April 11th, 2014

An advocate for the poor, Jack Burch will be missed

Jack Burch, the former head of the Community Action Council for Lexington-Fayette, Bourbon, Harrison and Nicholas counties for 34 years, died Wednesday of lung cancer. He was 68.
“This is a very sad day,” said Stu Silberman, executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, and former superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools. “Jack was a champion for all kids. He was a champion for equity and he would stand up for the least of us even if it wasn’t in his own self interest. It is a really sad day for Lexington.”

Jack Burch

Jack Burch

Burch retired from CAC in June, anticipating time for travel to places he had only read about; time for gardening around his home, and time to master his glass-blowing technique.
It was to be his chance to concentrate on himself after a life of putting the needs of others first.
“That is what is so personally sad about it,” said P.G. Peeples, president and CEO of the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County. “When it got to the point of retiring and having the opportunity to do things he wanted to do, he had less than a year.
“What he did was part of his job and also part of his heart as a person,” Peeples said. “Jack, as a white person, did not hesitate to stand up and speak truth to power for not only poor people but also black people, where others would have run and hid.”
Burch was born in Memphis, Tenn., into a family that wanted race relations to improve. He met Martin Luther King, Jr. at his family’s dinner table and Burch’s uncle, Lucius Burch, argued for King’s right to march for striking sanitation workers.
“I don’t understand people who are afraid of difference,” Burch told me last year before he retired. “I am fascinated by the difference.”
He served with the Peace Corps in Africa for eight years before working in Hazard as the president of Appalachian Leadership and Community Outreach for four years.
In 1979, he was named CAC executive director and given the task of righting a ship that was about to capsize because of financial and administrative problems.
It wasn’t an easy transition, but, “He did a magnificent job from the time he took over,” Peeples said.
Under Burch’s leadership, CAC built state-of-the art Head Start programs, worked with utility companies to help families struggling to pay to heat their homes, and secured not only the basic needs of families, but also the education of children in order to break the cycle of poverty.
“Anyone can run programs,” Burch told me last year. “Anybody can pay utility bills. Anybody can operate Head Start centers. But if you are not willing to speak to the community about the needs of the least advantaged people, you are not a community action program and you are not an executive director of one.”
Malcolm Ratchford, executive director of CAC, said Burch took an agency that had all but failed and turned it into a $26 million organization.
“He made it easy for me to take over the job,” he said.
“He never gave up fighting for everybody,” Ratchford said. “He never gave up on me. He always believed I could do this job. He is responsible for me being where I am today.
Jack is the community action council.”
Peeples agreed.
“He was a lifelong soldier for poor folks and it was genuine,” he said. “It wasn’t just part of the job. It was from his heart.”
Burch is survived by his son, Jack E. (Jeb) Burch III; his daughter-in-law, Laura C. Jack; grandson Charlie Hall; sister, Jennie Robertson of Texas; brother, Dana Burch of Thailand; ex-wife Margaret Burch of Florida; and dear friend, Lanny Adkins.
No public memorial service is planned.
In lieu of flowers, the family has set up the Jack Burch Memorial Fund at Central Bank. Contributions will be added to a sum bequeath by Burch which will then be merged into the Patricia Burch McCann Social and Economic Activity Plan at the Blue Grass Community Foundation. McCann was Burch’s mother.
Giving, serving and advocating was in his blood. That comes as no surprise to those who knew him.
“His commitment to helping others was truly inspirational,” Jeb Burch said. “Dad was a dreamer who genuinely thought he could make the world a better place. I hope his legacy as an advocate for those in need will guide others to continue his work.”
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray remembers Burch as a “fierce warrior in the war on poverty.
“He wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Gray said. “Always fighting for what’s right, Jack made a difference by improving the lives of literally thousands of people; and he literally saved lives by making sure people had food or heat or decent housing. He will be missed.”
We often say a person will be missed, but those words are not always truthful.
For Jack Burch, they are.

April 11th, 2014

Fair Housing Council celebrates 20 years, but its work still continues

A landlord in Calloway County refused to allow a woman to apply for his rental property because he learned she had a domestic violence protection order against another individual. The landlord said the situation would bring danger to his neighborhood. His refusal was a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and the U.S. Fair Housing Act.
In Barren County, a landlord required tenants who used service animals to pay a pet deposit, a violation of the state Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act and the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.
And in Jefferson County, a landlord refused to rent to a black tenant because the last black tenant he rented to “left a bad taste” in his mouth. That was a Fair Housing violation.

