SALT Holds Annual Advocacy Conference

Social justice advocates told: ‘Go and do good’

Social Action Linking Together (SALT) founder and coordinator John Horejsi welcomes attendees to the organization’s 2017 Fall Advocacy Conference. Photo by Andrea Worker.

The agenda was full at the 2017 Social Action Linking Together (SALT) Fall Advocacy Conference. The annual forum was held at the Virginia International University in Fairfax on Saturday, Nov. 11 with a packed house in attendance.

SALT is a non-partisan faith-based network of individuals and organizations with the goal of bringing “the social and economic justice teachings of their faith to bear on public policy and legislation.” What started as eight socially conscious people about 20 years ago, has grown to a base of about 1,300, who educate themselves and the public on the facts surrounding social issues, and the actions that can be taken to address them.

Photo by Andrea Worker

Sister Simone Campbell — often referred to as “the nun on the bus” for the bus tours she and other nuns undertake on their mission to bring about social justice — was the keynote speaker at the SALT conference.

“It’s education, it’s advocacy, building relationships with legislators, and bringing people together to strengthen the voices of all,” said SALT Founder and Coordinator John Horejsi, who is no stranger to the halls of the Commonwealth’s governmental chambers and offices in Richmond.

Each year, SALT selects new priority issues, or continues to address issues in progress, and rallies its troops to raise awareness and recommend actions. Horejsi was particularly pleased to announce that largely through the efforts of SALT members, many more Virginians in need will now benefit from the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program, simply by having consolidated the TANF categories.

Additional improvements to TANF, including an associated scholarship program is one of SALT’s priorities for the 2018 Virginia legislative session.

THE GROUP has identified several other priorities upon which they will focus their attention in the coming year, including:

  • Ending school lunch shaming: SALT supports legislation that would prohibit identifying – and stigmatizing – children who are unable to pay for school meals.
  • Legislation to provide video visitation services to inmates, and not to ban in-person visits where video visits are provided.
  • Limiting, and ultimately eliminating solitary confinement in prisons.
  • Opposing block grants for all human service programs opposing block grants for Medicaid.
  • Supporting greater equity in Kinship Guardian situations, granting more funds to family members caring for children — where foster carers now receive, in some cases, almost five times the funds allotted to family carers

Photo by Andrea Worker

State Del. Ken Plum (D-36) makes a presentation to the forum attendees on the State of the Commonwealth.

To illustrate the scope of the needs of the citizens of Virginia, Horejsi recruited Sister Simone Campbell and state Del. Ken Plum (D-36) as speakers for the forum.

Sister Campbell, a member of the international Roman Catholic religious congregation Sisters of Social Service is often referred to as one of the “Nuns on a Bus.” As the director of NETWORK, a Catholic advocacy group for social justice, Sister Campbell leads a group of nuns who, since 2012, conduct bus tours around the country as part of their advocacy work, educating and leading discussions on a variety of issues, from healthcare to immigration, voter suppression to advocating for a “living wage” for all.

The need to provide a “living wage” was a central element in Sister Campbell’s keynote address on “21st Century Poverty.”

Sister Campbell advised the audience to throw away the old stereotypes of the “typically impoverished.” Today’s poor are increasingly “the working poor,” she said, recounting the story of a young woman she encountered at a special White House luncheon. The woman was filled with excitement for having been chosen to attend the event, yet before the end of the meal, she confessed that despite having a “good, full-time job” at a well-known retailer, she lived at a homeless shelter because she couldn’t afford the high cost of rents in the D.C. area. Her dream was to work and save her way out of this dilemma.

Sister Campbell doesn’t believe that anyone working a full-time job – and some working more than one job – should not be earning enough to pay for a place to live and the means to exist.

“There’s something wrong here. We say we are a nation based on family, yet we do so little to support families and hardworking individuals.”

The “nun on a bus” expressed her scepticism regarding the tax reform proposals currently being put forth on the Hill. “Trickle down does not work. We have already proven this, time and again. And you know the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result.”

Before concluding her remarks, Sister Campbell challenged the attendees to embrace certain “virtues,” including remembering to keep a “modicum of joy” in your efforts.

Secondly, she added to “use your ‘holy curiosity,’ by asking people about themselves and their situations as the way to truly know the face of 21st century poverty. Practice “sacred gossip” by sharing the stories that you hear and encouraging others to take action, and finally, just figuring out what your part is and doing it.”

