Dear JCCA Colleagues,

On Monday, we celebrate the birth of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who would have turned 90 years old a few days ago, on January 15. As we honor the legacy of his achievements, we must also re-commit to the racial and economic justice for which he died fighting.

While it is grounding to imagine what we, as a nation, could have achieved had he lived longer, we can still draw meaning and inspiration from his words long ago. In the sermon Dr. King delivered on the eve of his assassination, he said:

“The world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.”

These words resound profoundly today. The Federal government is shut down. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families are without paychecks, facing threats to housing, health, and stability. While the funding for JCCA’s work is not impacted by the shutdown, we learned last week that the entire February allocation of SNAP benefits, or food stamps, would be distributed early, on January 17. Our clients who rely on these benefits will have to ensure that their SNAP funds last six weeks, with no guarantee that there will be funds in March. We know that many of our clients already have difficulty stretching out their SNAP benefits over the course of 30 days, struggling to feed their families at the end of the month. The timing of this SNAP distribution means that we will have to address the possibility of serious food insecurity for our families in the next several weeks.

The sermon quoted above, which you can read here, sought support for economic justice for poor people of all faiths, races, and nationalities. Our work in child and family welfare is deeply connected to, and affected by, the fragility of the communities we serve. Our values call upon us to work towards economic stability for our clients, just as we work for social justice, and racial and gender equality.

I encourage you to look for the stars in this dark moment. Many of them are here at JCCA, in our inspiring and resilient clients, our compassionate and smart colleagues, and in the potential we have to make justice a reality for children and families facing tremendous obstacles.

Thank you for your dedication, your work, and your hope.

Ronald E. Richter