Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A PRAYER BEFORE BUSINESS; Faith-Based Chief Surveys City's Work Director of White House Office Meets with a Group of Mayors and Visits Training Program

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A PRAYER BEFORE BUSINESS; Faith-Based Chief Surveys City's Work Director of White House Office Meets with a Group of Mayors and Visits Training Program

Article excerpt

Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

Jim Towey came to Jacksonville Friday to meet with the big shots of faith-based initiatives in Florida.

But Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, also came to see the programs at work.

"It recharges my batteries to see the faith-based initiatives in action," Towey told members of the governor's faith-based advisory board and visiting mayors gathered at City Hall.

Less than an hour later, Towey was in the city's Norwood Avenue area touring the Community Rehabilitation Center. The mental health, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS rehabilitation organization received a $450,000 federal grant in October to train clients for jobs in the health-care field.

"How are you? I'm Jim Towey," he said to Crystal Ingram as she used a computer to prepare her resume for an upcoming job interview. Towey followed the introduction with questions about Ingram's family and how the job-training program was helping her.

"It's given me the chance I didn't take in high school," said Ingram, 22, who is studying to become a certified nurse's assistant.

"You can tell the CRC is motivated by people who love their neighbors," Towey said later.

Which, Towey said is the whole idea behind faith-based initiatives. The programs make federal and state grants for social services available to religious and other community-based groups.

The initiatives got a big push when President Bush took office in 2001. Since then, Towey said, 26 states have launched faith-based offices or boards and at least 116 mayors have done so.

Now that it has removed many of the administrative barriers that once prevented religious groups from getting government money, Towey said the White House is focused on coaxing more and more cities to get involved.

Which is what brought him Friday to Jacksonville where he grew up, he said.

"The president sees that for these initiatives to succeed, it's in your hands as municipalities," Towey said during the City Hall meeting.

So far, two Florida cities -- Jacksonville and Miami -- have established faith-based offices, but others are in the works and the state plans to approach Pensacola, Orlando, Lakeland, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa next year. …

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