time at United Way, VanSlambrook worked as a Senior Program Officer at Local Initiatives Support Corporation where she led the Great Indy Neighborhoods initiative – engaging community stakeholders in neighborhood development and transforming community planning citywide – and the follow-up project Great Places 2020.
VanSlambrook has 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector with expertise in program development, community engagement, fundraising, evaluation, and financial management. She is an advisory board member for the Blueprint Council to End Homelessness, the Faith and Action Project, Indy Chamber Education Council, Indy Inclusive Growth Collaborative, and the Indiana Nonprofits Project. She also serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis. Over time, her leadership has been developed through opportunities as a 2018 Tobias Fellow, 2014 Plan 2020 Fellow, and a graduate of the Stanley K. Lacy Executive Leadership Series Class XLI. She was named an Indianapolis Business Journal Woman of Influence in 2020.
VanSlambrook earned her Bachelor of Arts in Social Justice at Saint Mary’s College and her Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University. Additionally, she holds a certificate in fundraising management from Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
She lives in the Midtown area of Indianapolis with her husband and four children.
Rabbi Brett Krichiver
Rabbi Brett Krichiver is known within the Indy Jewish community, and by and through many of his interfaith efforts, as a caring teacher of Jewish texts, a compassionate leader for social justice, and a strong community builder. He in the Senior Rabbi at the historic Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation, where he has led for over a decade, and serves as past chair of the Indiana Board of Rabbis.
Rabbi Brett has made social justice one of the key pillars of IHC’s programming and engagement, through partnerships with the Interfaith Hunger Initiative, the Center for Interfaith Cooperation, the grassroots Group Faith in Indiana, the Multi-faith Neighbors Network, and most recently the Greater Indianapolis Multi-faith Alliance.
He has served on CTS’s Faith and Action advisory committee since it’s inception in … bringing an important faith perspective into our work together.
Another great passion in our senior rabbi’s professional life is the cultural arts. He has produced multiple theatrical performances, and brings his own dramatic writings and Iyyunim (liturgical poems) into our community each Shabbat. Rabbi Krichiver seeks to engage and inspire through creative expressions of Judaism – music, visual art, and especially theater. He is a Wexner Fellow and a Bronfman Alum. He is a founding clergy member of IndyCAN, a community organizing group partnering with religious institutions city-wide. He also serves as a Board Member at Second Helpings and Planned Parenthood. He participates in the Northside Clergy Group, creating interfaith programming throughout Indianapolis, and serves on the Advisory Committee for Goldman Union Camp Institute, his childhood camp. He is past chair of the Indiana Board of Rabbis.
Having served as Elevates’ President & CEO since January of 2018, Aaron is an active foster parent, basketball coach, community developer, and near eastside resident. In his role with Elevate, Aaron provides leadership and direction to the staff and board while building like-minded partnerships–keeping Elevate Indy as a youth-centered organization.
Aaron was born and raised in northern Indiana and has lived in the Indianapolis area for over 20 years. With a history of developing and sharing vision to bring people and organizations together to make a community impact for the most marginalized in our city, Aaron has a passionate servant-leader approach. He has served and mentored youth living in economically disadvantaged communities for 15 years.
He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Indiana Wesleyan University, a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Moody Seminary, and numerous certificates in leadership, fundraising, and organizational management. In 2019, Mr. Story was recognized as a Leadership Fellow by the Tobias Fellow Program of Indiana University Kelly School of Business. Aaron serves on the board of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis and as the Head Basketball Coach at Purdue Polytechnic High School.
Adam Johnson is the Chief Relationship Officer at Elevate Indianapolis, a not-for-profit organization serving the holistic needs of youth who live in or attend schools in under resourced communities.
Adam is a native of Indianapolis, Indiana and a graduate of Arlington High School. After attending Ball State University in Muncie and Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, Adam received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Affairs, from IUPUI, fourteen years after completing high school.
As a teen, Adam, his mother, and two siblings endured the hardships of poverty, hunger, and homelessness on numerous occasions. These hardships led to poor academic progress and failure at each academic level. His inability to read fluently and lack of reading comprehension as a teen added to life’s struggles. These challenges are what compelled Adam to work with youth virtually his entire adulthood; in the church, in the school, and in the community. Not deterred but motivated by his struggles, Adam published his first children’s book in October of 2021, titled “I Wish I Wish,” with the hope and dream of increasing the functional literacy of kids who are just like him.
Married with four children, Adam enjoys bike rides, road trips, movies, and game nights with his family. When not engaged in family activities, Adam serves on the board of two other not-for-profit organizations: Triple T Academy, which is a drone pilot program geared towards assisting young adults in obtaining their FAA Drone Pilot License and also Grit Into Grace, which provides care, services, and resources to women who are being or who have been sexually exploited.
Fred is currently serving as Vice President of Providence Cristo Rey High School and leads the schools unique Corporate Work Study program that connects high school students with meaningful corporate internships throughout Indianapolis. Fred has been with Providence Cristo Rey for 6 years and has led the school in diverse positions such as Interim President, Vice Principal of Mission and Culture and Dean of Students.
