January Coalition Meeting – Broad Based Organizing, Introduction To COFI, Circles Program

Happy New Year and welcome to 2020! We kicked off our first coalition meeting of the year with amazing presenters and excellent content. We had a wonderful pasta dinner with salad and bread sticks catered by Peppino’s. We welcomed a number of new parents to our first meeting of the new year as well as our “regulars”.

One of our parent representatives, Leah Groves, led the group in a creative icebreaker that was a twist on setting a new year’s resolution. She shared with the group how she writes “I AM” affirmations for herself and proclaims them each day as part of her daily routine. She passed out index cards and encouraged our group to think of six “I AM” affirmations to write down for themselves. After a few minutes, parents were allowed to share their affirmations with the group. There were many amazing affirmations shared such as: “I AM STRONG,” “I AM ORGANIZED,” “I AM A CHILD OF GOD,” “I AM A GREAT MOM” and many more. This was a powerful ice breaker and one that I’m hoping parents will remember and continue to recite and practice throughout the year.

Our first presenter was Allison Colberg, director of The Micah Center. She discussed broad based organizing (BBO) with our group. Essentially BBO assembles individuals within churches, organizations, businesses, etc. to come together and create change. Her presentation was interactive and encouraged dialogue from the parents in the room regarding the social and economic pressures that affect families. During her presentation she asked the question, “What was the minimum wage in 1905?” and one parent answered, “There was no minimum wage.” This parent was correct in her response and Allison went on to explain to our group how churches came together to get a minimum wage law established. This minimum wage law change did not happen with just one person, but a group of people joining together to create change. After Allison’s presentation Jazmin Fuentes gave an example of how a group in Alabama came together to facilitate change in their community. Allison also informed our parents of an opportunity to learn more about BBO at an upcoming meeting entitled “Relational Organizing” that will be held on February 18th 7:00pm-9:00pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Our next presenters were our trained Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) leaders, Iris Gipson and Nicole Burman who gave a presentation on an Introduction to COFI. The COFI training empowers and builds up parents as leaders. The training is absolutely amazing, helps participants set goals, and build relationships with other parents. To start their presentation Nicole gave a brief explanation of COFI. Iris and Nicole then dove right into two activities covered during the COFI training, including characteristics that make a great leader and practicing one-on-ones with a partner. This introduction to COFI was interactive and there was great dialogue between the COFI trainers and our parents. To learn more about these activities or to join the COFI training, please keep an eye out on our Facebook events page. The training will be taking place within the next two months. One of our parents who graduated from our COFI training last year stated, “This training changed my life!”

The last presenter was Rev. Julie Liske from Circles Grand Rapids. Circles is a program that trains and supports people who want to become more financially stable. The program provides weekly meetings that focus on training in time and money management with support from two caring partners, a circle of peers, and professional staff to support the individual’s journey toward financial stability. Individuals interested in this amazing training should call 616-309-7517.

The KDL bookmobile was also onsite. Parents, along with their children, are able to check out and return books. A big thank you to KDL who donated a number of books and read along cd’s that we were able to raffle off to our families this month. The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum (GRCM) also donated four passes for us to raffle off, in addition to activities for our children to do in childcare. We appreciate the partnership we have with the GRCM!

Overall our meeting was jam packed and full of powerful information for our families. This meeting illustrates beautifully one of the goals of our Parent Coalition, which is to continue to elevate the parent voice and equip them with the knowledge needed to help facilitate change in our community.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
John F. Kennedy


Funding from the Office of Great Start within the Michigan Department of Education supports the implementation of Great Start.