Art Crosby

Art Crosby

Those are examples of cases the Lexington Fair Housing Council had to file complaints about and seek legal remedies for last year.
The council, celebrating its 20th year in service, is the only private non-profit fair housing agency in Kentucky. Anyone who has experienced housing discrimination based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability can have his or her complaint investigated by the council free of charge.
Because of local fairness laws in Lexington, Covington, Vicco, Frankfort, Morehead and Louisville, the council will also investigate housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in those cities. Complaints are investigated and, if necessary, filed with the state or local Human Rights Commission for a determination.
Arthur Crosby, executive director of the Fair Housing Council, said most issues don’t get to that level, however. Most are mediated.
“A lot of the times it’s about the landlord who won’t fix what he is supposed to,” he said. “We tell them to call code enforcement, or we may send something to the landlord in writing.”
And sometimes, Crosby said, just by talking with the caller for a while, members of this staff will discover other problems that are more serious. Instead of a hole in the floor, the problem could be sexual harassment.
But, more often than not, he said, his job falls in the realm of explaining to tenants why they really are not being discriminated against. Complaints regarding disabilities top all others.
“People almost always think of race, but we get more disability complaints,” he said. “People are living longer and having more health issues.”
The council has six employees, including Crosby, who is the only attorney on staff. The small staff fields complaints from all over Kentucky and they also offer testing services so real estate brokers, owners, builders and insurance agents can be reassured their agents are complying with the law.
Plus, the council holds seminars to explain the laws to the general public as well as landlords, real estate professionals and associations.
“We work well with the Apartment Association,” he said. “Those places have got it all figured out.”
The council was incorporated in 1994 by Galen Martin, former head of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and longtime civil rights activist, who also founded the Kentucky Fair Housing Council in Louisville. The Lexington office opened in 1995, funded by a federal grant from Housing and Urban Development.
It lost its federal funding in 1997 but reopened in 1999 shortly before former Lexington Mayor Teresa Isaac was named the executive director.
The Louisville-based Kentucky Fair Housing Council closed in 2007, leaving only the Lexington office to shoulder the weight of fighting housing discrimination throughout the state.
The council fields about 1,000 calls a year and about 100 will result in an investigation, Crosby said. Only about 40 cases reach the point of filing a complaint.
Because April is Fair Housing Month, the council will host a free Fair Housing and Diversity Training session in Lexington on April 30.
The work of the council is far from complete.
Lexington officials still have not authorized a dedicated funding source to help residents find much-needed safe and affordable house. Crosby said he would favor that move.
“We believe, based on the phone calls we receive, there is a huge gap in what people need,” Crosby said. And there is still a need for housing providers to be better informed about fair housing laws, he said.
“When people discriminate, it messes with the free market,” Crosby said. “If you want free markets to work correctly, you have to make sure discrimination is not happening.”
If you are having problems with housing discrimination, call (866) 438-8617 or (859) 971-8067.

What: Fair Housing and Diversity Training in Lexington
When: 1-4 p.m., April 30
Where: Ramada Inn, 2143 North Broadway
Cost: Free
Registration: Online at Lexingtonfairhousing.com, or contact Arthur Crosby at (866) 438-8617 or (859) 971-8067; or email crosbylfhc@hotmail.com.

April 4th, 2014

Multiple forums offer chances to get to know candidates

It is always amazing to me that as few as one-fourth of Kentucky’s eligible voters cast ballots in some elections.
As much grumbling as I’ve heard and as much Facebook ­complaining as I’ve seen about our elected officials, it would seem voters would roll out in greater numbers.
Instead, we get a paltry number like 28 percent voter turnout in ­Lexington during the 2010 primary election, according to Tracy ­Merriman, ­elections ­department manager at the Fayette County Clerk’s office.
This year there are a gob of folks running for ­important offices locally and statewide, and Merriman thinks that will bring voters out in larger numbers.
Maybe so.
For the May 20 ­primary, there is a long list of ­candidates, including four who want to unseat Mitch McConnell in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, and two hopefuls who want the Democratic nod for the 6th District seat in the U.S. House of ­Representatives. Also on the ballot is the office of mayor, three Urban ­County Council at-large seats, and five council district races with three or more candidates.
(The 7th District Council race will be on the ­ballot, Merriman said, but no votes will be counted. One candidate dropped out, ­leaving two to advance to the Nov. 4 election.)
“I’m hoping the turnout will be fairly good,” she said of the primary.
Several Lexington ­organizations are helping us get to know who the candidates are and what they stand for.
The League of Women Voters will host three forums.
“We think the voters need to have good ­information beyond sound bites to make good decisions about who they will vote for,” said Cindy Heine, league vice president.
There are several forums over three days. The largest is Saturday, but it will end in plenty of time to watch Kentucky play ­Wisconsin in the Final Four.
Scheduled to appear are candidates for the state House of ­Representatives’ 76th and 77th Districts, 6th District U.S. House of ­Representatives, Fayette County judge-executive and Urban County Council at-large races.
On Sunday, candidates in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th council districts will get their chances to woo voters.
And April 13, contenders for council seats in the 6th and 8th Districts will discuss their positions on issues.
Candidates are not given the questions in advance, Heine said. Instead, ­audience members will be asked to write out questions, and members of the League will choose the best ones. League members might add questions on other issues.
“We are always pleased to do this,” Heine said of the forums, which will be taped and replayed on the Library Channel (Time Warner Cable Channel 20) about a week later, she said.
In addition to the League forums, the ­Community Action Council, Central ­Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice and Catholic ­Action Center are ­collaborating to host an April 16 forum just for at-large council ­candidates.
“The hottest issues in Lexington are about ­homelessness, affordable housing and poverty in general,” said Malcolm Ratchford, executive director of the Community Action Council. “We want to get the candidates to talk about these issues. One of the ­candidates could be vice mayor.” (The top vote-getter among the at-large candidates in the November election will become vice mayor.)
All three sponsoring groups have worked to shore up the underserved, including the homeless or near-homeless, and they want voters to know where candidates stand on issues that affect the least of us.
The candidates will have an opportunity to reveal their positions on poverty or, perhaps, their lack of knowledge about the issue, Ratchford said.
Again, questions will not be given in advance. “We want to hear them off-the-cuff,” he said.
An interesting twist will be ­audience ­comments on Twitter, using hashtag #LFUCGatlarge, about the candidates’ responses. The comments, which will be monitored, will appear on a screen onstage so ­candidates may see them and respond if they choose ­during closing comments.
“We did this before in 2010 for the mayor’s race,” Ratchford said.
Most of the candidates have agreed to appear.
If that is not enough ­opportunities to get to know some of the candidates, KET will feature candidates in six U.S. Senate and House ­primary races on ­consecutive Mondays at 8 p.m. on Kentucky Tonight, beginning April 21 with the Senate Republican primary.
With all those chances to find out where candidates stand, surely we can find someone we can vote for, someone who will get us to stop complaining and start participating in the ­government process. That seems to be what the folks who wrote the Constitution wanted us to do.
Some of us can start by registering to vote in the primary by the April 21 deadline.

