Summer 2001: Faith Communities Survey Conducted

In the spring of 2001 Terry Benjamin, Executive Director of the Emergency Family Assistance Association, convened an informal group of Boulder County religious leaders to discuss the possible local implications of proposed federal policy related to the involvement of “faith- and community-based organizations” in the delivery of various kind of human services. The upshot of these meetings was a decision to implement a survey of all Boulder County faith communities to assess their involvement in providing these services and their partnerships with local community agencies.

A consultant, Bruce Swinehart, was hired to design and implement the survey, which was conducted during the summer of 2001. 75 of 193 congregations (about 40%) responded, representing an estimated 23,000 members. Among the key findings were the following:

“Boulder County’s congregations are a significant and largely untapped resource for Boulder County’s human services system. Most provide some type of direct services, refer people to community resources, and/or support agencies and programs through volunteer activities and cash contributions.”

Virtually every congregation that responded to the survey reported offering some array of services to their members and/or to the general public, either directly or via referral to community agencies. The most commonly cited types of services fell into the “basic needs” category (i.e., food and shelter). In addition, 46 congregations (61%) coordinate volunteer or “community outreach” activities; 47 congregations (63%) support community agencies with financial contributions.

“Congregations work with an extraordinary number and variety of programs and agencies.”

A total of 232 separate agencies/programs were cited as partners in congregations’ human services activities or as beneficiaries of volunteer efforts and/or financial contributions.

“Most congregations expect that their level of involvement in human services will increase in the years ahead.”

About two-thirds of respondents (44 congregations) reported that their involvement in human services will probably increase over the next two years; one-third (25 congregations) expect that it will stay the same; only two respondents expect it to decrease.

“Many congregations expressed interest in better coordination and collaboration with each other and with human services agencies, including via the Internet.”

32 congregations (43% of respondents) indicated interest in receiving timely information about human services needs in the community and/or in coordinating their activities with other congregations and community agencies.

The following recommendations were made based on the survey results:

“Community planning sessions that include representatives of faith communities and human services agencies should be convened to develop strategies to improve communication, coordination and partnership, and to respond to congregations’ expressed desire for increased involvement.”

“Mechanisms should be developed to collect, update and share information about community needs and resources with faith communities on a regular basis. In particular, technology-based approaches should be explored.”

“Those congregations that indicated an interest in receiving additional information and technical assistance should be followed up with as soon as possible (these congregations might also be most interested in participating in the community planning sessions described above).”

“A mechanism should be established for ongoing communication and problem-solving between faith communities and human services agencies.”

Winter/Spring 2002: Survey Results Shared with Faith Community and Agency Networks

Between February and April 2002, Bruce Swinehart and Terry Benjamin presented the survey findings and recommendations to several County networks of faith communities and human services organizations, including:

  • Longmont Ministerial Association
  • Boulder Valley Ministerial Alliance
  • Human Services Alliance
  • St. Vrain Community Council
  • Boulder County Human Services Coordinating Council
  • Southeast Boulder County Human Services Council

In debriefing and discussing the survey with these groups, it became clear that there was significant interest among both faith communities and human services agencies in working together to promote stronger, more sustainable partnerships on behalf of Boulder County’s vulnerable populations.

Summer 2002: Steering Committee Convened

In order to develop a long-range strategic plan (and respond to short-term opportunities) for supporting effective and sustainable partnerships between agencies and faith communities, a steering committee made up of representatives of both groups was established in June 2002. The group included representatives of the following faith and community-based organizations:

  • Boulder County Safe House
  • Boulder Housing Partners
  • Boulder Jewish Community Foundation
  • The Shambhala Meditation Center
  • Emergency Family Assistance Association
  • Boulder County Advocates for Transitional Housing (BCATH)
  • Lafayette Baha’i Community
  • LifeBridge Christian Church
  • Mountain View United Methodist Church
  • Tango
  • Tree of Life Presbyterian Church
  • Volunteer Connection
  • Workforce Boulder County

In addition to overseeing projects such as the development of a strategic plan and the “Restoring the Soul of Our Communities” conference (see below), the Steering Committee has acted as a clearinghouse for requests that have come in from community groups seeking to engage local faith communities. By working through these “real world” examples, the Steering Committee has increased the depth of its knowledge about the challenges and the opportunities that these partnerships offer.

Fall 2002/ Winter 2003: Partnership Workforce Boulder County

The first stream of federal funding related to the President’s “Faith-Based and Community Initiatives” came through the US Department of Labor in the summer of 2002 in the form of a $1.3 million grant to the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children for the purpose of promoting partnerships between faith communities and workforce agencies. When the Director of Workforce Boulder County, Tom Miller, became aware of this program he approached the BCFCI to explore how we might be able to work together to capture whatever opportunities it might afford to our local communities.

