Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Give Local Flathead

Give LOCAL Flathead is a 24-hour, online giving event hosted by the Flathead Community Foundation and Northwest Montana United Way.  An opportunity to celebrate nonprofits in our community, raise thousands of dollars in support of their work, and recognize the impact each of us can make when we Give Local together!

Everyone can be a hometown philanthropist, and every contribution of every size makes a positive difference for our nonprofit participants. Your donation on May 3rd will go further, by helping your favorite nonprofit win Prize Donations that will be awarded every hour of the event.  Our nonprofits are there for us 24/7, 365 days a year. Let's be there for them on May 3rd

Your business or foundation can sponsor Give LOCAL Flathead and support nonprofits all across Flathead County. Please call 406-756-9047 or email givelocalflathead@gmail.com for more information. 


Qualified 501c3 nonprofit organizations with offices in the Flathead Valley may register to participate in Give LOCAL Flathead 2016 at www.givelocalflathead.org through Wednesday, April 13  

Give LOCAL Flathead will provide training and technical support for participating charities. Orientation will be held on five consecutive Wednesday mornings from 9-10am at the Gateway Community Center, 1203 Highway 2 West, Kalispell. Participants are requested to attend ONEorientation session: March 23, March 30, April 6, April 13, or April 20
A specialty team of trained volunteers from Leadership Flathead Foundation will advise and assist individual nonprofits in their marketing and promotional efforts
Give Local Flathead will drive traffic to the giving day site, as will GiveMontana
Donors will choose the charitable causes most important to them and make a secure online donation.
Give Local Flathead Sponsors will provide cash prize donations for participating nonprofits, as a way to build excitement and maximize impact for donors.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The "Talk"

I am a parent.

These four simple words have meaning packed within them that there is never a day that passes which excuses me from some sort of responsibility. As a parent, we’ve had all sorts of “talks” with our children when they were younger. We talk about drugs and bullying and relationships and sports and stranger danger and…well, you get it. But when was the last time homelessness was a pertinent discussion?

With ever-increasing numbers of homeless people in our cities, it is not surprising that young kids are asking questions. Whether it is someone in the street asking each car for money, someone pushing a cart overflowing with possessions or a person forlornly propped up against a building, children notice anything that is different. They work hard to understand and make sense of the world they encounter. As they grow and mature, more of the world comes into focus and is scrutinized.

 It is important to understand that homelessness is not a “loaded” issue for the child... yet. The questions about a homeless person usually stem from genuine curiosity. That person doesn’t fall into any of the categories of people with whom he is familiar. He is not passing judgment; he is wondering. The young child’s initial impression is heavily influenced by the parent’s affect, actions, and responses to his questions. And it is by observation of the parent that the child first gets his cues about how to react and feel. So, as you answer your child’s questions, be aware of the attitude you may be projecting.

Homelessness can be unsettling and even frightening to a child. Younger children will wonder where the person’s family is, why there is no one to help him. Many will go to a place of worry about themselves and if they will ever not have a home. Worries grow after hearing that the person doesn’t have enough money to have a home. The child wonders if his own family has enough money.

If the homeless person behaves strangely or erratically, indicating that s/he may be mentally unstable, the child’s curiosity and fear might intensify. When there is an unpleasant odor or an obvious lack of physical hygiene, there are more questions. Why does she look like that? Why is he acting like that? Is he dangerous? Are we safe? Explaining mental illness is both tricky and important.

While a parent needs to answer the child’s questions honestly, it is also important that our answers show compassion. Homelessness is not a crime, but it is a problem. In your answers and attitude you will be modeling the empathy on which our society depends. Here are some answers to use as starting points in explaining and discussing homelessness with your child who has raised the question. Your responses should be honest, short, and speak to the child’s question. No more and no less.

1. A person who is homeless has no place to sleep, to eat, to shower and keep himself clean, or to keep his belongings. He has no home.

