Posts Tagged ‘charity’

Resuming the War on Poverty in Columbus

November 30, 2012
Betsy Covington

Betsy Covington, Executive  Director, Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley

Betsy Covington  really grabbed my attention when she told Columbus Rotarians that the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley now has assets of $95 million.  The Foundation can distribute the interest that is generated by that endowment to non-profit organizations that need it. The 200 funds that contributed that money can designate who gets it, but, as Betsy told me after her Rotary talk, the Foundation itself is given authority to decide who gets some of it.

Columbus’ greatest problem is poverty. That was determined by a study a few years ago by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute.  Former Muscogee County Schools Superintendent Guy Sims tells me that the problem has gotten worse, not better. Guy,  the original and unpaid Director of the Building Prosperity Initiative, which was organized to coordinate efforts to lessen the poverty problem in Columbus, says that program was put on hold three years ago after the 2008 Great Recession hit because charitable giving dried up. It appears  that now givers are feeling confident enough to start giving again.

The Building Prosperity Initiative, which has been on hold for three years, may crank back up and coordinate the effort to solve Columbus’ biggest problem, poverty. The program, headed up by former Muscogee County School Superintendent Guy Sims, with the help of Columbus business leader  James Blanchard,  did accomplish one of its goals before it became dormant, determining how to get people out of poverty. That was accomplished by a study  that was financed by a grant  from the  Community Foundation of the  Chattahoochee Valley.  Betsy says the study shows that “…there are three things a person can do that greatly lessens their statistical chance of living in poverty: graduate from high school, get some kind of a job, and wait until they are 21 and/or married before having children.” 

Guy Sims said the Building Prosperity Initiative now has an office in the state’s Enrichment Services building. To get things going again, he says, money has to be raised to hire an executive director. He donated his services to get the program started, but a salary will be necessary for a permanent director. No, he tells me, he is not a candidate for the job, but he is still supporting the program.

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The Rotary Club of Columbus was the Center of the Rotary World Today

February 15, 2012

ROTARY INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT KALYAN BANERJEE OF INDIA ADDRESSES COLUMBUS ROTARIANS

Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee speaking to Columbus area Rotarians

What a day at Rotary today. As my old broadcast journalism friend Phil Scoggins – I brought him to Columbus from Albany when I hired him as Sports Director for WRBL back in the early 1970s – said the top story for our area today was happening as he spoke.  He gave a short newscast at the beginning of the Rotary Club of Columbus meeting.  That was something I did for many years until I passed the baton to Phil.

The President of Rotary International, Kalyan Banerjee of  Calcutta, India, chose the Columbus club for his visit to the state of Georgia.  He did that because the Rotary Club of Columbus is the largest 100% Paul Harris Fellow Club in the world.  That means that every one of the clubs more than 300 members is a Paul  Harris Fellow.  Rotarians who give $1000 to the Rotary Foundation become Paul  Harris Fellows. 

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who is now a Paul Harris Fellow beacuse she was given the award by the Rotary Club of Columbus, honors RI President Banerjee by declaring Kaylan Banerjee Day in Columbus, GA. She's not a Rotarian, but President Banerjee says she should become one.

RI President Banerjee and Mayor Tomlinson displaying proclamation honoring President Banerjee. (Photo by Jim Cawthorne, Camera1.)

The Rotary Foundation is a major contributor to eradicating polio  in the world. President Banerjee told of how India,  his country, went from being an endemic polio country to a country virtually free of the disease. It went from 40 cases in 2010 to 1 case last year.

Polio  is not the only beneficiary of  the Rotary Foundation. President Banerjee told the story of a 12-year-old girl in Nigeria who couldn’t see. Her sight was restored by Indian Doctors who operated an Eye Camp sponsored by the Rotary Foundation. Banerjee said nothing we do is more important than things like that.

He also told of how such efforts can bring countries together. He reported on a meeting in India of the last 4 countries that still have polio problems, with one of the those countries being Pakistan. Pakistan, an enemy of India for a long time, was represented at  that meeting as the countries came together to fight polio.

As a gift to President Banerjee, the Columbus area Rotary Clubs gave $99,200 in his name toward the refurbishing of one of the cabins  that can be used for recuperating patients at Warm Springs in connection with the polio museum. Club President Jimmy Elder said he was sure that the $800 to raise it to $100,000 would be donated before the day was over.

I have been a Rotarian since 1972.  I can’t recall a bigger Rotary day than this one. The Columbus club is one of the largest in the world, the largest one that President Banerjee has visited. And, no doubt, it  has one of the biggest hearts in the service club world, which makes me extremely honored to be a member.    

 

Columbus Charitable Giving is Down, but Not as Much as Expected

May 30, 2010

Commenting on the effects of the current recession , a stockbroker friend of mine said that stocks losing their value causes philanthropic giving to lessen dramatically.   “When it takes giving twice as many shares this year to make the same monetary contribution that you made last year, there is a good chance the giver is not going to want to do that.” 

The big problem is that with unemployment hitting a disastrous ten percent, the need for assistance becomes greater at a time when giving drops dramatically.

Fortunately, though, the situation in the Columbus area, while problematic, is not as bad as it could be.  Last year, after a meeting with 100 CEOs about what their companies could be expected to contribute in this down economy,  United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley lowered its goal from the previous year by $400 thousand.   Scott Ferguson, president and CEO of UWCV told me that a lot of people stepped up to the plate and increased their giving to help make up the difference, and that generosity has caused the goal of $6.45 million goal to be exceeded by $200 thousand.  It will be interesting to see what the 100 CEOs have to say this year when that meeting is held.

