Chances are, your mailman is pretty tired. Those holiday catalogues can be hefty—and there are so many of them! I’ll bet you have—right now—at least a dozen catalogues stacked up in your mailbox, in your “to do” pile, or in your trashcan. Triple that estimate if you buy from catalogues on a regular basis.
It’s easy to see why shopping by catalogue is so popular. They offer the convenience of shopping from home, the appeal of being able to make choices in a pitch-free environment, and the relief of not having to deal with crowded malls, choked roads, and (not inconsiderable in a full-employment economy) maddening retail workers. And so many things to choose from: Should you order the turtleneck sweater for little Jimmy? Or maybe the new Sony Playstation2? Fruitcake for Aunt Millie this year—or nuts?
In fact, it’s becoming something of a tradition of its own—instead of meeting Daddy downtown to go shopping, or sitting on Santa’s lap at the department store, we now sit around the fire (or fire up the computer) and order stuff.
This year we’ve decided to offer our own, somewhat different, sort of catalogue. Like the others, we hope that the choices offered are tantalizing. We hope to generate high sales volume; impulse purchases are especially encouraged. But the difference between this catalogue and the dozens of others you’ll receive this year is that while we too are asking you to write checks for the goods and services featured within, we are offering you absolutely nothing in return.
Nothing, that is, except for the knowledge that you are providing assistance to people who very much need it. (Well, that and a tax deduction.) Each of the 16 nonprofit organizations profiled in this guide are doing exceptionally effective work. How do we know? We asked donors around the country to nominate some of the best, most effective, organizations from among the thousands they support.
There are roughly 1 million nonprofits in the United States, and no selection of 16 can claim to be all-encompassing. Nor are these the “only” groups doing what they do. And while most of these groups are locally focused, as are so many effective nonprofits, none of the “problems” that these groups address is region-specific. These are human problems, and, as these examples demonstrate, they have human solutions.
The idea of a “Catalogue of Giving” is not entirely new. George McCully of the Ellis L. Phillips Foundation in Boston has for the past three years produced and distributed a handsomely-designed catalogue of Massachusetts nonprofits. But we believe that this is the first attempt at a national giving catalogue. We should also emphasize that neither Philanthropy magazine, nor its publisher, the Philanthropy Roundtable, have any formal affiliation or financial relationship with any of the organizations featured in this section. One hundred percent of all donations raised through this catalogue go directly to the featured programs. In fact, we encourage you to give directly; listed alongside each charity is contact information.
Most people with serious experience in philanthropy understand that for all the ambitious foundation-led “initiatives” and for all the bold “leadership” exerted by grantmakers, truly effective giving is almost invariably reducible to two key imperatives: First, find the people who are effective, and second, support them. Here are some effective people. We hope you will support them.
Tom Riley, Associate Editor
The Fishing School
Casting a net for D.C. children in rough seas
Joan Kennan, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Arcana Foundation, knew that the potential grantee she was visiting, the Fishing School, was located in a troubled area of the city. But she only realized how troubled it was when, on her first visit to the school, a taxi driver refused to take her there unless he received his fare up front.
1240 Wylie Street, NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
Upon arrival, she barely had a chance to step out of the car before he sped off in fear.
Kennan thus found herself standing on Wylie Street in the Northeast section of the nation’s capital. Police and the local media have dubbed it “the most dangerous street in America,” home to a deadly mixture of boarded-up houses, gangs, and a teeming drug market.
It is also where Tom Lewis decided in 1989 to turn a dilapidated house he had bought as an investment into the Fishing School, a child and family services center.
The center’s name and philosophy are based on the adage, “If you give a man a fish, you will feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime,” and the related Biblical passage in which Jesus promises to make his apostles “fishers of men.”
Lewis and his small staff teach the children to “fish” by focusing on education and character development, and by opening their eyes to the positive opportunities that exist outside the gangs and broken homes of Northeast D.C. In the center’s after-school program, currently attended by 42 kids, a retired school principal gives them lessons that will aid them on the city’s Stanford 9 achievement tests. Field trips to NASA’s Goddard Space Center and the international embassies that line Massachusetts Avenue are also regular parts of the curriculum.
Children exercise their bodies too, through the Fishing School’s athletic program, which includes basketball, football, and Little League baseball teams, and through the school’s dance troupe. The troupe has performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and one of its members went on to perform with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
“We just think that they’re providing a wonderful haven for these children,” says Kennan of the Arcana Foundation, now one of the Fishing School’s supporters. “It’s a safe place for them to come after school, and it’s nice for some of these kids who do not have fathers at home to have a male role model to look up to. Tom Lewis is certainly practicing what he preaches.”
Lewis’s commitment to serve began during his days as a police officer. Working in community relations, he had visited schools under the “Officer Friendly” program. There he met children who would come to school “just filthy,” Lewis says. “They would ask, ‘Would you be my dad? My daddy’s in jail.’ They would fight over whose daddy I was. It just did something to me. I stepped out of a lot of classrooms and had to rub my wet eyes.”
It was then that he made a promise to God and to himself: If he survived 20 years as a police officer (enough to qualify for a full pension), he would retire and devote his life to service. He quit the force on a Friday afternoon in 1986. By the following Monday, he was working at a halfway house for former convicts.
Soon thereafter he became a social services worker, visiting the homes of children and families in trouble. “I saw the conditions these kids were living in, and realized I had to do something about it,” Lewis remembers. “These children had to live in those conditions, and yet we expected them to go to school and perform like regular kids?”
