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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Wyman Center

According to the U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract on education, in 2008 approximately 98.7 percent of children ages 7-13; 98.6 percent ages 14-15; 95.2 percent ages 16-17; and 66 percent ages 18-19 were enrolled in our nation’s schools.    Those numbers were significantly lower for economically disadvantaged and minority students (in some cases, as much as a full percentage point lower, depending on race).   High School dropout rates are significantly higher in minority populations and lower-income communities and rose significantly from 2007-2008 among Black and Hispanic populations.    Regardless of race and household income, the United States’ educational attainment and enrollment data suggests a recent trend towards lower percentage enrollment with a growing disparity between lower-income and minority populations. 

Our nation’s youth, particularly our teens, are our immediate future.  Trends downward in educational rates, attainment, and enrollment percentages are disturbing, no matter how slight.  But what can we do to reverse this recent slip, and help prevent it becoming a trend?  For starters, we can support organizations that support economically disadvantaged teens.   Organizations like The Wyman Center.  

The Wyman Center is based out of St. Louis, Missouri and serves youth ages 11 to 18 years who are, “economically disadvantaged and whose circumstances create risk of lower life opportunities.”   This equates to roughly 1,200 teens in the Greater St. Louis area each year.   Through partnerships with many organizations and agencies, Wyman’s Teen Outreach initiatives are projected to reach nearly 41,000 teens across the nation this coming school year.   Always with an eye on the future, Wyman plans to expand that support 6-fold in the next five years. 

Philanthropically supported, Wyman coordinates partners to help identify gaps in youth services.  Working with those partners and programs, Wyman is able to implement solutions and identify barriers to many problems preventing teen development.  Broad social problems, such as low graduation rates are definitely on Wyman’s radar.  Recently, Wyman collaborated with The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis to establish a Teen Leadership Program whose ultimate outcome is to offer opportunities to college-bound high school students that will better prepare them to graduate from college.  

Through this partnership, staff will work with 300 students in the Teen Leadership Program from high-school graduation through their sophomore year of college and help them to integrate educated goals and outcomes for integrating financial, psychological and institutional support.  According to Wyman’s data sources, those are the three key reasons that nearly 75 percent of students are likely to leave college.   

How successful is Wyman’s Teen Outreach Program?  Well, according to Wyman’s data, in a  12-year study of the program participants, those participating in the program are:

  • 52% less likely to be suspended from school;
  • 60% less likely to risk course failure;
  • 53% less likely to become pregnant and;
  • 60% less likely to drop out of school.

Those are positive and measurable outcomes that serve as strong building blocks towards success.

Wyman is supported through partnerships, as well as grants and offers teens access to the Scholarship Foundation’s Interest-Free Loan Program – with a default rate less than half of the rate of peers borrowing from other programs. 

With so many roadblocks, and obstacles towards college graduation facing today’s disadvantaged and lower income teens, it’s comforting to know that organizations such as Wyman exist to help guide these students towards a successful education that will carry them into successful careers and successful lives as adults. 

If you’d like to reach out to the Wyman Center or follow their successes online, their contact information is below:  

Email: info@wymancenter.og
Phone:
(636) 938-5245
Website: www.wymancenter.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/wymancenter
Twitter: www.twitter.com/wymancenter
YouTube: www.youtube.com/wymancenter

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Minnesota Women of Today

Before starting The Blogunteer last year, I hadn’t heard of many of the organizations I have profiled.  I have learned about some through Twitter connections, Facebook friends, and recommendations.  Today’s organization, on the other hand, is near and dear to my heart.  It is actually part of the inspiration behind The Blogunteer.

In 2003, I had just settled into my post college career and was over the newlywed phase with my husband when I received a postcard in the mail asking me to attend a meeting of a local organization.  I figured – “what the heck” and attended.  I left that night without joining.  A few months later they sent a postcard inviting me to the local Mexican restaurant, I went and ended up joining that night.  After becoming involved, I learned that this was just one chapter of a statewide and national organization called the Women of Today. 

