Sunday, August 21, 2011

Volunteer Rates in Miami the Lowest in Country

by Bryan Troupe

When it comes to citizens who volunteer, Miami ranks dead last. This is an extraordinary and sobering statistic. How could this happen? Aren’t citizens of Miami interested in giving their time for a fellow human being?

According to, 15.2% of Miami residents volunteer, which ranks 51st out of 51 large cities. Out of that miniscule amount of citizens that do volunteer, the average amount of time that citizens volunteer is only 17.8 hours – which ranks 50th out of 51 large cities.

The Miami New Times writes that Miami's older citizens are a big reason behind such paltry numbers. Miami New Times goes on to say that 9.9% of older Miami citizens volunteered in 2010, compared to a national average of 23.7%. Once again, this is another category where Miami ranks dead last.
·         Attachment to the community (ex. Homeownership)
·         Poor transportation conditions (long commutes discourage volunteers)
·         Education (lack of education can mean low volunteer rates)
·         Unemployment (the higher the unemployment rate, the lower the volunteer rate)
·         Foreclosures (the higher the foreclosure rate, the lower the volunteer rate)

Here is more food for thought: The study, A Tale of Two Cities: Civic Engagement in Miami and Minneapolis, reports that there are distinct contrasts between Minneapolis –St. Paul, (where civic engagement is ranked the highest in the nation), and Miami, (where civic engagement is lowest in the nation.)

For example, 42% of St. Paul citizens trust their local government, while only 24% of Miamians trust their local government. Another interesting fact is that the infrastructures of nonprofit facilities in St. Paul are much more extensive and better resourced than those in Miami.

Catalyst Miami is combating the low volunteer rates of Miami-Dade County head-on. One of the programs that Catalyst Miami has created is ReServe Miami. ReServe Miami matches continuing professionals age 55+, (ReServists), with organizations that need their expertise. These ReServists come from all walks of life, and include marketing managers, social workers, artists, administrative assistants, HR professionals, and financial analysts, as well as people who have worked at all levels in health care, banking, advertising, education and government.

The low volunteer rate of Miami is not news that Catalyst Miami will take while lying down.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homelessness prevention programs at risk

Though we all cringe at Miami’s $4-a-gallon gas prices, most of us can at least be grateful we’re able to fill up our tanks and get to work. The cost of fuel appears more dire to someone who’s just been laid off and can’t make it to a job interview. Having transportation can be the difference between unemployment and employment, between homelessness and having a place to stay.

Jewish Community Services of South Florida is addressing this and other factors that contribute to homelessness with its Homeless Outreach for Prevention and Employment (HOPE) program. HOPE provides vocational training, transportation assistance, job referrals, rent assistance and other guidance to those at risk of becoming homeless. Unfortunately, JCS is one of the community-based organizations slated to receive half of their funding from Miami-Dade County.

County funding for organizations like JCS has been steadily eroded over the course of the last five years. JCS Vice President of Rehabilitation and Employment Tom Fleischmann says they are receiving a mere fraction of their initial funding. While they were once able to serve upwards of 120 people a year, they are now contracted to serve 26. And Fleischmann worries that next year with half the money they will serve half the people. As it is, Fleischmann says they are “treading water,” until things begin to look up.

JCS is not the only agency tackling homelessness at risk of losing funding. Camillus House and Catholic Charities, among others, are looking at a 50% cut in their funding this year. These types of programs are not only critical to the well being of the county, but save us money in the long run by preventing problems like homelessness from reaching a boiling point.

To learn more about the budget and what you can do to save services and jobs, visit the Penny Wise Campaign page.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interns For Impact: BRYAN TROUPE

Since the time that I could remember, my mother instilled upon my brother, sister, and I the habit of being selfless and having an extremely strong work ethic. We grew up poor, and were raised on WIC and welfare until my early teen years. My mother, a single parent, managed to put herself through a trade school, and therefore earn enough money so that she could take care of her children without needing government assistance. Although we were still pretty poor, as kids we never really knew that we were poor. We never went without food, clothing, shelter, or love. 

My brother and I are both pursuing Bachelor’s degrees. My sister, the first in my family to graduate college, currently has a job working for the government.  

I am currently attending college at Florida International University (FIU), majoring in Public Administration. I hope to graduate in the summer of 2012, after which I will pursue my Master’s degree. I personally believe that there are many conditions in poverty communities that can be fixed, and my mission is to solve these issues in order to give everyone a fair chance at living a decent life. 