Lewis knows he can never give his kids all the things they need—a clean, calm home, good nutrition, supportive parents, and dedicated schools—so he tries to leverage his influence by teaching them how to make good decisions. “I’m hoping that they will realize that the main thing they need to make it through life—they have it in themselves,” says Lewis. Lessons on character are taught through daily Bible study sessions.
Lewis certainly has won his share of supporters. “Organizations are only as good as the people who run them,” says Mary M. Bellor, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Philip L. Graham Fund, another of the Fishing School’s funders. “Tom Lewis is superb—he’s made the Fishing School an oasis of hope and promise for children who live in the midst of a very troubled neighborhood. Tom’s deeply held commitment to improving outcomes for children is what drives our decision to support the Fishing School whenever we can.”
That support has recently helped the Fishing School to start a second site in the Deanwood section of D.C.—another tough neighborhood with the same ills found on Wylie Street. For Tom Lewis, it is just once more into the breach.
The Hobart Shakespeareans
The Bard of Los Angeles
It’s a May evening in Koreatown in central Los Angeles, a neighborhood remembered for the 1992 riots and forgotten by prosperity. If anything, things have gotten worse for this mostly immigrant community besieged by crime and poverty.
980 South Hobart Blvd.
Los Angeles, California 90006
But inside Hobart Elementary School, tonight is St. Crispin’s Eve and Henry V is calling on his troops to unite against the French. “And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by, from this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.. . .” It is one of the most spine-tingling speeches in the English language delivered with a force belied by Wayne Kepner’s youth. Sitting in the audience, the acclaimed Shakespearean director Sir Peter Hall is moved to tears.
He wasn’t the only one. So many people started to cry during this year’s performance that director and teacher Rafe Esquith remembers ten-year-old Kepner telling him that he wanted to stop and say, “ Hey— it’s just a play!”
But perhaps the audience recognized that for Rafe Esquith and his 5th and 6th grade students, performing Henry V was only part of a far more powerful drama that has been unfolding year after year at Hobart, one where Shakespeare literally transforms lives.
“No one has any expectations for them,” Esquith says of the students who crowd with boundless enthusiasm into his small classroom. “Eighty percent come from alcoholic families, nobody has two parents at home, and nobody speaks English as a first language.”
When Esquith reasoned that studying Shakespeare after school was the ideal way to improve their language skills, the school board asked him to reconsider and do something “academic” instead. Thankfully, their advice was ignored. Esquith’s class now reads eight full plays every year, going through each one line by line, examining every allusion and symbol.
And of course, there is the annual production, which is open to any child in the school. So impressed was Sir Hall with Esquith’s students that he cast them as fairies in his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Los Angeles this summer. Previous classes performed in England with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and actors Sir Ian McKellen and Hal Holbrook are passionate patrons.
“These kids can learn,” says Esquith. “I’ve got kids at Harvard and Yale and they did not get there because of affirmative action: they got there because they have 1,400 on the SAT, and they’re brilliant scholars.” They also get there because the 45-year-old Esquith spends almost every waking hour working to give them the opportunities and the mentoring that “catch them up” to middle class children.
“I really started to love learning,” recalls Matt Parlow, now in his third year at Yale Law School. “Rafe was so charismatic and so personable, I just remember meeting him and saying, ‘I want to be part of this program—whatever it takes.’”
What it “takes” is starting class at 6:30 a.m. and finishing at 5 in the afternoon. It also takes studying everything from classical guitar to chemistry—and studying hard. Esquith takes the increasingly unusual view that success comes from instilling a strong work ethic and not from trying to convince the kids that learning is always fun or easy. As the large sign above the chalkboard reminds the children every day, “there are no shortcuts.”
And 5th and 6th grade with Esquith is no shortcut either. Even though his class scores in the top 10 percent in the country on the standardized tests, two years is simply not enough time to acquire the skills and discipline to get into college, says Esquith. So on Saturday mornings, he started what he believes is his most important program, “Wake Up with Will,” a combination of two hours of Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Chekov, and two hours of SAT preparation taken by over 50 of his former students.
“He makes such a difference for these kids, he gives them such opportunities,” says Mindy Jones of the Ahmanson Foundation, which normally funds only independent schools. After listening to Esquith and visiting his class, the foundation broke its own rules in order to give Esquith a capital grant.
For his devotion to his students, Esquith won Disney’s Teacher of the Year Award in 1992, and the resulting publicity helped a lot with fundraising. Nonetheless, Esquith and his wife are broke, spending every spare dollar on their programs. Esquith rises at 4:30 a.m. each weekday to walk to school. His family doesn’t own a car, and after returning home and eating a quick dinner, Esquith gives tutorials to help raise money for his class.
Asked where he gets such superhuman energy, he replies simply: “My former students literally write me letters every day saying I saved their lives.”
Cornerstone School of Alabama
Building strong students by building character
C. Molton Williams runs a successful insurance and mortgage banking firm in Birmingham, Alabama. Yet personal prosperity was not enough for him; his faith in Christ taught him to reach out to those in need. For years he volunteered in prisons, working with people from all walks of life from teenagers to death row inmates. He found that their stories shared some common themes: growing up in broken homes; failing to learn to read and perform other basic tasks; and the lack of a moral center. Mr. Williams decided to go straight to the heart of the problem.
