Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Season Giving

Thanksgiving is over which means:

1. "Frosty the Snowman" came on the radio 2 times during my 20-minute grocery shopping trip.

2. My mom will urge my dad to put up holiday lights every day from now until December 24th when he decides to get out the ladder.
3. I am craving Christmas cookies 24/7.

Until this year, these have been some of the main things I have associated with the post-Thanksgiving weeks leading up to the holidays.

After having joined the nonprofit world, however, I realize that the weeks from now through the end of the year are some of the most critical days for nonprofit organizations to raise funds.

In these weeks comprising the "holiday giving season" more people donate to nonprofits than during any other time of year, so organizations like
Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection rely heavily on people's generosity to get through the end of each year.

When depending on donations, it almost goes without saying that the economy is hurting nonprofits extremely hard. In my weekly PIP seminar, many fellows express how the recession is impacting their organizations. Several of our speakers have suggested that the "nonprofit world" is about 2 years behind the "business world" within the recession, meaning we are getting hit hard now and face more tough times ahead.

For Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, a lot is riding on the next few weeks of donations and grants. While the programs are solid (Tutor/Mentor Connection just had a
successful conference, and Cabrini Connections continues to bring in a packed room of students and mentors each night of tutoring), we are financially at a point where our future and the organization's survival into 2011 and beyond is uncertain.

We face an uphill battle, but if you look at the impact the organization has made in its 17 years, it is filling a critical role in the city of Chicago and in the
Cabrini community.

As it says on the
homepage of the Cabrini Connections website: "Thanks to the many people who have responded, Cabrini Connections has connected more than 500 inner city teens with 800 workplace volunteers. At the same time, CC has built a library of information and a collaboration strategy that is helping more than 200 other youth serving organizations in Chicago, and countless others around the country."

While the situation is certainly grim, there are reasons to be optimistic. Today we are stuffing envelops of "
Holiday Fund Raising Appeal Letters" to send out to hundreds of our supporters. We have also had a number of our students write appeals discussing what the organization has meant to them. They are definitely worth reading to get a personal glimpse at what the organization means to individual students. You can read Melissa Young's letter below and read all of the letters on our fundraising blog.

Please consider what you might do during the holiday season to help push us through this tough time and give us momentum to start next year.

You can
donate now, pass this holiday letter and response form on to your rich uncle (or anyone else), and register for eScrip so that your holiday purchases support Cabrini Connections (go to this website, and enter group ID 500025364).

Thanks for your support and happy holidays!


Letter from 11th grade Cabrini Connections student, Melissa Young:

Dear Reader,

My name is Melissa Young. I am a junior at Josephinum Academy. I started attending Cabrini Connections when I was in 7th grade. For the past four years at Cabrini Connections, it has been the best I ever had in my life. There are so many opportunities here. There is also so many people that help us achieve the dreams we have. They also teach us about the real world, such as an example, we have to be here on time, or if we are running late, or not feeling too good, they make sure we call in, and tell them our situation. There is an example of what would happen with a real job.

Cabrini Connections has so many things for us (students) to do, like clubs. We have video club, which I am in. There is also art club, tech club, and writing club. Fun stuff for all of us to do. Like I said before, I am in video club. I really enjoy it. They taught me how to use a camera, the many different shots, how to do a story board, and how to edit. I even got the chance to do some of the videos by myself.

They also take us on field trips like basketball games and college tours. Through this program I figured out what two colleges I am thinking about going to, which is Columbia College or DePaul University. As for the basketball game, I enjoy seeing girls play, instead of the boys. During or around Halloween I plan my own fundraiser. We called it the Halloween Bake Sale. Through this I learned how to fundraise events and know how to organize.

Last summer I was the lucky student to go on one of their events called the Golf Benefit. I was able to meet the chairmen of Cabrini Connections. I was also able to video tape everything and watch people play golf for the first time. You can meet so many people through this program. When I first came it was just me and my niece. Four years past, and I know mostly everyone, and they all know me.

Every Wednesday and Thursday we have tutoring night, which now I meet with my tutor Elena. She has been so great to me. She helps with homework problems or if I am ever in need of something. I am really glad that we met.

Now that I told you my story at Cabrini Connections, I really hope that in the kindness of our heart you will donate us some money so that all these wonderful things could stay open for children and teens like me. If you could I would really appreciate it. Thank you for reading my letter.


Melissa Young

P.S. Have a good day =)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Conference Done, Connections Just Begun!

The Fall 2010 Tutor/Mentor Leadership & Networking Conference took place on Friday and was a huge success with over 100 attendees and 20 workshops. You don't have to take my word for it--here are some reflections from a few conference attendees:

"Great individuals, passionate and inspiring to be here. It reinforces why we do what we do."

"I learned so much today and will be able to apply what I learned in our community."

"I really enjoyed the conference and the networking component. It gave me ideas and resources to walk away with to share with my mentees and organization as a whole."

