May 12, 2022

Oakland port teachers and workers strike Friday against school closures and billionaire Fisher’s port deal

By Lori Berger

Since the 1950s, OCCUR has operated as a catalyst for change in marginalized and disadvantaged communities in Oakland, becoming a fixture in the East Bay area, focusing on cultural, social and economic development in areas that need of their expertise.

Idealism motivates the skilled and dedicated professionals and volunteers who have kept OCCUR relevant for decades. Over the years, the nature of the challenges they face have changed as they currently struggle to find solutions to homelessness, school closures, declining black homeownership and the lack of access to learning technical knowledge and skills that prevents members of underserved communities from finding suitable employment. OCCUR was created to help people of color and other marginalized groups who have been most victimized by inequalities of wealth and long-term opportunity, and their dedication to this mission is reflected in their determination to evolve and to grow.

Across East Bay, community activists, nonprofit professionals, neighborhood leaders and families struggling to overcome difficult circumstances understand how essential, proactive and effective OCCUR has been all these years. . Their capacity-building initiatives have elevated the fortunes of many nonprofits and faith-based organizations, including the Lend a Hand Foundation, a highly successful Oakland-based nonprofit that has benefited immensely from its continued association with OCCUR.

The Lend A Hand Foundation is a youth-focused non-profit organization that provides lifesaving assistance to children, teens, and families facing difficult challenges or debilitating life circumstances.

Their various initiatives are designed to help underserved people experiencing poverty, deprivation, illness or other stressful emergencies, by providing access to immediate essential assistance and life-enhancing goods and services. all types. Lend A Hand has received the most attention for its free backpack program, which provides school-aged children in disadvantaged communities with backpacks filled with all the essential supplies they need at the start of each school year. .

When the Lend A Hand Foundation opened in 1997, it had little to trust in good intentions. Funds were limited and experience in running a non-profit organization was even shorter. Executive Director Dee Johnson knew she would need help to keep the project viable, so she started attending the free workshops OCCUR offers to aspiring nonprofit organizers.

“The workshops shed so much light on what was needed to survive,” Dee Johnson told us in a recent interview.

Jointly sponsored by OCCUR and the San Francisco-based Foundation’s Alliance with Interfaith to Heal Society, or FAITHS, the “A Faith-Based Model” workshop series is offered annually at no cost to trustees and volunteers who lead or serve faith-based or secular organizations. Bay Area charities. The workshops combine individual coaching with intensive small group exercises and activities and are designed to help participants develop the skills and knowledge needed to build stable organizational structures, find sources of funding, create improvement programs high-impact individuals and communities and promote the empowerment of marginalized neighborhoods. and people.

During the pandemic, Lend a Hand staff developed and implemented a comprehensive action plan that included a safe and effective mix of virtual and in-person engagement. Despite lockdowns and quarantines, they continued to provide lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable.

According to Johnson, the organization’s involvement with OCCUR played a big role in their ability to rise to the occasion.

“Having gained a lot of knowledge from the esteemed management team, coaches and facilitators, we were able to carry on,” she said. “If we hadn’t received the knowledge through all the workshops we attended, we wouldn’t have been able to meet the challenges when this very scary situation happened.”

Lend A Hand plans to distribute its school supply kits to 25,000 underserved students in Oakland and Alameda County for the 2022-2023 school year.

Recently, OCCUR has been in the news for a most surprising reason. In March, the organization’s offices were broken into and vandalized. Despite this temporary setback, the leaders of the organization have no intention of slowing down.

“With the scaling up of our capacity building programs, OCCUR is not letting burglary derail us,” Charla Montgomery, OCCUR’s program consultant, told the Post News Group. “Now more than ever, it’s important that OCCUR reaches as many communities as possible and everyone who is committed to positive change throughout the Bay Area.”