About Us

Although society as a whole has made a significant gains in the areas of cultural diversity, the symphony from Dr. King's dream isn't quite playing in complete harmony yet. As with many social dynamics, it comes down to perspective, and while many in Idaho Falls would agree that cultural diversity and discrimination aren't a problem, it may simply be because they do not see it first-hand. The majority of citizens are truly open, friendly and welcoming; however, a gap still remains in the understanding between cultures and ethnicities. Promoting diversity and expanding awareness is exactly why the Idaho Falls African American Alliance was started. The group began their mission more than thirteen years ago with community-based
activities such as offering tutoring services and financial assistance to students. In 2006, a small group from the INL came together to help an Idaho Falls teen, and the idea of an official organization focused on providing assistance and advancing diversity was born. "One of the managers at the INL was talking to me about this African American kid who was incredible debater," recalls Dave Snell, the current President of IFAAA. "He'd won all sorts of prelimenary competitions in debate, but he didn't have the financial means to travel to the regional finals. So we got together and raised $300 and passed it on to this student. It made me think how nice it would be if we could help out the kids in the area who are in need. We are blessed with great jobs. We have the means to help others. Why not do it?" The message of
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has always been central to the mission of the IFAAA, and honoring him with a banquet tohelp raise money for the assistance they provide was a natural development.It spotlights the IFAAA and its message of understanding, respect, and acceptance across all cultures and ethnicities. If anyone could unite people to support such an undertaking, it would be Dave Snell. Dave is very enthusiastic and upbeat, a classic "people-person" who enjoys to, being with, and helping others. Having grown up in Utah, Snell remembers moving to Idaho Falls nearly 35 years ag0. He recalls some of the difficulty he had even with things as simple as finding a place to get a haircut. "Idaho Falls is a great town," Snell says, "but it's a community that does not have a lot of African Americans, so one of the
initial goals for us was that we wanted to be a resource for information about where you can get products and services, and to introduce our culture to the community. Dr. King's dream was bringing poeple together. We decided that was one thing we could do with our banquet," says Snell. "It is probably the one event in Idaho Falls, throughout the year where you can go and see such a diverse group," agrees Dennis Patterson, former IFAAA President. "Native Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Caucasians, all alongside African Americans and all coming together to celebrate Dr. king and his message." Thirteen years later, the IFAAA is still growing, and the annual banquet has developed to the point that planning takes up most of the year. Over the years they have been proud to host such prestigious people as Dr. Walter
Massey, past President of Morehouse College; Pete Miller, who has served as the Undersecretary of Energy, and Freeman Hrabowski, voted one of TIME magazine's "100 Most Influential People of 2012". For the 2015 banquet, the IFAAA was pleased to have Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb speak. Senator Webb was the first African American woman elected to the Idaho Senate and her message of being purposeful in leaving a legacy was timely and well-received. Annual attendance at the banquet averages between 300 and 400 people and the proceeds have allowed the IFAAA to provide scholarship assistance to students as well as give back to the community through the supporting other local non-profit organizations. "Being an African American was a part of who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was." Snell explains,
"He was a man and a pastor first, though. That is why I wanted to bring Don Patterson in to be a part of this. I always remember God in what I do. He gave me the talents and abilities I have so,I wanted to make sure we had a spiritual counsel included in what we were doing." Pastor Don Patterson has lived most of his life in Southeast Idaho and has always felt as if was in a position to teach. "Going to school here from kindergarten trhough high school and attending Idaho State University, I always tried to share of myself to educate others," Pastor Patterson says. "That is one of the biggest parts of our mission with the IFAAA; to educate and bring awareness to remove the stereo type images that people have primarily about African Americans, but we also want to remove the stereo type images of all people." Dave
Snell echoes Pastor Patterson's thoughts and adds that "it was important from the start to bring together men and women of varying backgrounds." He believes the assets each person can bring to the table will strengthen the organization and will, in turn, strengthen families, churches, and the community. Like many people, Dave believes that is how you strengthen the world. This spirit is reflected in the fact that all of the IFAAA members add value to the organization's efforts to promote diversity. Keith Morse, Executive Secretary for the IFAAA, is another person whose strengths are of service to the organization. He has worked in managerial positions for most of his career, both with the State of Washington and the Boeing Company.
"What I contribute to the IFAAA is that I am really big on planning and organization," Morse says. "I like to provide facts and data and make things happen. You always get great returns from serving others, and I really believe in the organization's message of understanding that we are all equal, encouraging people to treat each other with love, respect and consideration. There are a lot of rough edges in society. This brings us together as one purpose in everything we do." IFAAA member Jolyn Thomas is also an example of not only diversity within the IFAAA, but of how different people's skills and backgrounds can be useful. Jolyn hosts a radio talk show, "The Jolyn Thomas Show" at Talkzone.com. Like many, she was moved at a young age by Dr. King's legendary "I Have A Dream" speech.
"My goals and beliefs were the same as Dave's and the organization," Thomas says. "I loved how much Dr. King's philosophies were so significant to the IFAAA's message of diversity and acceptance." Her job as a talk show host has allowed Thomas to be able to explore issues of diversity. When the nation was focused on cultural diversity issues in larger cities across The United States, Thomas brought in Sergeant Doug Matcalf from the Sheriff's Department and Dave Snell as guests on her show. "The purpose was to look at how national events were going to impact our local community and how westrengthen our community. You don't think it would happen in Idaho Falls, but it can have a trickle-down effect." Reaching out to the youth in the community through the school system is an additional way the IFAAA
is promoting diversity. Many of the group's members have gone to local schools to speak about diversity and equality, and some are playing a role simply through their presence. Dennis Patterson has given talks in schools about diversity and inclusion and also is a substitute teacher in the Idaho Falls school distict. "Enhancing diversity in the school system was one of our concerns when we started walking about forming the IFAAA. We felt it was important to provide a presence in leadership and educational roles," Patterson says. "Since I began as a subsitute, it has been very rewarding building relationships with all of the students. The minority of students' response to seeing someone who looks like them is visible surprise, and it's been valuable to be able to work with them.
"The continued growth and corporate sponsorship over the years of the Martin Luther King Banquet, along with the outreach to the families and increased efforts in schools, has created excitement and enthusiasm for the organization to do more. Education is a priority for everyone involved with the IFAAA, and the group is looking at ways to increase understanding and bring this vision to fruition. In the coming monts and years, the community of Idaho Falls will likely see the IFAAA's presence become more prominent as they sponsor and participate in more activities that promote unity and strive to bring the community together. The group recognizes Dr. King's historical message is still relevant and important today, and they have made it a priority to share that message and rbing the richness of his spirit to the community.

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