Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cabrini-Green: What You Don't See. 1990 Video

In December 1988 during the annual volunteer gathering of volunteers from the Montgomery Ward/Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, I was telling one volunteer about my goal of having a book written to tell the story of the 25 year growth of the tutoring program at the Montgomery Ward headquarters in Chicago. The volunteer, Sara Coover Caldwell, said "Why not make a video?"

Being a corporate advertising manager at Wards I realized the high costs of creating videos so responded with a bit of pessimism. Sara said, "I can do it. Let me put together a plan."

She came back a few weeks later with a budget of nearly $30,000, for talent, equipment, materials, editing, etc. all donated by friends of hers, along with a production schedule.

I did not realize at the time how much my life was going to change over the coming year. In January of 1990 my wife announced we were going to have our first child. In February I was called into a VP office at Wards and told that I no longer had a job with the company.

In late February, or early March, this video was shown on Channel 11, WTTW in Chicago:

By April 1990 a plan to convert the volunteer-based tutoring program into a non profit Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc. was in place, and in October 1990 while my first daughter was being born, I was filing papers for our 501-c-3 tax status so we could begin raising money to pay for my salary and a staff to operate the continued efforts of the tutoring program at Wards along with an effort to help similar tutor/mentor programs grow in other parts of the city.

In 1993 that effort became the Tutor/Mentor Connection. In 2011 that became Tutor/Mentor Institute, LLC.

Much has changed since 1990 but I'm still connected to Sara and many of the youth and volunteers who were part of the Montgomery Ward and Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program, Inc as well as those from Cabrini Connections, which Sara helped me launch in October 1992.

What has not changed is my belief that volunteers from different workplace backgrounds can become deeply involved in tutor/mentor programs and the lives of inner city youth and that some volunteers will use their talent and time to help such programs grow. This video created in 1989-90 by a volunteer demonstrates this potential.

Now we only need leaders from business, politics, religion, education, etc. to embrace this idea and help build an infrastructure where such programs are operating in thousands of locations around the country.

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