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Posts Tagged ‘public service’

Photo: Human Rights First
Members of the nonpartisan Veterans for American Ideals pushed for renewal of the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program that aids interpreters who served alongside them.

Wednesday is Veterans Day, and I thought I would share something I just learned about how some veterans have continued in public service after being discharged from the military.

Last week, veterans volunteered at the polls because coronavirus concerns were keeping elderly poll workers and others at risk at home.

As Sarah Sicard wrote at Military Times, “Veterans often look for opportunities to continue to serve even after retiring or moving on from the military. In 2020, a number of veterans have taken to volunteering to work the polls at their local election sites.”

Sicard cites Maggie Seymour, who served in the Marine Corps from 2008 to 2017. Seymour wrote on Twitter that she was expecting a baby and “serving as an election judge here in Beaufort. Exposing little fetus to the sounds of democracy!”

Sicard continues, “Veterans across the country have volunteered on Nov. 3 to serve in various capacities, many through the organization Veterans for American Ideals [VIFI]. …

“ ‘We’re trying to get vets engaged as poll workers to assist in pulling off a free and fair election, protect the elderly — who constitute the majority of poll workers — during COVID, and get a new generation involved in their communities,’ said Christopher Purdy, program manager of Veterans for American Ideals, according to Reuters.” More at Military Times, here.

I decided to take a look at the VIFI website, where I found this mission statement. “Veterans for American Ideals is a nonpartisan group of veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals.

“We dedicated our lives to our country as citizen-soldiers, and we believe that honor, courage, commitment, duty, and country are not just words, but values worth defending. After taking off the uniform, we seek to continue serving our country by advocating for policies that are consistent with the ideals that motivated us to serve in the first place.

“Our current campaigns are focused on saving the Special Immigrant Visa program for interpreters and translators who served with the U.S. military, protecting refugees, and countering Islamophobia.”

Now, I call that living your values.

Read more at Vets For American Ideals, here — and have a happy, thoughtful Veterans Day.

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Photo: Cole Wilson
Chad Cooper gave up his Wall Street career to run a music school.

There’s nothing like a story of a guy turning from the big bucks to pursue service to others. One such story was recently reported by Martin J. Smith in Fast Company. It’s about a managing director at Deutsche Bank in New York who left the Wall Street life behind to save a community-oriented music school.

Fortunately, his wife was totally on board.

Smith writes that Chad Cooper’s banking job “came with a substantial salary, bonuses, a generous expense account, and business-class travel. [But] two years ago, after a 16-year Wall Street career [he] walked away from all that to take the executive director’s job at the nearly insolvent Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. …

“Since Cooper took the reins in August 2016, the 121-year-old nonprofit institution in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood has seen a 71% increase in individual donors over fiscal 2016 and a fivefold increase in attendance after shifting its development model from a single annual gala to a handful of special events. Assets have shown a net increase of $400,000 over fiscal 2016. Attendance at its flagship Community Music School is up 19%.”

Fast Company (FC): ” ‘After 16 years as an investment banker, you opted out. Why?’

Chad Cooper (CC): ” ‘Even as a Stanford GSB student, my intention was to work in the private sector, then ultimately return to the social sector. But once you start down a private-sector path, it can be daunting to pivot. For me, the stars aligned when the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, this incredible organization whose board I’d joined, was in dire need of management skills I’d spent my career developing. …

” ‘Before I went to business school, I worked for four years for the city of St. Louis doing inner-city economic development. I also launched a grassroots nonprofit organization that helped mobilize younger people to take an active role in city revitalization efforts. That was a really big part of my life, so when I came to Stanford, I had a strong sense of what I wanted out of business school, and I wanted to bring that back in some way to the nonprofit sector. I had planned for that and tried to save up a little money to have enough security to take myself out of moneymaking for a while. …

” ‘I’d been serving on the board of directors at the conservatory for two years, and just after the business school reunion, the conservatory’s executive director resigned. Having served as the conservatory’s treasurer, I knew it was in dire financial shape. …

” ‘I worked for a guy named Charles Kindleberger in St. Louis for four years — he ran the urban planning department — and I always marveled at how extraordinarily intelligent and thoughtful and effective he was as a senior manager for the city. He could have been a great professor, or a lawyer, or businessperson.

” ‘He would have been successful at whatever path he chose in life. But he had committed himself to public service, and I have great respect for people like Chuck. A lot of capable people commit themselves to service and do it their whole life.’

FC: ” ‘You agreed to work the first two years at the conservatory for no pay. How were you able to afford to do that?

CC: ” ‘I send my kids to public school. My wife works full time. We don’t live an extravagant life. I didn’t walk away from my banking career with a huge amount of wealth, but there are a lot of people who get by with a lot less than I do in New York City and give of themselves in profound ways. …

” ‘I really love what I do. I’m totally energized going into the office every day. … I inherited an organization that really needed fundamental change, and it’s enormously motivating and exciting to come to work and to have that intense focus and energy for turning a place around and building something for the future. We provide music therapy to 1,500 people, including those with autism, and kids whose parents are incarcerated, and seniors with dementia, and I see how transformative their experiences are. It’s gratifying to see the work we do with 6,000-plus New Yorkers every year who otherwise would have no access to music education. That’s enormously motivating to me.’ ”

More at Fast Company, here.

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Photo: Jim Davis/Globe Staff
Marc Wallerce (left), owner of the Winthrop Marketplace, greets Jeffrey Carson of Mi-Amore as Carson picks up food for distribution to families that need it.