I begin my internship at Catalyst Miami because I believe the programs that the organization offers to the community are exactly what I think are needed for disadvantaged communities to better themselves. I was brought in to start my internship by our Communications Director, Cheryl Mizell, with the approval of our CEO, Daniella Levine. There is a great deal of experience and knowledge that I can gain from all that are involved with Catalyst Miami and I have enjoyed working with every single person in every single department of this organization. The amazing thing to me has been that working here feels less like a job and more like a family. 

There has never been a day that I have dreaded walking into the offices of Catalyst Miami, because I know that every day, whether directly or indirectly, I have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Democracy Summer 6th Session

written by Bryan Troupe

Democracy Summer Session 6, hosted by Catalyst Miami, was very edifying and enlightening. There was a panel discussion which was facilitated by Catalyst Miami CEO, Daniella Levine.  The panel members were: Mario Artecona, CEO of Habitat for Humanity; Paul Hunt, Board Member of the March of Dimes Foundation; and Julia Dawson, Board Member of the Civil Liberties Union.

One of the questions posed by Daniella Levine to Mario Artecona was, “What would you recommend to nonprofit leaders in order to engage their board and advocacy directly; or to get their support for their staff to do advocacy?”

Mario’s response was that staff does not participate in board meetings enough, and should participate more. Staff members need to tell board members what it is that they need. Board members also need to know up front exactly what is expected of them and be provided a clear mission.

Paul Hunt was asked by Daniella, “What is the biggest challenge in promoting advocacy in your staff?”
Paul’s answer was one of the challenges “is having a clear agenda and one that is staff-oriented.”  Mr. Hunt also stated that staff needs to build a relationship with policymakers, which helps the staff to better advocate their position.

Daniella introduced Julia Dawson as “an icon of women’s rights.”  One of the points that Julia made during the panel discussion was that it is important for board members to know that they should help constituents, and important to find board members that are actually interested in the organization.

Wendy Wilson, Project Attorney for Dade Legal Aid, said this: “I really liked the panel discussion on board development because it emphasized the necessity for having specific goals for board members…”

The goal of Democracy Summer is to build strong social justice analysis, skills and strategy into the nonprofit sector of Miami-Dade County.

There are two more fantastic sessions to go! Session 7 of Democracy Summer will be held next Thursday, August 18.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Democracy Summer Session 5

by Bryan Troupe

Democracy Summer Session 5 hosted by Catalyst Miami started with a hilarious and illuminative “public stoning” exercise between all of the members. The exercise was headed by Lori Deus, Community Engagement Coordinator for Catalyst Miami, and Gretchen Beesing, VP of Communications for Catalyst Miami.

The members of Democracy Summer were split into three groups for the first presentation, “It’s Raining Rocks.” The first group was labeled the extremely rich, the second group was the Servicers, and the third group was the Villagers. The group labeled the extremely rich had the “idea” to build a casino, but wanted to build on the same land that the Villagers lived on. The concept of the exercise was to create dialogue or find a way for all three parties to be satisfied. The end result was a chaotic scene of groups not being able to correlate with each other, much less with the other groups. The extremely rich threw balls of paper, “rocks”, at the Villagers to chase them away, which was the hilarious part of the exercise. 
LaRhonda Odom, Policy Director of Catalyst Miami, gave the second presentation which entailed members of the Democracy Summer event to consider ways of campaign planning. Members proposed ways of how they would go about organizing and reacting to the current issue of CBO funding being cut by local officials in Miami Dade County. This was a great exercise as it brought together knowledgeable individuals with experience to discuss viable ways to protest or build dialogue with local officials. This definitely showed the importance of communication and cohesion between nonprofit organizations. 

Susan Rubio Rivera, founder of the organization M.U.J.E.R., expresses her feelings about the Democracy Summer session:

The goal of Democracy Summer is to build strong social justice analysis, skills and strategy into the nonprofit sector of Miami-Dade County.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Interns for Impact: CHARLYN STANBERRY

Hello Everyone!  My name is Charlyn Stanberry and I am a summer law intern with Catalyst Miami.  I am a proud native of Jacksonville, FL, but I also have roots in Mississippi.  I graduated high school from Paxon School for Advanced Studies and received my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Central Florida (UCF).  At UCF, I was the Chairman of the President’s Leadership Council, chartered the UCF chapter of the National Council of Negro Women and was heavily involved with my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  In 2005, I obtained my BSBA in Marketing and in 2007 I obtained my Master of Public Administration Degree.   After graduation, I worked in insurance for a couple of years before deciding to go back to school.