 The Minnesota Women of Today began in 1950 as the Minnesota Mrs. Jaycees and were affiliated with the Minnesota Jaycee organization, a men’s organization dedicated to community service and leadership training.  Over the years the organization went through a couple of name changes.  Following a United States Supreme Court decision that required the Jaycees to no longer exclude women from full membership in their organization, the women of the then Jaycee Women were then given a choice – fold their organization into the Jaycees or split into their own organization.  In 1985, eighty percent of the membership voted to split and become the Women of Today. 

Since then, the organization has focused on their mission of helping women improve their own lives and the lives of the people in the communities around them.  The organization is an altruistic non-profit unaffiliated with any religion or political viewpoint, which allows for a diverse membership. 

The motto “Service, Growth, and Fellowship” summarizes the organization’s mission.  Opportunities exist for volunteering and giving back, gaining leadership skills, and making personal connections with other members around the state and nation.  Minnesota Women of Today members strive to uphold the Women of Today creed by “leaving the world a better place because we lived and served within it.”

The reason that I love the Women of Today organization is the fact that you don’t need to commit to serving only one organization.  The Minnesota organization promotes several different statewide charities each year.  Some recently promoted organizations include CanCurables, First Book, The American Cancer Society, Jacob Wetterling Foundation, March of Dimes, Clutch for a Cause, Camp Get-A-Well-A, Can Do Canines, and more.  In addition, individual chapters can vote to promote local organizations and events.  For example, I have participated in the Relay for Life, picked apples for the food shelf, collected used books, repackaged laundry detergent, made homemade greeting cards, and raised funds for a wide variety of organizations – just to name a few.  The other reason I love Women of Today is all the amazing women I have met.  It is great to be around so many amazing women that want to make a difference in this world and do great work toward that goal. 

In the past five years, Minnesota Women of Today has raised over $1.5 million for various charities and members have volunteered thousands of service hours.  There are currently about 80 chapters around the state of Minnesota.    

For those in Minnesota, you can find a local chapter on the Minnesota Women of Today website mnwt.org.  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube

Financial donations to the Minnesota Women of Today Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit, can also be made via their page on GiveMN.org

For those on other states around the United States, you can find their website at uswomenoftoday.org.  In addition, the first international chapter of the organization was started on the island of Cyprus.  The organization has a vision of new expansions to other countries (and states) in the future. 

Like I said, the Minnesota Women of Today is near and dear to my heart.  I have grown as a person to do things I wouldn’t have envisioned doing prior to joining.  One example is in 2010 I decided to start a Women of Today chapter closer to my home.  I stepped outside of my introverted comfort zone to talk to a lot of people and have met many great new people in the process.  I have also seen other women transformed into great leaders.  It is an organization overflowing with love and support – so members are willing to step outside their comfort zone because they have a safety net of friends and members around the state.   

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but this I know: the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” ~ Albert Schweitzer 

The chapter I joined in 2003 was the Eden Prairie Women of Today and the chapter I have started since moving to a new community is the Savage Area Women of Today.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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WITS

It seems like some people get new computers, smart phones, or other electronics as soon as the technology changes – which is quite frequently these days.  Today’s organization is on a mission to keep those electronics out of the landfills and get them to those in need.

WITS was started in St Louis, Missouri in 2002 as Web Innovations & Technology Services.  At the time, Angela Haas was a college student and saw that many students needed computers in their home to get their work done.  She worked with student groups at a variety of colleges in St Louis to create WITS, Inc.  Initially, the main goal was to get computers and internet access to low income students and families.  Later a recycling program was added because so many materials were collected and the organization did not want anything to go into the trash.  In 2004, the first ever St. Louis Earth Day electronics collection event was held.  People brought everything from computers and monitors to televisions and lamps.  The group didn’t turn people away so they now run the largest donated computer and electronics reuse stores in Missouri. 

Their mission is to keep electronics out of the landfill by putting them back into the community and appropriately recycling those that cannot be reused.  WITS has locations in St. Louis, Missouri; Danville, Illinois; Benton Harbour, Michigan and Farview Heights, Illinois.  They will soon be adding a South Bend, Indiana location as well.