Candidate forums
League of Women Voters
April 5: 9 a.m., state House of Representatives 76th District; 10:15 a.m., state House of Representatives 77th District; 11:45 a.m., U.S. House of Representatives 6th District; 12:30 p.m., Fayette County judge-executive; 1:15-2:30 p.m., Urban County Council at-large, group 1; 3-4:15 p.m., Urban County Council at-large, group 2.
April 6: Urban County Council. 1:30 p.m., 2nd District; 2:30 p.m., 3rd District; 3:30 p.m., 4th District.
April 13: Urban County Council. 2:15 p.m., 6th District; 3:30 p.m., 8th District.
All forums will be at Downtown Public Library auditorium, 140 East Main Street.
Community Action Council, Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice and the Catholic Action Center: 7 p.m. April 16, 913 Georgetown St.
KET forums: April 21, U.S. Senate Republican primary; April 28, U.S. Senate Democratic primary; May 5, 5th and 6th Districts, U.S. House Democratic primaries; May 12, 1st and 3rd Districts, U.S. House Democratic primaries. All programs air at 8 p.m.

April 4th, 2014

April is the month to ‘Commit to Prevent’ child abuse

Once, when I was a single mother, I dressed my 16-month-old daughter in the prettiest outfit she owned and sat her on the couch while I finished dressing.
It was our normal routine.
When I returned to the living room, my normally obedient child had demonstrated her artistic abilities by smearing Royal Crown hair dressing — a pomade-like product — all over her hair, her clothing, the couch and the carpet.
About that time, my neighbor knocked on the door, saw what had happened and quickly took my daughter and a change of clothes to her apartment.
I didn’t see either of them again for a couple of hours, long enough for me to clean up the mess and calm down.
Joel Griffith, director of programs for Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, said so many young parents need neighbors like the one I had.
“What we know about parents who are in tough situations, but who don’t lose it, is often those parents have social supports,” Griffith said.
Those supports in the past came in the form of grandparents, uncles, aunts, neighbors or church members.
“Thirty years ago we were a less transient culture,” he said, with extended family members and other social connections nearby. “Families that have access to supports are less likely to abuse or neglect their children.”
April 1 signals not only the beginning of a 24-hour cycle of practical jokes for April Fool’s Day, but it also marks the beginning of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In Kentucky, the theme of this year’s observance is “Commit to Prevent.” And, unfortunately, we seem to still need that wake-up call.
Events will be taking place throughout the state to bring awareness of child abuse prevention, including the planting of blue and silver pinwheels in Wellington Park in Lexington on April 5, preceded by a 5K run/walk in the Kentucky Horse Park at 9 a.m.
According to the Child Protective Service, 23,951 children in Kentucky were involved in substantiated reports of abuse or neglect in 2013. In Fayette County, that number was 1,163.
National trends indicate one in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. If that trend holds true in Kentucky, that would represent more than 10,000 children.
Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky is a statewide agency that offers resources and support for families to prevent abuse and neglect.
Griffith said two basic supports are food and rent assistance.
“If they call 1-800-CHILDREN, we can connect them to resources around the state,” he said. “That’s our parent helpline.”
Parents can also find and join parent education classes and support groups. There they can learn various milestones for their child’s development so that they won’t have unrealistic expectations of their child, Griffith said.
“Children who are at the greatest risk are typically under 4 years old,” he said. “Very young children are less able to predict a parent’s frustrations. That’s particularly true of infants.”
If young parents are provided information about shaken baby syndrome and given tips for soothing a crying baby, that education seems to have positive effects.
“We know that prevention works,” Griffith continued.
Parents can simply walk away, he said.
“A child has never been physically injured by crying. Babies go through crying states. Just walk away. It’s no one’s fault.”
Neglect, on the other hand, is an act of omission: a lack of supervision, medical care or food. About 55 percent of abuse and neglect cases are related to substance abuse, Griffith said.
“Substance abuse is a disease,” he said. “This is an area where the community is so important. They can keep an eye out for those children.”
That’s something we all can do.
“Commit to Prevent” is asking us to get more involved in the lives of the children around us. We can pledge to baby-sit free of charge to give parents a break. Or we can form a parent group to discuss the ups and downs of parenting.
We need to find time to do that not only in April but also year round.

