Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bailing on the Boys & Girls Club

Board members are bailing on a struggling Texas nonprofit. From the Brownsville Herald:
After threatening to shut down last Friday, the Brownsville Boys & Girls Club’s future remains uncertain, pending a potential loan from the city and with several administrators resigning this week.

The Boys & Girls Club is on life support,” said Lynn Anderson, president of the club board. “We’re going to do Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and if we don’t see anything by Friday to make the payroll then we’re going to have to shut down.”

Club officials announced an indefinite closure of the club Friday before a meeting with city officials led to an agreement to re-open the club with loan money


Al McClandon, regional service director for Rio Grande Valley, has been working with the Brownsville club from his San Antonio office, and will visit the area today to assess the situation.

He said the problems faced by Brownsville are not unusual for non-profit organizations.

Funding is one of our main challenges, so pretty much it is a problem in most places but we find a way to work through it,” McClandon said. “There is always a cash flow problem when you talk about the number of kids versus the money coming in.”

To further complicate matters, executive director Lou Gracia informed board members she would resign when her contract ends on Aug. 1. She did not return calls by press time Tuesday.

“She’ll be there until August and they’ll put out a search to locate a replacement,” McClandon said, adding they were looking for people from other clubs. “But the most important thing is how you can work with people and energize them for the mission.”

Gracia isn’t the only one stepping down.

Of the club’s eight board members, treasurer Chris Inderidson, has resigned and member Dean Owens is expected to resign soon. Other board members may follow, according to Thirlwall.

“It seems that if they’re going to close the club, everybody is thinking about resigning and the financial responsibility is what everybody’s trying to avoid,” he said. “This past week several board members put in the money themselves.”

Before the city discussed loaning money to the club, board members had to use $4,000 of their personal money to cover employee wages.

Thirlwall said some people see the club as a lost cause and are ready to cut their losses.

There’s no value that you can put on this for the children of the community but the people that wanted to close it down are just tired of fighting,” said Thirlwall, adding that funding changes over the last several years have led to the club’s financial dilemma.

Until today, I didn't know where Brownsville, Texas was exactly. I certainly didn't know it's the sixth fastest growing manufacturing region in the United States. But I do know that a nonprofit there is struggling to keep its head above water, and some are looking to cut their losses. Is there a philanthropist in the house?

After a cursory search, I couldn't find any foundations in Brownsville, TX (I found one in Brownsville, Wisconsin), but I did find seven foundations based in Corpus Christi (four hours north of Brownsville) that might be willing to help a nonprofit in the Brownsville area:

Coastal Bend Community Foundation
The Six Hundred Bldg.
600 Leopard St., Ste. 1716
Corpus Christi, TX 78473
Telephone: (361) 882-9745
FAX: (361) 882-2865
Contact: Ed Harte

Ed Rachal Foundation
500 N. Shoreline Blvd., Ste. 1002
Corpus Christi, TX 78471-1016
Telephone: (361) 881-9040
FAX: (361) 881-9885
Contact: Paul D. Altheide, C.E.O.

Earl C. Sams Foundation, Inc.
101 N. Shoreline Dr., Ste. 602
Corpus Christi, TX 78401
Telephone: (361) 888-6485
FAX: (361) 884-4241
Contact: Bruce S. Hawn, Pres.

Allen Lovelace Moore and Blanche Davis Moore Foundation
3765 S. Alameda, Ste. 416
Corpus Christi, TX 78411
Telephone: (361) 814-6700
Contact: Gary Leach, Dir.

Paul and Mary Haas Foundation
P.O. Box 2928
Corpus Christi, TX 78403-2928
Telephone: (361) 887-6955
FAX: (361) 883-5992
Contact: Karen L. Wesson, Admin. Dir.

Estill Foundation
4022 Lowman St.
Corpus Christi, TX 78411-3133
Contact: Jeannette Holloway, Pres.

Behmann Brothers Foundation
P.O. Box 271486
Corpus Christi, TX 78427-1486
Contact: Charles L. Kosarek, Jr., Pres.

Contact these seven foundations and tell them not to bail on the Brownsville Boys and Girls Club.

Boys & Girls Club of Brownsville Inc
1338 E 8th St
Brownsville, TX 78520
Telephone: (956) 546-4254

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth of July

In celebration of the Fourth of July, I offer the following: a statement of our ideals, a witness to their betrayal, and a hope for their defense.

