I apologize in advance for this rant, especially since I am trying to squeeze it into my work day but I really just need to get this off my chest.
I run a small but rapidly growing faith based community center, when I took over as the chief executive in 2008 we had a total client list of maybe 100 totals. Our work was primarily concentrated with very low income youth and their families in a specific area. In the past 4 years we have grown, last year we served over 400 individuals and our clients are no longer the usual very poor folks. Nope in the past two years we have seen families from neighboring towns and counties seeking assistance and while we strive to assist all, the reality is we are stretched.
So much so that a few months ago, I had to put my foot down despite the tightness of our organizational budget and demand that my salary be adjusted as well as that of my assistant. I was working 40 hours a week for 25 hours of pay with no benefits, I still have no benefits but I am actually now paid for all my time worked. Now I spend most of my time looking for money to keep the doors open. The plight of my agency is that of thousands of other small and mid-size agencies in the US especially those of us outside of major urban hubs where the social services agencies are asked to do as much as our counterparts in bigger cities on a fraction of the budget that most large urban social service agencies have.
I was thinking about this last night as I turned on the TV and stumbled on to the Ed Show where I learned that Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan thinks that the social safety net in the US is too much. Instead of federal programs such as SNAP benefits, etc., Mr. Ryan thinks that churches and charities should pick up the slack.
You may not understand how absolutely comical that is to those of us in the social services sector. In my case as a faith based agency, it is doubly comical as we have seen church ministries reduce their giving to agencies like ours because frankly churches especially those of the non-mega church status simply don’t have the money to give.
At my agency for years, the bulk of our support came from area churches and their auxiliaries but in recent years, most of our church partners don’t have it to give. Instead we have turned to private foundations and even some government support to keep our doors open. Now even that money is harder to come by at a time when the need is greater than ever so we are now looking to the business community.
This brings up a conversation I had today with a local businessman about my agency. He told he thought that while the work my agency does is good, it seems a lot of the work is what used to be done in families and essentially he is a big believer in people taking personal responsibility. Needless to say, I think we won’t be receiving any support from his organization. Granted I have heard that argument before and I am sure I will hear it again and lucky for me my first career was in sales so hearing no is something I can live with.
The problem I have is how does a child take personal responsibility when they are born into a tough financial situation? A family takes responsibility by utilizing agencies such as mine but if no one gives money, eventually places like mine shut the doors. Thankfully my agency is in no danger of shutting down but our money pressures are real and as the chief executive, it’s my duty along with my board of directors to keep that money flowing by any means necessary.
In 2012, churches and charities cannot take care of all those in need, the money is simply not there and if the government says sorry we are cutting the net, are we simply saying some people are not entitled to having a meaningful life? Sorry it sucks to be you? Are we even prepared as a nation to see the fallout if all nets were suddenly removed? Let me tell you this is the shit that keeps me up at night and as I see Romney’s poll numbers shoot up, it frightens me to think where we could be in a few short years.
Anyway back to work, I gotta do the rain dance.
Note: I usually add links when referring to articles, etc. but I am writing this while on a lunch break, so I will add the links to the Ed show later tonight.
2 thoughts on “Shred the net, a little personal responsibility and some churches and charities”
As a new subscriber to your blog I don’t know what the protocol for replying to old posts, but here goes…
As someone who worked for tiny historical and arts agencies in New England, I feel some of your pain – too many unpaid hours, tiny salaries, minimal benefits at best. And the arts and humanities always get a double whammy in tight times, because philanthropies and donors rearrange their priorities and tend to give more to essential services instead. And we in the hysterical society couldn’t complain, because we totally understood. If someone asked me should they give their money to feed kids or to an exhibition, I would have said “give it to the kids” too.
Sometimes I think being a Massachusetts liberal in South Carolina is a bit like being a BGIM. Except, of course, that I can go incognito and you can’t.
The thought of a Romney/Ryan administration scares the heck out of me too! Especially when people talk about the focus of the social safety net being private or faith based organizations. Because as “generous” as Romney may claim to be with his charitable giving, from what I understand, his charity is limited to Mormons or other people who are similar to him. Giving to others should extend far beyond those people who are like us. If that’s not the case, then money will keep being concentrated where it’s always been concentrated.
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