If You Go
Commit to Prevent 5K Run/Walk 2014
When: April 5. 7:45 a.m., registration begins. 9 a.m., race starts. 10 a.m., awards presentation.
Where: Kentucky Horse Park, 4089 Iron Works Parkway.
Information: Visit pcaky.org/runwalk.html.

March 28th, 2014

Nathaniel Mission gets new address, new goals

Things are changing in Davis Bottom, but one thing remains constant: the Nathaniel United Methodist Mission, which has served the needy and overshadowed residents of that neighborhood since the 1930s, will adapt.
As of today, most of the mission’s keepsakes and worldly goods will be boxed and moved from its DeRoode Street location to 1109 Versailles Road, Suite 600. It’s a temporary location, but it allows the mission to keep its doors open. It was forced to move because of construction on the Newtown Pike Extension, which will give commuters a shorter route to South Limestone. By late May, the mission’s long-term home will be in Suite 400 at the Versailles Road address, which is being renovated.

Rev. David MacFarland, mission director, in front of the Nathaniel United Methodist Mission, 616 DeRoode St.  Photo by Charles Bertram

Rev. David MacFarland, mission director, in front of the Nathaniel United Methodist Mission, 616 DeRoode St. Photo by Charles Bertram

“They should start hanging drywall Monday,” said the Rev. David MacFarland, pastor at the mission, which gets to move twice. “And we’re waiting on plumbing to start.”
And quite a move it has been so far.
In the past couple of months, the mission has merged its free medical clinic for the uninsured with that of Mission Lexington, which also serves the uninsured and working poor. The merger was necessary because more and more of their uninsured patients were being insured under the nation’s new health care law, and fewer clients were coming to each mission, MacFarland explained.
Patients from Nathaniel Mission were transferred to Mission Lexington around the first of March. “And it has gone really well,” said Chris Skidmore, executive director of Mission Lexington. “We are pleased with the caliber of their providers. We are thankful they chose us.”
Two medical clinic workers from Nathaniel Mission have also transferred. Because their salaries were already budgeted until Dec. 31, Nathaniel Mission is continuing to pay them until then.
Nathaniel Mission will now focus more on wellness and prevention, MacFarland said. “When we were in the clinic business, we were good at treating your cuts,” he said. “Now we want to make sure you don’t get cut in the first place.”
Most of the medical problems for the population the mission served can be boiled down to diabetes and hypertension. The mission will retain its dental, vision and podiatry clinics under the wellness focus.
The dental offices, however, will be moved to 216 South Limestone, where Mission Lexington’s dental clinic was located before its dental and medical clinics united at 230 South Martin Luther King Boulevard last year.
“All the plumbing was already in place,” MacFarland said. “We could move in over a weekend.”
Nathaniel Mission’s three extra dental chairs are needed in Lexington, Skidmore said. “We are seeing a slight decrease in our medical clinic,” he said, “but the dental need is still pretty vast. We still have a very, very long waiting list. The city could use six more of us.”
Nathaniel Mission’s other programs, including the food market, clothing bank, Christmas project and diabetes education and support classes, will continue at the new Versailles Road location. Hot meals will be served on Wednesday and Sunday evenings and Sunday mornings.
The board hasn’t decided if the mission will move back to Davis Bottom when the road construction is completed. The board has the option to do that in five years, when it is estimated that the construction will be completed.
But MacFarland noted the population in Davis Bottom has changed and will change even more with the new single and multi-family housing that is planned there.
MacFarland is retiring at the end of June, which leaves the door open for a new leader for this new phase for the mission.
“For the mission to continue, it needs to go to the next level,” MacFarland said. “And for that you probably need to bring in someone new.”
To start that transition, the mission is hosting a leave-taking service, MacFarland said. In the United Methodist Book of Discipline, it is described as the de-consecration of the property, he said. There will be testimonials and witnessing by people who have benefited from the mission. And the Lord’s Supper will be served, he said.
Nathaniel Mission will survive the changes because it will always focus on the same demographic. There was a time, MacFarland said, when the mission had a kindergarten, and then the state offered kindergarten. And there was a time when the mission’s health clinic was primarily for children, he said, and then the state set up the Kentucky Children’s Health Insurance Program, which offers free or low-cost health insurance for children.
“And, there was a time when we served this neighborhood completely,” MacFarland said. “We are always going to the folks on the margin wherever we find them.”