Currently, I am a second-year law student at Florida International University College of Law with plans to pursue a career in health law, policy, & administration.  At FIU Law, I am a representative for the Florida Bar Law Student Division and I’m the Southern Region Attorney General for the National Black Law Students Association.

I was blessed and fortunate to be raised by not only my parents, but my great-grandmother.  “Mommie”, (as we affectionately called her), had a seventh grade education, worked as a maid, raised her siblings and her own children, and still found time to give back to the community.  “Mommie” never complained and always helped the poor, sick, children and the elderly with a bright smile.  As a child she would always tell me, “Keep living”, “Think about the world and not just yourself”, and to remember “It’s not about what you do for a person, but what you leave in a person.”  I think about her passion, dedication, and service daily; and that is what drove me to Catalyst Miami.

Catalyst Miami is an organization that helps individuals and communities thrive.  This summer I worked with the President & CEO Daniella Levine on several projects, including looking up legislative history, participating in several conference calls, and attending several training workshops.  I also worked with the “Pennywise Campaign”, which is a grassroots coalition building a movement to protect our county’s services and jobs. As a “Pennywise” intern, I was responsible for creating press releases, creating blog post, setting up meetings with community activists, and helping with the organization of the campaign. Miami is my new home and I hope through my advocacy work I am able to make it a better place for generations to come.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


by Bryan Troupe

Over $50 million which was promised to the state of Florida by the federal government has been rejected. Who would reject $50 million in the midst of such turbulent economic times? The state of Florida would – specifically Florida’s governor and legislators.

The $50 million was part of the Affordable Care Act: the healthcare reform bill that the Obama administration passed into law in 2010. The money granted to Florida would have gone to programs such as:

  • $40 million for construction of community-health centers

  • $8 million for programs to promote wellness including help with chronic diseases such as diabetes

  • $3.4 million for in-home visitations for at-risk families

  • $2.1 million for consumer assistance office to educate Floridians about health insurance

  • $2 million for hospice care for children

  • $2 million for helping low-income seniors pay for Medicare premiums and prescription drugs

  • $1 million to help the state plan a health-care-exchange system that would let consumers compare insurance plans.

  • $1 million to help the state insurance agency monitor rising health-insurance rates.

Why is Florida rejecting these federal dollars?

Because these federal dollars are associated with the Obama Administration’s health reform package, (Affordable Care Act), Florida GOP legislators and even Florida Governor Rick Scott refuse to accept the money. 

According to the State Committee Child Abuse Death Review Committee, Florida taxpayers pay about $64,377 a year to care for an abused or neglected child. On the other hand, Healthy Families Florida (nonprofit organization), prevents the costs of child abuse and neglect for $1,671 a year per child, saving taxpayers millions of dollars. Here are some additional quick stats:

  • In 2010, Florida was ranked 49th out of 50 states when it came to geographic health disparity.

  • Florida ranked 48th in nation of uninsured: 21.2% of Floridians are uninsured (over 4 million Floridians – 24 states have fewer people than Florida has uninsured).

  • Florida is ranked 48th when it comes to individuals with infectious diseases.

  • The average premium of Florida families have increased by 88%Does Florida really need Health Reform?

To give much needed service and assistance to disadvantaged Florida citizens, nonprofit and social service organizations are in desperate need of adequate funding.

To stay informed and learn what you can do to help, sign up for CHAIN Reaction

Monday, August 1, 2011

Interns for Impact: BIANCA MIJARES

My name is Bianca Mijares. I am one semester away from graduating from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s in Anthropology. I was born and raised here in Miami. My parents instilled in me the importance of giving back. Consequently, from a young age I always envisioned a life and career of service. I started college wanting to study Environmental Science and it was my major for three years before I admitted to myself that my real passion was people and their stories and understanding what molded their beliefs and influenced their actions. I took my first Anthropology class last year and realized that I had found the perfect vehicle to find the answer to all my questions and to ask questions I didn’t have the information or the tools to consider asking before. 

I decided I wanted to spend this summer exploring my passions for storytelling and people. So I applied for the “Story Archivist” position at Catalyst Miami. I got the internship and worked in the Communications Department interviewing different people from Catalyst Miami and other organizations and really getting a feel for what they do and how other people’s lives are affected by their work. It was a great experience and I gained a lot of valuable knowledge speaking to people, being inspired by them, writing about them, and seeing how a non-profit operates. 

I am going to start applying for Graduate school within the next couple of months and continue studying Anthropology. I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but do know that I want to serve people in my community. My experience at Catalyst has helped confirm that desire.