Last fall, Andrea Bazan got a phone call from the White House.
Would she be willing to be considered as a candidate for the president's advisory council on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships?
The state's leading Hispanic advocate did not take long to answer.
"I was very humbled and honored to be asked," said Bazan, who now serves as president of the Triangle Community Foundation.
Months of "heavy-duty" vetting later, President Barack Obama on Friday announced her appointment to the council, which brings together religious leaders, scholars and other experts to recommend ways to improve partnerships between government and private groups.
Other appointees to the 25-member council include Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church USA.
The council, which convenes for one year, typically examines ways to better deliver social services. The last council, which recently completed its work, examined ways to help the poor during the economic recovery. It also made recommendations on issues such as fatherhood and healthy families and interreligious cooperation.
In 2001, President George W. Bush launched a faith-based initiative by establishing a White House office to help religious organizations seek federal funds to combat problems such as drug addiction and homelessness. Obama revamped the office and created the advisory panel to include a broad cross section of the nation's religious and secular leaders.
Bazan helped found El Pueblo, North Carolina's largest Hispanic advocacy group, later serving as its first executive director. In 2008, she was named chairwoman of the National Council of La Raza's board of directors. The council, based in Washington, is the largest civil rights advocacy organization in the country.
Bazan, who is Roman Catholic, said her role will be to bring expertise in the fields of community organizing and philanthropy.
"Obviously, now because of the economic downturn, these organizations are more vital than ever," she said.
A native of Argentina, Bazan came to the United States at age 14. She earned master's degrees in public health and social work from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1995. She lives in Durham with her three daughters.
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