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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Peace work

Turning out t-shirts, piece by piece, Barrios Unidos teaches youth how to hope

Daniel Alejandrez wasn't expecting any help from the church when he went to President Clinton's 1993 Peace Summit in Kansas City, Mo., to talk about the work he'd started 20 years before in the Latino barrios, or neighborhoods, of Santa Cruz, Calif.

When the county supervisor learned that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was interested in Barrios Unidos — which had never received outside support — it prompted the county to donate a building for the enterprise and $1,400 for rehab.

Thomas soon went out to discuss a loan of $25,000. Instead he recommended $100,000 for equipment. He also put in hours working with the staff of eight on a business plan. "Their vision was clear," he says. "But not the steps to get there."

Four years later the vision is reality. More than 50,000 T-shirts were individually silk-screened at Barrios Unidos Productions, bringing in a revenue of $180,000 in 1997.


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