Unfortunately, it's come to this. I get the feeling when I talk to people in these hard economic times about the dire financial situation faced by the non profit where I work, people chalk it up to just another charity whining for more hand outs.
I wish it wasn't worse than that.
I can't emphasize enough how close our mapping service is to disappearing... and if you've never taken the time to read through what it is we do, and why we are so important to families and students in Chicagoland, please make this the first time you've taken a hard look and read all the way through.
We are running a Map-A-Thon. We need just a couple hundred people to donate $25 or thereabouts, to keep our heads above water for the rest of the year.
Your $25 will help us continue to fight against crime and poverty… and provide invaluable strategic resources to students, families, volunteers community leadership, and - I believe - you and me.
Let me explain quickly why this important mapping effort needs to continue, and why its existance is in jeopardy.
Our maps directly support the growth of new and existing tutor/mentor programs… programs that pair professional volunteers with impoverished students who want to move away from a path that leads to desperation and hopelessness, and "catch up" to those on a path to a bright future that includes college and productive careers.
In the end, through tutoring and mentoring, students are equipped with life skills and guidance.
But the volunteers grow spiritually and emotionally as well, as they get to know kids they otherwise only hear about via associations with negative news, but find - once they meet - that these students are largely capable and often brilliant. The students often just need additional tutoring and mentoring.
The problem though, is that often no one knows these programs exist - volunteers, students, parents, and neighboring leaders who want to work toward solutions to poverty and violence don't know where to look to find programs like these - programs that work on shoestring non-profit budgets with overwhelmed staffs and little to no marketing.
We maintain a directory/database, and map locations of programs, in spatial relation to poverty and failing schools and community/business resources.
With one of our maps in hand, potential allies can find each other and work to increase support for new programs where none exist (and our maps show this need, and these locations, clearly).
Our maps also show neighboring community leaders where they can direct potential volunteers and much needed dollars, to ensure the growth of programs.
And therein lies our second BIGGER problem:
Our customers - the programs themselves - have no money to support our efforts!
We built and maintain our infrastructure (which includes a map gallery, strategy documents, this blog, and a real-time interactive map on Google technologies) - ALL on a $50,000 grant we received almost two years ago.
The money is gone.
As we begin to finally get the message out (we were featured on WLUW radio and in the June 2009 issue of Youth Today recently, and President Obama's Barbershop and Webster Wine Bar display our maps to customers at their locations)... as we finally begin to make a difference (several program representatives at a May Conference on Tutoring/Mentoring told us they find supporters through our maps)... the money has run out.
The economy is not getting better. There is more violence and frustration than ever.
More than ever, our efforts need to continue to help communities come together in tough times to guide kids off streets and onto productive paths.
This Map-A-Thon is hoping to raise the money we need to keep the effort going for a few more months. If you have any money to help us maintain our goal, please consider helping us meet our goal of $5000. Just a few dollars will help toward this goal.
(Of course, if you know benefactors looking for a philanthropic tax write off, with an interest in the wars on poverty and crime... in the sad phenomenon of "failing schools" ... in children and education... please guide them out way. We ultimately need a sustainable long-term cash flow to work for students into the future... and to not have to bother you with fundraisers.)
This is a community effort, and more than ever, we need your help to keep working to help the community come together through maps.