Watch this conference video made by Bradley Troast, to get a taste for the day's events:

As you can see from this video and the comments of those who attended, the conference was a day filled with energy, new connections, information sharing, and people thoroughly dedicated to tutoring and mentoring programs. It was inspiring to be surrounded by people so passionate about their calling to help youth reach their full potential through quality tutoring and mentoring programs. The attendees ranged from a group of people from East St. Louis who are looking to start their own program in 2011, to individuals who have attended dozens of conferences over the years and who have been in the tutoring/mentoring industry for decades. I was inspired by the expertise of the veterans and the energy and vision of those new to the field.

Although the next conference is still six months away, it won't be long before the staff at Tutor/Mentor Connection begins planning for that conference. Organizing these biannual conferences takes money for space, materials, and catering, but the far greater cost lies in the man-hours it takes to facilitate these events, maintain databases of organizations to invite, and coordinate collaborative events throughout the year. Donations that come in before December 31st will help us this fiscal year as we begin planning for the 2011 conferences. Please show your support!

A big thanks to Dan Bassill, EL Da' Sheon Nix, Toni Pullen, Mike Trakan, and Bradley Troast from the CC, T/MC staff--everyone worked hard and put in lots of extra time and energy to make this conference happen! Thanks team!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Conference Agenda!

During the summer, we held a series of collaboration meetings at Tutor/Mentor Connection where staff of many programs discussed their needs. Based on feedback from those meetings, we are focusing a lot of the conference on marketing and branding for organizations, on networking, and on education reform as relevant to non-school programs.

Here is a list of workshops for the day, but be sure to check out the speaker bios and workshop descriptions for more detailed information. And don't forget to REGISTER NOW!

Welcome and Opening Address

The State of Tutoring and Mentoring in the Chicago Region

Daniel F. Bassill, President & CEO, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Group Networking Session

How to Maximize Networking at the Conference

Jordan Hestermann, Executive Director, Becoming We The People

First Morning Workshops

Imagine Mars: Exposing Kids to Careers in Math, Science & Technology

Rose Mabwa, Manager, Mercy Housing

Intro to Web Video and the Implications for Nonprofits

Brad Manilla. Director of Creative Development, let's dabble, LLC

Getting Your Student Ready for College

Alexandria Taylor, Director of College Access and Success, The Associated Colleges of Illinois

Tutor Training Tips Panel

Second Morning Workshops

Creative Marketing Solutions to Support NonProfits

Moderator: Eugene Breger, Director of Business Development, MarketSphere Consulting, LLC

Ash Blue, Founder and Main Writer, Ash Blue Design

Lynne Kurdziel, Founder and CEO, Luminate

Mark Shore, Founder, Shore Capital Management LLC

Exposure to Violence: Effects of Trauma on Students

Ylonda Ware, Clinical Therapist, Naelewa Counseling Services

Parental Power: Unlocking the Key to Successful Program Outcomes

Toinette Gunn, Executive Director, The Partnership to Educate & Advance Kids (PEAK)

Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Panel

Moderator: Scott McFarland, Resource & Information Manager, Serve Illinois Commission

Christy Beighe-Byrne, Director of Mentor & Volunteer Services, Chicago Youth Centers

Karina Kelly, City Director, Jumpstart

Joel Newman, Director of Community Partnerships, Big Brothers Big Sisters

Lunch & Networking Tables

First Afternoon Workshops

Marketing/Branding Panel

Chris Beebe, Principal, the Visionary Agency

Chris Huizenga, EPIC

Social Network Analysis of Tutor/Mentor Conferences

Kalyani Misra, SNA Volunteer, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Successful Special Events

Mary Gerace, Consultant, Mary Gerace Enterprises

Using Technology to Reduce Truancy

Ed Bates, Director of Prevention Services, PASS (Positive Alternative Student Services)
Terence Hodges, Outreach Specialist, PASS (Positive Alternative Student Services)

Second Afternoon Workshops

Creating Your Own Neighborhood Maps

Mike Trakan, GIS Map Developer, Tutor/Mentor Connection

Financing Higher Education: How to Get It, and How to Pay For It

Abel Montoya, Director of Outreach Operations, Illinois Student Assistance Commission

Update Your Status: Using Social Networking to Improve Organizational Branding

Jacquita Smith, Program Director, Camp of Dreams

University Partnerships

Closing Keynote Panel

"Waiting for Superman," Education Reform, and Non-School Programs

Moderator: Jim O'Connor, Project Director, Advance Illinois

Andrew Broy, President, Illinois Network of Charter Schools

Wendy DuBoe, COO, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago

Mark Duhon, Founder & Executive Director, HighSight

Lisa Vahey, Founder, Chicago New Teacher Center

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Treat Yourself to a Shopping Spree!

Do you ever shop online, book online airfare or hotels, or buy Groupon daily deals? Read on.

