Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Christians! Love Thy Neighbor! (Part 2)

Wow it's snowing again!!! Another perfectly Christmasy scene on the streets of Chicago today.

I was down by Water Tower earlier today (dropping off my new Christmas single at WLUW fm... which will be featured on Friday at 2pm), and I was swept up by a torrent of thousands of happy last-minute shoppers, surely filling their bags with gifts to be shared with family, friends, colleagues and neighbors on Friday, Christmas day.

Admittedly, I'm not the most devoutly religious person you'll meet, but it's hard for anyone this time of year to ignore these clear examples of what the holiday season means: Goodwill toward men... love thy neighbor... charity. These are the same values that appear in holiday carols, TV cartoons, and greeting cards everywhere this month.

And like I said yesterday, it's just too easy to draw connections between the Christian virtues promoted by the Christmas season, and Tutor/Mentor Connection support for student learning and growth in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Please consider a charitable Christmas donation to Tutor/Mentor Connection or Mapping For Justice, to help us continue working for at-risk youth in neighboring communities throughout Chicagoland.

Like yesterday, today I am featuring maps that show the locations of Christian churches, categorized by denomination, in relationship to areas of high poverty and the highways that Christians use to go in, out and through the city every day.

"Let all your things be done with charity." - Corinthians 16:14

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Matthew 22:39

The maps yesterday showed denominations (Epicopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian) whose congregations are more likely to meet in areas of relative affluence, and showed how they can work together to generate needed charity for their "neighbors" living in the area's high-poverty communities.

Today I am showing locations of denominations (Baptist, Catholic, and "general" Christian churches) whose membership is more likely (although not exclusively) found IN the high-poverty neighborhoods themselves. Leaders and members in these locations can ally to draw volunteers and dollars to programs that quite literally help love thy neighbors and their kids.

*** Now, I want to add a disclaimer here! ***

When we show these locations, we are NOT suggesting that people in faith communities are not already very generous in the way they help the poor. We know that these organizations are already involved.

What we try to do is use maps to help build some kind of understanding of where organizations are having an impact on tutoring/mentoring programs, and where existing programs (that need as many faith partners as possible) are located.

Furthermore, our aim is to help build strategies that make sense of a complex problem for community leaders... and hopefully one day lead to new alliances among faith groups on behalf of tutor/mentor programs for at-risk students.

Because I think you might conclude when looking at our maps that, while many people are already working to help bridge gaps in support structures needed for kids in impoverished neighborhoods to have a shot at meaningful careers and futures... there is a lot of work needed.

Faith groups that are already hard at work and generous just might be perfect leaders for new multiple-congregation alliances that promote and support new and existing programs.

Interested in where to start? Please look at one of Tutor/Mentor Institute's several strategy documents (accumulated from over 30 years of working knowledge) called, "How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs." And then contact us to discuss ways we can work together.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas, Christians! Love Thy Neighbor!

Christmas week continues. It's snowing in Chicago, and the streets are lit up and packed with holiday shoppers. It's the first day of winter and the season for sharing, gift-giving, love... and charity...

As I did yesterday, I would like (in the spirit of Christmas) to dig into New Testement scripture and see if I can come up with more on the Christian virtues of charity and love for neighbors:

"Let all your things be done with charity." - Corinthians 16:14

"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Matthew 22:39

That was too easy :) Now again, I don't pretend to be a spiritual leader. But it's just too easy to see connections between Christian virtues and Tutor/Mentor Connection support for student learning and growth in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Please consider a charitable Christmas donation to Tutor/Mentor Connection or Mapping For Justice, to help us continue working for at-risk youth in neighboring communities throughout Chicagoland.

And please expand these maps to see locations of Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches in the Chicago Area.

I chose these denominations today because these churches tend to be concentrated in areas of affluence, relative to high poverty. In other words, members are "neighbors" to poverty. The maps show highways that usher members of these faith groups from areas of relative wealth, straight through pockets of neighboring poverty on their commutes in and out of downtown. Opportunities abound for potential volunteers and donors.

As Dan wrote yesterday in response to my last blog post, "Every dot on this map represents a faith based organization. Some are in high poverty areas where tutor/mentor programs are most needed. Others are in middle class neighborhoods where people may be struggling to keep jobs and pay mortgages and deal with their own family health. Others are in areas of high affluence, where there may be more ability to give. In all of these communities we hope that groups are forming and reading [Mapping For Justice] blog articles... If you read and reflect on what we write each week, each of these dots will begin to have strategies that connect them to tutor/mentor programs in one, or more parts of the city, as well as to people in other faith groups who are discussing the same issues. Let us know if we can help your congregation form such groups."

