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.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who Will Tell Government We Have The Tools They Need?!

My boss, Dan Bassill came by my desk today and exclaimed that "the media is ripe for our maps!"

See, the media is quoting politicians this week, tossing around a word that is near and dear to us at Tutor/Mentor Connection... Everyone seems to be talking about "mentoring" this week, as a part of a proposed solution to crime and poverty, in the wake of the Derrion Albert murder.

This an exciting development for Dan and myself. This is what he's dedicated much of his life to. And this is why he brought me here. My maps frequently show a need for mentoring, are designed to point people to tutor/mentor sites, and hopefully assist tutor/mentor-building strategies for political, business, and media leaders.

The fact that the media and politicians are saying "mentoring" this week is a rare thrill and opportunity.

But personally, I'm a little guarded in my optimism. In theory, this is a can't-miss partnership in the making... a slam dunk... a home run...

I mean, we've already spent the money and built a lot of the infrastructure that would push a big politically-led alliance.

For instance, we have the best tutor/mentor program data available. We can build maps that show high poverty, failing schools, and crime - all in proximity to existing programs (and thus, demonstrate where new programs are needed most). And we have databases full of community resources (churches, businesses, hospitals, etc.) - with strategies for each to employ in their specific capacity for developing tutor/mentor programs.

It's all right there on a silver platter waiting for politicians to run and lead with!

NOW if only someone with access to a large local and national audience would let politicians and other leaders know these resources already exist, and that we've done much of the work for them, before they run off wasting time and spending millions to reinvent the wheel.

Oh wait! Newspapers, radio, T.V., Internet! Of course!... These could each easily be the conduit that links our work with powerful community-minded business and political leaders, to support mentoring strategies that combat crime and violence... and make the world a better place!

So why am I so skeptical (and obviously sarcastic) if the media is talking about this all over the place? This is a good thing, right?

Well... kind of... maybe.

Dan's been doing this for decades and has seen the media and its fickle attention span come and go when it comes to violence. He reminds us in his blog today today - that,

had media been writing these stories since 1992 when Dantrell Davis was killed, and pointing to tutor/mentor programs, and encouraging people beyond poverty to give time, talent, and dollars, we might have more tutor/mentor programs, and fewer incidents of violence. We also might have more kids in college and careers, who were just starting first grade in 1993.
This happens a lot actually. Perhaps the only difference between the Albert murder and the other teen-on-teen violence the media reports and then abandons on a weekly basis (usually failing to point concerned citizens to those of us who are working on solving the problem, and could use the help)... is that this time, there was a camera rolling to feed our thirst for spectacle and supplement an otherwise typical story of crime in the ghetto.

We asked a panel of local media representatives at our last Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference back in May what their aversion was to discussing potential solutions to crime and violence - a complex topic - part of which, politicians acknowledged this week, includes mentoring.

We were told, after pulling teeth for many uncomfortable minutes, that our tutor/mentor stories are nothing more than "puff pieces," and are off the radar of many journalists' ambitions.

We were told by a different member of the same panel that [paraphrasing] "there just isn't enough space or resources" to dedicate to a discussion of tutor/mentor programs.

In other words, there is a strong liklihood that the media attention we see this week will fade off after everyone has gotten their fill of watching footage of kids killing eachother, like it has in the past, and there will be no sustained effort to continue promoting "mentoring" or any proposed solution to poverty or crime.

So I figured - confronted by these possibilities - that maybe I should just find a way to use existing media resources and technologies to reach out to potential soldiers in this cause myself.

My blog here is a pretty good public forum for this sort of thing. But I've seen others with higher traffic.

For instance, I noticed yesterday, after reading a Tribune article (about how ex-Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan was back in town to discuss violence and the need for mentoring), that there was a public forum at the bottom of the article.

So I added this piece of "puff" to the forum, wasting very few of their resources:

Many have asked here - Where's the solution?! How is a little money thrown to one school gonna fix anything long-term? Duncan talked about "the root of the problem." CNN's Rick Sanchez discussed "the core of the problem" on CNN last week after Albert was murdered too.

What IS the core of the problem? I'm aware it's complex, but I offer an idea that might be a piece of the puzzle.

I work as an educator and a mapmaker/strategist in Chicago's war on poverty.

I address this topic at length on my blog each week:

Yes - students' parents need to take an active role, but so can YOU if you're really concerned, through volunteering or donating to programs where people like us roll up their sleeves for a mere hour or so every week, working with students in these high-crime neighborhoods as mentors - helping kids make better life decisions (and meeting the majority of great and non-violent kids who live in fear and loathing of the select few hoodlums that the media typically features)...

With enough adults like us who have the job/college experience to tutor/mentor youth and prepare them for college and career... (or provide donations to programs where this occurs if you have no time)... perhaps these students will survive to be adults with cash in pocket, attracting businesses (and jobs), and revitalizing their neighborhoods.

Step up. As many of you have pointed out, politicians, tax money... historically, this doesn't help, and we're all tired of taxes, regardless of political affiliation. Roll up your sleeves and support programs that act through strength in numbers to SOLVE the problems of poverty and crime.

AND I WAS CENSORED by the moderators at the Tribune, my post never making it to the public discussion.

Someone mentioned that maybe it is because I posted a link. But there are links to YouTube there. So I have no option right now but to conclude it was because of my post's content...

... which is borderline infuriating, considering the moderators allowed a few posts like this:

No amount of emergency funds will tame these animals. Take the money, buy guns and one to each of them, including their mommas... and then let them go at it--until the last one drops. Only then will our streets be safe and clean again. -- AnthonynChicago on October 7, 2009 3:01 PM

Apparently, hatred is acceptable, but discussion of mentor programs (even when accompanied by an article about that exact topic) is taboo?!

Sigh... So what can I do now? Hopefully you are all telling everyone you know about this site. But meantime, I guess I'll just read a few more of today's Tribune articles... in apparent silence:

President Obama's Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan writes:

Somehow many of our young people have lost faith in the future. They've been denied love, support and guidance and have grown up believing that their life is not worth anything -- so no one else's life is worth anything either. It is difficult to love when you have never been shown love. It is difficult to build a positive future when you don't think you will live past the age of 18. That's a problem we cannot solve with money or by pointing fingers at each other or by looking the other way. We must engage directly with children -- starting at the youngest age. We must teach them that violence doesn't solve anything and that respect for others is the foundation of a safe and healthy society. All adults share this responsibility, whether it's teaching those lessons to their own children or someone else's. It starts with parents but it continues with others: teachers, coaches, mentors and friends.

The AP writes:

The Obama administration has asked for $25 million in next year's budget for community-based crime prevention programs, Holder said...Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said the administration's high-profile involvement isn't "show and tell," but a genuine commitment to address youth violence.

... You know... we can do SO MUCH with just a small chunk of that money...

Maybe I'll just scream as loud as I can from my blog... in hopes Obama, Duncan, or Daley or someone will hear....






(I still have a little hope.)