Thursday, June 28, 2007

06/28/07: It's Official...

Thanks to Ellen who alerted me that my advance ruling for the 501(c)3 was expired, we are officially a permanent 501(c)3. I might have my verbiage wrong but the idea is right. After five years of doing our thing, the IRS has agreed that we are, indeed, a charitable organization. We have their stamp.

It was in a holding pattern but can now get back in the swing of things. I couldn't request any help from FedEx or send for grants with the expired 501(c)3 but...that has all changed. I'm looking forward to getting back in the swing of things.

Now, if I only had time! With the summer here, the kids are off school and must have made a pact to torture me for 10 weeks. Besides juggling my job-job which pays the bills with raising kids, doing endless laundry, and keeping the house, I'm trying to maintain my summer sanity. It's hard but...once September is here, we're back in business.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

06/21/07: Pembroke, IL Returns...

Interesting turn in events. I've had numerous calls from a church in St. Anne/Pembroke, IL. Apparently, someone took out a paid advertisement in a paper out in Chicago and printed a copy of a posting I had on the website about why we don't help Pembroke anymore. Whoever paid for the advertisement literally used a photocopy of our website! It must have made for interesting conversation because my phone started ringing, emails began flying, letters arrived begging for us to reconsider.

Even more importantly, I received a phone call from Rev. Dyson, the very man who was in charge of helping Pembroke, IL when I founded Focus America. I was quick to point out to him that it took five years for me to get a return phone call (sarcasm).

He was going to look into what happened and why we never received any acknowlegements of our donations. I haven't heard back yet (hopefully it won't take another five years!). It does appear that the advertisement created a firestorm of controversy in the area. If it helps the people, that's wonderful. However, my attention remains on Appalachia for now.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

06/16/07: The Colorado Crew

I've had several comments and requests from people about the Colorado crew who met us in Kentucky. I was trying to surprise them but, apprarently, I had accidentally emailed the teacher so she knew that we were racing the clock to meet them there.

They arrived and had a tour of the facility. My first reaction was that they all looked like deer caught in the headlights. During the tour, I gave them a "pep" speech, telling them all that Stacey and I had seen and heard. Then, even though they had just driven in from Tennessee, we set them to work.

They were helpful in finishing the garden and even the chicken coop, which was a big relief to Stacey and me as we were done, at this point. I will admit, though, that I felt as though a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders when those two vans of 12 high school seniors and their two teachers pulled in. It was almost cleansing to have companionship and help. While I never mind rolling up my sleeves to dive into the projects, it was nice to have new energy, especially after the emotional roller coaster we had been on in the preceeding days.

Besides cleaning up the inside and outside of the mission, they cleared out a backroom that had so much stuff in it, you couldn't see the floor or walls. When it was finally cleaned out, they washed the floor FIVE times to get it clean. I give them a lot of credit for that task...I'm not certain I could have done least not without complaining a bit.

The teacher, Anne Marie B., was truly wonderful with the kids. I'm sure that it wasn't easy to bring them to such a remote and disadvantaged community. But the kids were great sports, hard workers, and definitely "got it" when it came to why they were there helping these people. I was proud of them and only wished that I could have spent more time with them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

06/11/07: Fleecing of Myra

I noticed that, on 6/4, Charles Wright posted a comment about someone being "fleeced" because he's lived 1/2 a mile from Myra, KY all of his life. Mr. Wright is not the only person that I have encountered who claims that to be the case. However, perhaps since he has lived there all of his life, he hasn't experienced how the rest of the civilized world lives.

I teach sociology courses in higher education and this attitude is predictable. Those who live near it are the first to deny it. Isn't it horrible that the help received by Manna from Heaven comes from Colorado, Indiana, and New Jersey while the very people in their backyards turn their heads and deny that the problem exists?

I'm offended by Mr. Wright's comments but I will not delete them. I want those comments to be there so that everyone can see what Manna from Heaven is fighting. I can attest that there is despicable poverty in Myra, KY. To deny that poverty exists in Myra, KY is to deny that every city has pockets of poverty. The difference, Mr. Wright, is that this community does not have the resources that is afforded to residence of New York City, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles or even Newark, NJ.

People can say they are lazy or don't want to work. But, truthfully, what is the incentive if you are making minimum wage for part-time work (because companies don't want to hire them full-time and be forced to pay benefits!) and need to drive 40 minutes to Pikeville, KY? You can earn the same amount through food stamps and Medicaid. Is that lazy or simply logical? Figure the math out: $28 in earning-$20 in gas=$8 a day...why bother?

Furthermore, who is willing to hire these folks? Many of the adults can't read and use poor grammar. A high percentage have dental problems, limited medical care, and are obese. They are the unskilled labor force, the invisible and uneducated poor. Who can show them how to improve their lifestyle? Who can help them rise above generational poverty?

But, of course, if Mr. Wright admitted the truth, wouldn't he (and the hundreds others like him) be forced to do something about it? Instead, they turn their backs and deny its existance. Interesting...

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. The Mr. Wrights' of the world will continue to deny it and think the worst of people who are in need. I can't change his opinion nor will I deny that there are some "fleecers" out there. But to think that Manna from Heaven staged this whole thing to "fleece" us? Give me a break. A simply drive into one of the hollows speaks louder than anything I can write on this blog.