Fred has a background in education/community building that spans over 16 years. He has served in various roles such as directing after-school programing and summer programing for the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis. He received his Masters of Arts in Education from Marian University and has an undergraduate degree from Kentucky State University in Public Administration.
He has delivered keynote speaker addresses and workshops at universities, school districts, conferences, and corporate events around the country. Fred has been featured nationally for his work with a Male Mentoring Initiative called “The Barbershop”, where he offers free haircuts to male students while grooming them outwardly and inwardly. Through a haircut, Mr. Yeakey establishes character development and empowerment with the focus on educating and retaining males to graduate and make an impact in the communities that they serve.
Fred is married to Danijel Yeakey and together they have three children.
- MAT, Marian University, 2017
- BA, Public Administration, Kentucky State University 2001
- Indianapolis Business Journal 40 Under 40 – 2022
- Stanley K. Lacy | Leadership Indianapolis – Class XLV
- Junior Achievement of Central Indiana – Indy’s Best and Brightest in Education 2020
- Kentucky State University Distinguish Alumni Under 40 – 2020
Jimmie Darbonne III was a four-year student at Providence Cristo Rey High school as well as a student-athlete (Basketball). While at PCR, Jimmie worked at Defenders (Now ADT) and had an impeccable work ethic. Upon graduation, he received a scholarship to attend Indiana University Bloomington where he now is a Junior. Jimmie also serves as a basketball manager for IU Basketball and works a job at I.U.
Currently CEO and founder of Purposeful Design, which provides job training and job creation for individuals who have struggled with homelessness, addiction, poverty and incarceration. Before this for 30 years owned and operated Cognitio, LLC, a consulting firm serving Fortune 500 companies in the food and consumer packaged goods industry. Following graduation from Purdue University was a member of the management team at General Mills. Has served on a variety of boards including Wheeler Mission and the elder board at College Park Church. Wife, Cindy Palmer and has four children.
Patrice Duckett-Brown was born and raised in Indianapolis and attended Indianapolis Public Schools. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Martin University in 2007 and her Master’s in Philanthropic Studies through Indiana University of IUPUI in 2015.
At the start of Patrice’s career, she was mentored extensively to advance her leadership skills through the Annie E. Casey foundation resident leadership cohort. These skills allowed Patrice to inspire and progress individuals into leadership to achieve community-related goals. In addition, the knowledge obtained allowed Patrice to recognize her POWER and the ability to move unapologetically.
Over the years, Patrice has gained multiple certifications in community development tools, engagement tools, and organizational development skills, which include:
- Proposal Based Accountability Training
- Result Based Accountability certified
- Facilitation Trainer and Facilitator
- Interest Based Negotiation Facilitator
- Race, Social Power, and Class Trainer and facilitator
- Resident Leadership Trainer and Facilitator
For over 20 years, Patrice has worked diligently as a proud Grassroots Organizer in multiple communities and neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis. Her focus and heart belong to the Near Northwest (UNWA area), where she was born, raised, and still resides. However, she has also provided support and leadership in the Martindale Brightwood and Near West area (Haughville) communities.
Within her community organizing years, Patrice successfully led the Coalition against Gas Stations which stopped over twenty gas stations from being built in the heart of communities. She assisted Martindale Brightwood in obtaining an EPA grant to remediate lead containment that caused significant health issues for residents. She also implemented Juvenile Justice Reform for the Juvenile Justice system and many grassroot initiatives.
Currently, as the Executive Director of the Fay Biccard Glick Crooked Creek Neighborhood Center, she is focused on creating a Family Campus model. The “Family Campus” will focus on improving clients’ quality of life from cradle to yesteryear (infant to seniors) through innovative practices that promote intergenerational engagement, health, diversity, and programs for all ages.
Her mission is to provide innovative and intentional opportunities for everyone to achieve success through global competitiveness, financial stability, and a strong family foundation.
My name is Jameel Hamid. Im from Cleveland Ohio and I’ve grown up in a family of 3 kids. I started a downward spiral around the age of 17. Skipping school (eventually dropping out) and smoking, drinking, and other things to escape reality. That life later led me to being homeless and eventually working at PD. From that point my life has begun to improve and I’ve discovered things about myself as well as learning so many things. From bettering my work ethic. To furthering my relationship with God. I thank God for allowing me to live as long as I have and to learn to truly appreciate the things in my life.
Ophelia was born in Gary, IN. Over the years, she has lived in Indy, MS, and Gary. Growing up in Mississippi, she rode dirt bikes, four wheelers, and hunted. Ophelia has two kids; one is a middle schooler, her quiet curious child, and her youngest daughter is five and in preschool. Ophelia has raised both children as a single mother; her youngest child’s father was murdered weeks before she was born. His death was hard to deal with, and Ophelia initially had difficulty connecting with her daughter.