55th Street North,
Birmingham, Alabama 35212
phone (205) 591-7600
fax (205) 591-7676
Four years ago, he and other donors founded the Cornerstone School of Alabama. They traveled the nation searching for a model of education with a proven track record for inner-city children. In Detroit, they happened upon the Cornerstone School, a Bible-based, character-focused school that supporters said was literally working miracles. They learned all they could from the Detroit example, then replicated it in Birmingham. “The Bible tells us to help widows and orphans,” Williams explains. “Most of these mothers are raising children on their own. They are the widows. Most of these children are growing up with barely any family structure. They are the orphans. We see ourselves as the Good Samaritan, closing the wounds of these children.”
This strong faith has led to the creation of a world-class urban school. It serves 250 children, from three-year-olds to 8th-graders. Over 80 percent of the school’s students live in poverty. Nevertheless, standards here are uncompromising. The academic goal of the school is simple yet daunting—to bring children up to grade level. Older students often enter the school (which has no entry requirements) several grade levels behind. Through a back-to-basics curriculum, intensive tutoring, individualized plans, and small classes, the school slowly but steadily helps children climb back up to where they need to be. Social promotion does not exist at Cornerstone; students go on to the next grade only when they have mastered the requisite subject matter. For students who enter the school at age three, the results have been nothing short of amazing: By 1st or 2nd grade, they test at the 90th percentile nationally.
But academics are just one piece of the school’s mission. Cornerstone also unashamedly attempts to instill good character. Every month teachers stress a different virtue: honesty, respect, compassion, and so on. Lessons and activities revolve around learning these values. Once a week, students attend special small group sessions that discuss real life issues and character in action.
Perhaps most importantly, the school sees itself as a major partner in raising its children. Frank Woodson, the school’s chief operating officer, describes a recent situation in which a little boy hit a girl. When asked by his teachers why he did it, he replied that he had seen his Daddy hit his Mommy, and he didn’t think anything was wrong with that. “Someone in the community needs to stand up and say to the little children: ‘Even if everyone’s doing it, it’s still wrong. And even if no one’s doing it, it’s still right,’” explains Woodson. “There’s got to be a moral consciousness. For these children, that’s our job.”
Parents are true partners in the school community. They are required to attend eight parent-teacher meetings and must contribute to their child’s tuition. Many can only afford to pay $50 a month, but they must give something. If they are out of work and flat broke they can pay by donating volunteer hours to perform meaningful work. “There are no free rides here,” says Woodson. “We’re trying to transform this community by teaching values. We give a hand-up, not a handout.”
This same spirit imbues the school’s relationship to the philanthropic community. “Investors” may sponsor a child for $2,500. Four times a year these adults meet with the students and serve as mentors. Many also tutor their students weekly. Carolyn Mason, one of the school’s investors and volunteers, explains, “These children truly are precious. Cornerstone not only gives them a good academic education, it also exposes them to the eternal truth of God.”
The personal relationship with an adult role model is at least as important as the money, explains Woodson—though the money certainly helps. The school spends roughly $5,500 for the education of each child—a bargain compared to public school costs. Most of the tuition is supported by private donations from the school’s “partners.” It is a compelling pitch. “We’ve developed a model that works,” explains Woodson. “The way you strengthen your society is by strengthening your weakest link.”
Giving the elderly a place to call home
It all started with breakfast. Cordelia Taylor, an administrator at a large nursing home, wondered why everyone had to have breakfast at 8:00. What if someone wanted coffee at 5:30 and breakfast at 9:00?
Impossible, the owners said—that kind of flexibility costs money.
3259 North 11th
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53206
Then there was the strapping of ambulatory patients into wheelchairs just in case they fell and filed a claim. Taylor didn’t approve of that indignity either. As the slights and overbearing nannying piled up, she finally decided that she had seen enough. Those who had lost so much and had nowhere else to go had nothing but the simplest freedoms with which to maintain their dignity. Without those freedoms, what meaning could “care” or “nursing” or “home” have?
Acting on a suggestion from her husband James, she decided to start her own facility—one that would be free of needless bureaucratic meddling, one that would try to mirror the freedom and responsibilities of a family home, and one that, while non-denominational, would practice a Christian respect for the dignity of life.
And “Family House” quite literally began with. . . the family house. Taylor moved eight seniors into the spaces once occupied by her eight grown-up children. Then she bought the burned-out lot next door for $4,000 and renovated it, adding eight more beds in the process. And then, well, it just kept growing as Taylor faced down the problem of Milwaukee’s homeless seniors.
“Some of them had lived on the street,” says Taylor, “and maybe they would get pneumonia and go into the hospital. When they had recuperated—naturally, the hospitals couldn’t discharge them into the street—they had to find a place. Prior to Family House they were discharging them into the care of nursing homes. As we don’t look at money as the prime motivator, we get all those people.”
Housing “those people,” however, forced Taylor into a battle even more dangerous than the one against the bureaucracy. She had to confront the drug gangs who fought each other for control of the block and who, unlike other residents, could pay high rents to absentee landlords.
After one particularly fierce gun battle that forced her residents to hide under their beds, she went to the police and told them they had to do something quickly or she would go to the press. Within hours, the gangs had been rousted, and Taylor had her extra space. Presently, Family House provides a home to 42 people. When the current cycle of renovation is complete, there will be room for a total of 68.
And then, for a second time, the “problem of breakfast” became a catalyst for action. As her son took in the food purchased from a nonprofit food agency every morning, schoolchildren started to ask if they could have a little to eat. At first, the Taylors gave out some fruit. But then Taylor and her son thought about it a bit more and decided that they couldn’t keep on giving away food without the children taking some measure of responsibility. So they asked for the childrens’ report cards and offered their dining room for homework.
The Family House after-school program had begun.
