Friday, February 08, 2008

Lawyers in Chicago Lend A Hand - with $240,000 in grants!!

On January 31, 2008 33 different Chicago area volunteer-based tutoring and mentoring were given grants totaling $240,000 by the SunTimes Judge Marovitz Lawyers Lending a Hand to Youth Program. Next week I'll post a complete list of winners. Let me just say that one program receiving a grant of $5,000 was Cabrini Connections, the tutor/mentor program that I've led since 1993.

We started Cabrini Connections with just 7 volunteers, 5 teens, and no money in 1993. Since then more than 500 youth and 600 volunteers have been involved. Look here to see some of the metrics that we use to evaluate this program.

When we started Cabrini Connections, we recognized that no one in Chicago had a master database of tutor/mentor programs, and no one was leading a year-round marketing effort aimed at helping tutor/mentor programs grow in all parts of the Chicago region. We created the Tutor/Mentor Connection in 1993 to fill this void.

As we built our database of programs we began to share information and learn what issues all programs had in common. Our first survey in 1994 indicated that many programs were isolated from each other, so in May 1994 we launched the first Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference. Many programs are constantly searching for volunteers, so we published our database as a printed directory, and sent it to businesses and foundations and media, and to each program. In 1995 we launched a citywide Back to School Volunteer Recruitment Campaign, intended to help all programs get volunteers as school starts each year.

Most tutor/mentor programs are non-profits, and most programs are constantly looking for operating dollars, so in June 1994 when the Lend a Hand Program was just starting, and was a part of the Chicago Bar Foundation, we suggested "why don't you become the first foundation to fund general operations of constanly improving tutor/mentor programs in all parts of Chicago." We agreed to work together to achieve that goal, and while the first award in 1994 was $2,000 to a single program, the grant total at the January 31 distribution of 2007 awards, was $240,000. Part of that was a $30,000 grant to the Tutor/Mentor Connection to help us keep doing what we do to maintain this information on tutor/mentor programs, and to support the growth of tutor/mentor programs.

One of the people most responsible for this growth is Jim Morsch, Managing Partner of the Butler Rubin Saltarelli & Boyd LLP Law Firm. Jim was one of the first volunteers to join the Lend A Hand Advisory Board and to see the great potential of lawyers helping kids in all parts of Chicago, not just in one or two highly visible programs. I encourage you to visit the Lend A Hand web site to meet Jim and others who are part of this great program.

One of the ways Jim and the Lend A Hand Raise visibility for tutoring and mentoring, and raise money for the annual grants to tutor/mentor programs, is through events like the Annual Barristers Big Band Benefit Ball, which is set for March 8, 2008 at the Standard Club in Chicago. Contact Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Executive Director of the Lend A Hand Program, at 312-554-2041, if you'd like to be a sponsor, or order tickets.

While you can make a bequest or a donation to support the Lend A Hand, you can also search the Program Locator and Chicago Program Links on the T/MC Web site, and find programs that you can support directly, with your time, talent and dollars. As more people give this support, more of our youth will get more consistent adult support and enriched learning, that is essential for success in school, and in life.

Thank you Lend A Hand for helping us do this work.

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