2. Usually, the homeless person doesn’t have family or friends who can help him. This concept is particularly difficult for the young child to grasp, as he can’t even imagine not living with a mommy or daddy.

3. For grown-ups, having a home costs money. A homeless person is an adult who doesn’t have the money he needs to own a house or rent an apartment or to buy food.

4. There are many reasons that a person doesn’t have money.

5. Mental illness is when a person’s brain is not working the way it is supposed to. Just like people have problems with their bodies, sometimes a person has a problem with his brain. It is important, for the sake of the child, to add that it is not common to have those kinds of problems. Most people do not have mental illness.

Explaining social issues to our kids is important if we truly want to inspire future generations to address the problems we see in society. And while it might be uncomfortable and even force us to confront some of our own biases, we owe them as much.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Marketing 101

Shopping is not one of my favorite things to do. Honestly, I can name close to a thousand other things I would rather occupy my time with than wandering up and down an aisle filling my cart whilst trying to avoid the oncoming grazers who are not making even a half-hearted effort to stay on their side of the aisle. But it is a necessary part of life and I accept that I’ll need to do this ritual at least once a week for, probably, the rest of my life.

A few days ago I was navigating the soap and bath section of a particular store. Now, I’m not sure if ‘soap and bath’ is the proper name for where I was but it suited the environment so I’m going to stick with it. After an extended amount of time I began reading the labels on the products and I realized something: each item had a really enticing name that way surpassed its primary function which was to make a person clean. I’m not a stranger to advertising and I know companies need to market their wares with catchy and memorable names so people will be attracted to their specific products.
A few years ago, when the Generation Xers were in charge of marketing campaigns, everything was ‘Extreme.’ The idea was to tie an air of excitement and danger to any and every product whether it was skateboards, cereal, or deodorant. No matter what you wanted to purchase, it was deadly and would take you to the limits of your endurance. But today things have changed even if the products have stayed basically the same.
The current theme I noticed all around me reeked of floral combinations that Mother Nature had never intended. Need to wash your hair? Grab some Coconut Sand shampoo. Time to condition? No problem… Daffodil Ketchup Rainwater will do the trick! Is body wash the item on your list? Look no further than Java Potato Moonshine. I was utterly amazed at what I saw and wondered what type of person would fall prey to these ridiculous gimmicks. Who is just clamoring for a stick of Pomegranate Chipotle antiperspirant?

Then I went home and discovered Sunbeam Kitten Smile soap in my shower.
Marketing is a powerful tool and I wonder if people would pay more attention to the issue of homelessness if society did a better job explaining the issue. Perhaps if we dressed the situation up with really cool and appetizing adjectives and nouns people would be more inclined to notice what was going on in their own cities. In fact, what if we just scrapped the current terminology and rewrote everything? Homeless becomes “Fresh Outdoors Living. Transient morphs into “Loves to Move Freely.” We might as well go all the way with things and we can label Hunger as “That Exciting Tummy Feeling.” Maybe this is the key to addressing the issue; just give homelessness a makeover?
I’m not sure what it’s going to take to make people notice what is happening around them but I’m willing to try anything.

Now, of course this is absurd and my intention is not to trivialize homelessness. But if I got you to pay attention and perhaps reexamine your views then I will consider this a mild success. And I didn't even have to go Xtreme...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Homelessness as an Issue

No matter if you are a political junkie or a casual observer, there seems to be something for everyone as our political process unfolds. This Presidential election season is one of the craziest, most unpredictable elections in American history. But, like every other election season, there is one simple constant: Presidential candidates hardly ever discuss the issue of homelessness in America.

