Stranger To Neighbor: Outgoing FaithAction Executive Director Reflects On Tenure
After a decade at the helm of FaithAction International House — the Greensboro non-profit supporting thousands of immigrants and refugee families each year — Executive Director David Fraccaro is stepping down. In August, he’ll be returning to Illinois for family reasons.
Under Fraccaro’s leadership, FaithAction’s “Stranger to Neighbor” training and grassroots ID program were recognized internationally and have since become models across the country.
He recently spoke with WFDD’s David Ford about connecting diverse communities in North Carolina.
On his arrival to FaithAction and the need for services:
So, we just would get knocks on the door every day from people that were facing devastating poverty, had access to very little because of their status — despite all the myths that are out there that they somehow received social welfare benefits or something like that, you know — who had fled some really traumatic violence and poverty in their home countries, and were facing discrimination all over again. And they weren't quite sure where they could go to feel safe, to feel like they would be respected and where they could have people who perhaps came from their own culture, spoke the same language, greet them with dignity and respect, let them know they weren't alone, and that we were going to walk with them. And at the same time, we weren't quite sure how we were going to keep our doors open financially. There was a few hundred bucks in the bank when I first arrived. And so, I'm really incredibly grateful to all the congregations and individuals who took the chance of giving $25, $50, $5,000 — whatever it was to keep those doors open, and trusting that we were going to really do a great job of serving, loving, and protecting our neighbors into the future and that this was needed not just then, but would be needed well into the future. And it was a good investment.
On FaithAction's ID program:
When people came to get the ID, it wasn't just about getting the ID. It was about inviting the entire community to listen and learn from one another ... to bond, to build those stranger to neighbor relationships. And a decade later, that ID is not only accepted by dozens of law enforcement, health centers, schools, etc., across North Carolina in both big cities and rural towns, but it's also now in about a dozen other cities across the United States from Hood River, Oregon, to Ames, Iowa, to Charlottesville, Virginia, and West Palm Beach, Florida.
On what he's learned about the Greensboro community and himself:
I learned that you have to meet people where they are, not name and shame them but take them on a heart and mind journey through education, through relationship and unlikely friendships with their newest neighbors, before they begin to behave and think differently in the world. But once they've gone through that, what I might call stranger to neighbor transformation, once that heart, mind has really changed, you see people begin to boldly take action in ways they never would have thought or I never would have thought putting up thousands of dollars for legal fees, traveling to the detention center, going out and getting an ID card alongside of their newest neighbors, finally standing up to family members at Thanksgiving meals around immigration or racial justice issues. And we can have our small momentary victories depending on who's in office at the local, state, or national levels. But I don't think that permanent change is going to come until some heart and mind change happens for good.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.