Ophelia moved back home in 2019. While in MS, Ophelia was involved in a car collision where she broke her leg and ankle. Ophelia couldn’t walk and had her ankle rebuilt with rods and plates. Because of the poor job market, Ophelia moved back to Indy in 2021. During one of Fay Biccard Glick’s events, she met a spunky lady who understood Ophelia’s hesitation about enrolling her daughter in the preschool. That same employee who was the FBGNC Parent Engagement coordinator referred her to the school-age program to apply for a teaching position. And in 2021, Ophelia got the job! Through Fay Biccard, the staff and leadership have pushed her to be a better person and move towards her passion for working with youth. Although Ophelia fights change along the way, she believes her job at Fay Biccard has changed her to be stronger. Ophelia has obtained numerous trainings and certifications over the last two years. She has also expanded her skills, and now Ophelia serves in the social service department, where she can assist families in need with rental assistance, energy assistance, and taxes.
As a ‘full time volunteer,’ Dave Miner provides leadership for multiple organizations working to end hunger. He has been active with Bread for the World for many years at the local and national level, leading efforts in Indiana, and serving on the national Board of Directors including six years as chair of the board.
Dave was founding President of Indy Hunger Network, is steering committee chair for the Good Wages Initiative, and serves as board chair for the Alliance to End Hunger. He has become a leading expert on hunger in Indianapolis, heading up five major studies of hunger and food assistance. In 2014, he received the Jefferson Award for Community Service.
Dave received a BS and PhD in Chemistry and had a 28-year career at Eli Lilly and Co. His final role was as a senior executive for Elanco.
Linda McCrae has served since 2002 as Senior Pastor of Central Christian Church in downtown Indianapolis, where she gets great joy from being part of an inquisitive, diverse, justice-seeking community of faith. During these years she has also devoted energy and time to Supervised Ministry at Christian Theological Seminary, the Division of Overseas Ministries/Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, IndyCAN/Faith in Indiana, and the Greater Indianapolis Multifaith Alliance. Linda grew up in Indianapolis and went to college at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. She has a Masters of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York, New York, which included studies at the Latin American Biblical Seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica. Her previous experience in ministry includes six years as a missionary in Mexico and Guatemala, and five years as Pastor of Wood Memorial Christian Church in Van Buren, Arkansas.
Taevon is class of 2024. He has two siblings, and he himself is a twin. He loves cooking and trying new/different recipes. He wants to eventually own a sushi bar restaurant.
Kimberly H. Simmons
Kimberly H. Simmons currently serves as the Executive Vice President and Chief Programs Officer for the Indianapolis Urban League. A Dayton, Ohio native, Mrs. Simmons earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with honors from Central State University and a Master of Science in Business Management from Indiana Wesleyan University. Mrs. Simmons has over 25 years’ experience in Workforce Development, including extensive experience and success working with at-risk populations. Mrs. Simmons has secured and managed more than $5.5 million in grant funding from federal, state, and private foundations to provide employment and training opportunities to low-income and at-risk populations.
In her current position, Mrs. Simmons brings a wealth of experience, passion, and knowledge by developing, implementing, and managing intensive employment and training programs geared towards helping the unemployed, underemployed, ex-offenders, and at-risk populations secure and retain employment. Mrs. Simmons is skilled at program evaluation and developing successful collaborations with local employers, agencies, and training programs to further engage, leverage, and blend resources. She also played a major role in assisting the Indianapolis Urban League with securing its Center for Working Families (CWF) designation in 2017.
Prior to joining the Indianapolis Urban League in October of 2013, Mrs. Simmons managed employment and training programs for Indianapolis Public Schools and Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana. She received the Indianapolis Urban League’s Staff Above & Beyond Award in 2018 and numerous awards from the U.S. Department of Labor-Midwest Region for her outstanding achievements. Mrs. Simmons also served as the commencement keynote speaker for Brown Mackie College in 2016 and the 2015 Women’s Equality Day Observance Program with the Department of Defense Finance and Accounting Services of Indianapolis (DFAS-IN).
As a former MBE/WBE business owner simultaneously operating family-owned property management and transportation businesses, Mrs. Simmons was instrumental in securing a transportation contract with a national vendor and the National Football League for the 2012 Super Bowl.
Kimberly is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and fellowships at New Beginnings Church. Kimberly and her husband Greg have two children.
Charlie Wiles holds a degree in Political Science from Indiana University and spent several years working for the Indiana State Legislature. He operated a general contracting business renovating older homes, served as a combat medic in the US Army Reserves, and is the founding director of Peace Learning Center. He is currently executive director of Center for Interfaith Cooperation.
Charlie is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, serves on the Chaplaincy Advisory Board at St. Vincent Hospital, and works with several community organizations including Veterans for Peace, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and OBAT Helpers. He is happily married to Sachiko Utsumi Wiles, and the couple live near Broad Ripple in Indianapolis, Indiana with three daughters Lena, Aya, and Mia Utsumi Wiles.
The Faith & Action Project is looking for the next cohort of poverty-fighting innovators that will receive Faith & Action Grants. Applications for 2023 Faith & Action Grants will be available in late March and due on April 19th.
The 2023 Faith & Action Grants Program will award grants to initiatives effectively mitigating poverty, with special consideration given to those efforts that expand access to mental health services for people living in or on the cusp of poverty.
Please note: Organizations planning to apply for a Faith & Action grant are required to attend the Faith & Action Spring Conference.