- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

America's ethic of selfless service to others could be used to renew the country's neighborhoods and youth, religious and community leaders told a conference yesterday.
By giving and volunteering, the leaders said, a person gains a family and, with families, communities begin to thrive.
"How can we serve a nation when we're riding on the backs of others?" asked the Rev. Carlton Pressley, special assistant for religious affairs for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams. "The job is not in the money we make. It's about the people we serve."
Mr. Pressley made his comments on the last day of the "Making the Dream Real: Empowering Our Families, Communities and Nation: Black America's Contribution to the 21st Century" conference at the Sheraton National Hotel in Arlington. The two-day conference was sponsored by the American Family Coalition, National Congress of Black Women (NCBW) and The Washington Times Foundation.
The conference was about giving black community and church leaders more ways to reach out to youth and continue to build communities, which would be centered around places of worship like they were in the past, said Douglas D.M. Joo, president of The Washington Times Foundation.
"Family, freedom and faith. They are the community's strengths," Mr. Joo told the audience. "It is time to make a new beginning and determination to make their dream real."
Yesterday's sessions explored the current status of community service and volunteerism in the country and discussed ways in which governors, state legislators, mayors, faith-inspired entities and local community groups can work together to implement an effective cultural-, family- and community-renewal agenda.
The key to building stronger communities is getting more people to volunteer, to give back to the neighborhoods where they live, group leaders said.
"Selfishness kills us," said Robert Kittel, executive director of Service for Peace USA in New York. "Unselfishness brings life. "
Churches and other places of worship should become centers of communities, where families can come together to pray or seek help. "We have somehow made our way to this notion that we need to separate church and state in everything," said Alphonso Jackson, deputy secretary with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Strong marriages and families are also keys to better communities, the leaders said. Studies have shown that marriage and family are important to the improvement of the society, they said, and that married adults are happier, healthier and wealthier than single people.
"Marriage and family are vital to our community," said state Sen. Mark Boitano, New Mexico Republican.
Other speakers featured in yesterday's sessions included NCBW Chairman C. DeLores Tucker; William Craig, chairman of the National Council of Bishops; Lena Yasutake, youth leader for Service for Peace; the Rev. Floyd Flake, senior pastor at the Greater Allen Cathedral of New York and a former congressman; and the Rev. Herbert Lusk of the Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia.

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