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.