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Posts Tagged ‘support’

Photo: Georgia State University.
Latonya Young was able to finish college after Kevin Esch, her Uber passenger, secretly paid off previous school costs.

This feel-good story was widely reported, but just in case you missed it, I want you to know that once upon a time when an Uber driver mentioned to a passenger that she couldn’t finish college because of a debt for classes already taken, the passenger knew he had to help out. And — secretly at first — he did. But it may have been the ongoing friendship and support that had the biggest effect.

Sydney Page has the story at the Washington Post. “Latonya Young, a 44-year-old single mother of three, received a bachelor’s degree [in May]. It was a lifelong goal — and she credits one of her Uber passengers with making it possible.

“She met the passenger three years ago when she pulled over in downtown Atlanta to pick him up. Kevin Esch, who had just come from an Atlanta United soccer game, got into her car. The two started chatting.

“ ‘The conversation was easy and felt authentic,’ said Esch, 45.

“He shared details about his recent divorce, and Young — whose marriage ended in 2011 — offered advice.

“During the half-hour ride to Esch’s home, he learned that Young, who had been an Uber driver for three years, was working late that night because she needed money to pay a utility bill.

“And he learned something else: Young wanted to be the first member of her family to graduate from college. Although Young started taking classes at Georgia State University in 2010, she dropped out a year later because she couldn’t pay the tuition.

“Once they arrived at his home, Esch, an estate manager, tipped Young $150 — enough to cover the utility bill — and gave her his phone number.

“ ‘She promised me that she would go back to school,’ he said, adding that he asked her to keep him informed throughout the enrollment process. It was the start of an unexpected friendship.

“After the Uber ride, ‘I had my mind made up that I wanted to go back to school,’ she said. ‘He motivated me.’

“But a few weeks later, when Young tried to re-enroll at Georgia State, she was told that she wasn’t permitted to register until her balance from eight years earlier was paid in full. She owed $693 — a sum she couldn’t afford.

“When she told Esch about the financial hold, he immediately went to the university, without Young’s knowledge, and paid off her debt.

‘I didn’t want that to be a roadblock, because it was something that I could change,’ Esch said. ‘I was in a place to be able to do it, and it was the right thing to do.’ …

“ ‘I was in shock,’ Young said. ‘This person barely knew me, and yet he wanted to help me.’

“She vowed to pay him back, but his response was: ‘Pay me back by graduating.’

“Young was grateful for the support, she said, after years of working multiple jobs and putting off her education. …

“ ‘It was like I was stuck inside a box and couldn’t get out. I was just trying to do whatever I had to do to take care of my kids,’ Young said, adding that she was also in a car accident in 2015, which further set her back financially. …

“After meeting Esch, though, ‘I felt it was time for me to do something for myself, and to set an example for my kids,’ Young said. Plus, she added, ‘I wanted to remain a woman of my word and do exactly what I told Kevin I was going to do.’

“She re-enrolled in courses, and in December 2019, Young received her associate’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Perimeter College. Esch was there on graduation day, cheering her on in the stands. …

“Still, ‘I knew I wasn’t finished,’ she said. Getting a bachelor’s degree was her ultimate goal, ‘so I went straight ahead. Not only was I aiming for that, but I was aiming to raise my GPA as much as I could before I graduated.’

“Young continued with her studies while working part time as a substitute teacher, as well as a hairstylist. She also received support from the Jeanette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund, which offers financial aid to low-income women older than 35 pursuing postsecondary education. …

“ ‘The funding helped me get through the hardships,’ Young said, adding that it was often difficult to manage being a single mother while working two jobs and keeping up with her classes. …

“Despite the challenges, though, Young graduated with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies on May 6. Of course, alongside her family, Esch was in the stands once again — beaming with joy.”

Read the rest of the story at the Post, here.

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Photo: Folio.
Are newspapers really dead? Maybe it’s just taking a while to find new ways to support them.

As consumers of the news and traditional advertisers increasingly go online, there has been understandable handwringing about how local reporting and investigative journalism is to survive.

Sarah Scire writes for Nieman Lab about a philanthropic model.

The Guardian — through its U.S.-based philanthropic arm theguardian.org — raised $9 million between April 2020 and April 2021. Rachel White, who has been president of theguardian.org since its founding in 2016, said [donations for news organizations continued].

“New multi-year reporting projects were funded and launched, too. Humanity United, which has funded reporting on modern day slavery and labor exploitation with a pair of two-year $800,000 grants, expanded its support in 2021 with a $1.5 million grant for a series on human rights around the world. … In another example, Open Society Foundations, which has funded reporting on gender inequality in the U.S. at the Guardian in the past, reupped its contributions to fund work on climate justice and the intersection of inequality and Covid-19. Other grants have boosted the climate journalism … and made a U.S. voting rights project possible.

