E.C. Reems Community Services (EC Reems) was founded in 1989 and gained nonprofit status in 2012, with the mission of advocating on behalf of the community and providing for community members’ educational needs. Bishop Ernestine Reems founded EC Reems based on her experiences as a pastor at The Center of Hope Church, which has served Oakland residents for over 45 years. Through her work at the church, she saw deeply rooted needs within the ethnically diverse community of east Oakland from everything including healthcare to education. It was with these deep community bonds Bishop Reems went on to create EC Reems. In the past 30 years, the organization has instituted a number of programs and events including job fairs, health fairs, mental health training, workforce training, K-12 education and ongoing educational initiatives.
LIVE LIFE WELL
Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable disease and death and a major risk factor in the development of cardiovascular disease. Of the approximately 480,000 Americans who die from smoking each year, 35% of those deaths are from cardiovascular disease. While cigarette smoking rates have decreased in recent years, the number of youth and adolescents using new forms of tobacco, such as e-cigarettes or vaping, has skyrocketed placing decades of progress at risk.
To help combat the tremendous toll tobacco use has on this country, we support policies such as providing adequate funding for tobacco cessation and prevention programs, tobacco taxes, expanding smoke-free air laws, raising the minimum purchase age, and meaningful regulation of all tobacco products. These policies can lead to significant reductions in tobacco use and result in health and economic benefits.
Tobacco use remains a challenge as youths are gravitating towards electronic smoking devices over traditional cigarettes, which has been linked with a higher rate of smoking cigarettes later on. Furthermore, EC Reems and its partners have observed in our communities the increased use of ENDS and the misconception that these devices present little to no health risks.
Addressing tobacco-related health inequities by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status and place of residence requires a broad framework with a strong focus on policy, systems and environmental change efforts. Alameda County communities have been at the forefront for local adoption of tobacco control policies. Unfortunately, many agencies have limited experience in policy advocacy and, therefore, do not often have an effective voice in their community. Based on this evidence, EC Reems is aware that along with its partner organizations, it has access to populations that suffer disproportionate consequence from tobacco use and are critical to access in the pursuit of eliminating tobacco’s devastating effects.
Women Far Above Rubies (WFAR) is a program assisting women post-release from prison reunite with their families, aid in job readiness, and housing support. This program was born from the vision of Bishop Ernestine C. Reems. She saw the family dysfunction in the African American community. She knew that only through directly addressing the historical causes of broken African American families could real healing take place. Because of the disproportionate rate of single parent African American households in Oakland, mothers-daughter relationships were chosen as the starting point. WFAR was born of this vision and has resulted in 125 mother-daughter teams being trained in mutually respectful, loving communication, healthy parent-child dynamics, having parental boundaries, active and positive parenting, healthy versus unhealthy discipline and punishments, and stronger familial bonds. Our programs are non-paralleled in the African American community. In addition to having a spiritual calling to serve, Pastor Maria Reems, Pastor Brondon Reems, our deacons, pastoral staff and all church officials are called to engage, lead and empower a community comprised of persons of African Americans, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Hispanic, and African heritage, from all socioeconomic levels through social media, door to door canvassing and volunteer engagement.
WHAT WE CAN OFFER
EC Reems has focused its work on African American populations in east Oakland. Within this audience, we work with groups that include formerly incarcerated, those struggling with homelessness, mothers and children, and more. EC Reems is focused on not only providing ongoing support to aid our community in creating, developing, and implementing solutions in the long term, but also responding to urgent and arising needs. The work we have achieved within the past three decades would not have been possible without partnerships with individuals, public and private organizations, faith-based agencies, and medical practitioners.
EC Reems’ background working closely with community members, especially families, aligns with tobacco use prevention and reduction. We believe that big issues are best addressed at their root: in the communities and households most affected by them. Over the past 30 years, we have developed strong ties with community members and operate within a larger network of religious institutions, social service agencies, and healthcare providers to identify and address the needs of this community. EC Reems has observed first-hand how smoking tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) have disrupted community health, especially for African Americans. It is precisely EC Reems’ experience and in-reach to this community—which has been deeply impacted by the tobacco industry—that makes the organization a valuable resource for providing tobacco use prevention and reduction services to African Americans in Alameda County.