If more faith leaders and members can start to look at high poverty neighborhoods through a Christian lens of "neighbor," perhaps the students in these forgotten and underserved areas will one day EACH gain exposure to mentors and tutors (you!) needed to help them overcome special poverty-related challenges they face, and EACH become productive participants in society and the economy.

Spiritual leadership can take the lead of course, using scripture to justify alliances with other congregations... and to mobilize the flock, on behalf of the Christian virtues of Charity and Love, to help neighboring students in need.

Interested in where to start? Please look at one of Tutor/Mentor Institute's several strategy documents (accumulated from over 30 years of working knowledge) called, "How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs".And then contact us to discuss ways we can work together.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Note: since 2011 the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been operated by Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. While this is not a tax exempt organization, it still depends on contributions to continue this work. Please consider a small donation this holiday season.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Week! Help Us Spread Charity, Kindness, and Love!

Last week our Jewish friends celebrated Hannukah. This week, the holiday season rolls into Christmas.

(Click on the map to enlarge.)
Now I am not a spiritual leader by any means, but it's hard to not see that a common message shared by the holiday spirit of Hanukkah and Christmas, is that people of faith are encouraged to give as well as receive. Charity, kindness, and love for neighbors is a shared set of values, I think we would all agree.

It's also hard to open the New Testament and not stumble onto reference to these virtues. Corinthians 13 for instance teaches Christians that "And now faith, hope, and charity abide, these three; and the greatest of these is charity."

And please check back here this week for specific ways you and spiritual leaders in your faith community can ally with Tutor/Mentor Connection to support more and better non-school mentor programs in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

Note: since 2011 the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been operated by Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. While this is not a tax exempt organization, it still depends on contributions to continue this work. Please consider a small donation this holiday season

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Hanukkah! How Jewish Faith Leaders Might Rally Against Poverty

Many blessings, and much peace and good fortune to people of Jewish faith in our community. Happy Hanukkah!

We here at Tutor/Mentor Connection are actively looking to ally with spiritual leadership in the community to support more and better non-school mentor programs in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Of course, we respect that the Tzedakah money traditionally offered as charity this time of year must be distributed wisely, and thus we would be honored to have our organization and its poverty-fighting and community-building work considered for any Tzedakah gift.

Please read on and decide if our work is worthy of Tzedakah giving.

(click on the map above to see "full-sized")

A look at the map we made above shows the locations of the 101 Jewish congregations we have in our database (please let us know if yours doesn't seem to be here!). Progressively darker shades of reds and blues represent increasing pockets of high poverty in the area.

It is our hope (not just during Hanukkah, but every day) to find spiritual leaders in these locations that might help us tie scripture to our mission... and help us make sense of our work to the area's religious community.

See, leaders at these locations have the power to increase the reach, frequency and consistency of tutoring/mentoring programs for the poor... ultimately helping thousands of kids make better decisions and find success in life, in spite of high concentrations of poorly-performing schools in high-poverty areas. It is our hope that our work contributes to safer communities and stronger economies for all in the future.

Looking at the map again, Jewish congregations are typically located in more affluent communities, and many are clustered near I-94 (a major artery leading into high-poverty communities throughout Chicago)... and thus are in as strong a position as anyone to take leadership roles that point volunteers, donors, and attention to tutor/mentor programs that already exist... or to neighborhoods where new programs need to be created.

If interested in learning more, please look at one of Tutor/Mentor Institute's several strategy documents (accumulated from over 30 years of working knowledge) called, "How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs".

And then contact us to discuss ways we can work together.

Thank you, and a very Happy Hanukkah!

Note: since 2011 the Tutor/Mentor Connection has been operated by Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC. While this is not a tax exempt organization, it still depends on contributions to continue this work. Please consider a small donation this holiday season

Monday, December 14, 2009

R.I.P. Ashton Wise: Stop looking for the overnight solution.

This past weekend, the Chicago Tribune and affiliates reported that sixth grader Ashton Wise and his father were shot with a shotgun while sitting in a parked car in the heavily impoverished South Shore neighborhood. Ashton was not involved in gangs. Instead, Ashton will be remembered as a star pitcher and catcher in the South Side Little League.

His father (who survived) was "not an absentee father," Department of Children and Family Services Director Erwin McEwen (Ashton's baseball coach) said, "If a dad who's committed and with his kid every day can't keep his kid safe, don't tell me it's gang-related. It's community-related."

Here's an example of the many families who are trying to live the American dream but are caught in the crosshairs of poverty.

Similar to the outpouring of support we saw for mentoring as a long-term salve for poverty and teen violence this past fall from political leaders in the wake of the Derrion Albert murder, McEwen addressed reporters about teen violence and poverty in general, "We did not get into this situation overnight... Stop looking for the overnight solution."

