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Sense of Community Begins at Home for Interfaith Panel

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a grass-roots attempt to solve some of the San Fernando Valley’s problems, the Valley Interfaith Council “is going home.”

Beginning June 4, the council, a nonprofit organization devoted to solving social problems, will sponsor a series of meetings in residences to discuss Valley issues and to unite diverse ethnic and economic groups.

“The overall objective is to foster and instill a sense of community within the Valley area,” said Ken Castro-Oistad, the group’s director of development. “There are so many groups in the Valley--ethnic, geographic, age, profession, sexual preference--and every group has its own agenda that has little consideration for other groups. There’s a lack of trust among them, and a great deal of the fear factor and misinformation.”

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The meetings will provide a non-threatening forum for the groups to interact and discuss common problems, he said.

“We just want to discuss community issues without any attempt to make an agenda or lobby,” Castro-Oistad said. “This is simply to provide a forum for discussion that will enable us to build some bridges so that we can all learn something and take it into our private lives.”

The meetings are open to everyone, and Castro-Oistad said he hopes that at least several hundred people will participate in the series. Among the subjects discussed will be education, the environment, health care, multicultural relations, employment, housing and homelessness.

The series will kick off with an orientation session at Valley College’s Monarch Hall from 7 to 9 p.m. June 4. Bunny Hatcher from the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission will be the featured speaker. At least six groups will meet in different homes for the next five Tuesdays to discuss various topics.

Castro-Oistad said he hopes to schedule another round of meetings in the fall.

“We’re just hoping to develop and foster a sense of trust, and nurture a cultural sensitivity,” he said. “That way, we can better set about solving our problems together.”

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