“One day we were passing out treats after they finished their homework,” says Taylor, “and one little girl said ‘Can I have two cans of corn instead of my treats today?’ And I thought, an eight-year old doesn’t ask for two cans of corn instead of potato chips, and so I took her over to one side and I said, ‘Is there no food at your home?’ And she said ‘No.’ And I said ‘Go home and tell your mom to come over.’ And that’s how the food bank started.”
The food bank teaches young poor mothers how to manage a budget, plan menus, and cook nourishing food. It is a mistake to take these skills for granted. “The state will give them books of food stamps, but no one has taught them to shop,” says Taylor, who plans to make the classes a regular Saturday morning event at the community center she’s building out of what used to be a tavern at the end of the street. In addition to its many other functions, Family House also provides health services for children, women, and seniors.
It has been a long and costly journey, and at times, when fund-raising wasn’t going well, the Taylors kept the project alive with their own money. Now, six of her children work for Family House, and Taylor is able to offer work to young mothers—all without a penny of government help. There are just too many strings attached to government money, she says, and too much bureaucracy that prevents her from doing what she wants to do. Nevertheless, in thinking about how charity could begin at her home, and with the support of charitable foundations and many dedicated volunteers, she has gone on to change the face of her community.
Michael S. Joyce, president of the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and a vocal supporter of Family House, explains that “Family House is a consummate example of the effectiveness and merit of community-based work and has provided a veritable wealth of resources to the citizens of its surrounding neighborhood.”
Joyce gives credit where it is due. “It is Ms. Taylor’s attention to detail that makes Family House so effective. She is constitutionally incapable of letting a single resource go to waste. And she insists that her staff, which prominently includes several of her adult children, not only do things well, but do them right.”
Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy
Taking advantage of assets in our nation’s capital
Fifteen-year-old Tiah Suggs has lived her entire life inside the District of Columbia. Yet until last fall, she had never met a politician, attended a hearing, or even read about public policy. She had never been to a “think tank,” even though her hometown bursts with them. She had never watched the legislative process, even though many of the laws originating in Washington have a direct impact on low-income children like herself. Tiah was a victim of the worst public school system in the nation, with its infamous low standards and calcified bureaucracy. That was until last fall, when everything changed.
1346 Florida Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
phone (202) 387-6980
That’s when Tiah enrolled in the Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy, a brand-new school offering a rigorous academic environment and something that only a local school could offer: a connection to the Washington policy world. After struggling through a middle school mired in violence and low expectations, Tiah and her mother took the plunge and signed up for a school that had never before existed.
From the start they knew the Chavez school was different. Classes were small and were led by well-informed teachers who were glad to be there. Academics were front and center. There would be lots of homework, the teachers warned, much more than the students were used to. The curriculum was tough, a standards-based design that demanded plenty of memorization, study, and critical thinking. They were going to push the kids hard, as hard as suburban kids get pushed. Mrs. Irasema Salcido, the school’s inspirational and demanding principal, made expectations crystal clear: “We want every one of these kids to go to a good college and come back and lead their communities.”
Tiah quickly realized that the school meant business. She and many of her peers struggled with the overwhelming workload. Others simply lacked the basic skills required to succeed. The school responded swiftly with interventions: remedial help, Saturday school, lots of tutoring, and plenty of encouragement. But the school stubbornly—some would say heroically—refused to lower its standards.
It was a tough first year. By May, it became clear that two-thirds of the school’s 60 students would need to repeat the 9th grade. Some would consider that a failure. But not Mrs. Salcido. “Was I supposed to pretend that these kids were performing at a 9th grade level?” she asked. “I wanted to make a difference in these kids’ lives. This is their last chance. What’s important is making sure these kids are ready for college, and ready for life.”
Mrs. Salcido and her crack staff are back at it again this year. They have a new class of 9th graders (30 of whom are repeaters from last year, determined to earn the distinction of advancement) and they continue to expose their students to tough academics while engaging them in real-world public policy issues. Every week the students hear from top experts in government, grassroots groups, and think tanks, from the right and the left. Students have testified at District of Columbia council meetings and have spoken out on real-world issues that they have studied and experienced.
Adam Meyerson, who serves on the school’s public policy advisory board, is vice president of the Heritage Foundation, which prods its employees to tutor frequently and which held a “Breakfast for Champions” fundraiser for the school. He explains Heritage’s commitment: “We’re impressed by the leadership and vision of Mrs. Salcido, who is a model of the kind of entrepreneurs we need much more of in American education.”
The chaos of year one has been replaced by a steady buzz of enthusiasm. There is still much to do to get the school completely up and running. It outgrew its first home and is still unpacking at its new location (an old dry cleaning building in a tough part of Northwest Washington, D.C.). This too will be temporary quarters, explains Mrs. Salcido, who is planning a capital campaign for a permanent school building. “We need to provide our students with a decent learning environment, with a building that actually looks and feels like a school.” She needs several million dollars to make that commitment a reality.
But Tiah Suggs and her mother aren’t complaining. For the first time ever, they are confident that Tiah is getting a world-class education. After a school-sponsored trip to Cornell University this summer, Tiah set her sights on a college degree—which would be a first for her family. “This school has taught me that I can do anything. I want to serve my community so that other kids can have the opportunity I’ve got.” Now that’s a public policy everyone can agree with.
Building community in Baltimore
When Sonia Moore needed help escaping her life selling marijuana in the projects, she moved to West Baltimore’s Sandtown district. There she found a neighborhood as blighted by drugs and crime as any in America, but she also found one of the nation’s most effective nonprofits, New Song Urban Ministries.