 

While UWCV depends mainly on corporate giving, which relies on the contributions of individual employees,  individual members of the Tocqueville Society increased their contributions. The Tocqueville Society is made up of people who contribute $10 thousand or more.  The UWCV was recognized nationally for having the highest percentage of members, in an area of 300,000 to 500,000 people, increasing their giving. 

It’s thanks to Columbus area philanthropists who joined in partnership with the city government that we have the world-class RiverCenter with its three state-of-the-art theaters,  and the River Walk, and the Columbus Civic Center.   It’s thanks to philanthropists that the Springer Opera House,  Georgia’s State Theater, a historic gem,  was beautifully restored and renovated.  These things have made our city quite attractive. 

Now, we have to make sure that our citizens can afford to go to those theaters.  With the build up at Fort Benning,  that situation should be improving soon.

Open Door Needs Food

July 8, 2009

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Cathy Claire Williams put this on Facebook.  I thought I would share it with you in case you want to help.

Please pass this on to your friends: Open Door is in urgent need of food for their food pantry! We’re told it’s at a critically low point right now, and the needs are greater than ever.

They especially need protein-rich foods like peanut butter and canned meats, but they will gratefully receive anything.

You can take donations directly to Open Door at 2405 2nd Ave in Cols, or bring them to Pierce Chapel on Sundays.

Columbus Hospice Grows

November 7, 2008

  They broke ground today for a new wing of Columbus Hospice, which will bring the facility up to 25 beds.  I am glad for the community, because expanding Hospice helps fill an important need. It filled a need for me and my family, an experience I will never forget. The people who work there, volunteers and professionals,  represent what is best in human nature.  

  I was particularly taken with the inscription on the program of the groundbreaking event, and I’m passing it on to you.   

  “There is no greater calling

  to serve your fellow men

  There is no greater contribution

  than to help the weak

  There is no greater satisfaction

  than to have done it well

                 -Walter Reuther

Columbus’ Big Problem Is…

August 6, 2008

    Poverty.

Rev. Kim Jenkins, Executive Director of Open Door Community House

Rev. Kim Jenkins, Executive Director of Open Door Community House

  Rev. Kim Jenkins sees it up close and personal everyday. She is a Baptist minister who administers the Open Door Community House in Columbus, which is backed by the United Methodist Church.  She told me of a lady who admitted she had committed substance abuse. She said the woman said, “I have to get off the street. It’s just getting too dangerous out there. Violence is increasing; drug abuse is increasing. Please help me.” Rev. Jenkins said she started making calls and found a church that was willing to help her.  Rose Hill United Methodist helped her get a job.

  That is not always the case. She told me of one lady who came in shaking as she said that she was on crack and had lost her children who were all in state custody. She wanted shelter. Open Door was full. It only has 12 beds, all for women.  Rev. Jenkins called other shelters in Columbus, Macon and Atlanta. Nobody would take her either because she was on crack and they didn’t have medical facilities to deal with that.  Jenkins said she had to tell her, “There is nothing we can do for you.”

Guy Sims, Co-chair of Building Prosperity in the Muscogee County Area

Guy Sims, Co-chair of Building Prosperity in the Muscogee County Area

  And just how bad is the poverty problem in Columbus? Former Muscogee County School District Superintedent Guy Sims told me that the rate is 27 percent, which, he said, “is a lot higher than the national average.”    Sims, who is in between jobs now that Beacon University is shutting down, is a co-chair of Building Prosperity in the Muscogee County Area. His co-chairs are James Blanchard and Betsy Covington. They, along with about 40 other business and professional leaders, are working to develop a plan to do something about the problem.

  It took a little while to get Columbus leaders involved. They just sort of left coping with the problem up to service providers, places like the Salvation Army, Valley Rescue Mission,  House of Mercy, and Open Door. That changed three years ago when the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institue of Government issued a report showing poverty was the Chattahoochee Valley’s number one problem. She said that opened a lot of eyes and at least “the conversation started.” 

  Guy Sims, says, if anything, he is sure it is worse now, citing the worsening economy as a primary reason. And Jenkins says the demand for services at Open Door has increased this year and she is sure it is happening at the other shelters and sevice providers in the area. Many more people are seeking shelter than are getting it.  There are 2 thousand homeless people in Columbus.

  A banker told Jenkins four years ago that the mortgage crisis was coming and the homeless population would be increasing. That’s right, a Columbus banker saw the collapse in the home mortgage industry coming four years ago.

  Why should we care about the homeless, the working poor, shelters that are full and can’t possibly keep up with the increasing demand? After all, shouldn’t every tub stand on its own bottom?  Shouldn’t people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps? 

  Well, says Rev. Jenkins, besides the moral and biblical reasons for caring, self-interest should make us care. Poverty causes crime rates to go up and all of us have to pay for fighting crime. It costs us more when we go to the hospital because the hospitals have to charge us more to pay for all of those people that are converging on emergency rooms. Emergency room care is extremely expensive.

  A report by Building Prosperity points out that if everyone over 25 in our area got a high school diploma, that would increase wages enough to add $168 million to the economy.

  If they got college degrees, we are talking $692 million.

  If the weekly wage rate in Columbus ($564) were brought up to the state average ($669) $10 million would be added to the local economy every week.

  So there are practical reasons to care even if you are hard hearted.  Fortunately, not everyone in Columbus believes in practicing social Darwinism.