What: “Leave-Taking Service,” the last service to be held at the Nathaniel United Methodist Mission in Davis Bottom.
When: 3 p.m. March 30.
Where: 616 DeRoode St.
Information: Call (859) 255-0062.

March 26th, 2014

Moveable Feast among charities that could lose city funding

There is good and bad news coming from Moveable Feast Lexington headquarters.
The good news is that the agency has contracted with the Kentucky Department of Health, HIV branch, to offer private in-home counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS.
Executive Director Terry Mullins said his agency is one of the first in Kentucky to offer the service.
“We will go to the home for people who are too afraid to go out to the health department to get tested,” Mullins said. “It’s a brand-new project.”MFL-logo-trans
By the middle of April, Mullins and four other certified volunteers will make appointments at the recipient’s home. The visit also includes counseling on available means of safe sex or the use of clean needles for intravenous drug users. The latter is important because of the recent increase in heroin users in the Bluegrass which could result in an uptick of HIV/AIDS cases here as well, he said.
Also, they will give a quick oral test for HIV/AIDS that takes about 20 minutes for results, Mullins said.
Flyers will be sent out with client meals promoting the new service, he said. “It will be asking them, ‘Do you have family and friends who need to be tested but are afraid to be tested?’”
Moveable Feast serves about 100 meals a day, Monday through Friday, to people with HIV-related illnesses, their caretakers and their dependent children in Fayette County, as well as patients in hospice care regardless of their illness. About 20 of the neediest clients are also given a cold lunch for the next day.
The idea for Moveable Feast began in 1998 after a destitute HIV patient starved to death in downtown Lexington. Since it began, the charitable agency has delivered more than 200,000 free hot meals.
About 40 percent of its funding comes from public and private grants. At least it did.
Which leads us to the bad news.
The organization recently learned it is not slated to receive $24,000 from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. It had been given that amount each of the past five years, Mullins said.
It is not the only charity to be left off the list of recipients. In the past, Mullins said, the city funded 48 charities. This year, the number was reduced to 29.
The Social Services and Community Development Committee graded charities that had applied for $2.3 million in available grants on a points system. The highest possible was 145. The percentage of funds allotted decreased as the points decreased, with scores below 124 not funded at all.
Moveable Feast scored 123 and there were five other worthy charities that scored just above it that didn’t make the cut, either.
In the big picture, $24,000 may not seem like a lot of money. But for Moveable Feast, that loss of funding represents 12,308 meals and the packaging to transport it. The organization serves 30,000 meals each year.
The cuts are only recommendations to Mayor Jim Gray from the committee. The final say-so is left up to the council.
“We are lobbying hard,” Mullins said. “If that doesn’t come through, we will have to come up with a major fundraiser. And $24,000 is hard to raise when you don’t have that big of a base to call on.”
The organization’s next scheduled fundraiser is “Food + Art = Life.” Local residents will open their homes for literary readings, art shows and music every Sunday afternoon in September. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served. Mullins said it is the first time for the event and tickets are $100. Although all details have not been worked out, you can call (859) 252-2867 for more information.
If you can’t attend that event, Mullins will accept any and all donations to help with the potential shortfall. Volunteers are always needed as well.
Surely we all can appreciate what this group has done on a shoestring, and surely we can dig in our pockets to help that work continue.

