2021 Year End “State of Grace” Message from Board Chair
As Charles Dickens once wrote, I think we could say that are living in the worst of times…AND…the best of times.
The country is in the throws of dramatic social change. Climate change is real…and in many places causing devastation. The Pandemic has laid bare the fact that our food distributi0n system in America, at least for poor folks, is broken.It’s also revealed that our cities are not nearly as resilient as they need to be…when change is happening as fast as it is. Our education system is facing big challenges, especially in the country’s inner cities, where traditional teaching methods just don’t engage kids and get them pointed toward, and prepared for, good jobs.
The nation is not winning the “war on poverty”…and hasn’t been for over 60 years.
What’s to be done about this? As Isaiah quotes God in the Old Testament book that bears the prophet’s name , “Whom shall I send?”
I say, “SEND THE COMMUNITY CENTERS…at least the ones that are set up, staffed and operating like Grace Community Center.”
As we have for many years, we still have the following assets:
A capable, loyal, dedicated, self-sacrificing, AND forward looking staff and board
A collection of faith-based organizations, the UCC church key among them, who have wonderfully skilled and service-minded people as members; people eager to come to 406 W. Delaware Ave. help Grace be the effective agency it can be in the 21st Century, and connect it to the wider circle of services and agencies in the City where help “lives,” but often is not producing collective impact.
A neighborhood loaded with strong churches, businesses, and social service agencies…needing only the soulful commitment of a true “Neighborhood Center” to coordinate their work… AND…more importantly than anything, to engage the neighbors in appreciating, trusting, and working with those assets to make good things happen for themselves & the community.
For the last 10 years, this mix of people and organizations, with Grace right in the middle of it, has been working diligently to meet the physical and social needs of the agency’s “neighbors.”
Grace has been doing that work largely without the financial support that the United Way, CSB, and the Federal Government’s “No Child Left Behind” program used to provide. That revenue covered half of the Center’s annual operating budget, and then some.
With the help of many reading this letter, and Elaine Page’s amazing ability to do a lot with a little, Grace has not only stayed “in business,” it has studied how to adapt to the mega trends mentioned above and built the capacity to do just that.
In response to the pandemic and its effects on the food system, became a full blown emergency food distribution program…and .We also began delivering food to seniors living alone (300 of them). That program will continue, in one form or another…even as the rest of our food operation develops and branches out.
In addition to using our 10,000 square foot garden as a source of fresh vegetables to go into emergency food boxes, We’re also using it as a teaching resource, not just for kids, but for adults as well, adults who are serious about strengthening their immune systems for a possible fight with the COVID19 virus.
Once we’ve become GAP (“Good Ag. Practices”) certified and fully prepared to accept both standard credit cards and SNAP cards—SNAP means Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards--our food operation will take on a retail character...with the “profits” going to support the work we do to keep those who need free food supplied with it. To that same basic end, we’ve already begun to partner with several wholesale food providers whose products will help us provide a full “basket” of nutritious foods that our “customers” can buy from us.
The other major development work that is ongoing, is .After a year off, because of COVID, we had the EduCamp back in operation this summer…right alongside the food distribution operation.And now which is designed for High School youth who are determined to build careers and productive lives for themselves.Working with children who have been away from the disciplines of school classroom attendance for over a year, tested the skill and cultural competence of our veteran staff, under Jay Shavers leadership. Despite the challenges of this particular summer, all ______ of the youth who participated in Ed. Coordinator, Sherry Baker’s tutoring program, saw NO “summer slide” in their reading and math skills, and _______saw actual improvement.Helen Cooks of our Board, is the person who founded the Excel Program over 20 years ago, and she is helping us design the bridge to Excel from Toledo high schools.
, written to support the Beginning Farmer Program which they will operate in partnership with us, has been funded. We’ll operate it out of our building and garden spaces: those we have under cultivation, and those we expect to have access to shortly.
Our financial prospects are hopeful:
We have the support of the City’s Department of Neighborhoods, who continue to fund about half the cost of delivering the Educamp during mid-Summer; and part of the Garden Operation as well…which runs from April to November.
We did win a 3-year grant from United Way to bolster the services we are providing to homebound seniors, partly with the food delivery work we do, partly with the health education and “social work” we do with that same population. It’s modest support ($19,000/year), but at least we’re back on their roster of active United Way agencies.
This last fiscal year, United Way has channeled $75,000 of Federal CARES ACT money to us to buy much of the emergency food that is going to needy families and seniors; and THAT has allowed us to leverage dollars from other donors to pay the costs of staffing and administering those efforts.
We are building our capacity to qualify for USDA “food systems development” grants…which have strong and growing Federal support across the country.
We have raised $100,000 in challenge grants for the expansion of our urban gardening operation, when that becomes feasible.
We think that we can draw down some of Toledo’s ARP Act allocation of $180 million to fund some much needed capital improvements…and are working hard on that.
STILL…we rely heavily on our “Friends of Grace” campaigns, which we run twice a year, to undergird our entire operation. This is unrestricted money that can be spent to cover employment costs (our largest single expense) and various other, operating expenses.
So far, this year, we have raised $48,000, and $35,000 came from a single donor.
To make ends meet by the end of the year, we need a minimum of $20,000 from our “Friends.” Our GOAL is twice that: $40,000.
“WHO’S GOING TO DO SOMETHING POSITIVE AND ENDURING ABOUT THOSE CHALLENGES I LISTED AT THE TOP OF THIS LETTER?” COMMUNITY CENTERS LIKE GRACE. NO ONE IS BETTER POSITIONED. NO ONE IS BETTER SUITED.” WHEN YOU INVEST A DOLLAR WITH US, YOU GET 10 TIMES THAT VALUE IN CAPACITY GROWTH AND IMPACT.
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Grace Community Center