Sister Campbell cautioned against trying to “do it all” or needing to take charge. “Learn whether you’re the head, the feet, the hands, whatever you do best to contribute.”

She says it took awhile, but now she knows what she does best and where she fits in. “I am the stomach acid … there to churn everybody and everything up.”

Plum followed Sister Campbell’s address, giving a mini-history of the Commonwealth, particularly in relation to slavery, the birth of a culture of racism, and the reasons why he feels the issue of monuments to Confederate war participants is far from over.

“Virginia has more such monuments than any other state,” said Plum, “with 223, almost all of them built in either the early 1900s or during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. What’s the message there?”

Like Sister Campbell, Plum also addressed the issue of poverty and the widening gap between the wealthy and the less fortunate, using a series of charts and graphs that illustrated how statistics may not tell the whole story, unless you look a little deeper.

Despite always being categorized as one of the richest states in the union, Plum showed how the “real” numbers show one geographically small portion of Virginia, the “Golden Crescent” of Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads, having a median income of $150,000. “For the rest of Virginia, that number is closer to $40,000. What do we do with that information? We have to find ways to share economic opportunities and all that comes with it to rural Virginia, as well.”

LOOKING AHEAD to the 2018 legislative session, Plum thinks redistricting could be a hot topic — and that it should be. Fighting for more school funding and the expansion of Medicaid is also on his agenda. “$10.4 billion by not expanding it. Who leaves that kind of money on the table, especially in ‘fiscally conservative’ Virginia?”

Plum warns that it “might not be pretty” when the session begins, as both parties readjust after the Democratic wins in the Nov. 7 election, but the delegate is hopeful that all the new faces bring fresh new perspectives and new solutions.

The final speaker at the forum was Gay Gardner, from Interfaith Action for Human Rights, (IAHR) speaking about her organization’s efforts to “make solitary confinement truly a last resort.”

Gardner cited numerous studies that attest to the physical and mental harm done by long-term solitary confinement.

Kimberly Jenkins-Snodgrass, a board member with IAHR spoke briefly about her own son, an inmate who has been kept in solitary for four years. Other prisoners they have contact with have been held in isolation for even longer, one for 14 years.

“Getting a straight answer as to why these men have been so confined is not easy,” Gardner said. Sometimes, solitary is employed as a response to an inmate who exhibits signs of mental illness or distress, “but solitary confinement only makes the condition worse.”

A question-and-answer session followed the speakers’ presentations. Horejsi noted that the energy in the room remained high, despite the almost overwhelming number of issues that had been brought to the table. “Must be that joy that Sister Simone told us to keep handy,” he said, before adjourning the forum and exhorting attendees to “Go and do good.”

Spreading the word is spreading GOOD NEWS!

Searchable database for those eligible to have voting rights restored.

This link (it will become more familiar with time) is to the Secretary of the Commonwealth database.

Please publicize with interested parties.

Excellent NEWS: Lawmakers Wrap-up Richmond Legislative Session

Must Read! See the Vienna/Oakton Connection Newspaper’s Legislators Wrap-up Article --

Enjoy page 3 for the pictures and text coverage of the Richmond Wrap-up. There you will be see complete text as it appears in the print edition. Click Here to view the article

Thank Tim Peterson at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; for his excellent coverage and Kimm, Mary—Editor at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

Our media Virginia International University Media Department worked on the Richmond Wrap-up video and was able to cut in into parts with the different speakers. Click Here to view the Video

Also, Click Here to view the collection of pictures

Warm Regards,
Dr. Klara Bilgin
Dean, School of Public and International Affairs
Virginia International University
4401 Village Drive
Fairfax VA 22030
Tel: (703) 591-7042 ext.352
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





Must see!  Richmond Wrap-up video here

Also, here is a collection of Wrap-up pictures

Ignatian Volunteer Corps Honors John and Mariann Horejsi of Vienna


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James Kelley, retired director of IVC’s Northern Virginia region, presented the Della Strada Award to John and Mariann Horejsi at IVC’s annual Evening of Gratitude. Photo by Jim Webster

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Photo by Jim Webster

John and Mariann Horejsi,
members of St. Mark’s parish in
Vienna, received the Ignatian
Volunteer Corps Della Strada
Award for their service and
advocacy on behalf of the
homeless and poor in the
community. The event, which
celebrated IVC’s 20th
anniversary, was held April 26 at
Gonzaga College High School.