March 26th, 2014

Big Brothers Big Sisters getting back in stride

When Alan Stein walked into the offices of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bluegrass two-and-a-half years ago, the non-profit’s few remaining employees were preparing to pack their personal items and leave.
“Mike Scanlon called me and said I need your help,” Stein recalled. “Big Brothers and Big Sisters is in big trouble.”
Stein, president and CEO of SteinGroup, and Scanlon, Thomas & King CEO, were both significant donors to the organizations and both were former board members. Neither wanted the mentoring program to disappear.
“What I was seeing was the door closing and the employees getting laid off because there was no money,” Scanlon said. “A couple of things needed to happen really fast.”
First, there was no money. Bendrea Wilson, a former office manager, had issued 142 fraudulent checks amounting to more than $430,000 between 2008 and 2009 before Central Bank noticed suspicious activity. The amount embezzled represented about a third of the organization’s annual budget at that time.
Wilson and five others were charged. Wilson is serving four years in prison.
On top of that, the economy tanked, which forced previous donors to cling to their shrinking budgets or dole out much smaller amounts to charity. Some donors just weren’t sure Big Brothers and Big Sisters could correctly manage money it received.
“That embezzlement was not carelessness or the board members being asleep,” Scanlon said. “We were getting financial documents that were not true.”
And then United Way of the Bluegrass cut its BBBS annual funding of $200,000.
Into that perfect storm rushed Scanlon and Stein, willingly.
With the approval of the remaining board members, the two men gave the organization $20,000 every couple of weeks to keep the doors open, Stein said.
Scanlon said he operated behind the scenes while Stein became the face of the organization. Stein said he made about 50 speeches in 30 days and raised $250,000.
“We were able to get back on our feet,” Stein said. “We constituted the board with young committed people, and hired Eric Ward as president and CEO, who re-energized us. We were back in business.”
BBBS has been in operation for nearly 60 years, providing adult mentors for boys and girls who are considered at risk. Its headquarters are in Lexington, but it serves young people in 14 counties.
And it is a United Way agency again. Still fundraising was difficult.
“To raise cash, we needed some credibility,” Scanlon said.
Even though the theft was discovered in 2009, prosecution was slow, he said. The authorities were trying to catch more fish. “We had to restore confidence in raising money without impairing the prosecution,” he said.
They hired a new accounting firm and certified public account, and had board members trained through the Nonprofit Leadership Initiative at the University of Kentucky.
There were also pay cuts and benefits changes, Scanlon said.
When Ward was hired as commissioner of the Mid-South Conference last year, Ralph Coldiron was hired as president and CEO. Coldiron is a longtime civic activist in Lexington.
“We are leaner and meaner, but we are still serving the same number of children,” Coldiron said. “We’ve got so many safeguards now. No one can open bank statements but me.”
Two people have to approve bill payments and payroll, he said, and there are double and triple checks at every level.
The need for adult mentors still exists, he said, but before matches can be made, there are several tests and checks both the adult and child must go through.
And that costs money, he said.
Independent background checks cost $200 each and there are four of those administered. There are also checks on the child, and psychological checks for both child and adult. And there is a case management study conducted to ensure the match will be successful.
“I’d be surprised if someone is doing more than we do,” said Natalie Thompson, program director. “Because of the safeguards we have in place, there is a lot that goes into making a match and to supporting these matches. We are working with much less resources, people included.
“It is tough not to be able to serve every kid that is out there. But we have to be able to do what we do and do it well and not be spread thin.”
About 81 percent of the children they serve come from single families, or are wards of the court or are living with grandparents, Coldiron said. Those who are mentored, however, are more competent in their school work and get along better with their parents. “Of the kids that are mentored, 46 percent are less likely to use drugs; 27 percent are less likely to use alcohol; and, if matched, 52 percent are less likely to skip school,” he said.
In the first part of 2012, after Scanlon and Stein helped bail out the organization, Thompson said, only six matches were made. By the second half of that year, 80 matches were set up. In 2013, the number of matches continued to grow with 156 new matches.
“With a committed board and a staff that refuses to allow this program to fail. Our goals this year are to serve even more children,” Thompson said. There are 200 kids on a waiting list for a mentor.
But to start the process for those matches, the organization needs money.
That gives us the opportunity to be heroes like Scanlon and Stein.
Every year, BBBS hosts a series of fundraisers called Bowl for Kids’ Sake, from which $250,000 can be collected.
Coldiron said the fundraiser is critical.
Each team consists of five people who pledge or raise $100 each. There are 10 bowling dates for locations throughout Central Kentucky. BBBS is trying to recruit 500 teams for a total of $250,000. The organization is about 140 teams short. The fundraiser brings in about 40 percent of the total operational budget.
Coldiron said some of the mentored participants have formed teams. He welcomes everyone.
“We got bamboozled, lied to and misled,” Scanlon said. But since then, “we have been very good stewards of not only (people’s) children but also their money, too.
“These kids matter too much.”
Stein agreed.
“These kids are vulnerable to falling through the cracks, and that is a terrible thing in and of itself,” he said. “But as a business person, it is one less kid we have to worry abut being incarcerated, going to mediation or drug rehabilitation. One less kid that will cost the taxpayer.”

How to help
Bowl for Kids’ Sake
In Fayette County, the last dates to bowl are April 26 and 27. Call (859) 231-8181 for more information and a schedule of dates, or register at www.bbbs-bluegrass.org.

