So much of our work at the Family & Friends Fund starts with the phrase, "Did you know...?"
And much of the general work of justice efforts is myth busting and knowledge sharing. But we don't share knowledge with the goal of "awareness building", we share knowledge with a goal of action.
So, Happy Monday -- did you know that in Fort Wayne, IN school districts don't generally fund playgrounds? This task normally falls on PTAs.
Okay, so while I have you...do you know what a PTA is? It's a volunteer organization run by parents who have students in a given school. Given that you are on the Family & Friends Fund website I bet you can guess where I'm going with this...
Large schools in economically prosperous neighborhoods generally have no problem raising funds for state of the art playgrounds. Parents (many of whom have the time and resources to both volunteer and donate) set a goal, call some friends (or bump into them at soccer or the country club or at the one super fancy Kroger grocery store where the produce seems to gleam and the shoppers all carry Starbucks) and ask for money. These campaigns are no less important -- but where there's money, that money can be moved to worthy causes, and efficiently.
So. What happens when I small school where the majority of the kids are on free or reduced lunch find themselves in need of new playground equipment? Or when they realize that the playground that was built in the 70's isn't accessible to some of their disabled students? Or they simply want to encourage kids to be physical and have fun and shake off the stress of a math class...and the playground is rusty and uninspiring?
Usually, the same thing that happens when they need a sidewalk repair or a street light replaced or a grocery store... they ask for help. Make a case. Do all the right things...and come up short. Their cries are acknowledged in press releases and campaign speeches and ignored when it comes time to write a check.
When the advisors of the Family & Friends Fund heard that Irwin Elementary (located in the beautiful Southeast Quadrant where we serve) needed additional support for their playground campaign, they made the decision to push the campaign over the finish line. The fund had a remaining gap of $5,000 and there was no hesitation from the donor advisors to step in on behalf of the Irwin parents who are working 2-3 jobs and still can't afford rent, much less a donation to a playground campaign.
And whose children are no less deserving of the very best we have to offer.
The blocks immediately surrounding John S. Irwin Elementary are home to some of the lowest earners in our city. These are hardworking members of our community stuck in low-wage jobs (that our politicians actively work to attract to our city) who are doing the best they can for their families but still find themselves struggling to make ends meet.
Here is a data visualization of the income in the blocks surrounding Irwin:
This will not come as a shock to anyone reading this, but the next visualization is the racial makeup of the surrounding blocks. This is not surprising if you follow our work -- where the Southeast Quadrant of our city represents the most diverse population, and the population most often excluded from economic opportunity.
Our BIPOC advisors were able to hear about this need and respond to this need immediately because people who donated to our fund TRUSTED them to be responsive . You gave money before knowing how it would be spent, you shared your power. If we had to wait and fundraise individually for each need that pops up in the SE Community this playground might still not be across their fundraising threshold -- not to mention the 40+ business owners who would still be waiting to hear from a bank or to reach a goal on their kickstarter, etc.
You giving over the power of directing your funds to the Family & Friends Fund empowers us to be responsive and effective. It's such a beautiful thing.
The PTA at Irwin Elementary worked their tails off to raise tens of thousands of dollars to build a beautiful playground. They contacted businesses, foundations, and individuals. They secured matches and hosted fundraising nights. They were tireless in their efforts, and our gift of $5,000 was simply one outcome of those efforts. We are in awe of their work because we know all too well their struggles.
We are proud to share with everyone that the playground will be named the Family & Friends Fund playground in honor of our gift -- and what it represents about how all of Fort Wayne rallied around BIPOC leaders on the Southeast side to create opportunities for generational impact.
We hope you'll continue to support our fund so that we can continue to be catalytic supporters of projects throughout the southside -- projects that are ignored by other funders who will tell you in a press release that the SE side is their priority.
With solidarity and excitement for all to come,