Pope Francis, who became the Catholic Church’s newest leader in 2013, has been universally praised for emphasizing the plight of the very poor and calling for compassion for those less fortunate and marginalized by society.

Many credit the pontiff’s Ignation aesthetic – “to love and to serve” the poor - for bringing the Catholic Church back to its social justice roots.

John and Mariann Horejsi of Vienna, longtime members of St. Mark’s parish in Vienna, have dedicated their lives to those values in many different ways.

On April 26, The Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) presented the couple with the prestigious Della Strada Award for their decades of work to alleviate poverty and suffering in their community.

THE AWARD celebrates volunteers whose work and lives reflect the Ignatian values of direct service to the impoverished and of working and educating for a more just society.

“The Horejsis have devoted 30 years to alleviating poverty,” said Joan Coolidge, Northern Virginia regional director of IVC. “Mariann’s direct volunteer service and John’s nonpartisan advocacy as founder and coordinator of Social Action Linking Together have helped to improve the lives of thousands who have no voice in the public arena.”

IVC’s Della Strada Award is named for St. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1541 and established the first church - Santa Maria Della Strada - to serve the poor in Rome.

James Kelley, retired director of IVC’s Northern Virginia region, presented the award to John and Mariann Horejsi at IVC’s annual Evening of Gratitude, held at Gonzaga College High School in D.C.

“John and Mariann Horejsi have demonstrated the values that IVC cherishes: service to people who are poor, social justice and spiritual growth,” Kelley said at the event.

“Mariann, on the one hand, has dedicated herself to service in many different ways,” Kelley said, noting that she is a tireless volunteer for the homeless at Christ House in Alexandria, and dedicates her time to many other organizations, including tutoring adults to earn their high school diplomas through the Fairfax Volunteer Learning Program, helping out at the Western Fairfax Christian Food Bank, and serving the homeless at Fairfax County’s hypothermia shelters.

“While Mariann was engaged with direct service, John, who was employed by the Department of Health and Human Services, became increasingly aware of the need for advocacy for people who are poor, people who are marginalized, people who are voiceless,” Kelly said.

Kelley noted that John Horejsi’s advocacy led him to establish Social Action Linking Together (SALT) in 1983 to advocate for those in need.

“Today, SALT is a faith-based network of 1,200-plus Northern Virginians who support the passage of legislation directed to affordable housing, hunger relief programs, humane treatment of the incarcerated, tax relief for the working poor and more,” Kelley said.

“Legislators know John as the man who does the right thing for the ‘least among us’.”


IVC was founded by Frs. Jim
Conroy, S.J., and Charlie
Costello, S.J., in September
1995 with 11 volunteers in
Baltimore, Philadelphia and
Washington. Now in its 20th
year, IVC has more than 300
volunteers providing service in
16 regions. The Northern
Virginia and Washington D.C.
Metro/Maryland regions account
for 96 volunteers serving at 45
different partner agencies.

To volunteer with IVC or request
an IVC volunteer to work with a
non-profit agency that serves the
needy, contact Joan Coolidge at
703- 352-4140 or

HUNTER MILL SUPERVISOR Cathy Hudgins, who has nominated John Horejsi for several community service awards in the past 20 years, praised his service to the community.

"John's countless hours of volunteer service to fight homelessness have greatly impacted the quality of life for those less fortunate in Fairfax County and the Commonwealth," Hudgins said.

“I am so proud to be honored,” Horejsi said when accepting the award, “I’m especially proud and happy that my wife of 46 years, Mariann, is here with me. She is my partner and best friend.”

Horejsi said he takes inspiration from a sign above a door in a tiny church in Doswell, Virginia: “Enter to Worship; Leave to Serve.”

“Our appeal to the faith community is to get involved, to get ‘Out of the pew and into the Lobby’,” Horejsi said.

IVC’s ninth annual “Evening of Gratitude” began with Mass concelebrated by Monsignor Ray East, pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Southeast Washington and seven other priests at St. Aloysius Catholic Church. More than 200 in the congregation joined the singing led by the St. Teresa of Avila young adult choir.

Coolidge introduced the ceremony by quoting Pope Francis.