March 26th, 2014

One-time deposit for housing a good step forward

Giving credit where it is due, I want to join the chorus of folks who are giving kudos to Mayor Jim Gray for taking a big step toward bringing affordable housing in Lexington closer to reality.
Tuesday, Gray proposed divvying up an expected $13 million surplus so that $3.5 million could be used as a one-time deposit on the city’s $36 million need for affordable housing and for the needs of the homeless.
“We are taking one step at a time,” Gray said. “This is a big step.”
A recent report from czb consultants, said Lexington should invest $3 to $4 million initially to chip away at a housing problem that has increasingly become a crisis. It was the latest set of harsh facts from a couple of reports stating the same thing, along with pleas from Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action, otherwise known as BUILD, an interfaith and interracial proactive organization comprising members of nearly 20 churches.
The reports and BUILD advocates stated the need to establish an Affordable Housing Trust Fund with a dedicated revenue stream to steadily wash away barriers to safe housing.
The $3.5 million isn’t exactly a stream in this case, but it is definitely a rain shower that could lead to something more substantial.
“Our position is that we believe this is a good down payment on the problem,” said the Rev. Adam Jones of Open Door Church and BUILD co-chair. “This is a one-time investment, which is fine and good.”
But the problem is much bigger than that. If a person needs $150,000 to purchase a house and is given $5,000, Jones said, that person would be very grateful. But he or she would still need $145,000 more.
“I’m making sure that our citizens understand that this is a good step, but not enough to resolve a $36 million problem,” Jones said.
Gray knew there would be a surplus of funds, but he didn’t know how much until he got last month’s numbers from Bill O’Mara, commissioner of finance.
Before that, Gray said he has been talking with the former three-term Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and with Albuquerque, N.M., Mayor Richard J. Berry, both of whom have tackled affordable housing in their cities.
“We needed a good plan, a road map,” Gray said. “We are using them as benchmarkers.”
To develop a plan for Lexington from the successes of those two areas, Gray has asked Derrick Paulsen, planning commissioner, to bring the interested parties to the table to brainstorm Lexington’s next move.
Gray plans to be involved as well.
“I enjoy being at the planning and problem-solving table,” he said. “If you don’t like that, you wouldn’t want this job. It is a good challenge to have.”
On April 8, Gray will announce his budget for the Urban County Government at the 3 p.m. council work session. Then, at 7 p.m., he will attend the 11th Annual Nehemiah Action Assembly of BUILD at Porter Memorial Baptist Church and answer questions. One of those questions in the past has been whether Gray would support a trust fund with a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing.
“I’m going to be there,” Gray said. “It will be a red-letter day.
“I do appreciate the BUILD community,” he said. “It has been vigorous and persistent and it demonstrates the value of the commitment from the heart and the head, and democracy at work.”
So, does he expect to take a bow this time, instead of side-stepping the question or just saying no?
“I don’t expect that,” he said, laughing a little. “They want a dedicated fund.”
Perhaps rightly so.
In Minneapolis, the trust fund was supposed to receive a $10 million infusion every year, but since 2005, it has met that number only once, according to my research. Still, some 6,100 affordable homes have been renovated or built since 2003.
In Albuquerque, voters passed affordable housing bonds, but the available money has dropped dramatically because of the recent recession, according to the city’s Department of Family and Community Services.
We will just have to wait and see. At least for now, the mayor is onboard.
“This is the right thing to do and the right time,” Gray said.

March 26th, 2014

Sponsors seek Legos, T-shirts, hard hats to expand construction contest for kids

What would you build using 100 toy building blocks of various sizes, 12 inches of string, an 18-inch square of aluminum foil, an 18-inch square of poster board and a rock?
Ralph Bright, 9, a third-grade student in the Quest Program at Meadowthorpe Elementary School, built a “house with an aluminum foil covering that protected it from the environment,” said Melissa C. Bright, his mother.
“The rock was the moon and the string kept the moon in orbit.”

Anthony Lewis, center left, a construction management student at Eastern Kentucky University, volunteered to judge the Block Kids Building Competition in February. Ralph Bright, 9, center right, a student at Meadowthorpe, explained his creation to Lewis as part of the judging process. Bright won first place.

Anthony Lewis, center left, a construction management student at Eastern Kentucky University, volunteered to judge the Block Kids Building Competition in February. Ralph Bright, 9, center right, a student at Meadowthorpe, explained his creation to Lewis as part of the judging process. Bright won first place.

