Community Voices Charities In Your Community

Posted: January 07, 2001

IN A TIGHT JOB MARKET, GOVERNMENT AND VOLUNTEERS CAN PLAY A LARGER CHARITABLE ROLE

For several years, the nonprofit world has been shaky at best. Because of congressional budget cutting, many charitable organizations began to find their funding drying up. Then as governmental direct-service programs began to close, many already financially strapped charitable organizations found themselves with the additional problem of more people to help.

The current economic expansion has brought both good news and bad news to the nonprofit world. The good news is that as people feel more secure financially, they begin to think of others. Last month it was announced that charitable giving was up substantially since 1995. The bad news is that the economic expansion has also given us an extremely tight job market. Charitable organizations that utilize paid staff are feeling the effects of this. It has always been difficult to attract talented employees to nonprofits; it is extremely difficult to do so now.

Make no mistake: Things are hard in the nonprofit world. In these opulent times, we should try to remember how the world's first billionaire, Andrew Carnegie, spent the end of his years trying to give away his wealth to charity. The government can always play a bigger role, but quite frankly, so can we.

Thomas A. Glover

Solebury Solutions

Solebury, Pa.

TEACHING SKILLS

You might be surprised to learn that 1.4 million adults in New Jersey, or 1 out of 5 adults in Camden County, are unable to read, speak, write and/or use basic computational skills in everyday situations. Illiteracy costs businesses more than $30 billion each year, and according to the U.S. Department of Justice, one half of all adults in federal and state correctional facilities cannot read or write at all.

The good news is that there is help. Literacy Volunteers of America/Camden County, an accredited affiliate of Literacy Volunteers of America Inc., a national nonprofit organization has well-trained tutors who teach adults the basic skills they need to participate in our society more fully. This organization also provides tutors for our neighbors who do not speak English.

If you would like to become a volunteer, refer a student, make a donation, and/or learn more about Literacy Volunteers of America: We have offices at the Camden County Library in Voorhees, the Camden Free Public Library in Camden or you can visit us at lva.camden.lib.nj.us.

You need not have any teaching experience, just concern for your neighbors, our future and the quality of life for all of us.

Joan S. Prober

Literacy Volunteers of America

Camden County

ENRICHING COMMUNITIES

Nonprofit organizations in this region are transforming and enriching lives and communities through a broad diversity of programs and services. To name just a few: Generation On Line's efforts to make the Internet available to older people; the Mural Arts Program, whose more than 1,800 murals have united neighbors and become catalysts for community revitalization; The Free Library of Philadelphia's Bits & Bytes Project, which helps youth, parents and teachers learn how to access information and enhance learning through technology; Philadelphia Green's land reuse strategies in low-income neighborhoods; the Summer Youth Exploration program, which trains youth-service workers and provides summer employment for the region's high school students, and the United Way's Child Care Matters initiative to improve our child-care system.

To sustain and enhance critical charitable endeavors, we must have a formula to attract private philanthropic dollars, volunteer efforts and government funding that is thoughtful, strategic, encourages creative approaches, builds the capacity of our most effective nonprofits, and ensures that model charitable programs can be brought to scale.

Our nation has a vested interest in seeing the best charitable work flourish and be sustained over the long haul. Individual givers, private philanthropic groups, businesses and the government have a responsibility to leverage our resources and talents to improve lives and become stewards in the betterment of society.

Dale Mitchell

Executive Director

Delaware Valley Grantmakers

Philadelphia

HELPING PATIENTS

The Wellness Community of Philadelphia provides services to people of the Philadelphia area and beyond. Since opening in July of 1993, we have provided over 45,000 hours of programs and services to over 7,000 cancer patients and their families. We accomplish this with only seven dedicated full-time staff, several more clinical professionals, a committed board of directors and a number of wonderful volunteers, many of whom are cancer survivors or their loved ones who greatly appreciate what we do. Our needs are many, however.

All nonprofits need the time, talent and expertise of community leaders who dedicate themselves to helping our organization grow. We need large for-profit companies to encourage their employees to participate actively on boards at nonprofits.

Funding is always a concern. Individual philanthropic giving has risen over the last few years. But temper that with the knowledge that, especially in the Philadelphia region, corporate giving is down simply because so many large companies have moved or been absorbed in recent years. Most development efforts in nonprofits now focus on individual giving. The government can help by giving additional tax or other incentives to encourage even more donations. Without community support, groups like ours cannot continue to be the lifeline that so many people rely on for their very existence.