"The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind."

May we never forget that.

Happy Fourth!

The Declaration of Independence
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" 5 July 1852:
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense:
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying of a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Bitek Okoye

Live8 starts tomorrow, and, while I'm all for raising awareness and pushing government to enact reform, I really couldn't care less about Live8.

From The Long Walk to Justice, the Live8 site:

Every single day, 30,000 children die, needlessly, of extreme poverty.

On July 6th, we finally have the opportunity to stop that shameful statistic.

8 world leaders, gathered in Scotland for the G8 summit, will be presented with a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair. If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history.

But they'll only do it if enough people tell them to.

That's why we're staging Live 8. 10 concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators, 2 billion viewers, and 1 message... To get those 8 men, in that 1 room, to stop 30,000 children dying every single day of extreme poverty.

We don't want your money - we want you!

You want to do something about world poverty? Let's start with the fact that 8 unelected leaders have had the power to stop 30,000 children from dying and haven't. Let's begin with the idea that 8 unelected leaders have that kind of power on a planet of six billion. Then, let's think about the fact that Bob Geldof's response is not "let's make sure that those 8 people are good people who protect people as well as trade" or "let's make sure that such institutions are accountable to the people their decisions will affect" or even "hey, are we doing enough in the way of foreign aid" but "let's have a rock concert." Hey, you do what you can, right?

I hope something comes of this, I really do, but I have two words for you: Bitek Okoye. While we're rocking out to U2 feeling just great about ourselves, you have to wonder if our lavish show of solidarity makes any appreciable difference in the lives of the people we're trying to help.

For his part, Eric Alterman says it more bluntly than I would, "To Hell with Live 8 (And I mean that.)":
I’m an idiot, I know, but I just figured out that Live 8 is not raising any money for famine relief or malaria cures or AIDS treatment in Africa. It is just designed to “pressure” G8 countries into doing what’s right. Thing is, guys, the G8 doesn’t, (and shouldn’t) care what Madonna, Elton John, U2, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, R.E.M., Coldplay, Bjork, Sting, Dido, Justin Timberlake, Green Day, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Celine Dion, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill think about anything, particularly if they won’t put their own riches where their big mouths are. (Ditto Pitt, George Clooney, Will Smith, Natalie Portman and Salma Hayek.) I am in favor of harnessing the power of celebrity for global good but where’s the good in this? Good God, this is a moral crime. All that money available just for the asking—all those lives that could be saved by people who won’t miss the money--and these guys won’t even bother to ask? They won’t even allow charities to canvass the audience. Turns out the concert is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING but moral vanity, and the exploitation of starving, sick Africans, by pampered, rich as**oles and their self-interested corporate sponsors rather than their potential salvation. This is really unspeakably shameful.

The man, as always, has a point.

Bill Gates, the supposed lord of a new generation of robber baron philanthropists, has done more for African children than Bob Geldof, their self-appointed champion, ever will.

So all I want is some much needed perspective here. If we're going to make a difference, let's make a difference, but let's not pretend that this is anything other than what it is. It's not charity. It's not philanthropy. It's not justice. It's a rock concert.

Now we'll have to work harder

From yesterday's Aspen Philanthropy Letter (hyperlinks mine):

Contact information for ten large Atlanta-area foundations has been posted on a new philanthropy-specific Web log, or blog, and readers are urged to pressure these foundations to help a struggling Atlanta nonprofit cover an impending loss of $65,000 in federal funding. The June 8 post to the months-old Philanthropica blog has the potential to become a model for similar, new-media-focused funding campaigns, especially as blogs continue to grow in number and cover more topics. Among the dozen or so blogs to emerge in the past year that regularly cover philanthropic concerns, Philanthropica is unusual in its willingness, even eagerness, to make blunt demands and go beyond diplomatic criticism of the sector. In earlier posts, the author, identified only as "Madmunk, philosopher and philanthropoid," called on foundations to stop complaining about the quality of research about foundations and do something about the problem by increasing support for independent university research. He's also expressed outrage at the "elitist" suggestion that foundation abuses could be curbed by requiring that foundations have assets of at least $1 million.

This blogger's willingness to be so frank is likely a reflection of his anonymity. Madmunk provides no personal contact information, identity, though it is believed that he works as a donor consultant. By email, Madmunk declined to reveal his identity for readers of this newsletter.