Well, of course. That makes perfect sense.
Bright was the overall winner in the Block Kids Building Competition in February, sponsored by the Bluegrass Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction. Juliann Hyatt placed second and Rebecca Carlson was third. Thirty Meadowthorpe students participated.
Photos of Ralph’s creation and judging notes were sent to a regional contest and, had he been successful there, to the national competition.
Melissa Bright was drawn to Block Kids because it gave her son an opportunity to use his imagination to build something and then discuss it with someone in construction, she said.
“He was excited that he had someone who wanted to talk about it and who understood,” she said.
The contest was open to students at Meadowthorpe, but Bright and Diana Hagan, president of the Block Kids program for the local chapter of the association, want it to be a citywide event for elementary students.
“I am an enthusiastic parent,” Bright said. “I have pledged funds toward growing this project to a citywide competition.”
Hagan is hoping to reach more people like Bright.
“We are trying to get 100 to 150 or more students next year,” she said.
That will require sponsorships for T-shirts, prizes, construction-themed goody bags, hard hats and Legos, as well as volunteer judges from the construction field, and a space big enough to hold all those students.
“During our event, many children hear for the first time about different areas of construction or ways they can be involved from office work to field workers, architects and planners, engineers, managers, suppliers and more,” said Hagan, a project engineer with Messer Construction Co. “This is just one way we can open their minds to the endless possibilities of a career in construction.”
Hagan joined the association when she was in college. The local chapter has 30 members and welcomes women in the construction industry to their monthly meetings on the third Thursday of the month at the Griffin Gate Marriott Resort and Spa. Visit Bgnawic.org for more information.
In addition to Block Kids, the group also hosts the Ms. Fix-it Fair, which teaches basic information about plumbing and electrical repair, how to work with tile, drywall repair, home weatherization, gardening and home decorating in 45-minute classes throughout a one-day event.
This year’s fair will be in the summer, Hagan said, and there will be a new format. Details are still in the works. Keep checking Bgnawic.org for more information.
But back to the Block Kids. The program was created in Biloxi, Miss., by Erma Lamousin, a member of the Greater Mississippi Gulf Coast chapter of the association. In 1989, it went national.
The program is open to children in elementary school, which ends at fifth grade in Fayette County, but extends to sixth grade in other regions of the nation.
“Even if we don’t get enough sponsorship next year for a Lexington-wide event,” Hagan said, “we plan to switch elementary schools to give different schools the opportunity to participate.”
I love this idea. I don’t think I would be as traumatized by this competition as I was with my children’s science fair projects.
There is nothing for parents to provide, no need to push for weeks for the child to complete the project, and no fear of failure by the child.
The children walk into the competition and allow their imaginations to take over.
This is an idea worth supporting.

The Bluegrass Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction needs help to expand the 2015 Block Kids Building Competition to more elementary students in Fayette County.
Contact: Diana Hagan at (859) 230-3150 or by email at lexingtonblockkids@gmail.com.

March 14th, 2014

Lafayette choir’s event to feature a high note in history

In the summer of 1988, the Soviet Union canceled a scheduled rock concert in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
The small country in the Baltic region of Northern Europe was first occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939, then by the Nazis and again by the Soviet Union. It had been under outside control for more than half a century. It had no army and no weapons with which to fight the oppression.
By the end of World War II, more than 25 percent of the Estonian population had been deported to Siberia, executed or had fled the country.
Having a concert ­canceled seemed minor compared to what the Estonians had been through.
But something was changing. Beginning in 1987, the small country had been testing Soviet resolve by singing rock songs that called for independence. So when the concert in Tallinn was stopped in 1988, the crowd walked three miles to a familiar field where ­festivals were held and began to sing.
For six nights they sang Estonian patriotic songs and waved Estonian flags that had been stored away.
Thus began a peaceful rebellion that would lead to the Republic of Estonia’s independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. The rebellion was known as the Singing Revolution.
“It is a really fascinating story,” said Ryan Marsh, director of the Lafayette High School Choir. “They have a 150-year-old tradition of gathering every five years on the song festival grounds. The stage is built to accommodate 30,000 singers, and there are another 200,000 people in the audience. It gave them the solidarity to push forward.”
That series of protests and the change it brought nonviolently is retold in a 2006 award-winning documentary film called The Singing Revolution.poster
Filmmakers James and Maureen Castle Tusty, who learned of the revolution while teaching at Estonia University in 1999, began interviewing Estonia leaders and residents in 2001. After four years of filming and editing, they created the documentary. They have made it available to ­Lafayette as a fundraiser for the choral program, Marsh said. The choral program will get 75 percent of the proceeds from ticket sales.
“We are raising money for the equipment fund,” Marsh said. “Our boosters provide a lot, but we don’t have enough funding to support the program, so we are building a fund.”
One item on his list of needs is a piano, he said. Other items are acoustical shells, or panels that reflect sound toward the audience, and risers and platforms for performances.
The Lafayette choral ­program has 200 members in its 75th season, Marsh said.
With the Russian ­occupation of Crimea, an ­autonomous pro-Russian republic within Ukraine, students can get a better historical perspective on those current events by viewing the film. Russia is again thrusting its might on smaller nearby countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
To see that threat unfolding now and to realize a small country pushed back through music, is a lesson everyone can appreciate.
Marsh became more familiar with Estonia’s story while working on a world music project at the University of Kentucky. His desire to know more led him to get in touch with the Tustys, who offered the partnership to the choral program.
The Singing Revolution will be shown at 7 p.m. March 15 at the Lexington Christian Academy, 450 Reynolds Road. Tickets are $10 and are available online or by phone.
The film allows us to honor another country’s courage and resolve against oppressive power, he said. “They literally changed the world.”
To reinforce that ­history, the choir will sing two patriotic Estonian songs as the credits roll.
“Part of what we are called to do as educators is help students understand the connection between music and culture,” Marsh said.

What: The ­documentary The Singing ­Revolution, to benefit the ­Lafayette High School Choir equipment fund.
When: 7 p.m., March 15.
Where: Lexington Christian Academy, 450 W. Reynolds Rd.
Tickets: $10 online at ­Lafayettechoir.org/sr.html, or by phone at 859-687-6100.

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