Gracias and adios

It seems fitting that as we close the immigration program at Acorn Outreach, we just yesterday helped one of the last of our immigration clients become a United States citizen. There are still some other client cases pending, but we are no longer accepting new clients. I was very proud of my friend Adolfo as I watched him pass his tests in order to become a full member of our community. He had been coming to classes at Acorn for the past 6 months and his hard work paid off.

We also just got the approval for our 107th DACA client, the 4th of 4 brothers and sisters to receive his deferred action status and now permission to drive and work legally in this country. We have known Julio since he first came to Corvallis at age 5, and it is a joy to know he no longer has to live in fear of deportation, and can focus on things like school and soccer and playing in his church worship band.

Another recent exciting piece of news is that our former immigration assistant, Alan Duran, has been accepted to the University of Oregon law school beginning next fall. I am so proud of his hard work and persistence that has helped him achieve this goal. A special surprise was that he was named the recipient of a $9,000 scholarship called the 1884 Public Spirit Award, because of his work at Acorn! God has big things in store for this young man!

As I transition out of leadership in this ministry I have given my heart to for 14 years, it is with great thanksgiving that I reflect on all the wonderful people we have known and had the privilege of walking alongside in difficult as well as joyous times. I know I am leaving Acorn in capable hands, with a dedicated board of directors and volunteers who will continue to give their time and energy to serving the community.

Thank you to all our faithful supporters, donors and volunteers. I appreciate all you have done and given to allow us to do this work.

Que Dios los bendiga!

Ellen

Feliz Navidad!

December 2013

Dear friends and supporters of Acorn Outreach:

This past year has been one of change, and yet our mission remains the same, serving immigrants and the local Latino community in the name of Christ.

You are undoubtedly aware that the cofounder of Acorn Outreach, Peter Ogle, died in the Spring after living with cancer for the past 7 years. His memorial service in May was a testimony to his faith in Christ and his love for this ministry. Many members of Iglesia Emanuel attended and Pastor Josué Gómez helped lead the service, in an authentic demonstration of the affection and respect that has emerged among our Latino and Anglo partners in the ministry.

With Peter’s passing, Mark Edwards has become president of the board, and our long-time friend and co-worker Ben Slothower has joined the board as well. Ellen Ogle remains our Executive Director leading the ministries described below. Soon after we lost Peter, Ellen felt called to invest even more deeply in this ministry by leaving their home of 18 years across town and moving into the Acorn Center.  Meanwhile, Pastors Josué and Hilda of Iglesia Emanuel moved from Acorn into the Ogle home, giving them more room for practicing the hospitality that is so central to their successful ministry. So with this housing swap, our Executive Director is now on-site for continuing the work, and the Gomez family has a better location for their ministry.

Acorn Outreach continues as a community center in an immigrant-destination neighborhood, offering education, advocacy and support to help our immigrant friends integrate into the community. Since 2005 we have taught English to more than 300 students, and have responded to other needs of the community by working with the community college, OSU, and Benton County Health Department.

We are especially pleased to report that we have helped over 100 young people receive Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Each of these young friends, some of whom began participating in Acorn activities over ten years ago, are now able to drive and work legally, and pursue higher education in the country where they have been living since they were very young. We have helped other adult immigrants obtain their green cards, become citizens, and bring their family members to the U.S. Our part-time assistant, Alan Duran, who is an immigrant himself, continues to work with us while completing his degree at OSU and preparing for application to law school. Through mostly word of mouth and client referrals, our reputation for honesty, compassion, and providing accurate information has brought us clients from all around the Willamette Valley.

Along with our legal services, we continue to offer English classes at the Acorn Center four days a week.  Unexpectedly one of our students found more than English instruction at Acorn. About the time we wrote to you last year, we celebrated our first “Acorn wedding” when one of our longest-attending students, Fernando, married one of our volunteer teachers, Becky.  It was a beautiful event that several of us were privileged to be a part of. So Acorn Center remains what we dreamed it would be: a place where friendships are formed and where people find hope and encouragement, experiencing God’s love through the practical ways we meet very important needs. Almost every night of the week, next door to Ellen’s half of the duplex, you’ll either find students studying English, Iglesia Emanuel men praying, Latino children learning to play instruments and lead church worship, or a Calvin Presbyterian Church small group meeting. Acorn Center is being used by God for his purposes, and we are open to the ways God will lead us in the coming year.