"I think we have to do things to strengthen our families."

(please click on the map to expand)
This push for "new anti-violence methods," echoes what Tutor/Mentor Connection has been urging citizens for years. Poverty, crime, strengthening communities... these are all complex issues that will take a lot of people working/thinking together in a lot different places over a long period of time to reverse.

I hope McEwen, Garvey, and you buy into this reality and start now to help push the pendulum back. You and people in your network concerned with challenges related to poverty (crime, education, workforce development) can help take the lead to build more alliances aimed at attacking the "Core of the Problem."

Our maps and strategies featured here on this blog are intended to facilitate the process of building more and better mentor-to-career programs throughout Chicago's high poverty neighborhoods... long-term solution-minded programs... to try and reach the next generation one kid at a time, and prepare them to choose paths off the streets and into colleges and careers. (Current known programs are represented by green stars in the map above, and I think you'll agree they are too few and far between.)

If you look at the map above,
  • You will see high poverty neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago near the Wise residence and the crime scene (represented by increasingly deeper shades of red/blue as poverty increases).

  • You will also see community assets on the map - such as churches, businesses, universities, hospitals, and museums. These are places packed with powerful individuals, with a visible presence in the community... places with open missions to support the community, and the power to build alliances (using their political and financial leverage and their reputation/visibility).

  • Alliances and media buzz can then mobilize more dollars and volunteer interest in the name of mentor programs that aren't currently household names (and thus don't have the name recognition to easily challenge for large grants awards), and yet are actively working on small budgets, with small staffs, and in innovative ways, "to strengthen our families," as Erwin McEwen put it.

  • Lastly, look again at those few green stars on the map. These are known tutor/mentor programs where YOU can make a difference on an individual level.
Tell people in your network that might want to volunteer an hour each week. Volunteer yourself! Where? Follow the CTA, Metra, or Highways on the map above, on other maps on this site... or better still... use our online interactive map tool to find volunteer or donor opportunities closer to you :

But hey - time is short, right? If you don't have time to roll up your sleeves and work at the front lines of the war on poverty, you (or someone in your network) might help these non-profits with a tax deductible donation.

And please consider donating to Tutor/Mentor Connection directly, or through our holiday fundraiser, to help us continue to provide these map and strategy resources to you, community leaders, programs, and students... so that we see this image to the right less and less often in the future. (Ashton Wise crime scene, photographed by Chris Sweda of the Chicago Tribune.)


This cannot be emphasized enough... Do you know leaders in your network who might want to join our alliance? We have documents and articles for you to send to them:

* Political leaders can find tutor/mentor-building strategies here. Other information and more maps can be found here for your needs. We also have strategies and maps available for your local alderman.

* Faith leaders can support non-school programs in the community. There are examples and maps here to get started elsewhere on this blog. And here is an important strategy document called "How Faith Communities Can Lead Volunteer Mobilization For Tutor/Mentor Programs."

* University leaders can ally on behalf of the safety and well-being of neighborhood kids. This is discussed here.

* Bankers can look here for ideas and strategies toward workforce and economic development of neighborhoods through tutoring/mentoring.

* Retailers like Walgreens and CVS in the map above can find ideas here.

* Grocery Stores have a large stake in the pulse of the community. See how they can get involved here.

* Hospital leaders from the several hospitals that show up on the map above can ally on behalf of tutoring/mentoring as well. Look here for reasons why. Look at this strategy document, called "Tutor/Mentor Hospital Connection" for details on how to get started.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mapping For Holiday Justice - A Small Fundraiser this Season of Giving!

We are having a holiday fundraiser this month, trying to raise an additional $1500...

Money that will go toward our innovative maps - tools that have a direct impact on Chicago and beyond through support of mentor-to-career programs that fight poverty and help develop our workforce.

Please consider a donation this holiday season to help kids help themselves now... so you don’t have to worry about them later!

To learn more, please read on below, but first, thanks to everyone who was so generous during our last fundraiser, which met 70% of our $5000 goal. Feedback from some of those donors:

“Mapping for Justice deserves all the support it can get."

“We are glad that we could help the kids in Chicago who are desperately in need. Keep up the good work!”

“We need to encourage organizations like this who are doing a good job.”

“Don't ever stop believing you can change the world for the better”

Why Should You Care?

We all need mentors and guides in our lives.

Tutor/mentor programs pair working and successful adults with students who might not find the mentorship needed to pursue their dreams of college and career at home.

Without these programs, the alternative for many students in high-poverty neighborhoods is the streets.

You don’t have to look past the nightly news to see that our workforce is suffering and incidents of teen violence are high.