1385 North Gilmor Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21217
For starters, the New Song Community Learning Center offered her a job, despite her checkered past. She was then able to buy a home at cost through New Song’s housing arm, Sandtown Habitat for Humanity. New Song Family Health Services provided her and her three daughters with primary health care. All three daughters attended the New Song Academy, a school serving grades three through eight. And New Song staff helped the girls secure scholarships for high school so that they all could attend private boarding schools.
That New Song could meet Sonia Moore’s employment, health care, housing, and educational needs is a testament to its concentrated, strategic effort to do more than just provide services to the poor. Indeed, New Song is trying to overhaul a community from the ground up. For example:
Over the past ten years, Sandtown Habitat for Humanity has built or completely refurbished 130 homes in a twelve-block section of Sandtown—100 of them in just the past six years. Habitat’s current goal is to build 100 more homes by the end of 2000.
Eden Jobs, New Song’s employment arm, serves as a nonprofit headhunter and general resource for job seekers. Nina Anderson, Eden’s assistant director, has almost single-handedly placed more than 300 Sandtown residents in jobs since 1994.
The New Song Community Learning Center houses after-school and summer programs as well as the New Song Academy, where class sizes are held below 15 and the atmosphere can only be described as full of love.
New Song Family Health Services, in partnership with a local hospital, Mercy Medical Center, delivers primary care to Sandtown residents. It boasts thoroughly modern facilities and attracts volunteers from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University medical school.
New Song Arts & Media, the latest New Song program, manages the Sandtown Children of Praise, a gospel choir. The choir began as a musical supplement to the Learning Center’s after-school program and has blossomed into one of New Song’s most successful endeavors. Arts & Media has released two CDs of the children’s music. In January 1999, the children sang with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to a packed house at the city’s Meyerhoff Hall.
Want to see self-esteem rise? Nothing does it like success. “The Children of Praise understand what it means to be a blessing to people, to send people out of a room full of joy” says Steve Smallman, executive director of Arts & Media. “That’s power. What does it feel like to be a child from Sandtown and get to go to the Meyerhoff and get a standing ovation? I don’t know.”
Smallman is one of a group of white, relatively affluent suburbanites who relocated to Sandtown in order to live out their Christian faith. Allan and Susan Tibbels, along with their two daughters, and the Rev. Mark Gornik moved there in 1986, buying homes and living and working in the community.
In 1988, they started the New Song Community Church, an interracial congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America, and partnered with a local ministry run by the Elder Clyde Harris. From there, New Song expanded into each ministry as the community identified other unmet needs.
All along the goal has been to meet the community’s most pressing needs by becoming an organic part of the neighborhood. They recognized that building a community meant becoming part of the community—not parachuting in from 9 to 5. And one way to do that is to identify promising leaders from within the community. Throughout New Song’s six ministries they have identified and promoted such individuals into positions of authority.
“For me, as a funder, New Song is the nonprofit that you hope every nonprofit is,” says Margaret Mauro, executive director of the Rouse Company Foundation. “They have dedicated their lives to that community, their motives are so unselfish, they’ve moved there, they live there, the staff they hire are from the neighborhood. Everyone has a real investment in the organization.”
New Song’s next major investment will be a $3.8 million community center linked via pedestrian platform to the school’s current building. It will allow the New Song Academy to expand to include a high school and every elementary grade as community residents have tired of having to send their children off to boarding school just to get a decent education.
The leadership at New Song wants the children to stay in the community to continue the work they’ve started. Empowering the community, after all, is what New Song is all about. “Ms. Susan [Tibbels] demands that you don’t leave Sandtown, that you remember where you came from,” insists Michael Parker, a New Song Academy graduate who continually tells Susan that someday he’ll be running New Song. Susan certainly hopes so.
The National Jobs Partnership
Churches and businesses working together
Chris Mangum, the white executive vice president of C.C. Mangum (a Raleigh, North Carolina construction company), needed workers to fill vacant positions; Donald McCoy, a black pastor in Raleigh, had congregants who needed work. Thus was born the Jobs Partnership of Raleigh, begun in 1996 as an unlikely partnership. Since then it has achieved great success, both in preparing people to achieve self-sufficiency through employment, and in enabling local businesses to fill vacancies with hard-working, reliable personnel.
4208 Six Forks Road
Building 2, Suite 320
Raleigh, North Carolina 27609
The partnership unites churches (of many different denominations, serving both black and white parishioners) and businesses (from trucking companies and realtors to florists and hair stylists). The two sorts of institutions form a true partnership: the businesses have jobs to be filled, and the churches train their members to enable them to fill them.
The program prepares workers using a twelve-week training course developed by the churches and a local community college. The course has a dual curriculum. On Monday evenings enrollees learn religious principles, which hold that work is a privilege and can itself be a form of worship. On Thursday evenings they imbibe practical knowledge designed to help them get and keep jobs, such as preparing an effective resume and learning to meet business expectations. During the last nine weeks of the program, students are also offered hands-on work experience at participating businesses.
At this point, the students are considered job-ready and are referred to the partnership’s clearinghouse, which matches them with job vacancies listed by the member businesses. The clearinghouse also coordinates the partnership’s educational programs offering training in literacy and computer skills—all privately financed by the member businesses.