“With bleak-and-getting-bleaker advertising figures, we’ve seen a number of new newsrooms choose to go the nonprofit route and look to fund their journalism through individual contributions and direct support from foundations and other charitable organizations.

“Philanthropy at the Guardian is a little less straightforward. The news organization, owned by Scott Trust Limited, is not a nonprofit like. … Instead, in 2016, the Guardian formed an independent, U.S.-based charitable organization specifically to find financial support for its journalism. It’s part of a growing trend of U.S. newspapers seeking philanthropic support; the same year, the New York Times launched its own philanthropic arm. …

“White, who joined from New America Foundation, says … ‘For a place like the Guardian, we wouldn’t and shouldn’t be seeking the same kind of funding that nonprofit newsrooms split, because we have lots of different revenue streams that support the news organization. [We] really needed to define why and how we would seek philanthropic support.’

“The ‘how’ was relatively straightforward; setting up a 501(c)(3) made it easier for more nonprofits to contribute. The ‘why,’ White says, has been driven entirely by the newsroom.

“ ‘We’re fierce — and always will be — about editorial independence,’ she said. ‘Every one of the ideas that we take to philanthropy comes first from senior editors at the Guardian.’ …

“Every project funded through theguardian.org has a prominently placed badge noting the institution(s) that made the work possible. A gene editing documentary was funded by the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust, for example, while articles in a series on the threats facing public lands in the United States and Canada discloses its support from the Society of Environmental Journalists. The full list of more than 40 grant-supported projects appears on theguardian.org. …

“White is quick to point out that philanthropy is not the primary way the Guardian supports its journalism. Annual revenue for the Guardian was £223.5 million (USD $308 million) in 2020, including digital-driven revenue — now making up 56% of all revenue — at £125.9 million. In contrast, theguardian.org has reliably contributed between $5.1 million and $5.4 million per year. … The philanthropic arm focuses on reporting projects that might be difficult to justify funding while facing budget shortfalls. …

“The organizations and individuals that White works with are, unsurprisingly, very interested in the impact of the journalism they fund. The Guardian has developed a suite of tools and procedures to try and measure who their journalism is reaching — and what effect it has. …

“Looking ahead, White says the newsroom is looking at finding funding for topics like ‘the future of the American worker’ and ‘the long tail of inequality and poverty’ post-pandemic. …

“Toward the end of our conversation, I asked White — who has been working to secure philanthropic support for journalism for nearly six years now — what has surprised her most in her role.

“ ‘I really did believe in 2016 … that everyone would immediately see the role of journalism and philanthropy would rise triumphantly to the challenge and that there would be this outpouring of support. While the market has expanded and this commitment to the idea of supporting journalism has grown, it certainly hasn’t grown at the pace of the crisis for journalism. …

“ ‘I just continue to hope that the philanthropic market will expand to meet the needs of news organizations, because they’re substantial.’ ”

More at Nieman Lab, here.

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tlumackihomeless306

Photo: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Cathy Corbett got her hair cut at HER on a recent Saturday. HER is a weekly event from the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program.

When I think of all the health care I’m able to utilize (cataract surgery today, for example), my heart breaks for people who don’t have coverage. A special program in Boston aims to help homeless women get some of what they need while also lifting their spirits with fun activities.

Elise Takahama writes at the Boston Globe, “Linda Winn … sobered up six months ago, but she’s been battling homelessness for the past year. Winn, a 51-year-old Somerville native, said she’s working with a few organizations to find permanent housing, but for now, she is staying at Woods-Mullen, a South End homeless shelter.

“A few months ago, she discovered a haven of medical care — and free haircuts — just around the corner..

” ‘I started coming a few months ago. I love the staff. It’s been helping with depression, helping with any problem I might have,’ said Winn. …

“In one corner, a group of women played bingo, while others danced and sang karaoke in the middle of the room. A table near the back was filled with markers, beads, and nail polish. Movies were shown in a separate room.

“All these activities are part of HER Saturday, a program that offers a medical clinic for women who have suffered abuse, are homeless, or are in need of health care services, said Melinda Thomas, the program’s associate medical director. …

“The HER Saturday program was launched in February 2016, Thomas said. When it first started, about 30 to 50 women would wander through the doors. Now, at least 100 women — sometimes up to 200 — line up at 7 a.m. every week, she said.

“The Saturday clinic not only gives the women a chance to get manicures and watch romantic comedies but also provides preventative health care services and cancer screenings, which include mammograms and Pap smears. Homeless women have higher rates of mortality from breast and cervical cancer, Thomas said. A medical provider, a nurse, a case manager, a social worker, and a behavioral health counselor are available every week.” More at the Globe, here.

