Tuesday, July 08, 2014

82 shot and 14 killed. The war zone that is Chicago.

This is a guest article, submitted by Dan Cotter, who is Chairman of the Board of the Lawyers Lend A Hand to Youth organization, and 2014-15 President of the Chicago Bar Association. This is his opinion, and not an official statement from either of the organizations where he serves.

We must find a way to stem this violence and to create safe places and alternatives. One way to address the violence is through strong mentoring programs in our disadvantaged communities. Working as a board member of Lawyers Lend-A-Hand over the last decade, I have witnessed the impact that mentoring has on our youth.

A recent example of how powerful mentoring can be occurred at the Lawyers Lend-A-Hand to Youth Spring Awards Dinner on April 30. At the dinner, George, a young man mentored through the Urban Life Skills Program of New Life Centers, spoke of how before joining the program he cared little for anyone else. He literally described himself as a "psychopath." After working with his mentor, he has become a whole new person that "wants to give back."

George is just one example. At an awards presentation by Jeffrey Leving to Passages, we met a number of young men who anxiously await the arrival daily of its executive director. They spoke of how important the mentoring program was to them and described it as a sanctuary from the streets and violence around them.

A dozen years ago, with two young children at home, I wanted to pay it forward for the huge impact mentoring had on my life. From my first mentor, my dad, to my 8th grade teacher, Cheryl Porter, to my high school coach, John Urban, to my college coaches, Tiny Devore and Kelly Kane, to my first boss in law, Mark Wilcox, and first corporate mentor, Paul Hourihan, to my wife, Ann, I have been blessed. So many provided advice, tutoring, and friendship to me. I was beginning to competitively powerlift. I joined the two and came up with Lifting to Lend-A-Hand. In 2002, I raised $2,600. I took 2003 off due to injury but then discovered I was a line item for revenue in the LLAH budget.

The next 9 years, the amount increased each year until we raised $45,000 in 2012. Taking a year off to "allow the organization to find other fundraising avenues," I decided to give it one final push this year as I became CBA President.

Thinking of George and the wonderful work grantees of LLAH perform to provide our future with strong mentoring opportunities, I decided the goal this year would be one year's grants - $100,000. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And think of the number of George's we can help with that amount.

It literally takes not just a village but a city, a state and beyond. You can partner with me. No amount is too small - if 5,000 people gave $20 each, we would hit it; 2,000 people at $50 each, 10,000 @ $10, 1,000 @ $100, etc. With just under two weeks to go, we are about to surpass $50,000 with less than 200 donors. Think of the alternatives if we hit $100,000. A city with less violence and more future. Please I to lawyerslendahand.org, hit donate and give what you can. $1, $5, $10. Etc. Dig deep and be part of the collective you that raises $100,000 for mentoring. Thank the mentors who have you their time, talent and treasures. Pay it forward. Yours in mentoring, grateful and thankful for the power of mentoring, The Lifting Lawyer. @lifting2014xi. Liftingtolendahand@hotmail.com.

Thank you Dan. We need more leaders duplicating your efforts.

In the editorial page of the July 14, 2014 Chicago Tribune, the final call to action says "If Chicago is to conquer this plague of violence in Chicago, the solutions have to come from all of us." The image at the left is from the October 15, 1992 Chicago Sun Times, where virtually the same call to responsibility was issued.

I've been trying to build business and political support for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs for nearly 25 year. This image is from 1990 when Mayor Richard Daley and the CEOs of the Montgomery Ward Corporation and Quaker Oats Corporation visited the tutor/mentor program I led in Chicago. If you view past newsletters, media stories, and blog articles, you'll see a consistent call for leadership that would help mentor-rich programs grow in high poverty areas of Chicago and its suburbs.

This "it takes a village" map is one I've shared for many years, indicating that leaders from every sector need to support the growth of mentor rich programs that help youth through school and into jobs.

Had these ideas been embraced in the early 1990s, perhaps there would be fewer youth out on the streets shooting at each other.

Unless these strategies are embraced in 2014, I fear what the stories will be in 2034.

We need more people like Dan Cotter, doing heavy lifting to raise funds to support tutor/mentor programs, and using his own social media to help me spread this message.

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