We are grateful for your interest in this work and ask that if what you see and hear about us inspires you, then please consider supporting the ministry financially. We are charging very low fees for the legal services we provide, and those fees do cover some costs. But the expense of training and overhead for legal services is high, especially for an organization of our size. Please consider making a one-time gift or supporting us on a monthly basis. Our goal with this letter is to receive $10,000 in donations from individuals and churches

Checks can be made payable to Acorn Outreach and mailed to the address shown below.

You may also give electronically by clicking here.

We appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry and thank you for your faithful support over the years. Dios los  bendiga y Feliz Navidad! God bless you and Merry Christmas!

Acorn Outreach Board of Directors

Mark Edwards, Ellen Ogle, Josué Gómez, Loren Chavarría, and Ben Slothower

 

1740 NW Division Street, Corvallis, Oregon 97330

Phone: (541)224-6590   Fax: (541)207-3249

Email: acornoutreach@gmail.com

Website: www.acornoutreach.com

Fall Frenzy

We’re in a frenzy of activity at Acorn this week. Fall is here and we begin our regular schedule of English classes and computer instruction on the 16th. We took a break from classes for the summer but now are ready for a fresh start. I’m excited to have some new volunteers as well as a few who are returning to help after some time away. You can click on Schedule of Activities to see the days and times for our classes. Today a friend and I will be passing out postcards to all the stores and restaurants where our Spanish speakers usually go in order to publicize the start of our classes. We also sent home flyers with the 170 Spanish-speaking families at Garfield Elementary school, just a few blocks away.

Another frenzy of activity is going on in our grounds and gardens. I am so thankful for the expert advice and gardening know-how from Master Gardener Janet Magedanz and her sidekick Sue Carozza. They have taken on the challenge of sprucing up all the landscaping around Acorn and it is already looking so much better.  I tried to take a picture of these two shoveling mint compost, but they hid from the camera.

And we are also gearing up for more immigration clients after a relatively slow summer. I will be going to the Festival Latino in Albany this Sunday the 15th, and to the Corvallis Latino Festival on the 22nd. Both events have resource tables where we can let people know about our low-cost legal immigration services.

Enjoy your fall and feel free to stop by Acorn and see all the goings on if you get a chance.

 

Christmas 2012 letter

This past year has seen significant changes and expansion of our ministry. We thought it would be good to look back briefly at where we have come from, and then look forward to the new direction God is leading us.

Acorn Outreach began more than 12 years ago with six friends picking up trash in an immigrant-destination neighborhood, grew to a partnership with an immigrant-serving church, and has emerged as a community center offering education, advocacy and support to help our immigrant friends integrate into the community. In our first six years we worked with neighborhood children, focusing on after-school and summer enrichment programs. Soon the parents of these children asked for English and computer classes, and since 2005 we have taught English to more than 250 students. We have responded to other needs of the community by hosting GED classes in Spanish taught by Linn-Benton Community College and offering health and nutrition classes sponsored by the Benton County Health Department and Oregon State University Extension.

We believe that God guided us to particularly work with the Latino community, and back in late February of this year, we felt a calling to a new aspect of that work. Ellen and Peter attended the Justice Conference in Portland, where Ellen met with some folks who speak around the country on the issue of immigration from a Christian perspective.  She came home excited about expanding our ministry, and taking a broader role as an agency that could provide low-cost, high quality immigration legal services. The next six months were spent in planning and training and networking, all culminating with Acorn Outreach becoming the 15th non-profit organization in Oregon to be recognized and accredited by the government to act as legal representatives for immigration purposes.

