May 062014
 

jewel bush

Today, consider foregoing eating out or that fancy cup of Joe and give to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations across the city participating in the community-wide online giving campaign, GiveNOLA Day.

The minimum gift is $10, less than the cost of an IMAX movie ticket or a happy hour special.

In a world where being awarded unrestricted grants to run nonprofits is increasingly difficult and many local groups compete for the same donor dollars, GiveNOLA Day, sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, is a way to help bridge the budget gap or add some lagniappe in the nonprofit sector.

And the lagniappe is what makes GiveNOLA Day — a virtual can-shake — a potential boon.

Every dollar raised will be increased with additional lagniappe dollars provided by GNOF and other GiveNOLA Day sponsors. Prizes of additional money will be awarded to organizations that attract the most unique donors and raise the most money.

You can participate in GiveNOLA Day from anywhere. All you have to do is go to www.GiveNOLA.org and donate to any of the charities registered. If you want to give, but don’t know where to start you can browse the categories of participants ranging from organizations that support animals to the arts. Donations are tax deductible.

“All the nonprofits in the greater New Orleans area are what make New Orleans such a great place to live,” said Martha Landrum, Vice President for Marketing & Communications, Greater New Orleans Foundation.

Hundreds of communities across the United States are also asking people to give to their beloved nonprofits today (May 6) as part of Give Local America, sponsored by Kimbia and Network for Good. The goal for New Orleans’ inaugural year is to have a total of 5,000 givers and raise $1 million for nonprofits.

I have many friends and colleagues who work in the nonprofit world and I am of that world so I understand granting cycles, budget shortfalls and the perpetual need to cultivate new donors. An event like GiveNOLA Day helps bring much needed awareness to the financial realities of the groups we take for granted doing the on the ground work here.

My GiveNOLA dollars will go to Rethink and the Justice & Accountability Center for Louisiana, two of my favorite groups.

Started in 2006, Rethink is a bold organization that focuses on empowering young students and encouraging them to “rethink” life as a young person coming of age in a world where school and the world can oftentimes be a scary, punitive place for youngsters.

Mainly middle schoolers, Rethinkers are emerging young leaders speaking out on issues that impact young people. They have led campaigns to change everything from school bathrooms and discipline policies. In 2011, Rethink released the graphic novel Feet to the Fire: The Rethinkers’ Guide to Changing Your School.

What I most admire about Rethink is that the youth voice is at the forefront. At Rethink, the kids don’t have to wait until they grow up to be in charge. At Rethink, they are in charge right now. They are advocates, activists and organizers right now.

There are Rethink clubs in six public schools and year-round committees focusing on topics like food justice and architecture.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer of 1964, Rethinkers will focus on the theme of freedom during the six-week summer program that culminates with a youth-led press conference. In 2013, Rethinkers tackled restorative justice.

“Our young people build authentic relationships with one another that allow them to recognize the collective strength of their community,” said karen marshall, Rethink executive director. “Rethinkers realize fairly quickly that when they direct their collective strength towards positive systemic change, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.”

Ameca Reali and Adrienne K. Wheeler founded The Justice & Accountability Center of Louisiana in 2011 to uncover where the criminal justice system is not working and try to make it better for those already tangled in its web.

The bulk of the organization’s work is expungement, the process of having a conviction sealed or basically removed from your criminal record.

“An expungement can allow access to jobs and opportunity for thousands of Louisiana residents who face persistent unemployment and exclusion from social advancement after their encounter with the criminal justice system. Our goal at JAC is to get people out of the system and back to work,” said Reali, a graduate of Loyola College of Law.

Last year alone, JAC helped more than 1,000 Louisiana residents, in more than eight parishes in Louisiana, trained 100 attorneys on how to do expungement and held expungement clinics across the region.

“GiveNOLA day is the opportunity for our community to put their money behind a cause they believe in. Supporting JAC during GiveNOLA Day means you support removing barriers to employment, housing and opportunity that otherwise would be in place without an expungement,” said Charmel Gaulden, JAC board member.

You have until 11:59 p.m. to get those donations in.

jewel bush, a New Orleans native, is a writer whose work has appeared in The (Houma) Courier, The Washington Post, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles Magazine, and El Tiempo, a bilingual Spanish newspaper. In 2010, she founded MelaNated Writers Collective, a multi-genre group for writers of color in New Orleans dedicated to cultivating the literary, artistic and professional growth of emerging writers. Her three favorite books are Their Eyes Were Watching God, The Catcher in the Rye, and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

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