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful… I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” 

Social-advocacy group presses for increase in Va. minimum wage

Posted: Tuesday, December 30, 2014 10:00 am

SALT presses for increase in minimum wage

Elise Cleva of SALT testifies before the
Arlington legislative delegation. From left:
Del. Alfonso Lopez, state Sen. Adam
Ebbin, state Sen. Barbara Favola, state Sen.
Janet Howell and Del. Rip Sullivan. (Photo
courtesy Jim Webster)

The advocacy group Social Action Linking Together (SALT) used the Arlington legislative delegation’s annual hearing to press for an increase in the commonwealth’s minimum wage and other initiatives, including expansion of Medicaid and changes to Virginia’s earned-income tax credit.

At the Dec. 18 hearing, SALT backed a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to at least $10.10.

Such a move would “reduce the yawning wealth gap,” said Anne Murphy, a longtime member of SALT who represented the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy at the hearing.

Founded in 1983, SALT is a faith-based social-action organization with 1,200 members.

The group’s legislative priorities are “meant to help our neighbors who are living in poverty,” said Elise Cleva, who presented the organization’s policy package at the public hearing.

“The need for continues relief for working families in Virginia is clear,” Cleva said. “High rates of poverty, reduced wages and high unemployment mean that more families are struggling to make ends meet.”

SALT is backing a proposal by Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) to make the earned-income tax credit refundable. Those and other proposed amendments to the tax credit “will be a lifeline for working families to meet basic needs and make work pay,” Cleva said. “It’s pro-family and pro-business.”

For information on the organization and its legislative priorities, see the Web site at
By:Jim Webster This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Re: Inside NoVa

Mr. Horejsi Goes to Richmond
In the fight for social justice with patience and persistence.

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Every year, dozens of high-priced lobbyists descend on Virginia’s state capitol.

Some tantalize with promises of business investment and jobs; others represent important campaign contributors, while some say they can deliver votes

Q and A with John Horejsi

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: "I was born and grew up in a small Czech community called Bechyn, Minnesota – named after Bechyne located south of Prague in the Czech Republic, and the place where my family immigrated from to settle in Minnesota. Bechyn is located about 40 miles from the South Dakota border in southwest Minnesota."

Q: Who is your hero?

A: "Hubert Horatio Humphrey - vice president from 1965-69 under President Lyndon B. Johnson. He best exemplified ‘selfless and devoted service in the cause of human dignity for the poor.’ He knew that a government that cares about the unfortunate is a government that deserves our respect. He understood that compassion is not weakness and that concern for the unfortunate is not socialism."

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

A: Enjoy Vienna restaurants, visiting family and friends in Minnesota during Bechyn CzechFest celebration of Czech heritage/culture during the summer, and spending time with granddaughter in Virginia Beach. Also, love visiting friends in the Czech Republic. I also love to attend weekly free "Concerts on the Green" in Vienna during the summer Concert series.

Q: What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

A: A workplace Motivational
Speaker advised that if your impact on this world is limited because you’re not allowed to practice your social work training and skills, on your job, then you should use your skills to volunteer on your own time to make a difference. When I contacted then Supervisor Jim Scott, he immediately appointed me to the Fairfax County Social
Services Advisory Board, and the Bishop of Arlington appointed me to the Catholic Charities Board of Arlington Diocese. From there, the founding of SALT
(Social Action Linking  Together)
and many advocacy successes

Q: What is the best advice you've given your children?

A: Make a difference with your life by working with people - to serve; not to be served.

from key constituencies.

They are often joined by Vienna resident John Horejsi, 71, who offers legislators, a simple, singular opportunity: to do the right thing for the socially disadvantaged.

Part Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, part Don Quixote tilting at windmills, Horejsi is regarded by many lawmakers as a man of conviction and persistence.

Those traits often give him the credibility other lobbyists lack, when his idealistic — and sometimes naïve — pleas for social justice collide with more powerful and persuasive agendas.

And like Jefferson Smith — the character played by Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s timeless parable of Good vs. Evil — Horejsi believes that lawmakers have a moral imperative to care about the powerless and voiceless, the "least among us."

"There are times when he’s a little bit like Robin Hood," said state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31), a potent ally who has helped Horejsi advance legislation that helps the poor, the homeless, prisoners and children. "The difference is that John doesn’t have a bow and arrow to convince the rich to help the poor."

