Tuesday, November 11, 2008

There are simply not enough programs out there!

In today's New York Times, the topic of donating to charity in tough times was highlighted. The article does an excellent job of highlighting the different types of charities and the ramifications that the tough economic climate will have over the next couple of years. I also was especially pleased in the comments section where a lot of people commented that they would try and donate at least something this Holiday Season, even though they were trying to tighten their budget.

Which, reminds me of a great idea. One of my mom's best friends' extended family (and it's a big, loving family!) decided that rather than give material gifts to each other, the family decided that they would each choose another family member in a drawing. Then they would donate an amount of money they would be comfortable with to a charity of the person's choice. One year the family all decided to choose the same charity - the Fanconi Anemia Research Foundation since a mutual friend's 3 sisters all have been afflicted with this genetic condition. What's great about this idea is that it can be translated to every family and could include a variety of organizations. It's all a great lesson to teach kids - is your child interested in saving the whales? - give a donation in their name to Greenpeace. Is your child an avid reader? - donate in their name to a literacy organization such as Literacy Volunteers of Illinois. This will not only be a great legacy to leave your child, but will teach them the life-long passion for giving to others. What better gift for the Holidays could there be.

One of the reader's comments though was that there are too many charitable organizations out there. What I'm finding more and more in my position as Tutor/Mentor Research and Networking Coordinator is that at least for tutoring and mentoring organizations there are simply not enough. This was especially brought to my attention when I was reading Mike's blog the other day and he was highlighting the 34th Illinois Representative District. The 34th district only has three tutoring and mentoring programs, Link Unlimited Tutor/Mentor Program, Tuley Park, and Smith Elementary School Tutoring Program. The 34th district encompasses the far southside neighborhoods of Chatham, Pullman, South Deering, Hegewisch and the suburbs of Burnham, Calumet City, and Lansing. While many of these neighborhoods have less than 10% living below the poverty lines, the neighborhoods of Pullman and Chatham have areas that have up to 50% of their population living below the poverty line. There are also 12 failing schools within this district. That's far too much of the population living in poverty and far too many failing schools in this district for there to be only three tutoring and/or mentoring programs here.

This is why, at our conference, we are highlighting the need to expand the number of volunteer-based tutoring and mentoring programs in a panel discussion. The panel discussion will be from 11am-12:15pm and will be led by Art Mollenhauer, who is the CEO of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago. We still need other panelists, so if you are passionate about helping kids in need where there are not enough programs, let me know!

And always, just a reminder that our Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference will be NEXT FRIDAY, November 21st at the Field Museum. Even if you can come for this one particular workshop, or even if you can come for the breakfast networking session from 8-9am or the lunchtime networking session from 12:15-1:30pm we encourage everybody to come!

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