There are never town forums, public debates, or large rallies on why there is homelessness in our country, and how we, with the largest economy in the world, can invest in a housing infrastructure that would prevent Americans from living on our streets. Unlike the topics of foreign policy, or the economy, or education, homelessness is just not a priority among Presidential candidates. Here are five reasons why:

The wrong people are ANGRY. Yes, this election season can be described simply as the year of the angry electorate. Whether the anger is coming from the right or the left, voters are angry over the political establishments inability to actually make positive change for the average citizen. But this angry electorate is coming from people who are housed, not homeless. No one is angry that hundreds of thousands of Americans are sleeping on our streets. And, even those who are homeless are not publicly conveying their anger to their elected representatives.

BLAME is directed toward people who are homeless. It is similar to blaming the victim for the crime against her, our society blames people living on the streets for their own sad predicament. They are lazy! Their addiction or mental health problem (you fill in the blank) is the reason why they are homeless! They just need to pull up their bootstraps and they can help themselves!

Why would a candidate for President propose a compassionate solution to homelessness - like affordable housing - when those who need help are accused of getting themselves into their own homeless dilemma? Most Americans want their President to provide solutions for hard working fellow citizens.

Homelessness is a lose-lose political issue. No one wants to be called a loser, especially someone running for the highest office in the land. If you are running for President, you win brownie points when you fight for keeping jobs inside of the United States, or demonize those greedy multinational corporations for laying off average American workers.

It is so hard to advocate for helping the homeless when more and more Americans are ending up on American urban streets. There are so many reasons why people become homeless, that an American political leader just doesnt have the resources to prevent foster youth, veterans, abused spouses, disabled workers, and low income mothers from becoming homeless.

Homelessness seems to be a losing cause that doesnt help a candidate win votes.
Capitulation is sometimes the easiest default response. When a Democratic President, back in the 1960s, called on our nation to engage in a war on poverty, some idealistic Americans actually thought it would work. But fast forward more than fifty years later, and poverty still ravages our countrys communities.

So if we cant eliminate poverty, despite a valiant effort by an American President, why do we think we can actually end homelessness, the most extreme form of poverty? Who wants to be the next President who creates a failing social campaign to end drugs, or educate all of our youth, or end homelessness? For an American Presidential candidate, it is much easier to campaign for a better economy, or a stronger national security plan. And, ignore homelessness.

The delegate math just doesnt add up. To become an American President, the math is about counting delegates, not popular votes. And when was the last time that a person who was homeless became a delegate for a national political party? Just be real... People living on the streets traditionally do not vote. And, they are typically not elected as delegates for a presidential party.

Sure, we can wish that presidential candidate would talk about homelessness, one of Americas most tragic social issues of our time. But the reality is that unless we change the message of why homelessness should be not only discussed, but actually placed on the front burner of American politics, we will still be battling American homelessness in the next dozen election cycles.

I guess we need to stop waiting for others to address these issues and do what we can to create solutions on our own.

Thanks to Joel Roberts PovertyInsights.org

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Getting Past Appearances

Many of us believe that we are compassionate people. But are we really? Websters New Collegiate Dictionary formally defines compassion as the sympathetic consciousness of others distress together with a desire to alleviate it. In our daily lives, some people think of compassion as love in action. Many religions encourage us to strive to be compassionate people and admonish us to love our neighbor.

Summarizing these definitions, it would appear that compassion could be defined as love in action for our neighbor in distress with a desire to alleviate it. So, whether we are compassionate people depends upon our own attitudes and desires to help. I believe that we are born with compassion; the quality of compassion is already within ourselves from birth we need only to find and awaken our compassion. As we live our lives we can choose to nurture and expand this quality.

But, what about the neighbors for whom we have compassion? Do our neighbors have any role in our developing or exercising our compassion? Maybe... Maybe, not. However, what our neighbors do, how they appear and what we expect from them may influence how easy it is for us to exercise and develop our compassion.

The homeless have suffered the loss of what most of us consider our human basic needs they have lost their personal shelter, their expectation of having food on a regular basis and most of their clothing. Whether homeless people are sheltered or unsheltered, they have, for whatever length of time, lost their personal experiences of having their own homes. When people lose their experiences of having their own homes, they may also lose their hope for having their own homes again.

