The Vincentian Ohio Action Network (VOAN) is a 501c3 organization was formed by the Society of St. Vincent De Paul Diocese Council of Columbus in 2014 through the generous support of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development to help carry out the mission to end poverty through systemic change.
VOAN develops leadership skills and organizational capacity among members of the community experiencing poverty and marginalization so they can educate the community and come to the table with policymakers on issues that directly impact their lives. We build collaborative projects that address systemic issues that are priorities for our members, such as: criminal justice reform, living wage employment, and access to mental health and addiction services.
VOAN staff and leaders are active in local reentry coalitions and we are engaged in a number of projects that provide in-reach, peer mentorship, and support to those returning to the community from incarceration.
VOAN ORGANIZING PROJECTS
Restored Citizens and Communities for Change (RCC4C) - RCC4C is building the leadership and voices of those impacted by incarceration and the criminal justice system to help bring change. RCC4C is working towards building a more humane and restorative approach to criminal justice in Ohio. www.rcc4c.org (Franklin County)
The Newark Think Tank on Poverty (NTTP) - The NTTP is made up of local community members who have experienced poverty and barriers in obtaining sustainable work, safe housing, and accessible transportation. Focus areas currently include reentry and criminal justice reform, access to fair and sustainable housing, in-reach and navigation for returning citizens, and organizing for more access and better treatment availability for those with addictions and substance use disorders. www.newarkthinktank.org (Licking County)
Community of Grace - VOAN is collaborating with a network of over a dozen faith-based institutions joining with local colleges and reentry organizations in Delaware County to improve the reentry system for those returning from prison or jail. We are active in collaborative efforts to improve access to treatment and housing for those struggling with addiction and returning from jail or prison. (Delaware County)
ARCH - The "Accompanying Returning Citizens with Hope" Ministry is a collaboration between VOAN and the Diocesan Office for Social Concerns. ARCH is focused on raising awareness about the criminal justice system and equipping and mobilizing Catholics and local parishes for a variety of reentry ministries. www.svdpcolumbus.org/arch (Multi-County)
New Projects in Formation
We are launching new organizing programs within rural areas of Central Ohio, with a focus on Muskingham, Knox, and Fairfield Counties starting in the Fall of 2017. Please contact Lesha (email@example.com) if you are interested in learning more.
Wendy Tarr, Director, VOAN
Wendy has worked throughout California and the Midwest with faith communities building cross-sector collaborations as a community organizer for 13 years primarily focused on economic justice, immigration, and criminal justice reform issues. Wendy is currently the director of the Vincentian Ohio Action Network. In 2014, Wendy was the Midwest Regional Organizer for "Bibles, Badges, and Business for Immigration Reform," a network of conservative faith, law enforcement, and business leadership working to establish a new consensus on immigrants and America, led by the National Immigration Forum in Washington, DC. Prior to that, Wendy worked for eight years for Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of California, where she organized diverse faith communities to support low-wage workers in struggles for living wages, affordable accessible healthcare, responsible development and workers' rights. Wendy helped launch the National Evangelical Immigration Table, supporting the effort as a field mobilizer on efforts to advance immigration reform among evangelicals and megachurches in California and throughout the Midwest for five years.
Lesha Farias, Lead Organizer
Lesha is a Lead Organizer for VOAN. She is a co-founder of the Newark Think Tank on Poverty and is helping to expand VOAN's work on reentry and criminal justice reform in Muskingham and Fairfield Counties. Prior to working for VOAN, Lesha was the Senior Program Director at the Ohio Campus Compact where she oversaw the AmeriCORPS Vista Program based at Denison University for 14 years. She directed the OCC AmeriCorps VISTA and Connect2Complete (C2C) Programs, along with other events and initiatives that promote higher education as a public good accessible to all who and helping students become civically engaged. Lesha also volunteers with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church.
Allen Schwartz, Consultant
Allen works in GED and Adult Education at C-TEC (Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County). He is a musician and artist. He also has over 40 years of experience in labor and community organizing. Allen worked as a law library supervisor at the Stateville Penitentiary, Joliet Illinois. He was the President AFSCME local 3506 (Chicago) and the past Executive Director, Chicago Metro History Education Center. While in Chicago, Allen was a regular presenter, National Public Radio Chicago, and the Sandra Gair Show. He has been faculty at colleges and universities throughout Chicago and Central Ohio. Allen is the founder Licking County Concerned Citizens for the Environment and a co-founder and organizer for Newark Think Tank on Poverty.
Young Leaders & Organizers in Training
VOAN receives interns from OSU, Notre Dame, Denison University throughout the year for various lengths to gain professional and organizing skills through interning. We also work with local grassroots leaders to support their skill development through apprenticeship programs and project leadership.