You could passively wait for politicians and the mass media to investigate these problems, and for them to eventually propose rhetorical solutions to crime and poverty... proposals that are tied up in bureaucracy and your tax dollars (and often go nowhere)... or you can choose to

Take action yourself, bypassing all the empty promises, by making a charitable gift this holiday season to Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC) maps.

Our maps are tools that make an impact on society by helping community leadership - the generals in this war on poverty - come together quickly and efficiently to put T/MC strategies into motion, for more and improved tutor/mentor programs today.

* How do T/MC programs and maps help kids in high poverty neighborhoods?

For our country's future, we need to ensure that students everywhere are making wise, safe choices, while getting solid, competitive educations. Tutor/mentor programs put adults who have walked this path into the lives of frustrated students who might not be getting the best guidance from home, or the best education from public schools.

T/MC maps reveal neighborhoods where students are most at risk, and show where non-school tutor/mentor programs currently operate, or are needed.

The resulting maps help students in high poverty neighborhoods come together with volunteers one-on-one every week, so that these adults can tutor students to better grades, while coaching them to make healthier decisions toward brighter futures.

In the hands of community leaders, T/MC mapping technologies – including our new online interactive Google-based maps - are powerful tools that help political, business, faith-based and other community leaders ally in the name of this mission.

* What can you do to help now?

Create awareness – let everyone in your network know that we are here working to guide talented youth from the streets into positions where their natural curiosity, creativity, and desire to participate in the economy can make the world a safer and more productive place.

Volunteer an hour or two each week, if you have time.

And donate to programs like ours that help kids help themselves now... so you don’t have to worry about them later!

Tutor/Mentor Connection, Cabrini Connections is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt non-profit. Our tax ID # is 36-3893431.

Monday, December 7, 2009

November Conference Brings Leaders Together - Who Will Put The Maps To Use?

At the end of November, leaders and professionals from all over the country came together at 2009's second Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference to discuss strategies and share knowledge that can improve the reach and success of tutoring/mentoring programs in our nation's high-poverty neighborhoods. (It's a bi-annual event, so head to the conference website to see how you can get involved with the next one this coming May.)

(National participants are mapped below... expand either map by clicking on it.)

All together the event drew 156 people to its workshops.

Some speakers shared knowledge about working/volunteering with students themselves... but other topics included non-student-related issues that need to be considered when operating a non profit tutor/mentor program... topics such as fundraising, volunteer recruitment, networking, and the use of new technologies...

... like, of course MAPS!

I got a chance to showcase my maps, coach others in the usefulness of our mapping innovations, and most importantly, I got to meet potential users face to face and brainstorm about ways our maps might help leadership visualize and take action for their own tutoring/mentoring needs.

When I asked this past fall, when politicians came out verbally, in support of mentoring as a way to address our teen violence problem, "Who Will Tell Government We Have The Tools They Need?!" ... it was a call to action for people who want to help us expedite the time-constricted process of making/maintaining the tools, while ALSO getting the word out to busy people who don't know the tools exist, but are otherwise in a position to make use of them.

We can only do so much alone. We don't know everyone.

We are always in pursuit of that magic moment when someone thinks "Whoa... I know [person in position of power who can really use their political or financial influence to connect these map tools and strategies to others with the power to put the strategies in motion]!"

So maybe one of participants who came from the Chicago area walked away with an idea about who in their network would be able to help us connect our strategies and technologies to local leaders who have the power to make a huge difference.

But when we talk about the big picture, we're talking nationally as well. Chicago isn't the only place with problems related to poverty. There are students everywhere who would benefit from additional tutoring/mentoring.

Thankfully, people from outside the Chicago area attend the conferences as well.

Which is exciting. Because people who talk to me from outside Chicago always have the same question: "Can Tutor/Mentor Connection's Mapping For Justice technologies can be modified/implemented in my city?" (The woman from New Orleans in the map above asked me this at the conference and we were able to discuss. )

The answer is always pretty much the same: It is indeed our goal to help programs grow in every community they are needed. But again, we can only do so much and we don't know everyone.

Hopefully contacts like this woman from New Orleans will be the missing conduit that connects necessary resources and leadership in her back yard to our model, tools, and strategies.

We can provide the tools and we can share lots of knowledge. (We can even provide the talent to make this work in New Orleans if someone out there can fund it.)

But others need to step up.

Please consider being a part of May 2010's Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference ... and meantime, please think about who in your network has the means to connect our tools to politically and financially powerful people.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving... Many To Thank This Year

So many things to be thankful for...

