This blog features observations from Randy Turner, a former teacher, newspaper reporter and editor. Send news items or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
Bright Futures Coordinator: This is why we pay rent and utilities
Since the Turner Report was the first news source to reveal that Bright Futures Joplin has been paying rent and utilities for families, it seems only fair to allow the coordinator of the local organization, Melissa Winston, to respond to those who have criticized that practice. She explained it in this message, which was posted on the Bright Futures Joplin website:
Coordinator's Report: Standing in the Gap for Kids
Some pieces of the work of Bright Futures Joplin are simple - shoes, coats, school supplies for a student without them? Easy answer. But sometimes the work becomes more complex. Recently we've had some questions about why we would ever get involved in helping with things like rent or utilities when other agencies do this work as well. It's a valid and important question, and I thought I'd share a real-life story that happened just this week that might shed some light on why.
Sadie* was new to the school, trying to
make friends and fit in. Her fourth
school since kindergarten, this sweet second grader was struggling. As the counselor dug into the situation attempting to help, it was realized that there were lots of things going on at home. Mom was sick, and she wasn't going to get better. Dad was doing everything he could, but it just wasn't enough. No other family to help, young parents ill-prepared for a lifelong debilitation left this little girl forced to start over every few months as the family faced eviction yet again.
Together, the principal and counselor worked with the family to make some connections that could really help them. As all area resources were explored, there was still one problem - the rent was two months past due, and no local agencies could help. When BF received the call, the eviction notice had already come, and the family was preparing to move their sweet girl to yet another school. As the team and I began to talk about the situation and explore possibilities, one thing was clear: what was best for Sadie was to stay put in this school, and to do that mom and dad needed some help. Together with a local case manager, we were able make a long-term plan that was sustainable. Thanks to the generosity of donors and supporters of this critical work, Bright Futures Joplin was able to write a check for one-time assistance to cover the back rent. It wasn't a "hand out;" it was a "hand UP."
While there are many amazing churches and agencies serving our families in Joplin, gaps still exist. Our school personnel see heartbreaking stories every single day. Sadie is not an anomaly; she is everywhere. In a perfect world, we'd all have a large enough savings account, an insurance policy, and a network of support to catch us when these seasons come...but that's not the case for everyone.
In Joplin we've decided that we're not okay with leaving our kids' destinies up to chance or letting them fall through the cracks when there's
something we can do about it. Even though these
situations are more complex, we are willing to make investments - sometimes big ones - in the lives of our most vulnerable kids with the hope that the return will one day be a new generation that's stronger, smarter, and healthier because they grew up knowing they were not alone - that their community cared when it mattered most! Our hope is that these investments give them a chance...because education is the ticket to a better life! Doing the right thing isn't always popular or simple, but it's still right...and that's what we're going to do.