Leader Spotlight: Patti Staib

Patti Staib is the Executive Director of Charitable Union in Battle Creek, Michigan.  Charitable Union is a strategic partner of Gamaliel affiliate, JONAH.  Charitable Union provides bedding, clothing and small household items to people in need at no charge.  Charitable Union also works to connect individuals to community resources.  Patti has been partnering with JONAH since its beginning in 2006.

How does the work of Charitable Union align with the work of Gamaliel?

When Charitable Union first started partnering with JONAH, we participated in new member recruitment and various projects, including the Housing First initiative in Battle Creek.  We were also working on Bridges out of Poverty.  Additionally, we had been working on a project called Welfare to Career in Grand Rapids and we wanted to bring that to Battle Creek.  The whole premise was that low-income individuals who get jobs in factories and other places often have problems in other areas of their life.  People would go on site and help with tasks like babysitting, transportation and other problems that are commonplace in minimum wage jobs.  Companies would invest in this program because it meant less rehiring.   Similarly, we have a coalition at JONAH that is working on getting jobs for felons and people from MPRIs.  At Charitable Union, we have tried to arrange for these participants to come volunteer with us for a month.  In doing this, we can teach them skills to get a job.  We’ve also partnered with City Link to help parolees get into work.  Second Wind is another program that helps teach auto mechanic skills and construction.  At Second Wind, the goal is to connect people with companies to give them a chance at work in successful and fulfilling jobs.  All of these different initiatives are aligned with Gamaliel in that we are all working to give people a chance at a better life and provide them with opportunities to have jobs with dignity.

What has your experience been with the Fire of Faith campaign?

Really getting to know the people around you is strongly emphasized with the Fire of Faith campaign.  Being committed to Fire of Faith is being committed to really prompting those we are in relationship with to go deeper and question social justice beyond their own comfort levels.  Within Charitable Union, Fire of Faith has helped teach people that listening to others is easier than they may have thought.  We were going door-to-door in neighborhoods and asking, “What are three things you like about your neighborhood and what are three things you would change if you could?”  I think it was helpful for people to realize that listening isn’t hard.  Once people knew we really wanted to listen, they were far more inclined to support the changes we were after.

How does Fire of Faith mirror Catholic Social Teaching?

JONAH is engaged in sacred conversations and knows that we need to be talking about how we can make some changes in our community.   From Charitable Union’s standpoint, we serve 11,000 people in our community, providing bedding, household items and clothing to those in need.  We have a real commitment to children getting a good education, which can reduce or eliminate poverty in their life.  We feel very strongly about that.  We try to work on systemic changes that need to be made in the community.  We work hard to find out what people aspire to and what individuals and neighborhoods really need.  There are a lot of positives and things that we’re talking about in our community.  We’re really happy to be a part of that conversation here and we know that this aligns with the very basic Catholic teachings on social justice.  We are providing to those in our community and we are excited to partner with Gamaliel and with JONAH in these efforts.

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