Interfaith coalition makes an impact

By November 14, 2013April 15th, 2014No Comments

November 13, 2013. The Florida Times-Union.

During ICARE’s recent Community Problems Assembly, one participant summed up why the group exists and why it keeps making a difference across Jacksonville:

“We’ve gathered here not to (just) turn to our neighbor but to be concerned about our neighbor,” said the Rev. Jeffrey Rumlin, pastor at Dayspring Baptist Church.

That collective sense of caring has made ICARE — the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation and Empowerment — a major player in actively pursuing solutions to our community’s biggest problems.

Backed by more than 30 congregations of diverse faiths, ICARE’s strong commitment to using unity as a force for progress was clearly present during the community problems session, which drew an energetic crowd of nearly 600 people — of varying ages, races and beliefs — to Abyssinia Baptist Church on a rainy evening.

“This is the most diverse group of people of faith that I’ve seen,” marveled the Rev. Emily Proctor, interim associate pastor at Lakewood Presbyterian Church. “This is an exciting place to be tonight!”

It was hardly an exaggeration.

And it was an inspiring reminder of how our whole community benefits when people of goodwill unite.


ICARE officials reported on the progress that’s been made on several issues highlighted by the group last year.

ICARE identified four local issues that it would prod city leaders to seriously address: child literacy, homelessness, joblessness and youth-related justice. Signs of success include:

■ The use of more “Direct Instruction” and other intensive, specialized teaching techniques to help students read better in Duval County schools. The programs haven’t just helped many kindergartners start reading sooner, they’ve also helped older students dramatically raise their reading levels.

■ Opening of the Jacksonville Day Resource Center in July, which provides daytime services for homeless clients three days a week.

■ A city agreement to finance a study to develop more job-creating opportunities in Northwest Jacksonville highlighted by a two-day Community Wealth Building Roundtable conference that Mayor Alvin Brown will attend.

■ The creation of two “neighborhood accountability boards” designed to work with young, first-time, non-violent offenders who have been given civil citations as alternatives to facing legal prosecution.

But ICARE members also expressed dismay that many youths continue to be arrested for non-violent offenses when civil citations should have been given.

ICARE’s recent accomplishments are impressive. They speak to the group’s admirable ability to raise awareness about troubling community issues — and do something about them.


Also during the session at Abyssinia Baptist, ICARE members chose mental health — over hunger and health care — as the group’s new issue of advocacy during the next year.

Audience members heard moving testimony from Cathi Everett, whose brother suffers from schizophrenia and was briefly jailed without access to treatment or medication. Everett also had two other brothers who suffered from mental illness ;both are now deceased.

“We need to stop criminalizing mental illness,” said an emotional Everett, a member of Lake Shore Presbyterian Church.

Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of the Jacksonville Jewish Center drew approving nods when he told the audience, “We don’t come together (to help others) because it is easy. We come together because it’s right.”

By proudly joining hands, forces and faiths, ICARE is doing what’s right.