The program is small: it currently trains about 60 workers per year. Its success rate, though, is extraordinarily impressive. According to David Spickard, the partnership’s director of operations, 93 percent of those whom it has trained are currently employed. The success rate results not only from the effective training, but also from the support graduates receive after their formal training ends. The students are sponsored by partnership churches, and students have mentors who continue to advise them through their first two years of employment. Additional on-the-job mentoring is provided at the workplace. In addition, the churches provide a support system that makes it easier for graduates to remain in the workforce by helping them find child care and transportation to and from job sites. Businesses therefore have considerable confidence when they hire partnership trainees. They know that these employees will be getting the kind of assistance that will enable them to get to work regularly and punctually.
The Jobs Partnership is a remarkably effective alliance between two sectors which, regrettably, too often remain at arm’s length from one another: religious institutions (which frequently question the motives of for-profit enterprises), and businesses (which frequently question the relevance of religious doctrine to their hard-headed, bottom-line concerns). In fact, the two sectors have complementary concerns with which each can be aided by the other. The partnership demonstrates how churches can seek to promote the self-reliance and financial self-sufficiency of the poor, by encouraging the most effective welfare program of them all—a job. It also demonstrates that businesses can garner bottom-line benefits because of the efforts of churches to foster responsibility and dedication among their parishioners.
The partnership’s unique approach has won some converts in yet another camp—donors. “We helped them early on with a grant,” explains Tony Pipa, director of philanthropic services at the Triangle Community Foundation in North Carolina. “This is a phenomenal example of a community working together. Folks get trained and learn to become employable. That builds people who are self-sufficient.”
Although the efforts of Raleigh’s jobs partnership are already impressive, exciting developments are now underway that promise to make the partnership more effective. The Jobs Partnership of Raleigh has now evolved into the National Jobs Partnership. Comparable partnerships either have been created or are currently being created in dozens of other cities, including Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Orlando, Chattanooga, Knoxville, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Businesses can do much on their own to help the poor, as can churches, but jobs partnerships—one of which may well be coming soon to a neighborhood near you—suggest that the poor are aided most effectively when businesses and churches act together.
Midtown Educational Foundation
Healthy hearts and healthy minds in Chicago
In Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, as in so many others across the country, the infrastructure of civil society has broken down at the same time that many of the institutions counted on to replace it have been found wanting. How do we rebuild that crucial “third place” where young people from chaotic backgrounds can interact, learn, play, and hopefully forge their characters? Two educational centers in downtown Chicago seem to have an answer.
718 South Loomis Street
Chicago, Illinois 60607
Walking through the gaily decorated classrooms of downtown Chicago’s Metro Achievement Center on a Saturday morning, a visitor might see inner-city girls prepping for college entrance exams, conducting a science experiment, or participating in an arts and crafts project. A short cab ride away on Chicago’s Near West Side, boys at the three-story brick Midtown Center might be working on an on-line newspaper, attending a college readiness seminar, or heading out to play basketball.
The Midtown Educational Foundation, a nonprofit which exists to support Midtown for boys and Metro for girls, was founded by a group of Chicago businessmen who wanted to provide an alternative to the streets for inner-city youth. Midtown and Metro offer after-school, weekend, and summer education and character-building programs to area 4th–12th graders attending public, private, and parochial schools. Both target disadvantaged minority children of average academic ability with college potential—the very children who are so often overlooked in the public school system.
The organization’s work is guided by the social teachings of the Catholic Church, but participation is open to children of all faiths, and all values instruction is nondenominational. In 1998, Midtown’s seven full-time staff and 235 volunteers served 489 boys and Metro’s seven full-time staff and 163 volunteers served 392 girls.
Midtown and Metro share the same basic structure. The “One-on-One” program pairs 4th–6th graders with volunteer tutors for weekly individualized tutoring sessions. The volunteers—mainly young professionals but also some college students—receive training in mentoring and are encouraged to develop close relationships with their students. The Achievement Program for 7th–8th graders emphasizes academic coursework aimed at enabling students to enter college prep high schools. The College Orientation Program for 9th–12th graders offers English, math, and science skills-building classes, college entrance exam preparation, and college and career-related activities. All children participate in short weekly character development classes, which address values like self-discipline, generosity, and honesty. They also meet briefly once a week with volunteer advisors, who are there to listen, encourage, and act as positive role models.
The two centers incorporate an array of recreational, enrichment, and community service activities into their programming. Sports are a big draw for the boys at Midtown; singing, dance, drawing, and drama classes are popular at Metro. Other activities include Junior Achievement, toastmasters, science clubs sponsored by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, book groups, sports outings, and such service projects as visiting nursing homes and delivering Christmas baskets. The foundation estimates that it costs $871 to put a child through a year of its programs.
Midtown and Metro sum up their approach to serving children with the initials A V.I.P. “A” stands for academics, “V” for the basic virtues that are taught alongside academics, “I” for individualized attention, and “P” for the partnership between staff, volunteers, and parents. The foundation requires that parents “buy in” to its programs, both literally and figuratively, to ensure that the centers’ work gets reinforced at home. Parents must attend entrance interviews and pay nominal application and tuition fees (which can be waived in hardship cases); they are also encouraged to participate in parenting programs.
The “A V.I.P.” approach certainly seems to pay off. According to the foundation, over 90 percent of its kids graduate from high school—a much higher rate than their inner-city peers—and of this number, an amazing two-thirds go on to college. An independent assessment of One-on-One by Dr. Joan Costello from the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago described it as a “strong mentoring program” that “exudes vitality.” Visitors from as far afield as Hong Kong and Sicily have come to Chicago to study the programs, which have been profiled by the Financial Times, the BBC, and NBC. But perhaps the most telling tribute to Metro and Midtown is the frequency with which alums come back to serve as volunteers and staff. One notable returnee is the foundation’s executive director, Jim Palos, a graduate of Columbia University and Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.