Even their feelings of self-worth may be negatively affected by the trauma they experience as a result of their homelessness. An attitude might develop that says, No matter what you say or how you treat me, I know that Im at the bottom of the food chain.

As with any of our responses to traumatic events, the hopefulness experienced by homeless people by virtue of becoming homeless may be expressed physically, mentally, and emotionally. The results of the traumatic event of becoming homeless may also be expressed by some homeless people through the misuse of substances. In addition, because we as a society have provided few public bathrooms, showers and even fewer public laundries, many homeless people may not have access to facilities where they can perform acts of basic hygiene. The results are obvious homeless people often appear disheveled.

We often expect homeless people to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps and become housed again. Because many homeless people are and remain unhoused, our expectations of them to become housed, among other things, are not met. It is basic human nature that when people do not meet our expectations of them, we may become disappointed and resentful. Without greater understanding of ourselves and others, we are unlikely to extend compassion to those whom we feel have failed to live up to our own expectations, who have disappointed us or to whom we feel resentful. We may feel disappointed or resentful of them because they have failed to live up to our unreasonable expectations.

It is because of what homeless people do, how they appear and what we expect from them, that we may find it challenging to have compassion for them. However, our neighbors includes everyone. Therefore, I believe that the test of true compassion is whether we can care for all of our neighbors, including our homeless neighbors whom we may find the most challenging to help.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Great Vocation

Many of our residents have not finished high school or have dropped out of college. For years, not having a college degree was viewed as the kiss of death. But recent studies have shown vocational or technical training can lead to lucrative careers. Education comes in many different forms. For some, a four-year university experience allows immersion in a world of academics, with the secondary benefit of career exploration, character development, and networking. Perhaps these students do not yet know which path they will pursue, and need time to “feel things out.”

Others, however, excel when given the opportunity to apprentice with someone in the plumbing, auto repair, cooking, or another vocational field. Long considered the second-best option for the second-best kids, vocational training has often been treated as a consolation prize. However, vocational education is experiencing a revival as a new generation facing escalating college tuition and post-graduate unemployment is reconsidering the benefit of a solid career and a lifetime free of debt.

In a national poll of  9th- and 10th-graders, it was found that six in ten students didn’t like school and weren’t motivated to succeed. However, more than 90 percent of those disaffected students said their motivation would rise if their school offered classes pertinent to their future careers. In a departure from stereotype, girls were more likely than boys to state that they would benefit from hands-on learning.

Although the state has been making a push toward a more rigorous academic curriculum, vocational training programs would not conflict with this effort. Rather, vocational education is increasingly being seen as blending academic rigor with real-world learning. If the implementation of a greater variety of hands-on classes inspires more students to stay and succeed in school, the effort will be more than worthwhile. While it’s laudable to try and make all students ready for a four-year degree, that’s not what everyone wants. What’s more, a four-year degree is simply not necessary for
many careers.

Considering that the average college graduate owes $26,600 in college loans, and that a college degree does not always translate into a livable-wage job, many people are beginning to recognize that college might not be the most worthwhile investment. With half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their knowledge and skills, the specialized skills provided by a vocational program can often deliver the required edge
to obtain a career.
Despite the problems of unemployment facing recent college graduates, things are looking up for skilled workers. Demand remains strong for skilled manufacturing workers, and employers are heavily recruiting foreign workers and military veterans to fill available positions. A 2012 CareerBuilder survey reported that 40 percent of employers complained they were unable to find sufficient skilled workers to fill vacant positions. For students who graduate from the programs that prepare them for these jobs, the employment future appears promising.

It is in the best interest of secondary schools to promote technical and work-oriented classes. While the goal may be obtaining a career, different students will reach that goal in different ways. It is these hardworking students who, when encouraged and allowed to pursue their areas of interest, rise to the challenge to truly become productive members of society.