First, thanks again to everyone who has donated money to our fundraiser to keep this map project going. We still haven't reached our goal... (hint hint... donate) but those of you who have stepped up have allowed us to do some great things, instead of closing our doors this past fall when things got pretty desperate.

   Thanks also to everyone who has donated their time or talents to this mapping project - interns and volunteers and advisers... each providing data, map knowledge, marketing/design help, advice/ encouragement/criticism/ discussion, or other resources...  we are always looking for people who want to contribute to our mission. 

Thanks to the staff and leadership
at Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection, and to all the volunteers who work with the kids each week. Clearly, your vision and hands-on perseverance provides leadership-by-example for the kids and for myself. 

Thanks to my students who meet each week with me at Cabrini Connections Tech Club where I volunteer my time once a week... 

(I walk the walk too you know!)

These 7th-9th graders from Cabrini Green and elsewhere in the city have been working this fall to learn marketable tech skills such as graphic design and animation... they will soon be learning to advocate for themselves through maps... we are currently looking for now volunteers to bring their tech expertise to the club once or twice a month on Tuesday nights. Join us!

Thanks to everyone who has used my maps! It's a thrill to see them hanging in community centers where they might just focus tavern or barbershop discussion toward topics of community advocacy... and it's so exciting to be occasionally approached by community leaders, at conferences for instance, who tell me about how the maps have helped them meet their goals. (It gets lonely here in a cubicle and I don't have enough opportunities to talk to everyone face to face. Drop me a line with your stories.)

And really, Thanks to everyone who has raised visibility for this project... maybe you've told others about the maps/strategies through your social networks... or maybe you've engaged me or others with your thoughts and concerns about how maps like mine can be used to better and more efficiently campaign for workforce and community development. (If not, you should! Check out the maps/blogs here for ideas - browse by category, using the links to the right!)

And last but certainly not least, thanks to YOU for coming here and reading each week. I have a few new maps up my sleeve, ready to show off... and some new experiences/surprises to share... see you after Turkey Day! If the Turkey doesn't get you first!

(Thanks to 9th grader Israel from tech club for designing the "Defensive Turkey" graphic above, and to 7th grader Kierre for the "Cabrini Thanksgiving Turkey-Head" logo at the top of this story!)

Please have a safe Thanksgiving!

And as always, please contact me with thoughts, comments, concerns, critique, needs... we need more discussion!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fundraiser Extends Through Holidays... Only 31% To Go!...

Due to the kindness and charity of many who understand the importance of our work, we have reached 69% of the $5000 we targeted in our fundraiser to continue Mapping For Justice.

This is exciting... but 69% wasn't the goal of course... we're aiming for the whole 100% we need to keep providing non-profit maps and strategies that answer recent calls by politicians and community leaders for better and more mentoring options for at-risk youth.

Please help us reach our goal and map for the community into the new year!

Political leaders these days are actively calling for programs like ours to facilitate the strategic process that builds new mentor-to career programs, while assisting those that already exist.

A map like the one above helps political and community leaders visualize where existing programs operate in relation to the challenges of growing up in poverty. When you know where the programs are, you also start to see where there is a need for new non-school tutor/mentor programs - programs that help kids make better life decisions and prepare students for higher learning and career...

Maps like this second one below show where schools are performing poorly - an indicator that students need might additional tutoring/mentoring to improve their shot at career, financial independence, and reinvestment in community.

We also make maps that focus on specific communities, and more detailed looks at available community resources...

Without 100% of our fundraising goal, the map work that has started to connect Tutor/Mentor Connection's decades of tutor/mentor experience... with the politicians and leaders who are now recognizing tutor/mentor programs as a potential means to alleviate social problems like teen violence, poverty, dropout rates, and workforce-related issues... threatens to end prematurely.

Please help us achieve our goal of $5000 to continue our non-profit mapping and strategy effort onto 2010...

There is still time! If you have been thinking about helping us but have not had the time... or been simply forgotten... has allowed us to extend the fundraiser through the holidays...

By the way... some might be wondering before getting their credit card out...

What have we accomplished so far, since the fundraiser began?

Since the fundraiser started, others concerned with escalating teen violence, poverty, dropout rates, and workforce-related issues have donated anywhere between $5 and $1000 to this fundraiser.

Foremost, this has allowed us to pay our rent. No exaggeration. We almost closed doors last month. Non-profits face this uncertainty even in glowing economic times. (Ideally we need a consistent revenue stream, via grant money and benefactor charity. Please contact me with ideas or leads.)

Short-term, your donations have bought us time to meet new volunteers and other contributors, such as design and marketing professionals (We are always in need of these sorts of volunteers. Thanks Arv and Christine for helping us make better and more striking maps this autumn! If you have a technical or artistic skill or service to donate, please contact me.)

