Submitted by Kelly Marciales (Executive Director, Valley Interfaith Action)
Valley Interfaith Action (VIA) has 12 “doors” in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. We are Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal and Catholic congregations who utilize a community organizing model to address the quality-of-life issues which affect residents in the Mat-Su. We were originally Valley Christian Conference, a collection of churches who birthed new nonprofit agencies to fill service gaps. Out of Valley Christian Conference sprung Valley Residential Services which provides low-income housing and Day Break which provides mental health services, among many other nonprofits over twenty years. In 2015, Valley Christian Conference relaunched under a new vision and mission of faith-based community organizing to develop and empower leaders to advocate on their own behalf. Since launching as VIA, the organization has developed six local organizing ministry teams from Palmer to Willow and held public meetings yielding notable improvements to the lives of Mat-Su residents.
VIA is currently working with Anchorage Faith and Action Congregations Together (AFACT) to establish an organization on the Kenai Peninsula which would broaden our connection of congregations who are engaged in this transformational outreach work. VIA leaders are excited for this expansion.
Currently Christ First UMC in Wasilla is working with VIA’s organizer, Gretchen Clayton, to establish VIA’s seventh local organizing ministry team. Gretchen has worked alongside Rev. Daniel Wilcox to do dozens of one-to-one visits with families, hear their concerns and hopes for the community, and engage the faith-based community organizing model based on their desire to build stronger relationships between one another and the between the church and their neighbors.