Non-Profits Making A Difference
By Erica and Karen
We always knew non-profits would be part of our portfolios. It took us each a while to find the right fit. Briefly, our stories:
Erica: It turns out that there are just about a gazillion organizations in NYC whose mission relates to high risk children. Each seems to have a different approach, different culture, different views on what works best. Hard to choose, so I went slowly and started by volunteering. NYC Service is like Amazon--you enter what you’re interested in, when and where you want to volunteer and non-profits looking for help pop up. I visited three or four, and chose to volunteer on 115th Street one day a week for 4 hours, tutoring little kids after school, at Friends of the Children. I got lucky. I loved it. Eli, a first grader, was and continues to be one of my favorites. He is absolutely adorable. He loves the word "jovial". He is getting better at sitting still. I no longer regularly volunteer, but I keep tabs on his progress. We've gone on a weekend outing to the theater. He’s a talented little guy--he just makes you smile. After a year, I was asked to join the New York Board and thereafter the National Board.
Why is it a good fit? Because I believe in its mission to break the cycle of generational poverty through serving the highest risk children and helping them become sustainable adults. I believe in the way they do it--by providing salaried, professional mentors to children from K through 12. Having an adult in your life who cares about you, no matter what, makes a difference. I like working with the smart and engaged people on the Board. I like that the executive director and his staff are looking to the Board, not just for money but also for their skills. I like that the organization has metrics--avoiding jail and parenting and graduating from high school--and holds itself accountable for meeting them. And, frankly, I like that they work with me so that I can do all that I can do and feel good about what I can accomplish, without it taking over my entire life.
Karen: Like Erica, I was interested in early childhood education, and was already tangentially involved in Time In. My children benefited from an extraordinary arts program when they were young, and Cyndie Berthezene, who devised their program, started Time In to provide the same exposure to the arts to children lacking the resources my children had. She is an opera singer, and each class of five or six year olds creates incredible art to the all-encompassing sound of Puccini or Wagner, while she swirls about loving and teaching them in the most flamboyant way possible. I have become a little more involved, trying to help think about how to scale her enterprise.
I also am horrified at the incarceration rates of young people, particularly young men, of color. We met Laurie Parise, head of Youth Represent. An inspiring woman, she has built an amazing organization engaged in relatively simple, but completely lifesaving, legal strategies for the people she represents. Erica and I helped her think about, again, scaling up, and I have joined the Board. Because it involves the law, Youth Represent may seem better able to use my skills, but in fact its lawyers need no help! The bigger picture, though, is worth attention.