The need for these services is great. In the four months we’ve been doing this work, with almost no advertising, we have received more than 150 calls and have filed cases for more than 60 people. Our first clients were the young people known as DREAMers, who qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and are now able to live and work legally in the country where they have been living since childhood. Some of these youth came to Acorn summer and after-school clubs back when we were first getting started!

As word has spread of our services, we have also met with victims of domestic violence, helped others with petitions to bring their parents to live in the U.S., and advised others that there is no path for legal status for them. We’ve hired a part-time assistant, Alan Duran, who is an immigrant himself. He is able to relate to our clients and speak from his personal experience.

Acorn Center has truly become what we desired from the beginning: a place where friendships are formed, and people find hope and encouragement and experience God’s love through the practical ways we meet very important needs. You may remember that last year at this time, we were anticipating a remodel of the facility so that we could increase our space. We are so thankful for the amazing support we received to make that possible and increase our capacity to serve the community. Our new conference room is functional and beautiful.

With the expansion of our services and staff, our financial need is significant. We are charging very low fees for the legal services we provide, and those fees do cover some costs. But the expense of training and overhead for legal services is huge, especially for an organization our size. We have tripled our annual budget (to approximately $40,000) and will need donations to sustain us as we do this important work. Please consider making a one-time gift or supporting us on a monthly basis. Our goal is to receive $10,000 in donations from individuals and churches.

Checks can be made payable to Acorn Outreach and mailed to:

Acorn Outreach   1740 NW Division Street    Corvallis, OR  97330

You may also give electronically by clicking here.

We appreciate your partnership with us in this ministry and thank you for your faithful support over the years. Que Dios los bendiga y Feliz Navidad!

Acorn Outreach Board of Directors

Ellen and Peter Ogle, Mark Edwards, Josué Gómez, Loren Chavarría

Introducing Alan Duran

I started working here in the summer when Acorn was becoming serious about doing immigration work in the community. When Ellen approached me with the opportunity I was more than excited. This is a cause that is important to me and I was more than willing to be involved. I think that my own experience helps me relate to the people that seek our services. I personally dealt with the immigration circus and I understand the challenges of living as an immigrant in the United States.

In the past few months I have learned even more about the intricacies of our immigration system and in the process I have had the privilege of meeting some great people. So far most of our clients have been DACA applicants. These cases involve young people who were brought to this country at a young age. DACA doesn’t grant them legal status, but it does give them a temporary work permit which is better than nothing. We feel that DACA is a step in the right direction, but we also hope for more comprehensive immigration reform. The word on the street is that immigration reform is high on Obama’s list of priorities for next year, but we will have to wait and see about that. I could go on and on about how the government has played games with this issue, but that post would belong on a different blog.

We have had a few non-DACA cases, and more are starting to come in. These range from immigrant visa requests to renewing immigration documents. All of these processes have their own procedures and hoops you have to jump through. Every document must be checked thoroughly multiple times. We spend hours working on each case to ensure that everything is in order before sending it off to be processed. Every case is unique and even when two cases seems like they are similar, one tiny detail can make a huge difference in how the case is handled. The one thing that is constant in any government matter is waiting. You work with your client to get everything ready to go, you send it in, and then you wait. Even the simplest case can take months to process. Any mistake on our side or theirs can set the case back by months.

Ellen spent several months being trained in immigration matters, and I’m slowly trying to learn as much as I can from her and from the materials we have available. We often listen in on conference calls and online training seminars. Immigrations laws and policies change quickly and it is important to be informed of those changes. Both of us participate in discussion groups which help us learn from other practitioners around the country. These forums can oftentimes be more informative than government sources.

I hope to work in this field for a long time. I feel like this is a job that I can enjoy doing while also knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of our clients. The people we help are always very grateful and they express it openly. Our goal is to provide high quality services while also being sensitive to the needs of our community. We love where we live and we love where we work.

DREAMers ready for Deferred Action

We have been gearing up to serve the dozens of clients we expect to benefit from the new policy that President Obama announced on June 15, 2012. Applying for deferred action will allow immigrants between the ages of 15 and 30 who meet certain qualifications to obtain authorization for employment and with that, a social security number and a driver’s license. We are thrilled with this first step in fixing our broken immigration system, but it is only a beginning and is not enough.