What's more, instead of closing shop, we have shaken hands with new community centers that are willing to hang maps and initiate discussions among their customers... creating awareness that might mobilize new volunteer or donor action (Not only in the city either! Thanks to The Dakota Inn in Alsip for their bean bag fundraiser, for instance!)

We continue to meet new community leaders (such as the director of the Field Museum's security) who invariably meet our mission and work with great enthusiasm, and then try to generate alliances and spread the word to other leaders in their networks.

And we have found new supporters who are thinking "outside the box" about ways to raise tutor/mentor visibility, money and volunteers - and ultimately attendance! (Look for an art/map gallery or two that incorporates our maps in the coming year).

None of this could have happened if a few of you didn't step up and save us in the past two months.

However, again I point out, we are still short of the $5000 we set out to generate with this fundraiser and do not want to be right back where we started in another month.

In the spirit of giving this season, please consider a small donation to programs that promise to try and improve our city... through new generations of better prepared workers, students, and decision makers.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Local Grocery Stores: Dominick's

Last week, I began looking at a series of maps that show many of our local grocery store chains, in relation to poverty, "failing schools," known tutor/mentor programs, and highways.

My most recent blog in the series focused on Whole Foods and showed how, even though they have few stores in high-poverty neighborhoods, they have done a lot to help non profit organizations like tutor/mentor programs.

(Read about Whole Foods' "community citizenship" strategy and how they have supported Tutor/Mentor Connection and Mapping For Justice in our mission.)

But Whole Foods (click on the map above and to the right to expand it) operates in only a few locations, and while they seem pretty good at pushing support (dollars, volunteers, awareness) from customers of relative affluence toward neighborhoods in need, perhaps other chains have store locations that operate in the higher-poverty neighborhoods themselves, and are in positions to generate support from within the community.

I chose to look at the locations of all Dominick's (Safeway) stores, because I see a lot of those around town.

(Click on map to see higher-resolution version)

In keeping with the theme established last week, what is Dominick's strength in helping "cultivate young minds"? (And of course by this I mean, how can they help us in our strategies to create new tutor/mentor program options for students, while improving support for the 240+ existing programs we know about?)

Like Whole Foods, Dominick's has a corporate mission that stresses "responsibility to become involved and to help build better, stronger communities." They mention that, "As part of our ongoing commitment to education, we also support numerous school scholarship funds and youth development foundations, and we sponsor a broad range of after-school and physical education activities."

The timing is right for an alliance among stores who espouse these values and Tutor/Mentor Connection. Many politicians and media leaders in the weeks after the Derrion Albert murder are calling for an increase in mentoring programs. (You haven't forgotten that story already, have you?)

Through support from a corporate office like Dominick's, and with their large army of local store managers, we can work together to make this happen!

Because you'll notice that Dominick's has many stores in Chicago - many more than Whole Foods at least. A handful of them even operate within - or at least in closer proximity - to high-poverty neighborhoods (darker colors on the map represent increasing ranges of families living in poverty). Many of these neighborhoods show high concentrations of "poorly performing schools." Both of these conditions are indicators that there are probably students living there who might need help with homework (tutoring), and potentially with making life decisions that are tied to preparing for college and careers (mentoring).

In other words, Dominick's might be in a slightly better position in some ways than Whole Foods, to generate support (dollars, volunteers, awareness) locally for neighboring programs.

Local store managers are in perfect positions to run fundraisers (like Whole Foods' One Dime at a Time program) that can be donated to local programs or to Tutor/Mentor Connection. (We're all non profits looking for a little rent money.)

Local store managers are also in position to raise awareness via community message kiosks or word of mouth.

Perhaps they can even take the lead from another community center, Hyde Park Hair Salon, and hang the Dominick's map I made for this posting in their local store locations, along with information for shoppers/parents who want to enroll their children... or perhaps volunteer or donate to programs in their shared community.

The sheer number of local stores raises the possibility that individual managers can ally with other Dominick's locations to magnify their efforts as well. The map shows that this can happen either in communities of need, or from stores that serve the relatively affluent periphery.

If Whole Foods was able to raise $5000 from four locations in a few days (see my last blog), just think what Dominick's can do!

What's more exciting is that, unlike Whole Foods, whose corporate offices operate from outside of Illinois, Dominick's has a headquarters in the Western Suburbs, a quick commute from Chicago and the Chicago Public Schools. Certainly they have a more intimate "responsibility to become involved and to help build better, stronger communities" in Chicago.

Political and media leaders are talking about more and better mentoring programs in the fights against local poverty and crime.

Dominick's is in a position of strength to take a lead in making it happen.

