Devontea Bracey, right, and Jay Almonte, both volunteers, stock food in a store room in the Reuben Brawner Center Food Distribution Warehouse at Interfaith Emergency Services on Northwest Second Street in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. Even though there is no surplus of food in the warehouse, the manager Thomas Curtis, still says that the emergency food distribution center is in better shape than it was last year at this time, due mostly to the Bring the Harvest Home drive that helped the food bank through the holidays. This year, Interfaith has scheduled businesses and organizations to adopt a week to help keep the food coming in.Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Star-Banner
Marion County is blessed with two major interfaith groups which , because of similar names, are often confused with one another. One offers succor and solace to those in need and the other seeks to stretch our understanding of the faith and belief systems of those residing throughout our multicultural community.
The Interfaith Alliance (TIA) of Marion County was formed in 1994 as an affiliate of a national organization created to celebrate religious freedom and to champion individual rights and policies that protect both religion and democracy.. Our mission is to promote a positive and healing role in Florida with people of faith and good will by encouraging civic participation and facilitating community activism against intolerance and extremism. The locally better known Interfaith Emergency Services (IES) , created by a group of area religious leaders in 1983, provides food and housing to individuals and families in crisis, last year touching the lives of some 150,000 individuals.
Given prevailing political and economic climates, both organizations have important roles to play in helping to create an ever more caring and compassionate community.
While Interfaith Emergency Services is to be commended and rightly supported for its considerable charitable outreach , The Interfaith Alliance also needs your help and participation as we seek to dispel the fears and paranoia which often arise from religious and political misinformation
The Interfaith Alliance regularly sponsors forums , speakers and other special events in which aspects of various faith and belief systems are explored with civility and respect . During the past year, our national president, The Rev. Dr. Welton Gaddy , came to Ocala to enjoin us not only to fight for separation of church and state but to participate fully in the specific needs and concerns of our community. To this end we co-sponsored Cynthia Barnett’s appearance last week at the college where she delivered an impassioned call for the development of a water ethic to conserve this most vital of our resources. Our 9/11 interfaith service of remembrance, hope and light is still resonating throughout the community and our “gatherings of women” have been so successful that participants are asking for more. To this end we are presenting on November 8 with the Tri-County Interfaith Group from The Villages a readers’ performance based on the best seller called The Faith Club in which three women, a Jew, a Muslim and a Christian discuss their concerns, stereotypes and misunderstandings about one another’s religion. And in February, Dr. Scott Olsen, an internationally distinguished scholar residing in our midst, will present his views on a new renaissance in science and spirituality at our annual meeting.
Many of you tell TIA members that you’re already one of our supporters when in fact you’ve donated only to Interfaith Emergency Services. We certainly don’t want anyone to be hungry or to be without shelter. But if you have been blessed with any excess, please become a member of The Interfaith Alliance of Marion County. Join us as we work to ensure that faith and freedom flourish in an open , vibrant and healthy society.
Delphine Blachowicz Herbert
President, The Interfaith Alliance of Marion County