"I guess that’s true. I don’t have a bow and arrow, and there are times I feel like Mr. Smith in Richmond," Horejsi said, smiling. Like Jefferson Smith, Horejsi said he wouldn’t give "two cents for all the fancy rules if, behind them, they didn’t have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness, and a little looking out for the other fella too."

After speaking to a group about homelessness and hunger during a Catholic Charities conference in 1981, Horejsi found others willing to fight for "the other fella" in Richmond. He and a "ragtag band" of eight formed Social Action Linking Together, commonly known as "SALT."

What began with a few social justice pioneers is now one of the most active and influential nonpartisan advocacy groups from Northern Virginia with 1,200-plus active members.

SALT’s mission is simple: keep social justice issues front and center with Virginia lawmakers. But the group’s legislative initiatives touch a staggeringly wide range of public welfare issues. Since the early 1980s, SALT has introduced bills benefitting the homeless, children, families, employees who face discrimination and other low-income Virginians who lack a secure safety net.

According to Robert Stewart, a founding member of SALT, members bring "the social, economic and justice teachings of their faith to bear on public policy and legislation."

Whether lawmakers support SALT’s message or not, many respect the messenger, who has a knack for being pushy without being rude and insolent.

"He is a very nice man with a big heart. He states the way we all wish the world would be," said Del. David Albo (R-42), the most senior Republican from Northern Virginia in Richmond. "But the world is not always like the way we want it to be."

"(His) work with the Homeless Intervention Program (HIP) and SALT alone has done more good for more people than most citizens are capable of imagining," said Del. Ken Plum (D-36), who has served in the Virginia legislature since 1982.

As an elected official, Plum said he hears regularly from constituents who sometimes lack the basic necessities in life.

"I know what John’s activism over the years has meant to Northern Virginians," Plum said.


Like most movements that have a profound and lasting impact, SALT was years in the making.

For Horejsi, the seeds of compassion were planted early.

He was born and raised in the tiny farming town of Bechyn, Minn. — which listed its population as 30 in the 1920 U.S. Census. Shortly after World War II, Horejsi’s mother died and his father was unable to care for him.

He was taken in by impoverished relatives, who treated him, he said, with kindness.

"When my mother died everything changed. Since my father was unable to care for me, I was placed into the state social services Kinship Care system," Horejsi said.

"Who knows what would have happened to me or where I would be today without their help and the support of social services. Being aware of my personal situation sensitized me and always made me feel like I should do something," he said.

Horejsi said another powerful event in his life was meeting a 16-year-old homeless teen in Alexandria in 1985. When the girl’s mother was laid off from her job, they became homeless, living out of their car for a short time before moving to a homeless shelter for six months.

"After meeting her, I felt strongly that we should help the homeless. That’s when we started our successful advocacy for the Homeless Intervention Program (HIP) to prevent homelessness," Horejsi said.

Thanks to programs and services available to the homeless, the young woman went on to study with the Virginia Ballet School and Company and earned a law degree from Catholic University in 1993.

Horejsi said he will never forget her. "In fact, many people might know her name today, because they voted her into office," Horejsi said.

The homeless teen Horejsi met was Charneille Herring, who has served as a Democrat in the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 46th district, since 2009. In December 2012, she became the first African-American elected chair of the Democratic Party of Richmond.

"These kinds of life events cause you to think, ‘What are you doing for others?’"

A MAJOR VICTORY; A STUNNING DEFEAT The political culture in Richmond is frequently compared to a Greek tragedy — most of the plot twists and turns happen off stage. Those who don’t know how the system works, or who don’t know how to work the system, soon get frustrated and give up.

"Richmond is not constituent-friendly," Horejsi said. "It is very frustrating and disappointing that many of our bills pass the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and then die in some sub-committee."

The political winds are constantly shifting, and Horejsi said he and other SALT advocates must constantly monitor bills during session, so they have an opportunity to educate legislators and influence their votes.

"This year started off as an amazing surprise," Horejsi said. "During our first visit we met with 11 legislators — not just their aides. This was a record."

"There seemed to be a new era of good feeling and cooperation. Almost all our bills began to pass quickly through assigned subcommittees and then full committees unanimously with lightning speed," Horejsi said.

But during "crossover" — when bills pass from the Senate to the House — several SALT-backed bills stalled, getting caught in the larger political crossfire that goes hand-in-hand with crossover.

Take Medicaid expansion, for example, which was SALT’s number one priority this session.