To date, Dominick's has donated a $50 gift card to our fundraising and strategy efforts this year. I'm not sure what they have contributed to other mentor-to-career programs, but I'm hopeful that together, we can do even more.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Local Grocery Stores: Whole Foods

In my posting on Monday, I included a map that showed many of the grocery stores in Chicago, in relation to poverty, "failing schools," known tutor/mentor programs, and highways.

I want to break down that map into the 6 individual maps of individual chains - some national, some local - over the next week or so, and explore ways in which businesses (not just grocer stores) that interact closely with the community can use (or are using) their strengths to support tutoring and mentoring-to-career programs...

(The same "mentoring programs" that politicians are calling for in the wake of the Derrion Albert murder... programs like Cabrini Connections and over 240 known others in the area that show promise in helping kids choose paths toward higher education and career, versus the street, perpetual poverty, and occasionally crime.)

The first chain I chose to extract from my all-inclusive map is Whole Foods:

(Click on map to see higher-resolution version)

While my map shows that Whole Foods only has a handful of Chicago-area locations (none of which are in high-poverty neighborhoods, and none of which operate south of the Loop), Whole Foods still places an emphasis on helping those who deal with the challenges of poverty, embodying what they call "Community Citizenship." From their website:

Community Citizenship: We recognize our responsibility to be active participants in our local communities. We give a minimum of 5% of our profits every year to a wide variety of community and non-profit organizations.

In another page from their corporate site, they give more detail:

...several times a year, our stores hold community giving days (otherwise known as “5% Days”) where five percent of that day’s net sales are donated to a local nonprofit or educational organization. The groups that benefit from these 5% Days are as varied as the communities themselves.

In other words, Whole Foods is able to donate a small portion of their sales, from time to time, to non-profits.

This is huge. It helps keep non profits alive to fight another day. (Because, make no mistake - regardless of what you've heard - non profits have overhead, staffs, and expenses like rent. They rely exclusively on grants and donations.)

But a small fundraiser like this does more than just pay rent. There are other less obvious benefits.

Imagine this: A customer from Lakeview who commutes downtown every day and never has a need (or desire) to go into high-poverty neighborhoods is buying some produce after work. In the past this customer has thought while watching the news and seeing stories related to crime or violence or the Chicago Public Schools, that "If there was only something I can do"...

During checkout, the customer is introduced to Tutor/Mentor Connection, or other student-advocacy causes - programs they likely didn't know about before, but might now want to volunteer to assist a couple hours each week, or make a small donation (of money or talent or supplies).

Moreover, this simple fundraiser just planted a seed. Perhaps this customer is still not ready to take action. But perhaps while watching the news the following week and hearing a politician discuss "mentoring" as a solution to crime, suddenly this concept has a recognizable face and name for this Chicago resident... This is taste-making or "buzz" creation... this helps focus discussion, momentum, and action toward solutions to problems that affect our city and our country.

But again, the most immediate thing a cause-mined business like Whole Foods that operates in more affluent neighborhoods can do to help a non profit like Tutor/Mentor Connection, is to raise money that helps non profits pay rent.

Whether this involves a corporate donation, a percentage of sales, or leading customers who want to make a contribution to the cause, this is the position of strength in the war against poverty for a company like Whole Foods.

And yes, some of Whole Foods' charity HAS come our way.

Whole Foods has sponsored Tutor/Mentor Connection, and has helped us raise over $5000 this year alone, through their One Dime at a Time program, whereby "Whole Foods Market gives 10 cents per bag to customers who re-use their own shopping bags for their purchased groceries. This program reduces our impact on the environment and now supports local non profit groups. Customers will have the choice to accept their cash refund, or donate the cash back to the store’s chosen non profit organization. "

So to summarize: Here we have an example of a store whose main clientele are not from high-poverty regions, yet understand their particular strength in the war on poverty... raising visibility and money that keeps non profits alive.

Come back later this week and I'll focus on a new chain with a new set of strengths. See, while some businesses are in positions to generate corporate or sizable financial support, some have the power to interact locally with parents and community leaders, from locations in the high-poverty neighborhoods themselves.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nicole Runs Chicago Marathon For Tutoring/Mentoring

I have to admit... I was somewhat skeptical when Cabrini Connections Research and Networking Coordinator, Nicole, told me over a bunch of Martinis last year (at our Martini Madness Fundraiser event) that she was going to start training to run the Chicago Marathon... with funds raised going to Cabrini Connections and Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC).

I mean, it was after a bunch of Martinis after all!

And look how long the route is!

(Click on map to increase size of race route, in relation to poverty, poorly-performing schools, known program locations, and Bank of America (sponsor) Locations.