Patricia Wellenbach

The Wellness Community of Philadelphia

PROVIDING CLOTHING

NGA Inc. (formerly Needlework Guild of America, Inc.) is a charity known for gifts of new clothing, new linens, and basic personal care items that remove obstacles for "cash-poor" neighbors.

School-age kids with nice, proper, well-fitting clothes fit in with their peers and truancy is lower. Suitably attired adults gain both employment and self-confidence. Teens' self-esteem is boosted; negative self-destructive tendencies are reduced, and early pregnancies are decreased. Both families' frustration levels and child-abuse cases are reduced. These transformations take place because NGA exists.

NGA is a 115-year-old grassroots charity that is volunteer-driven.

Philadelphia's branch welcomes new volunteers to write news articles, do mailing, post flyers, do record keeping, produce newsletters, and shop for, sort and transport items.

We also need some new caring neighbors, employers, manufacturers/corporations, merchants, faculties and students, congregations/religious groups, and social-service organizations to participate in raising awareness and funds.

NGA has had little support from the government. Does that fact prevent us from feeling like Marian Wright Edelman felt: "Service to others is simply the rent we pay for living"? As I see it, no way!

Dorothy V. Scott

Philadelphia Branch Member

NGA Inc.

WORKERS REACH OUT

Many employees across the country enjoy the convenience of workplace giving, which allows them to make donations to their favorite charities through payroll deduction. Employees can give at higher levels than would otherwise be possible through one-time check or cash gifts. Beside the obvious benefit of a tax deduction, employees can support charitable organizations that really mean something to them.

For the last eight years, I have served as a volunteer for the City of Philadelphia Employees' Combined Campaign. Philadelphia's campaign is the nation's most successful municipal campaign, raising more money than New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston. Last year it raised $1.68 million for 13 umbrella charities.

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Like all women who live through this insidious disease, I felt fearful and alone. The people closest to me felt awkward, not knowing what they could do to comfort me. I sought out other women who were fighting breast cancer by attending support groups at area hospitals. There I found the support I needed to defeat my cancer, which has not reccurred. Now, through my payroll contribution, I can give something back to the programs that helped me so much in my time of crisis. And as a campaign volunteer, I have been able to share valuable information with coworkers facing the same threat.

Anola Vance

AMONG COLLEGE STUDENTS MORE VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

With a new year and a new semester beginning, students on the campus of St. Joseph's University will come back with a list of resolutions that usually includes more studying and less partying. The library will be packed with students dreaming of A's in biology. But where does community service place on the list of resolutions?

I can't help noticing the lack of charities to help others around this Jesuit community. There is no chatter or flyers or articles in the school newspaper informing students on how to get involved. I believe that student involvement in charities should be easily available. As a college student, I am a role model. It is evident in the eyes of a child when he or she first finds out that I am in college; they see themselves in 10 or 12 years.

I volunteer within the community not to fulfill a resolution, or because it looks good on a resume, but because I want to start a cycle. If I can help just one person, maybe he or she will in turn help someone else -- that is how a strong and safe community is built.

Molly Reilly

AIDING THE DISABLED

Thirty years ago, institutionalization of individuals with mental retardation was commonplace. Often, at the advice of well-meaning physicians, young parents would send their disabled offspring to centers in the state's most rural areas, far away from the families' neighborhood. But a few courageous parents thought that there must be a better way and started to form voluntary agencies that served people with mental retardation in their own communities.

One such organization is Programs Employing People (PEP). Founded in 1969, the organization's first program was a summer day camp for children who were disabled. Today, PEP runs a variety of community-integrated programs for both children and adults with disabilities.

Like many charities, PEP has found that government funding has not kept pace with the needs of the people being served. However, giving money isn't the only way to help. Even though they no longer live in segregated facilities, many people with mental retardation have no contacts with the nondisabled world other than the paid staff members who support them. A donation of time, even a few hours a month, can enhance the life of a person with mental retardation.

Barry Johnston

FRIENDSHIP AND CARING

H. O. P. E. (Helping Other People in Emergencies) is a wonderful charitable group in my parish of Corpus Christi in Lansdale. The group is composed of about 10 teams of four people, who serve on a rotating basis. Help is given without charge to those who need it - be it shopping, transportation, preparing food, being there in a crisis, etc.