On Saturday, March 8, the General Assembly adjourned its 60-day session, yet lawmakers left Richmond without passing Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s number one priority — a $96 billion budget that included expanding Medicaid eligibility for roughly 400,000 Virginia residents.

Republicans in the GOP-controlled House opposed the expansion, saying the rapidly-growing program still needs reform, and the debate should be separated from the budget.

A key part of the new federal health care law, the issue deadlocked the GOP-controlled House and the Democratically-controlled Senate. In response, McAuliffe immediately called for a special session to begin in two weeks.

SALT members argue that turning down roughly $5 million a day in federal funds associated with expanded Medicaid eligibility could have severe consequences, such as shutting down many hospitals in rural communities.

SALT also lost its battle to "Ban the Box." If passed, Virginia would have joined the growing number of states that give job applicants with a prior criminal conviction a "fair chance" at getting a job.

The legislation, filed by Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45), would have removed the box on applications for state jobs that asks people if they have been convicted of a felony.

"This is not about hiding an individual's past," Krupicka said in a letter to constituents, noting that employers can still ask about criminal history during the interview process.

"All this bill aims to do is help ex-offenders reach more job interviews that hopefully will lead to more jobs … In Alexandria alone, 13 people are released from jail every day. In trying to re-integrate into society, finding employment can be one of the most useful factors in reducing recidivism rates," Krupicka said.

Horejsi called Ban the Box an "essential" component of any meaningful program designed to help former prisoners reenter society, and said he was extremely disheartened when it failed — at the 11th hour — in the House Courts of Justice Committee, chaired by Del. Dave Albo.

"I wish the world was like John (envisions it), but taxpayers are maxed out, and there are violent people among us that the only place safe is to have them in prison," Albo said in an interview Sunday. "We have limited money and there are bad guys out there that want to hurt people. John's positions are always what we could do with unlimited money and assume that all criminals could be rehabilitated."

In the plus column, SALT was successful in moving work share legislation through the General Assembly and on to the governor’s desk for his signature.

State Senators George Barker (D-39) and Bill Stanley (R-20) were instrumental in getting the legislation passed this year, after it failed last year. Horejsi said both senators, and SALT advocates, worked closely with the Virginia Employment Commission to ensure that the bill works with current VEC programs.

The program lessens the impact of layoffs by allowing employers to reduce the hours of their existing work force instead of letting employees go. A kind of unemployment insurance in reverse, the program comes with free federal dollars to keep workers in their jobs instead of supporting them after they’re laid off.

"Having been through the recession and recent slight increases in Virginia unemployment rates as federal sequestration takes effect, it is important that we give Virginia businesses all the tools we can to help them and their employees get through challenging times. This bill does that," Barker said in an interview at the beginning of this year’s legislative session.

Horejsi admits there are times when he gets discouraged by "politics as usual."

"What keeps me going are notes like this, from a parishioner of St. Anne’s," Horejsi said:

"John, I just want you to know I appreciate all of these emails you send. I was at St. Ann's community weekend today. I saw your sign-up sheet. I feel bad that with all that is going on with my life right now, that i haven't had time to help, but please keep the emails coming. I enjoy your posts. Every once in a while it is a helpful reminder that there are others who care."

"I truly believe there is always hope," Horejsi said, after the General Assembly session ended. "For example, Sen. Jill Vogel, the only Republican senator to vote for our Ban the Box bill during a lively debate, made a beautiful and inspiring speech about some of her most loyal employees being those with former convictions."

Horejsi is already gearing up for next year’s session, studying legislation and organizing constituent education meetings.

Despite the sometimes overwhelming odds against social justice bills, Horejsi said he refuses to let social justice issues become submerged in the tide

of legislation that benefits only wealthy corporations and constituents

"Legislators have told us that what they really respect about us is that we’re not asking anything for ourselves," Horejsi said. "We’re asking on behalf of those who are the most desperate and in the greatest need … That’s why SALT will remain intimately involved in the process."

For more information on SALT, and how to get involved, visit the SALT website at


SALT Awarded Hunter Mill’s Pennino Community Service Honors

IVC Celebrates Communities of Compassion--

Recently, the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) honored John Horejsi, Coordinator of SALT a partner service organization and Bob Stewart a IVC Volunteer for outreach & Public Affairs at a special Luncheon ceremony.

