Rising to the challenge

Added May 7th, 2013 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
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After a long cold winter, it’s good to feel optimistic again. Spring is here in Michigan, and there are signs that our economy is back on track and chugging along, even if very slowly.

As I work on meeting a critical fundraising challenge issued by the Nokomis Foundation, however, I find myself reminding those I meet with that the economy still does not work for all.

Many in our state still struggle with unemployment and underemployment. This has hit hard on young people who delay or forgo marriage because of financial uncertainty. (More on this Wednesday in an upcoming “Right Start” report from the Kids Count in Michigan project.) And Michigan is experiencing especially high unemployment among African American workers.

Many who work hard are poor, despite jobs. In fact, one-third of working families in Michigan cannot meet basic needs.

Despite this, many changes, both in administrative policies and legislation, are actually making it harder for families to work toward economic security.

To name just a few: A cut to the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit, elimination of charitable credits, new limits on food assistance, time limits on cash assistance and proposals to require drug testing as a condition of benefits.

In addition, the state budget has passed the Michigan House without a critical expansion in eligibility for Medicaid. Without expansion, uninsured low-income adults will go without preventive health care, despite available federal funding, and the dollars will instead flow to other states.

Clearly, there is much work to be done. At the League, we’ve worked hard to combat negative actions by testifying to the Legislature, working directly with lawmakers, joining coalitions, issuing reports and fact sheets and aggressively seeking media interviews. We’ve had some wins and, unfortunately, many losses.

But the League is here for the long haul, and we won’t give up the fight to make economic opportunity for all a reality. Our organization has been around for 101 years and with the help of Nokomis Foundation, we will survive for many more to come.

Twink Frey, founder of the Grand Rapids-based Nokomis Foundation, announced last fall a $1 million legacy gift to the League. In addition, Nokomis issued a challenge: Raise $250,000. This is quite a high hurdle, given that our annual fundraising drive pulls in about a tenth of that. But Nokomis is offering an extraordinary opportunity — a 4:1 match.

For every $1 we raise in pledges and contributions for the Nokomis Legacy Challenge this year, Nokomis will give $4. That means when we reach our $250,000 goal, we will get another $1 million donation from the foundation to grow the endowment even more. And the icing on the cake is that the Ford Foundation will also contribute $100,000 to the endowment when the challenge is met.

In all, we will have an incredible $2.35 million endowment. First, however, we must reach our $250,000 goal this year.

We’re well on our way but still must raise about $60,000, including pledges to be paid over the next three years.

Thanks to Nokomis, this is a magical opportunity to watch a $50 tax-deductible donation turn into $250; a $100 donation into $500 and a $1,000 donation become $5,000. A donation of any size will help.

Please contact me if you would like a named family fund – a good way to leave your own legacy or honor a loved one.

While the weather is improving, the economic climate leaves too many Michiganians in the cold. Meeting our Nokomis challenge will mean that the League will be around to lift up the voices of families and individuals who are still waiting for the sun to break through the clouds.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs


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