Those of us who can have a medical check-up, a haircut, or a tasty meal whenever we want really should feel gratitude every day. I also feel gratitude for the people behind programs like this, which benefit us all if only indirectly.

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I learn some really cool things from the Christian Science Monitor. (I’m on their listserv for stories about people helping people, the CMS Change Agent newsletter.)

A recent newsletter highlighted an initiative by successful Mexicans living in New York who have decided to offer practical support to poor immigrants from their homeland.

Tyler J. Kelly writes, “The view from Carlos Valverde’s 38th-floor office tells a story by itself – New York stretching below, the mighty skyscrapers of the World Trade Center rising all around.

“Mr. Valverde is the construction manager of the World Trade Center’s Tower Three, responsible for 2 million square feet of real estate, and the vista from his office is, in many ways, the realized vision of many immigrants’ dreams.

“From Brooklyn’s workaday Sunset Park, however, the view is quite different. There, at classes put on by a nonprofit, the Mixteca Organization, six to eight immigrants sit in folding chairs around plastic tables struggling to spell tarea, Spanish for ‘homework,’ or trying to understand the concept of the hundreds’ place in math. …

“In Mexican culture – both in Mexico and here in New York – there’s little tradition of people bridging these two worlds. But that is changing. Valverde is part of a slowly growing effort to bring the resources of New York’s Mexican-American 1 percent to bear on the problems of the 99 percent.

“The benefits for the immigrant community here are plain. Edgar Morales, for one, has gone from being a construction worker to getting a college education paid for by a Mexican philanthropist. He’s now a computer science major with dreams of interning at Google or Microsoft.

“But it has also changed Valverde, who volunteers at Mixteca in Sunset Park, and others like him. In Mexico, the wealthy travel with bodyguards and live in houses surrounded by electrified wire; in the US, some are reaching and gaining a new perspective.

“After spending hours talking with clients about every conceivable detail of an elevator’s interior, Valverde says, ‘I go to Sunset Park and talk to a graduate [at Mixteca] who just finished English 3 and is a baker.’

“Compared with the baker’s reality, he says, the elevator issues seem ‘minute, minuscule.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ann Hermes/Christian Science Monitor
Carlos Valverde (standing outside 3 World Trade Center in New York) helps new, less affluent Mexican immigrants go to school and find work.

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A few years ago Amy Wyeth wrote an article about Massachusetts veterans services for a magazine I edit. As I was thinking about what I could post here for Veterans Day, I remembered how much I appreciated learning from Amy about an organization for homeless veterans in Leeds, Massachusetts. It has since expanded to other locations.

The emphatic gentleman in the video below (“The Mission Continues”) really moved me. I got the points he made about not telling grownups what to do — instead being there to support them, one by one, in what they need. He advocates decriminalizing substance abuse so that veterans who need treatment can get it.

He notes that all the Solider On staff work directly with the veterans. Even if their job doesn’t entail social services, they all need to understand what the veterans are going through. At the end of the video, he says that the 90 percent of us who didn’t offer to give our lives for our country owe it to the 10 percent who did that, after their service, they can have a place to live and adequate support for what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

Soldier On now serves Mississippi, New York, Western Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. And it offers a separate program for women veterans, run by women veterans.

More here.

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A week or so ago, I wrote about CSA, community-supported arts, a concept that borrows from the community-supported agriculture movement. In case you missed it, here’s the post.

Another creative idea for supporting the arts is crowd funding. I learned about it from the Backstage blog by way of ArtsJournal.com.

” ‘I saw people believing in themselves enough to try and make money for their projects,’ said Monica Mirabile, a co-founder of the Copycat Theatre. Earlier this year, Mirabile was applying for grants for her Baltimore-based theater troupe when a friend suggested she look into Kickstarter, a ‘crowd-funding’ website that promotes artistic projects through social media and allows donors to
support fundraising campaigns with any amount of money they desire. Crowd-funding sites have grown in popularity over the last few years and continue to attract artists and benefactors. …

” ‘This is not the newest idea on the block. It’s very traditional. But we’ve become very used to the idea of someone in a boardroom giving us a check and we hand them a piece of art and cross our fingers. The longer history of art is actually one of patronage that involves the artist’s audience. …

” Users of crowd funding must summarize their projects and goals for potential donors, a process that can help artists sharpen the skills needed to pitch or develop those projects in the future. ‘I learned how to better articulate why I’m doing the project and my artwork and what we’re trying to gain,’ said Mirabile. ‘I made friends because, by promoting, I got to talk to different
people in my community and made connections.’ ”

Read more here. And if you try an approach like Kickstarter, would you let me know how it worked for you? Leave a comment.

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