Don’t Abandon the Children:
The Need for Creative Partnerships
New York’s economy has been in decline. Every day we read about lost jobs, reduced consumerism, an unstable stock market and consequent difficult time for the non-profits such as Mentoring USA (MUSA).
Mentoring USA’s major donor corporations, battered by the poor economy, have either decreased funding or, at best, stayed at the same level, while MUSA’s costs have continued to escalate.
It gets worse. Most of the volunteers we have lost this year have been professionals laid off by their companies, or, denied the paid leave-time that encouraged employees to turn out in large numbers. Some companies who provided transportation to mentoring programs in the outer boroughs can no longer afford to do so. One such MUSA program, in Jamaica Queens, lost all of its mentors when the company had to discontinue the bus that drove the employees from their work place to the mentoring program due to cutbacks. There is no fairy tale ending. The program is no longer in existence, as it has proved difficult to find mentors who can make the long journey to the program, which is far from public transit stops.
The New York City mayor should be steadfast in working with the state legislature to do everything possible to protect our children in these difficult fiscal days. We know from years of experience that it is cost effective to help children with programs that protect them from the injury done by a lack of services and attention. One of the most effective has proven to be the 1:1 mentoring of children at risk by a trained, committed role model.
The demand for mentors is great. Our staff receives inquiries from approximately 10 sources every week, requesting the MUSA program for their children. Every school, after school program, and foster care agency has the same story to tell: in tough times like these, mentors are more important than ever. These kids NEED mentoring role models. Unfortunately we have to say “no” to many of the programs because our staff is already overburdened. Each MUSA Program Manager currently has a caseload of seventeen sites which translates to approximately 200 mentor-mentee pairs. This is already pushing the outer limits of the ability to provide high-quality programming via consistent support.
For all these reasons, MUSA is proud to be the newest partner in a creative new initiative, “Building the Future One Life at a Time,” sponsored by Emigrant Savings Bank. This initiative marks a unique public/private alliance of celebrities, businesses, civic organizations and the general public.
Through the support which Building the Future One Life at a Time provides to program partners we bring much needed help and resources to our area’s young people. Each of Emigrant Saving’s Bank’s 36 branches has adopted a local school or community center, which is provided a broad range of support. In addition, each bank branch has been turned into a mentor recruitment center, in which Customer Service Representatives dispense information to customers about how to become a mentor. Anyone who opens a new account receives two gifts—a CD featuring top recording artists from around the city, AND a contribution to one of the program partners.
Working as a team, these public and private partners have found a way to increase the resources available to New York City’s children, with a focus on mentoring. We all bring various strengths to the table, and when we collaborate, we are greater than the sum of all of our parts.
Hopefully other corporations can replicate this successful model of Emigrant Savings Bank.#
Matilda Raffa Cuomo is former first lady of New York State.