The organization diverts more than six million pounds of electronics from the landfill each year.  They offer programs that no other organization in the United States offers and are 100% sustainable with their programs.  In addition, they do not depend on grants or corporate sponsors for their funding.  They currently have 20 permanent drop-off sites for residents and businesses to bring electronics free of charge as well as other opportunities such as events and scheduled pickups. 

The computers they refurbish are offered back to the community through several programs including seniors, youth, and a Volunteer-For-Free-Computer program.  In addition, they donate computers and electronics to needy families in the United States, such as hurricane, flood or disaster victims.

Current volunteer opportunities include computer repair, software installation, phone calls to inform clients of our programs, and assistance with reaching more businesses.  In addition, they will be needing assistance for their Computers for Christmas program, where they hope to donate 500 computers to needy families.  Monetary donations are also accepted on their website

You can learn more about WITS at their website, www.witsinc.org.  You can also follow them on Facebook Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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Minnesota Blogger Conference

This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the Minnesota Blogger Conference in Minneapolis.  I did learn some new things at the conference and met some new local bloggers, but that is not the purpose of today’s post.  This event incorporated a featured charity to support.  Missy Berggren (aka The Marketing Mama) reached out to me to help select a charity to feature.  Read Indeed was selected because bloggers write words and the books collected contain words, plus it is just a great charity.  Bloggers brought new and used books to donate and a local photographer, Glimpses of Soul Photography, took headshots and monetary donations to Read Indeed.  The early results were tabulated at over 100 books and at least $325 collected.

If you plan events or gatherings, I encourage you to bring a charity or giving back component to the event.  It is easy for participants to bring a donation to a local organization and each of those donations come together to make a bigger difference.  In addition, this helps spread the word about a local charity. 

Please comment with your ideas or examples of ways you have incorporated giving back into your events.

Update: The final count was 201 books and $370 in donations to Read Indeed. 

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in Other

 

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Angels’ Arms

I recently watched the movie Martian Child.  I assumed the movie was going to be a cheesy story about a kid from Mars, but it ended up being a touching story about a foster kid who just wanted to belong.  Today’s organization is on a mission to find loving homes for kids in foster care. 

Angels’ Arms was founded in 2000 by Executive Director, Bess Wilfong.  Bess saw many glitches in the Foster Care System when she herself was a foster parent.  She especially did not like that so many sibling groups were separated and knew there was a better system.  She founded Angels’ Arms together with the support of the community and a board behind her who were eager and willing to help fight the system.

The mission of Angels’ Arms is a dedication to providing and supporting loving homes for foster children by keeping brothers and sisters together within a nurturing family until a forever home is found.  Their vision is that foster children deserve the chance to be children, to be part of a family, and to live up to their potential.  To achieve this, Angels’ Arms provides homes, resources and emotional support to experienced foster parents so that they can raise the standard of care for foster children. Angels’ Arms strives to keep sibling groups together.  They partner with foster parents, community supporters, organizations and other non-profits to provide a loving home environment and help their children become successful citizens.

They currently have six homes throughout St. Louis County and St. Charles County in Missouri with their main office in St Louis, Missouri.  Up to six kids can live in an Angels’ Arms home with experienced foster care parents who teach them the meaning of belonging to a family.  Since their founding, the organization has helped over 200 children including over 50 sibling groups. 

For those in the St. Louis area, there are several volunteer opportunities available such as hosting a birthday party for a child, making a meal for an Angels’ Arms family, home projects (painting, gardening, etc) and assisting with fundraising events.  You can find a current list of volunteer opportunities on their website.  The organization also has needs for items such as food, toiletries, diapers, and laundry detergent.  You can find a current wish list on their website or click here for their list of urgent needs. 

Anyone can make financial donations can be made on their website.  Monetary donations can be made in a variety of ways including one time gifts and monthly giving.  They receive no state or federal funding, so they depend on donations and volunteers to continue their mission.

Angels’ Arms believes that all children deserve a happy childhood.  Together with the support of the community, they can make that happen.  Please learn more about Angels’ Arms on their website, www.angelsarms.org.  You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Nonprofit Organization

 

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