SALT was honored for it's legislative advocacy successes. SALT proposes and shapes fair public social policies through our education of policy makers & our advocacy for the poor and powerless. Stewart was honored for the contribution of his outreach skills and efforts at SALT in behalf of the less fortunate among us.

The IVC matches volunteers With organizations that need people to help make a difference in the lives of the poor. Joanie Coolidge, IVC Director, expressed IVC's sincerest thanks and appreciation for the opportunity to celebrate your service in the Northern Virginia community and look forward to future partnership!

John Horejsi & Delegate Mark Keam

Thanks to Hunter Mill Committee for recognizing the SALT advocacy role in for advancing human dignity and the common good especially thru the tireless work of advocates in giving a voice to the most vulnerable in our state.

Thanks to all who attended and support the work of SALT advocates, your presence is very much appreciated.

John Horejsi Thank you Delegate Keam for all you do to advance human dignity and the common good.

Thanks to Hunter Mill Dems for honoring SALT with their Pennino Community Service award.
It was a very special event and a high honor.

Thanks to Catherine Read for tagging in a video on Facebook.
To see the video, click here (enjoy):

Vienna Resident Making a Difference

John Horejsi, founder of SALT, talks about starting a volunteer group that brings important social issues to legislators
By Rebecca Halik

John Horejsi, who resides in Vienna, founded Social Action Linking Together (SALT) in 1983. He retired from working in social services this past September, yet his life is just as busy now as when he balanced working for social services organizations and volunteering with SALT. The interview centered on his work with SALT.

Q.What is the mission of SALT and why is it important to the commonwealth of Virginia?
A. SALT works to educate legislators and be a voice for low-income families when no one hears them. SALT is important because it will help people realize that no matter their circumstances, they are not immune to being homeless. Anyone in Virginia can become homeless in a second. For example, there was this woman who was taking care of her terminally ill sister, and she used all of her life savings to pay for a funeral and take care of medical bills. Through Homeless Intervention Program (HIP), which was SALT's first campaign and established in 1995, she was able to get enough money to pay her rent, so she would not lose her house. HIP is a program that provides grants and loans to families who are temporarily at risk of losing their house. If someone needs help, then SALT, through one of their programs, is there in a time of need.

Q. How did you get the idea to start SALT?
A. I was speaking at a conference on hunger, and afterwards a man came up to me and said that he went to this conference before, and wanted to help, but after the conference was over, there were no programs to help the poor. I sent a sheet around for people to give contact information so we could think of a way to help and get our message out. Eight people signed up and that was the beginning of SALT. The name came from the bible. Salt makes everything better and changes the way things are. SALT reflects what we do and how we see ourselves changing Virginia for the better. We make things go together and we wanted our mission to link together faith and action.

Q. What were some of the first issues addressed by SALT?
A. The first issue we lobbied to Congress was to remove the state's sales tax from the federal food stamps program. We found that $9.5 million belonging to the poor on food stamps went to the state treasury and not into their homes in the way of food or other necessary items. Through SALT's work, Virginia and 18 other states removed the sales tax on the federal food stamps program. Another program that we lobbied was Home for the Holidays campaign, which resulted in HIP. During this campaign, the idea of letter writing came up. We wanted our representatives in both houses to understand which issues were important so they could decide to co-sponsor them. We gave our parishioners an idea of what to write for the letter, but they could personalize it with little facts about why this is important to them and why the delegates should listen. These letters were called Home for the Holidays because they were sent out to look like Christmas cards and they were dealing with keeping people in their homes. Two thousand two hundred letters were sent out that first time and they get sent out with every issue that we decide we want to lobby. After the letters were sent out, we gained a reputation from the legislators of being very persistent and having lots of integrity.

Q. How do you plan on getting youth involved in SALT?
A. That is a topic that has not been fully discussed. We know that to know youth is to know the future, but most teenagers stop volunteering once they get an A in that specific class. There are the exceptions, however. When Horejsi taught social justice at St. Mark's, a student said that he would like to testify on HIP. A homeless girl testified with him. When they testified the legislators were completely focused on them and what they had to say. Their presentation was flawless. I hope that after he speaks to classes, that young people will have greater respect for advocacy. Anyone who is interested is able to join the list-serv and get the e-mails that SALT sends out regarding their next meeting. Members of SALT are going to discuss how they can get youth involved in advocating for those who do not have a voice.