We will continue to post more information, but anyone with questions can call us at 541-224-6590, or email us at ellen@acornoutreach.com

 

 

 

A non-profit by any other name

Most people know us as Acorn. And a few years ago we had to do a lot of explaining to say we weren’t the “bad” Acorn that was getting some negative press. Our name has officially been Acorn Foundation, Inc. since we started in 2000, but when we began our 13th year of operation on May 1st, we decided to make a legal name change to become Acorn Outreach. At the same time we are pursuing changing our non-profit status to reflect the fact that we are supported by a large variety of donors, and are really no longer a foundation. Lots of changes going on right now, and we are excited about all of them.

In just a couple of months, Acorn will be hosting a week-long Mission Experience for youth and adults from Calvin and Emanuel churches. The goal is to give many people an opportunity to participate in a short-term mission experience without leaving the area. The focus of the week will be to learn how God is already working in our community and to participate with a variety of different ministries who are loving their neighbors right here in Corvallis. We will culminate the week with a fiesta in Garfield Park on Saturday, July 28th. If you would like more information about this week, you can contact Dave Steenhoek, at (541) 908-4377.

Celebrating the new Community Room!

Here is a shot of the new Acorn Community Room, with some friends who joined us for an open house last Sunday. This coming Wednesday, the 22nd of February, at 6pm, we’ll be having another celebration that will include food, music and prayer for the neighborhood. Please let Ellen know if you plan to come so we can have enough food!

We are so thankful for the many people who contributed time, money, and skills to make this remodel possible. We are looking forward to seeing the ways the room will be used by many different groups.

For example, next Wednesday, the Benton County Health Department will start a 6 week class for the latino community called Taking Control of your Health.

The Linn Benton GED classes for Spanish speakers are already enjoying the extra space and so are this group of students from Iglesia Emanuel who are learning music on Wednesday nights.

We hope you can join us next Wednesday, or stop by anytime to say hello!

 

The way to justice is not silence

John Perkins (second from left) visited Acorn Center in 2007 as part of a visit to Corvallis.
This essay was written as a school project by Emily Edwards, a senior at Corvallis High School, the daughter of our friends Mark and Angela Edwards, and an occasional volunteer at Acorn Center. It’s a fine piece of writing and we believe it captures both the vision of Martin Luther King Jr. and the ministry of Acorn. Thanks, Emily, for letting us share your own vision of equality and justice for our Corvallis community.

The same leather-skinned homeless man sits outside the Post Office every day, accompanied by his ragged dog and guitar with a missing string. His damp cardboard sign reads GOD BLESS in shaky black felt pen. This is the stereotypical face of poverty. However, in a town like Corvallis, poverty is often hidden behind the mask of small town perfection and could easily be ignored.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that passively accepting injustice is the same as acknowledging that the problem is tolerable. When the injustices are buried, we may never know that we are overlooking a social issue. It is all too easy to deny the real existence of poverty through everyday activities: avoiding the neighborhood around Hobart and Division streets or donating to a canned food drive but disregarding the final recipients. Fortunately, the “appalling silence of the good people” does not apply to the majority of Corvallis residents.

Many admirable role models exist in our schools, churches, and non-profits, and they have the will to eliminate poverty. The high school counselor who coordinates a gift basket for a needy student, the weekly volunteers who teach English classes to immigrants, and the young couple that adopts a homeless teenager all exhibit the characteristics that Dr. King celebrated. These neighbors and friends do not have greater resources or talents than other Corvallis citizens. But they have the will.

Corvallis has always had the ability to combat poverty. We are a wealthy community with a high level of education and commitment to acceptance. We are renowned for advances in computer engineering, healthy food, and green technology, but poverty issues like hunger and inadequate housing remain prevalent. Corvallis can only hope to improve this situation if the community voices their concern and states that poverty in the presence of plenty is not “morally right.”