Metro and Midtown rely almost entirely on private funding, with an impressive roster of donors including AT&T, the Chicago Bears Foundation, and Walgreens (which underwrites One-on-One). Bob Kornecki, president of the central region of Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, says he and his company give to the foundation because it provides a “super benefit to the community and the kids” through its partnership between staff, volunteers, and parents “to build these kids up and make them the best they can be.” A number of Kornecki’s employees volunteer at the centers, and he says the feedback he gets from them is “absolutely positive, fantastic.”
High school student Brandon Boler, a Midtown participant since grade school, willingly relates how he has benefited from his time there. The One-on-One program “boosted my confidence in reading out loud” and the character development activities helped him become a better person, he reports. And finally, the sports programs taught him that even if you’re on a bad team, by practicing good sportsmanship you can “still be a winner.”
The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers
Artistic merit, recognized and rewarded
Somewhere today a high school student is laboring over the draft of a poem or refining the details of a painting, creating a piece of art he hopes will be seen and understood by a nation. The Alliance for Young Artists and Writers will give him that chance. The Alliance is the sponsor of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, a program that recognizes talented students across North America. The program reaches into local schools, communities, and into perhaps the most private community of all—the inner creative lives of the young people who are encouraged to submit their work for consideration. The scope of the awards program is impressive: last year 250,000 artists and writers stepped forward to share their own creations in a forum that extends well beyond the familiar confines of the classroom.
New York, New York 10012
The awards program, established in 1923 by M. R. “Robbie” Robinson (founder of Scholastic Inc, an educational publishing company), operates independently of government support and thus outside of the current arts funding debate. Local sponsor organizations, which can be anything from airports to volunteer arts councils, take responsibility for encouraging the participation of teachers and students. They also supervise the first round of judging, which culminates in the awarding of Gold and Silver Keys to 40,000 students nationwide. Gold Key winners move to a national contest in which the judges are men and women selected for their achievement in the art world. Judges in past years have included William Saroyan, Robert Frost, Romare Beardon, Judy Blume, and George Plimpton. The 1,100 final winners share $170,000 in prize and scholarship money.
As a private organization, the program relies on a national network of students, teachers, foundations, corporations, and individual volunteers to carry out its mission. Donors share an interest in assisting the development of young minds, and their reasons for involvement range from the pragmatic to the highly personal. Jane Polin, program manager of the G.E. Fund, reasons that, “As we look towards workforce 2000, we see a tremendous need for workers who are creative, analytical, disciplined, and self confident. Hands-on participation in the arts is an especially effective means to develop these abilities in students.” Lindsay Shea, a donor from Brooklyn, derives a more personal gratification from her involvement. Recently she targeted a contribution toward the cost of returning artwork to students, recognizing that the expense of return shipping might inhibit some contestants. But Shea says that she most values “the connection that I, as a funder, am able to make with the students and their families and teachers. The compelling, engaging, and entertaining works of art and writing introduce us to the astounding visions and voices of those emerging artists and writers. Then, through the events hosted to celebrate each year’s winners, we are further impressed with their poise, passion and ability to express themselves.”
Teachers share recognition with the prize-winning students, and their encouragement and inspiration of young people is rightly acknowledged as an essential form of participation. In an interesting twist, this private program has come to exert an influence on public education as teachers across the nation look to each year’s winning entries for new modes and materials to introduce in their own classrooms. A Florida public school system even holds an annual professional development workshop in which prize-winning entries are analyzed as a way to refresh and reconsider teaching methods. The Alliance’s anthologies of poetry, writing, and art clearly emphasize beauty and humanity. While the judges look for and value an individual voice or style, there is also a refreshing freedom from the cynicism that all too often characterizes the world-weary contemporary artist’s quest for cheap shocks or new “-isms.”
The strongest art and best writing emerge from the students’ own experiences, and the array of winning entries deal with such fundamentally human issues as young love, coming of age, illness, and coping with senility and death. Leslie Bohmah’s story, a classic example of the cathartic power of art, stands out for the extremity of the artist’s circumstances. Born in Ghana, Bohmah immigrated with his mother to America after a death squad executed his father. Years later, his mother told him the truth about his father’s death. Angry, shocked, and horrified, Bohmah learned to transform his emotions into artistic energy. The life-sized painting in which he imagines his father’s execution won one of the top prizes several years ago, and Bohmah is now an art student at Fashion Institute of Technology, the prestigious New York City art school. He volunteers part time, incidentally, in the New York office of the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers.
For Bohmah and for thousands of other young people, participation in the Alliance’s annual awards contest not only builds local community but also connects participants to the broader community of American creativity. The annual award ceremonies, held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., underscore a sense of national identity. Some of the prize winners who have gone on to become household names include Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates, Andy Warhol, and Bernard Malamud.
Other examples show that creativity and its encouragement is not necessarily bound by medium: Richard Avedon, now famous for his photography, won a prize for poetry, while actor-filmmaker Robert Redford won for painting. Alliance board members, donors and jurors are constantly on the lookout for the next generation of genius and—judging from the quality of the prize-winning work—have already begun to foster it.
Manufacturing hope and progress in Detroit
Focus: HOPE is a complex of Detroit institutions with an emphasis on job training. Today it is a surprisingly big and businesslike organization, with a $69 million budget, a 40-acre campus, 800 employees, and a whopping 50,000 volunteers supporting its efforts. The program is currently among the most successful job-training programs in the nation, having been cited in a 1996 report by the federal government’s General Accounting Office as one of six such model programs throughout the country.