If you are interested in seeing all Bank of America Locations in the city, and reading about how they and other banks could be using T/MC Strategies to support student programs, check out this blog I wrote almost a year ago.)

But back to Nicole's story!

Sure enough, after sobering up, she stuck to a training regimen all year, raised $2,757 for her favorite charity, and then somehow got up at an ungodly early hour last Saturday, to run 26.2 miles through the streets of Chicago... smashing her goal of 5 hours by over 15 minutes.

How inspiring is that?

Congrats, Nicole!

But get this - she's still not done! Take a peek at her blog this week to learn how you can still contribute to her fundraiser, because as she says, "Even though the race is over, we still need to keep Tutor/Mentor Connection running!"

She also discusses a couple other coming events and contests that will help you get involved with our Tutoring/Mentoring cause for Chicago's students.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Local Grocery Stores

I wrote a series of blogs earlier this year about the Insurance Industry and its potential role in raising support for tutor/mentor programs.

The map to the right shows all locations of Allstate Insurance Branches in Chicago, in relation to high poverty (darker shaded regions), main highways, and known tutor/mentor program locations. (Click on either of these maps to see larger versions.)

Interestingly, when you look at this new map I made of all known grocery stores in the area (below) - again mapped alongside poverty and tutor/mentor locations - you might recognize a similar pattern... a distribution of store locations that is similar to locations of insurance companies.

Over the next week I will be focusing on individual chains, and (a lot like I did when discussing the insurance industry) I will try to open discussions on ways these stores, their employees, and their customers might each support strategies that increase tutor/mentor program alternatives to the streets for students living in high-poverty/high-crime neighborhoods...

... in concert, of course, with recent calls from political leaders and media leaders who are seeking ways to provide students in high-poverty/high-crime neighborhoods with the mentoring they need to make better life choices.

Take a look at this map above, and come back Wednesday for a look at "Local Grocery Stores: Whole Foods ."


Special thanks to David Ward, a volunteer and GIS professional, who helped me collect the store locations. If you want to help us collect data and/or make maps, please contact me - we're non-profit and always looking for help.

We're also looking for graphic artists, and other tech-related professionals who want to lend a hand to Mapping For Justice.

And our fundraiser to continue Mapping For Justice has raised 70% of our $5000 goal... we've extended it until November 1st, if you want to help us meet our goal, but haven't had a chance yet. Thanks for all your support!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

FAQ #1: "How do you get the maps to the kids in need?"

A friend of mine asked a simple question on Facebook this week that reminded me that sometimes I get caught deep in the complexity of what we are doing with Tutor/Mentor Connections strategies... and forget to summarize or simplify.

He asked a question a lot of people who find this blog are possibly wondering about too. He asked:

"Hi Mike, this sounds quite noble. How do you get the maps to the kids in need?"

This was my response, which I'm re-posting here:

"Hey man... awesome question! Unfortunately a lot of kids probably do not see my maps themselves these days.

This is a relatively new/unique project. My maps serve several huge functions that will ultimately include more distribution of info directly to kids. This is what the maps do... how they work...

I make some maps to try and raise awareness to the need for tutor/mentor programs (by showing poverty, failing schools, crime, and a lack of tutor/mentor centers). These programs are options to the streets for kids who want to participate in our economy, but simply don't have resources or parents who know what it takes to work toward jobs/college.

Some of my maps show businesses, churches, political districts, and other community assets, which when coupled with the strategies my non-profit has been developing for over a decade, has led people in positions of power to form alliances that support/host t/m programs...

Some of my maps show commuter routes as well, in relation to programs, to try and entice volunteers/commuters to get involved with mentoring... kids need to meet caring professional adults... and adults need to meet kids in these neighborhoods. There is a TON of misconception on both sides of this cultural divide.

There have been a few success stories from programs that have generated money or volunteers from my maps... there have been some alliances that have formed to help new programs grow... but to this point there isn't enough exposure to my maps or the service they provide.

Recently politicians are calling for service and mentorship as a way to fight crime/poverty longterm... they need to know about our resources. There are indications this might happen.

So ideally and eventually, as community/political leaders use the maps to form alliances...

... and businesses and individuals are rallying donations to these nonprofits...

... and volunteers are increasing the mentoring ranks/capacity...

... and community centers (like Hyde Park Hair Salon, and Webster Wine Bar) are hanging the maps for their customers to find places to send their kids or volunteer...

... and the media decides to publish the maps when they write/tell about street violence, to show concerned citizens that there are places they can work with to fight poverty or crime, instead of feeling sad/helpless when kids are killing kids night after night...

Well, maybe then kids/parent will start to hear about/use the maps to find programs.

Too few people know we're here yet."

Help us spread the word.