A successful grant proposal was then written to CFFC’s “Workforce, Faith, and Community Works” initiative to support our local partnership; the Volunteer Connection agreed to serve as the fiscal agent for the proposed project. The grant funded:

The development of a comprehensive database of local faith communities;

The development of a communication infrastructure (probably an e-mail listserve and mailing list; possibly a design for a web site);

Recruitment of 3-5 local faith communities to pilot a “family mentoring” project to expand WFBC’s “Project Work Together” program from a one-on-one model to matching a family with a community of caring people that can meet a wide range of needs.

Spring 2003: “Restoring the Soul of Our Communities” Conference

The BCFCI hosted a conference entitled “Restoring The Soul Of Our Communities: An Interfaith Conference On Community Engagement in Boulder County” on March 14, 2003, which was attended by about 150 people. The purpose of this event was:

  • To encourage and strengthen effective partnerships between Boulder County faith communities and human service agencies.
  • To invite all types of faith communities to work together toward the common purpose of creating stronger, more caring communities through partnerships with community agencies and programs.
  • To gather information about the kinds of support faith communities might need to create and sustain effective partnerships with community agencies.

The conference content included the following topics:

  • How service to the community is related to the practice of religious faith according to several traditions.
  • Boulder County trends regarding religious and community engagement.
  • Current patterns and anticipated future trends regarding local faith communities’ partnerships with community agencies.
  • Keys to success in developing and sustaining partnerships.
  • How several local partnerships have overcome challenges and created success.
  • Plans to create sustainable mechanisms to support local partnerships.

Participants provided input into our strategic planning process via facilitated roundtable discussions exploring many different models of successful partnerships, and information was collected about their interests regarding future training and networking opportunities.

Spring/Summer 2003: Brown-Bag Luncheon Discussion Series

Following up on the interests expressed by conference participants, we scheduled a series of monthly “brown-bag luncheon” meetings, which combined opportunities to receive information from a knowledgeable speaker, build skills, and network with other faith and community based organizations.

  • April: Volunteer Management
  • May: The Economic Facts of Life for Working People in Boulder County
  • June: Creating a Culture of Community Engagement within Faith Communities
  • July: Funding Opportunities: Federal/State/Local, Public and Private
  • August: Restorative Justice

Summer 2003: Database and Communication System Established

Through the WFCW grant described above, we hired a part-time staff person to assist us in developing an extensive database of information about 193 Boulder County congregations and their partnerships with local human services agencies. It was anticipated that once completed, this database, together with an electronic communication network, would enable us to quickly and efficiently link up congregations’ resources with community needs. We expected to also be able to use this system to keep interested faith communities informed about opportunities for building their capacity and forming partnerships to support effective community engagement.

December 2003

In December 2003, Bruce Swinehart stepped back from his position as consultant and the Steering Committee decided it was time to formalize certain aspects of the project. In January 2004, a part time director was hired to further the activities of the project. Tania Leontov, who had served as a volunteer representative of the Shambhala Center to the Steering Committee became Project Director.
The project which had been formerly known as the Boulder County Faith Initiative was formally named “Restoring the Soul Community Partnerships.” An identity program was completed, vision and mission statement and strategic plan updated.


The project which had been formerly known as the Boulder County Faith Initiative was renamed “Restoring the Soul: Faith and Community Partnerships.” An identity program was completed, vision and mission statement and strategic plan updated. A Resource Board was formed to provide oversight and support the activities of the organization. (See About Restoring the Soul.)

The brown bag discussions, now the Lunch Time Forums, continue on a monthly basis to present pertinent social issues with panels of local experts.

2005 Model Program “FOCUS” Created

In mid June of 2005 a board member identified a significant gap in Boulder County’s human services – support for inmates transitioning out of the Boulder County Jail. Over 10,600 people a year are incarcerated in the jail and one out of two becomes a repeat offender. Mentoring programs have been recognized by the national Criminal Justice System as a best practice to reduce recidivism. We reviewed the resources that a collaboration of the Buddhist Coalition, Congregation Bonai Shalom and Lifebridge Christian Church could bring to such a project: sound family values from different directions, mentoring experience, professional and nonprofessional experience working with families, experience working with offenders and the interest to do this.

In October of 2004 the program was introduced to Sheriff Joseph Pelle. His response was that it filled a crucial gap in services for prisoners and he signed a Memorandum of Understanding. FOCUS has been active since April 2005, training and supporting mentors. The program has expanded to include mentors from other sources as well as congregations and to work with offenders on Work Release, in halfway houses and in the 20th Judicial Districts Probation Department programs: Integrated Treatment Court, the Integrated Treatment Court for DUI offenders and the Female Offenders Program.

We have moved conservatively in enrolling mentors while working out system difficulties with each of these programs. In 2005 we had two active mentor matches. In 2008 we had a dozen active matches, with the goal of 40 -50 matches in the next two years. The program has a paid part-time director and works under the oversight of an Advisory Board consisting of Criminal Justice professionals. A Review Board of experts in the field was initiated in January 2008 to review the mentor matches.