You can help Tutor Mentor Connection and Cabrini Connections through your regular online purchases (especially as the holiday season approaches!).

Just click this link to the
Good Shop website then enter Cabrini Connections as your designated organization. From there you can search for your favorite store, be redirected to that store's website, and then the retailer will donate a small percentage of your purchase to Cabrini Connections (no extra charge to you!).

Many large online retailers and companies are eligible (including Amazon, Best Buy, Banana Republic, Apple, Barnes and Noble, Priceline, and even Groupon), so I encourage you to make your purchases through this website and urge others to do the same.

Although it may only generate a few cents through a single purchase, it could really add up if enough of us do this!

Thanks for your help and now go shop 'til you drop!

Special thanks to my mom for sharing this website with me!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cabrini--Not Just Torn Down Buildings

A few weeks ago when I was walking home from work, I noticed a large crowd gathered outside of the convenience store on my block. I saw a student from Cabrini Connections and asked him what had happened. Soon, I learned that the owner of the store, Bassam Naoum or "Ollie" as he was known, had been shot and killed over the weekend. It wasn't a robbery because nothing in the store or register had been taken.

I attended a vigil that night outside of the store along with well over a hundred people.
I quickly discovered that Ollie had been a beloved part of the Cabrini community. We heard one poignant story after another of how Ollie would give neighborhood kids free snacks when they couldn't afford them, would say "pay me back later" to families needing food, and would always employ members of the community.

People at the vigil demonstrated disbelief, outrage and deep sadness about Ollie's tragic death. Several of the speakers made calls to action urging that the "violence must stop." Although I never had the privilege of knowing Ollie personally (I had only been into the store a handful of times), I was deeply moved by the strong outpouring of grief upon his death and the obvious impact Ollie clearly had on the Cabrini community.

A few days after the vigil, I found a column in the Chicago Tribune with the headline "Ollie's Death Marks Cabrini's End." While the column contains interesting information, I find the message conveyed in the headline and in sections of the article disquieting. Just because buildings are torn down doesn't mean that people disappear, unmet needs and social services are satiated, or that individuals no longer identify with the Cabrini community. On the contrary, attending the vigil along with a huge crowd of people from the area gave me a sense that Cabrini is far from gone.

As Dan Bassill's recent blog post discusses in detail, hundreds of families and school-aged students still live in the Cabrini neighborhood, and many more will be living in the area once plans for the Cabrini transformation are complete. When people think of Cabrini Green as a bunch of torn down buildings, it completely masks the urgent needs of the people living in this area. It also masks the urgent needs of programs and organizations serving these people.

Cabrini Connections has a long history of serving 7th-12th grade youth from the Cabrini area by matching them with caring adult tutors and mentors, offering assistance with high school and college applications, and giving them enrichment and learning opportunities. View the weekly "student spotlights" to learn about some of the almost 80 teens the program currently serves. Also stay tuned to CabriniBlog to keep up with what the program is doing.

The vigil for Ollie was almost three weeks ago now. Every day since, I walk by the store and there are still fresh flowers, new cards to Ollie, and candles lit in his honor. Cabrini Green doesn't seem dead to me at all.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voting with More than a Ballot

ELECTION DAY! This morning on my way to work, I dropped my completed ballot in the mailbox. Although I am a registered Washington state voter which means I must vote absentee, sometimes I wish I could go to the polls because there’s just something more momentous about waiting in line and voting in a booth.

When voting is as easy as making selections and dropping my ballot in a mailbox, I almost forget what a privilege it is to vote. Although I see voting as a critical part of civic responsibility, I also don’t think it’s enough to limit my sense of citizenship to election days. Yes, my vote matters and that’s why (however dorky this may sound) I had posters and books about women suffragists filling the walls and shelves of my bedroom growing up.

Yet I think it is of equal (or greater) importance to take daily actions that stand behind the types of votes I cast, the leaders I support, the laws I agree with, and the types of changes I would like to see in this country.

As I go to work each day or attend PIP seminars each week, I am inspired by those around me who I see taking daily actions to contribute to positive change. Although the work of politicians is admirable (at least in theory, if not always in practice), I have deep respect for those who stay out of the spotlight yet contribute to tangible changes in the lives of those around them.

I see Cabrini Connections mentors who spend hours each week with their mentees listening to stories about their days, helping them apply for high schools and colleges, taking them on special outings, and coaching them in algebra or physics. I see volunteers donating their technology skills to Tutor/Mentor Connection. I talk to program directors of other tutor/mentor programs who are busy and strained but still donate their time sharing best practices at our conferences. I see committed students in our program plan and organize fundraiser events like this past weekend's Halloween Bake Sale to help our program operate.

I admire each of these individuals for their alive since of citizenship.

Citizenship and supporting a cause takes votes, but I truly believe that making change happen also takes “behind the scenes” time, talent, and dollars. Please consider how you might “cast your vote” to support the work we do.