It seems to me that this type of charity is best carried out without the government being involved. Friendship and caring are the names of the game, and truly H.O.P.E. brings a lot of hope to many folks.

Margaret Smith

Lansdale

MEETING WOMEN'S NEEDS

For too many women, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

As we celebrated our bicentennial and the principles of equality upon which this nation was founded, seven women-focused agencies, struggling to keep their doors open, banded together to form Women's Way, the national first women's funding federation. Their mission was ambitious but clear: to ensure funding to advocate freedom from violence, guarantee equal opportunity, challenge discrimination in all its forms, foster economic self-determination and affirm reproductive freedom.

Nearly 25 years later, Women's Way's mission remains the same. Some want to believe that discrimination is a thing of the past, that reproductive freedom is secure and that domestic violence is no longer a problem.

In a recent report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Pennsylvania is ranked among the overall worst states for women - 43d in the country - and ranked in the lowest third for political participation, reproductive rights and economic autonomy.

Women's Way's member agencies are working to change the status of women in our community. Women's Way still needs the support of the people of the Philadelphia area because the 260,000 women our agencies serve each year still need us. Please join us in raising a powerful voice for women.

Melissa Weiler Gerber

Womens Way

HELPING GROUPS ALLEVIATE THE NEED FOR CHARITY

Each year at this time, Americans prepare to file tax returns by reviewing our income and expenses over the last year. Whether we're rich, poor or somewhere in between, there's a good chance that we gave some money away last year. Indeed, Americans gave more than $190 billion to charity in 1999, and this figure is likely to increase in 2000.

As impressive as these numbers sound, don't let them fool you. Since 1980, politicians from both sides of the aisle have supported cuts in publicly funded health, social service, education and arts programs, based on the assumption that private philanthropy will pick up the tab. Yet according to John Hopkins University professor Lester Salamon, private philanthropy would have to increase by a factor of 10 to make up for recent cuts in public funding. Even if this were possible, it may not be desirable to shift responsibility for funding from the public to the private sector.

Bread and Roses Community Fund is a partnership of donors and activists who are committed to supporting change, not charity. Recognizing that private philanthropy can't make up for cuts in public funding, we provide strategic funding to groups working to alleviate the need for charity in the first place. Many of our grantees have secured large-scale changes in public attitudes and greater access to public funding.

For example, more than a decade ago, Act-Up Philadelphia realized that all the private contributions in the world wouldn't be sufficient to combat AIDS. Since then, its members have won commitments from local, state and federal agencies to fund AIDS research, prevention and treatment.

Around the same time, Disabled in Action realized that private contributions weren't sufficient to fund public transportation and housing for disabled individuals. Over the past decade, it sought and won commitments for public recognition and funding in these areas. Today, the Philadelphia Student Union (PSU) recognized that while privately-funded school programs make a difference in the lives of some students, the only thing that will give all Philadelphia students a fair chance is a more equitable state funding formula. PSU members are engaged in a campaign to change public attitudes and ultimately to change public polices that pertain to school funding.

While charity meets pressing human needs, it must be balanced with a commitment to alleviating the causes of such needs. Don't be fooled by politicians who say that private support can make up for cuts in public funding. Now is the time to start thinking about how you can use your philanthropic contributions this year - regardless of the amount you give away - to support long-term change that lessens the need for charity in the first place.

Christie Balka

Bread and Roses Community Fund

VOLUNTEERS ARE KEY FORCE

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to get involved with two charitable enterprises. One of these, a nonprofit organization, was involved in the distribution and delivery of food products to thousands of underprivileged women, children and elderly people who were unable to care for themselves. I was one of a thousand people who gave of themselves to those in need. This grand-scale effort would not have been possible without the care and dedication of the many volunteers who did the physical work.

Volunteers are the major force in our society who help the disadvantaged and the needy. Charities working together with volunteers have increased the quality of life of many Americans and will continue to play a major part in our society. With the arrival of the 21st century, more needs to be done to decrease the number of the disadvantaged in our country. One way to accomplish this is to be charitable to our own children. The ultimate form of charity begins with our families in our own homes.

It is this form of charity, which we call love, that in the broader sense will decrease the need that we now face with the increasing disadvantaged population in this country.

John J. Pino

Broomall

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