Wow, there are as many ways to get food to people who might otherwise go hungry as there are people who want to end hunger. It was only a couple weeks ago that I posted about a food initiative in Toronto. Here’s one in Massachusetts.

Alison Arnett writes at the Boston Globe, “In 2014, Jeffrey Carson heard an NPR piece about how much food was wasted in America despite ongoing hunger. It hit a nerve with Carson, who himself had grown up in a family dependent on food stamps and had just had his first child, and he determined that he wanted to do something about it. ‘I wanted my daughter to come up in volunteerism that was part of our life,’ he added, not just something ‘we volunteered for once a year.’

“So Carson and his wife, Suzanne, both veterans, began to work on creating a nonprofit in Winthrop where they live. The idea for Mi-Amore seemed ‘so simple,’ says Carson: Food was going to waste — in the United States it is estimated that as much as 30 percent to 40 percent of edible food is wasted each year — and yet there were people who went hungry. As military officers, both he and his wife were used to finding solutions to problems, Carson says.

“There were many snags along the way, but today Mi-Amore provides food for 40 elderly people, single-parent families, and recovering addicts in Winthrop. Unusual among food relief programs where recipients must go to a central soup kitchen or food aid office open only restricted hours, Mi-Amore’s eight volunteers, all Winthrop residents, pick up the donated food three times a week and deliver it to the homes of the recipients. Most families get at least one delivery of food a week. The program has a board of town residents, and donations of surplus food from the Winthrop Marketplace, several restaurants, assisted-living centers, and schools. …

“Half of the recipients are children. When asked about recovering addicts, Carson says that ‘recovering’ can be a loose term but is quick to recount what one board member, a school nurse, told him. ‘Having food in your refrigerator sometimes is the line between recovering or not,’ she said, adding that the stress of no food can push some over the edge.

“The beginnings of Mi-Amore, in its third year, weren’t smooth, Carson says. After he and his wife did the structural work to set up a nonprofit, he contacted restaurants and other businesses about donating food that might go to waste, surprised when he got refusals or no answers. But then, Carson said, he met two women, Amie Hanrahan of The Arbors Assisted Living Communities and Ann Vasquez of La Siena restaurant, who immediately ‘got it,’ Carson says. … From that beginning, the program started to gain momentum.”

I’m not really surprised that two former military officers have shown perseverance when faced with the challenges of launching something new. As Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton, a former Marine, has often said in the context of what sorts of people he’d like to see run for office, veterans are generally people who are motivated by public service more than personal gain.

Jeffrey and Suzanne Carson strike me as perfect examples of veterans motivated by public service.

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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Holly Hall writes at the Chronicle of Philanthropy that teens are more likely to do volunteer work if there’s a social aspect.

“More than half of American teenagers and young adults volunteered [in 2011], and the best way to enlist this group turns out to be peer pressure: Three quarters of people ages 13 to 22 whose friends volunteer regularly also do so, which is nearly twice the number of those who pursue voluntary activities based on their concern about particular social issues. …

“Those were the key findings of new research results released [Oct. 24] by DoSomething.org, a group working to get young people involved in social change.” More.

At the high school Suzanne and John attended, volunteering was required. But they also did things that just interested them. I remember Suzanne in a play targeting the cycle of domestic violence and John working on peace and justice activities.

The organization pictured below is City Year, “an education focused, nonprofit organization that unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service to keep students in school and on track to graduation.”

Suzanne’s friend Lisa did a City Year and thought it very worthwhile. Today, I often see the kids in their distinctive jackets on the train, and I once went door-to-door to help City Year’s public-spirited cofounder in a primary election for the Senate.

Photograph: Charles Krupa/AP/File
City Year volunteers sing the national anthem outside Faneuil Hall in Boston. The volunteers age 17 to 24 will work in a variety of community-service programs. The best way to encourage teens to volunteer is to make it a way to get together with their friends, a new report suggests.

 

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Yvonne Zipp wrote a nice article about a Christian Science Monitor-designated Difference Maker. He is Mario Morino, a philanthropist based in Rocky River, Ohio, outside Cleveland. He wrote the free book Leap of Reason to help large nonprofits demonstrate that they are serving the public in the ways they think they are.

Zipp writes that in 2009, after a day of meetings with three different nonprofit boards, Morino was about to burst from frustration.

“At each, a board was discussing how it would assess its nonprofit group. The problem? ‘There wasn’t a nonprofit executive in the room,’ he says.” How could the people who run nonprofits and the boards that assess them ever get agreement on worthwhile measures?

“Morino, who owned his own software development business in the 1980s before setting up the Morino Institute and later Venture Philanthropy Partners, went home and fired off one e-mail, then another. After a fourth, he had what became the core of his book, Leap of Reason, which has more than 40,000 copies in circulation so far – an impressive number for a book about the rarefied topic of nonprofit management. …

The book isn’t aimed at small nonprofits or “civic-minded individuals, Morino says. ‘They represent the strongest core of philanthropy in the US. You don’t want to touch that.’ He likens these folks to his long-ago neighbors in Cleveland, where, ‘if somebody’s building a garage, everyone helped build the garage.’

However, “of the 1.5 million nonprofit groups in the US, 40,000 have budgets of more than $1 million, according to Bridgespan [an organization that consults to nonprofits]. They are the targets of Leap of Reason.”

More here on how the data-driven approach outlined in the book has helped some large nonprofits become more effective.

By the way, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, where WordPress blogger Judith once worked as a writer, addresses the same issue. And Zipp’s article lists other organizations that advise charities.

Photograph of Mario Morino, Ken Blaze / Special to the Christian Science Monitor

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