In 2005 FOCUS received a Colorado Compassion Initiative financial award to further its capacity to do this work and a Wells Fargo award to provide minimal needs for released prisoners. The program also won the prestigious NOVA award from the Community Foundation serving Boulder County in 2007. In 2008 and 2009 the program received modest funds from the Board of Boulder County Commissioners, as well as receiving Community Foundation and Wells Fargo grants.

2005–2006 Replicable Model

In 2005 we decided that it would be valuable to explore becoming a replicable or repeatable model for other communities aspiring to encourage collaborations between their social service network and local congregations. The Leighty Foundation provided the funding for an initial study of Restoring the Soul’s work, how it developed its mission and programs and the challenges encountered introducing the program to local congregations.

It has become apparent that having a real working interfaith collaborative project to serve as a model generated significant interest in our programs. The FOCUS mentoring  program continued to develop well and is often the highlight of discussion with faith representatives because we could show in living detail how these collaborations work.

2006 – Study Guides for Service in Christian, Jewish and Buddhist Congregations

The organization has vigorously continued its commitment to negotiate and support collaborations between service agencies and faith communities. One of these endeavors was instrumental in the creation of Study Guides for Service.
The organization director’s presentation on service opportunities to a particular congregation was met with an enthusiastic response. The faith leader promised that within a week the members would choose a volunteer project. The greatest need was for mentors for at-risk youth and single mothers coming off TANIF, as well as compassion visits to isolated elders. A week later Restoring the Soul received an email in which we were told that the congregants did not want to do one on one volunteering but preferred a project in which they worked together so that the internal community could bond.

This inspired a quest for a means to meet both such a desire and also serve the greatest community volunteer needs. The Study Guides for Service are an offering to bridge this gap.

2008 – 2009

All programs are proceeding vigorously with the intention of contributing to these difficult economic and social times by encouraging more volunteering in the faith communities, our great social capital resource.

In 2008 we entered into an angreement with KGNU to edit the forums for broadcasting eight times per year, as well as being used as evergreen programs. The News Director said when he offered us a primetime slot, that our panels were appropriate for KGNU. This was because they presented national social issues with a local face.

The FOCUS Program also grew exponentially and commanded notice beyond Boulder County borders.

We are also focusing on building the organization’s capacity which has relied up to now on a one-third time paid director, a few hours of an occasional assistant and the volunteer Board members. As additional staff is crucial to Restoring the Soul’s development we have initiated an application for a Vista Volunteer.

April 2009

CommUNITY Walk: we are all in this together
Thursday April 23, 2009 at noon, Boulder

Restoring the Soul Community Partnerships and the Buddhist Coalition are sponsoring a walk on Thursday, April 23 at noon, to give voice to a common commitment to help one another through these difficult times and encourage hope for the future.

This is an opportunity for all sectors of the community: individuals, government, service agencies, congregations, businesses, etc., to acknowledge the pervasive challenges and our deep concerns for homelessness, hunger, job and home loss, business closure as well as other impacts.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Commissioner Cindy Domenico will speak to the issues. See calendar for details.

If you would like to support our work please donate here.


CURRENT ERA 2010- 2011

 In the fall of 2010 a number of aspects of the organization shifted in order to express the underlying conviction motivating the continuation of the programs and the creation of new projects. The organization was renamed The Collaborative Community to signal the belief that major social issues were best impacted through social collaboration.

 A new Fiscal Agent was engaged, the Colorado Nonprofit Development Center.  This organization works with over 70 nonprofits and offered many excellent services such as accounting, services with monthly detailed reports, project support for grants, trainings in many aspects of nonprofit management, and a yearly financial budget which would qualify our organization for major grants. The Collaborative Community became legally a project under CNDC and its board of directors.

 We were instructed to create an internal board of directors which, although not legally responsible, would function as if it were in preparation for applying for our own 501 c 3 in the future. This occasioned some organizational restructuring as the Restore Resource Board was not defined to function in this way. We created a board of directors with standard obligations such as creation of policy, fiscal oversight and fundraising responsibilities. The members who continued to be primarily passionate about interfaith service work morphed into the Restoring the Soul Advisory Council. The name was slightly altered to Restoring the Soul Community Partnerships to include an extended audience. A major development is that the organization has currently, and for the first time, sufficient staff to meet the demands on its services.

 In recent years Restoring the Soul has identified its main focus as being predominantly an educational organization and expanded its audience to include individuals, congregations, civic organizations, social agencies and local universities, maintaining an emphasis on working with congregations. FOCUS is thriving with an impressive diversity of funding, having been awarded a federal/state Justice Assistance Grant for 20010 -11 and 2011 – 12. Its enewsletter has over 600 subscribers and Forums attract larger and larger audiences. As one nonprofit representative recently said, no one else in the Boulder County community is providing these educational opportunities. The Collaborative Community has added several collaborations: with Project Revive and the Community Reentry Council. We are also in discussion with Foothills United Way/Volunteer Connection. We were invited to apply the Restoring the Soul repeatable model concept in Lyons, Colorado  and had requests to help establish the FOCUS model in seven locations, nationally and internationally.