The first step is recognizing the face of poverty in any situation. We can lift the mask of perfection if we more openly discuss the problems we see in our community. It is too easy for Corvallis citizens to assume that their co-workers, friends, and classmates are equally privileged and content. This is not the case. At Southside Youth Outreach, high school students serve healthy meals to fellow classmates, friends they never would have suspected to be suffering from hunger. Acorn Outreach provides services to immigrants—those who harvest our Christmas tree or wash our dishes. Organizations like these discover the hidden injustices in our city and choose to search for solutions through on-going relationships of friendship and service.

When John M. Perkins, a civil rights worker and colleague of Dr. King, visited Corvallis a few years ago, he applauded the work being done to rid our community of poverty. However, he also encouraged locals to retain the will to seek out the manifestations of poverty and combat them with tangible actions. We have the financial resources. We are intelligent and can generate the techniques. We just need the will to work for justice and equality. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And the way is not silence.

Acorn Center expansion plans

Dear friends:

During this Advent season of watchful waiting, the board of Acorn Outreach is thankful for the opportunity we’ve been granted to come along side the poor and marginalized in Corvallis. We live in anticipation of the coming of Jesus and his ultimate transformation of the created order. Our waiting is not in vain. We also believe that God loves and offers comfort to people now and in this world through those willing to heed his call.

Your participation as volunteers and supporters is a great encouragement to us. We remain committed to assisting all who come to Acorn in practical ways while witnessing to God’s love. Our work is not restricted to Latinos, but it is these neighbors—both those who are documented and those who are not—who remain Acorn’s main focus of outreach. Their needs have not diminished in the 10+ years we’ve existed, and aren’t likely to soon. We stand with them as teachers, advocates and friends.

Acorn Center has been a bustling place for all kinds of activities and a variety of groups this year. From a health and nutrition class by the Benton County Health Department to a summer ESL reading program for first and second graders, there was something happening at our facility almost daily. Emanuel Church started both a weekly Bible study for families and a weekly prayer meeting for women. Youth filled our garage space with exuberant worship music. The Acorn community garden was literally overflowing with tomatillos, chiles, sweet corn and other organically grown veggies. A clothing ministry for young children brought both Anglo and Latino families to the center.

And we continue to receive new requests to share our building. To expand the capacity of our outreach, we’ve hatched big plans to reconfigure and upgrade our center by completely remodeling the two-car garage. Plans call for insulating, sheetrocking and painting this room so it will be comfortable for year-round use. And we will connect the garage to the living room of the house with double doors between them, opening up the two rooms and creating a large meeting space. When this conversion is complete, Acorn Center will be able to accommodate larger groups of up to 50 people. What is today a chilly garage lit by buzzing fluorescent lights will soon become a warm and inviting environment for learning, music instruction, computer help, and other activities to serve our growing clientele.

We have commitments of free labor from building contractors and skilled workers for this project—the largest in Acorn’s history. A gift of $500 has already been received. The total cost for this conversion is estimated to be about $5000. We hope to raise most of the money by early January so we can begin our work as soon as possible. Once the garage door has been removed and a new wall framed and insulated, we will begin to use this space. We’re working with the directors of youth ministries at both Emanuel and Calvin Presbyterian Church, where we attend, so that young people can participate as volunteer workers. This will truly be a project for the community built by the community.

To make this dream possible, we need your financial help. The renovation will not begin until we have adequate funds to pay for it. As prudent stewards of our resources, we operate Acorn on an annual budget of only $13,500. Most of our revenue comes from individuals and our church. We are a small nonprofit of great economy and efficiency. As you plan your year-end giving, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to our work of “Loving God. Serving neighbors.” We need your support. To make an electronic donation on this site: Just click on the “How to Give” tab and follow the directions. All donations to Acorn Foundation are tax deductible.

Thanks and may the joy and peace of Christmas be with you.

Peter and Ellen Ogle, and Mark Edwards
Acorn Outreach board of directors

P.S. This is the letter that some of you may have received already. We just want to get the word out as many ways as possible.