Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lost Opportunities. Mayor and T/MC

I wrote a couple of days ago about being one of several thousand people to visit City Hall on Monday and get a picture taken with Mayor Richard M. Daley. Hopefully this won't be the last time the Mayor and I connect.

However, I wish we could have done more. We started collecting information about Chicago volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in 1994 and published the first printed Director in May 1994 when we held the first Tutor/Mentor Conference. The front cover of the 1995 Chicago Tutor/Mentor Programs Directory is shown below. If you enlarge this you can see a 1994 quote from Mayor Daley's 1994 State of the Union message, where he said "We all need to take responsibility. In the weeks and months ahead I want this entire city mobilized and committed to a citywide crusade for children. Nothing else we do will ever be as important."

I printed this Directory every year from 1994 to 2001 and sent a copy to the Mayor each time, along with copies to many others in government, business, philanthropy, etc. We've not had the money for printed directories since 2002, but have created an on-line version that potentially reaches many more people.

In 1994 we began working in a joint effort with a group of lawyers at the Chicago Bar Foundation. We developed a strategy to try to increase visibility and raise money for all volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago, with 10% of money raised funding T/MC activities and 10% funding Lend A Hand activities. One way we planned to raise money was by organizing a Tutor/Mentor Week around the annual November Conference. This proclamation was issued by the Mayor in November 1994.

It concludes with NOW THEREFORE, I RICHARD M. DALEY, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, do hereby proclaim November 6-12, 1994 to be TUTOR/MENTOR WEEK in Chicago, and urge all Chicagoans to show their support for this organization.

The Mayor issued this proclamation every year until 1999, then he was one of the lead signers of a Voice of the People letter that was generated each August from 1999 to 2002 to mobilize volunteers to support tutor/mentor programs.

So we have had the Mayor's support. But we have not had his clout. While he can raise millions to get himself or others elected, he has not raised a dime to help make the Tutor/Mentor Connection a partner and force to support his Crusade for Kids, as it has attempted to be since 1993.

Without this type of support we've not been able to obtain consistent philanthropic investment, and even our partnership with the lawyers has eroded, even though our collective efforts led to a $2 million award to the Lend A Hand Program in 2006 that has resulted in more than $225,000 awarded to different Chicago area tutor/mentor programs in each of the past few years. The Tutor/Mentor Connection received $30,000 in 2007 and 2008, but this is too little to have the impact we need to have in the third largest city in the country, and was not continued after 2008.

So as Mayor Daley leaves office and Mayor Emmanuel launches his own commitment to Chicago's kids, the Tutor/Mentor Connection is hanging on a ledge, potentially disappearing, and potentially becoming a partner to the next administration.

Pick up the phone. Make a few calls. Send some money. We want to help the new mayor, and the old mayor, keep their promised to Chicago's kids.

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