Few could have foreseen Focus: HOPE’s current size, eminence, and focus on employment training at the time of its founding in 1968. Two white Catholics—the late Father William T. Cunningham, and Eleanor M. Josaitis, who today serves as executive director—established it on a shoestring in response to Detroit’s cataclysmic 1967 riots.
1355 Oakman Blvd.
Detroit, Michigan 48238
Shortly thereafter, the organization introduced a food-distribution program. It continues to distribute food to needy mothers, children, and senior citizens. Significantly, though, the demand for free food has slackened in recent years, as the economy has improved and as more among the poor have taken steps to achieve self-reliance. Focus: HOPE now feeds about 47,000 people, down from the 89,000 who received its food donations as recently as 1991.
Focus: HOPE’s current emphasis on job training reflects the belief that it is better for the poor to be able to feed themselves, rather than to be fed by donations from others. This exemplifies an important shift in social policy that has occurred more broadly in the last three decades. Unlike in the past, it is now widely agreed that poor people should aspire to self-sufficiency, because they are generally able to achieve it. Josaitis told the Detroit Free Press that Focus: HOPE principally seeks to promote self-reliance: “We will fight with everything we have to keep people on the food program for as long as they need it, but our passion is to get people into the financial mainstream.”
And Focus: HOPE’s job programs have in fact been remarkably effective in getting people into the financial mainstream. Its efforts in that direction began in 1981, with the formation of the Machinist Training Institute. The institute trains enrollees in precision machining and metalworking, responding to an acute shortage of skilled personnel among Detroit-area manufacturers. Entrants need only 9th-grade reading and 10th-grade math skills, yet after 31 weeks in the program, students are able to earn $11 an hour.
The institute currently trains about 900 students per year. Seventy percent of the enrollees complete the program, and of those who do, virtually all find work. To date the program has produced more than 1,800 graduates, who currently fill well-paid positions with area manufacturers. William Motts is an institute alumnus who went from being an eleventh-grade dropout to earning a $45,000 salary as an engineer at GM. Speaking to a reporter, he described his upward mobility like this: “Focus: HOPE challenged me to push my boundaries. It forced me to be disciplined. It gave me very marketable skills.”
Motts was able to become an engineer because Focus: HOPE offers a more ambitious program for institute graduates, who can pursue further training at the Center for Advanced Technologies, which opened in 1993. Linking the expertise of five major universities (among them the University of Michigan) and six corporate partners (including Ford and General Motors), the center offers Associate’s and Bachelor’s degrees in manufacturing engineering and technology. Remarkably, Motts’s starting salary is actually on the low side for a center graduate.
Focus: HOPE succeeds in training its enrollees and enabling them to uplift themselves in part because its programs make serious demands upon them. Josaitis believes that rewards must be earned and insists that students be disciplined and responsible: drug use, theft, chronic lateness, and even the use of profanity (after two warnings) are grounds for dismissal.
The program also promotes self-reliance by requiring the students themselves to pay for much of their education. Institute enrollees must finance fully half of their $14,500 tuition by taking out loans at 5 percent interest (the remainder is paid for by government grants). Repayment begins 90 days after graduation, by which time the graduates are generally employed.
Focus: HOPE has also enjoyed great success in training those with meager academic credentials. Its FAST TRACK program, begun in 1989, is a seven-week program for inner-city residents with 8th-grade reading and math skills. It generally upgrades math skills by two grade levels and reading skills by at least one. Over 250 students are enrolled in this program, and 80 percent of the graduates go on to the Machinist Training Institute. Another remedial program, First Step, was established in 1997 for those with math skills at the 6th-grade level; more than 200 students are enrolled in this four-week program. Overall, Focus: HOPE has provided remedial education to nearly 5,000 impoverished Detroit residents and placed them in real jobs.
Focus: HOPE came into being as a result of the civil-rights movement of the 1960s. Its remarkable transformation offers important insights into the ways in which that movement can and must continue to evolve: racial equality is effectively promoted when inner-city residents learn marketable skills and display the businesslike decorum that employers rightly demand.
Philadelphia Community Academy
An educational oasis in Philadelphia’s Badlands
You can tell from the expressions on their faces—somewhere between bemused and exasperated—that they have heard the question before. Well, how do you respond to the argument that the only reason independent schools like yours do so well is that you can cherry-pick the best students, while public schools are required to keep the “hard cases”?
Joe Proietta and David Hardy look at each other, shake their heads, and reply in unison: “Those ‘hard cases’ are all we’ve got!”
2820 North Fourth Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19133
“And look at our results!” Proietta adds, “Now parents are pulling their kids out of those public schools and begging us to take them.”
Proietta’s school, Philadelphia Community Academy, is the city’s first charter school. The Academy’s founders were able to overcome the Philadelphia public school system’s longstanding aversion to charter schools through a unique combination of determination, timing—and public school desperation.
When the Philadelphia public schools, in response to mounting violence and decay, wanted to lift their self-imposed ban on expelling students, they faced a dilemma. Where could they put students who had been “guaranteed” an education but were holding back other students because of their disciplinary problems and “impossible” attitudes? In stepped former Catholic school teacher Joe Proietta, saying, “I’ll take ’em.”
The school is located in a renovated factory that once manufactured traffic cones. If the building’s provenance is unpromising, its surroundings are downright ominous. The school is located on the edge of “the Badlands,” a sprawling gash of urban despair cutting across North Philadelphia that really earns its name.
David Hardy is as realistic about the neighborhood as he is determined t