Q. What are your plans for your retirement?
A. I want to continue volunteering until I am in a nursing home. Right now it takes up all of my time, so I am not able to really enjoy being retired, but I do want to spend more time with my family. My dream is to go to the Czech Republic and see where my family is from. I started working on my family's genealogy tree, but I stopped working on it when SALT became big, so I have not worked on it in 20 years. I am also learning how to speak Czech. I spoke it when I was little, but after my grandfather passed away, the family stopped speaking it.

Fact Box
• Name: John Horejsi, founder and coordinator of SALT
• Birthday: June 9, 1940 in a small town in southwest corner of Minnesota.
• Family: Mariann, Wife of 36 years; and daughter Christine.
• Profession: Before he retired he worked in social services
• Favorite topic to read: Dorothy Day biographies and reading about Vaclav Havel
• Favorite music: Polka music


Catholic Digest Hero

Dear Mr. John Horejsi, I'm delighted to inform you that following your nomination by George Alexa, you've been selected by our editorial staff as a Catholic Hero to be featured in the November 2010 issue of Catholic Digest. This special issue of our magazine will celebrate Catholic laypeople who demonstrate a strong commitment to their Catholic faith and to making a difference in the world. A feature about you and your work with SALT will accompany write-ups of 11 other Catholic heroes and activists who are quietly putting their faith into action, providing medical care, helping children, rebuilding New Orleans, counseling youth, working to promote the sanctity of life, and empowering the poor.

From: Kate Oates Subject: Catholic Digest: Catholic Heroes (You've been chosen!) Congratulations! And thank you for all that you do! Article follows. God Bless, Kathryn Oates Kathryn S. Oates | Assistant Editor Catholic Digest 1 Montauk Ave., New London, CT 06320

John Horejsi Founder of SALT

“Out of the pew and into the lobby.”

Taken in by poor relatives after his mother died, John Horejsi was moved by the sacrifices they made to care for him. “These kinds of life events cause you to think, what are you doing for others?” Inspired, he became a passionate social worker, devoting his time to impoverished people.

After speaking at a Catholic Charities conference about homelessness and hunger, his audience decided to organize themselves and take action. “We learned that Virginia was charging sales tax on food stamps. They were scraping like $9.5 million of food off the top of the federal food stamp program for families at risk of hunger.” Outraged, the group went to Virginia to lobby their cause. They contacted a senator who discovered that 18 other states were also taxing the food stamp program, which was also about to be further marked up in price.

Thanks to the combined efforts of the group and sympathetic politicians, the mark up bill was stopped, and the tax removed. Heartened by their success, SALT (Social Action Linking Together) was founded. “We seek to keep social justice issues front and center at the Virginia General Assembly. We have to be up there to speak for these bills or there’s no chance that anything will ever be done for poor people. One legislator told me, ‘whenever we have a hearing, if the issue is for rich people, you can’t get in the door. But when we’re talking about poor folks, the room is empty.’”

Encouraged, SALT began diligently tackling new problems. The group found out that homeless shelters were filled past capacity, and thousands of families were being turned away. Getting to the root of the problem, they lobbied for the Homeless Intervention Program (HIP) that offers rental assistant for up to four months. “Most of these people are on the edge of homelessness because of a crisis. They lose their job or have medical expenses.” The program offers individuals a chance to recover without losing everything in the process, and is currently keeping 7,600 families in their homes each year.

“Legislators have said that the thing they really respect about us is that we’re not asking anything for ourselves, but we’re asking something for those are most desperate and in the greatest need.” Nominated by George Alexa, Arlington Diocese.  Contact  S.A.L.T at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


SALT Success!

Virginia Income Tax Credit Coalition Mini-Grants

Out of this appropriation, $230,000 the first year and $230,000 the second year shall be provided to the Virginia Community Action Partnership to support the Virginia Earned Income Tax Coalition and provide grants to local organizations to provide outreach, education and tax preparation services to citizens who may be eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. The Virginia Community Action Partnership shall report on its efforts to expand the number of Virginians who are able to claim the federal EITC, including the number of individuals identified who could benefit from the credit, the number of individuals counseled on the availability of the federal EITC, and the number of individuals assisted with tax preparation to claim the federal EITC. This report shall be provided to the Governor and the Chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees and the Chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission by December 1 each year."