Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Catalyst Miami to Kick-Off Free Tax Filing and Webinar Viewing of CFED Report on Growing Struggles Faced by Families Trying to Save and Build Assets

On Wednesday January 30, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) will release new data and analysis on the growing number of Americans who are unable to save for emergencies or put aside money to invest in longer-term assets, such as home, college, or retirement. To accompany the national CFED Scorecard release, Catalyst Miami will provide free tax preparation for South Florida residents during its Prosperity Campaign Kick-Off scheduled from 2:30 to 5p.m. South Florida residents will have the opportunity to meet with an IRS-Certified tax preparer, receive financial services, and learn more about Florida’s national ranking on financial stability. Visitors to the Catalyst Miami office will also have the opportunity to join in the national release of the Assets and Opportunity Scorecard webinar presented by leading CFED experts (1-2p.m. EST).
The 2013 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard explores the financial security of residents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and assesses policies that are helping residents build and protect assets across five issue areas: Financial Assets & Income, Businesses & Jobs, Housing & Housing & Homeownership, Health Care and Education. Published annually, the Scorecard offers the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ ability to save and build wealth, fend off poverty and create a more prosperous future.
This year’s report will offer critical new data on the growing number of families who are “liquid asset poor,” meaning they lack adequate savings to cover to basic expenses at the federal poverty level for just three months if they suffer a loss of stable income. The report will also examine racial disparities in asset poverty, comparing savings and assets, median net worth and homeownership rates among white households and households of color.
The state of Florida fares far below other states ranking 47th overall in the country for overall financial stability among its residents. The impact of low-wage earnings and limited savings is harsh in the state and particularly devastating to individuals in Miami-Dade County. “The impact is even greater in Miami-Dade where language and cultural barriers have led to exploitation of vulnerable populations and lack of awareness about available programs,” explains Daniella Levine, CEO of Catalyst Miami. “Our Prosperity Campaign lessens those barriers, but much more needs to be done.”
WHAT:  Release of 2013 Assets& Opportunity Scorecard and Kick-Off of 2013 Prosperity Campaign Free Tax Preparation

WHEN:  Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 1-2 p.m. EST, Scorecard Release | 2:30-5p.m EST, Posperity Campaign Kick-Off

WHERE:  Webinar from Washington, D.C. and free tax preparation presented at Catalyst Miami    
1900 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132

PRESENTERS: Andrea Lever, president of CFED; Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at CFED; and Kasey Wiedrich, senior program manager, applied research, CFED, Representatives of offices of Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami Dade Delegation, IRS and area nonprofits

To schedule an appointment for free tax preparation at Catalyst Miami, call 305-576-5001 x48. Appointments are encouraged though walk-ins are welcome on a first-come first-serve basis. All Scorecard information and data will be available January 30 at scorecard.cfed.org.
CFED empowers low- and moderate-income households to build and preserve assets by advancing policies and programs that help them achieve the American Dream, including buying a home, pursuing higher education, starting a business and saving for the future. As a leading source for data about household financial security and policy solutions, CFED understands what families need to succeed. We promote programs on the ground and invest in social enterprises that create pathways to financial security and opportunity for millions of people. Established in 1979 as the Corporation for Enterprise Development, CFED works nationally and internationally through its offices in Washington, DC; Durham, North Carolina; and San Francisco, California.
Catalyst Miami, formerly the Human Services Coalition (HSC), identifies and launches innovative strategies to help people and communities thrive and to create a more equitable and caring society. We work through a network of partner organizations, linking people with financial education, healthcare information, public benefits and educational and economic opportunities. Our programs promote economic self-sufficiency, participation in civic life, organizational strength, and respect across many divides. We inspire people to get involved and prepare them to step up to leadership roles that lead to long-term community transformation.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Building a Future Block by Block

Written by Lindsey Rosenbaum, Public Ally at Miami Children's Initiative
Over 20 years ago, a movement to transform the lives of children and families in Central Harlem began on one small block. The driving force was a nonprofit organization called the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), and in the beginning, no one believed that they could succeed. It isn’t hard to see why. The area was poverty stricken, crime ridden, and filled with an overall sense of hopelessness. The odds were completely against their favor, but somehow, they succeeded- and succeeded big. Today, the HCZ spans almost 100 blocks.
On January 21, 2013, the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI), an organization modeled after the HCZ, began its own transformational journey in Liberty City. As the world woke up to celebrate MLK day, MCI mobilized almost 200 volunteers and residents to begin transforming its first block. After speaking to residents and community leaders, it became clear that a physical transformation needed to take place in Liberty City before the more personal, intrinsic changes could occur. The streets were dirty and a lack of beauty in the area left residents without any inspiration to work towards their dreams.
Over the course of the day, volunteers and residents planted flowers and shrubbery in front of 39 apartment units, about 30 flowering and fruit trees, and 3 vegetable gardens. They rid the block of trash and gave the entire area a complete makeover. Children played in the “kids' zone,” getting their faces painted, listening to volunteer readers, riding the play train, and painting garden stones. The energy was high and despite the huge amount of work that went into the day, everyone had an amazing time. But the true victory was in the process. There were volunteers there from organizations like AmeriCorps Public Allies and VISTA, Teach for America, I Have a Dream Foundation, Girl Power, Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast-TOP (Teen Outreach Program), along with individual volunteers, not to mention the residents who live on the block.  District 3’s Commissioner Edmonson also picked up her shovel and came out to help the cause. We all came from different organizations, but on that day, we truly became one single force to be reckoned with.
When you go out on that block today, the change is tangible. It looks and feels like a place where you want to raise your kids, a place where a child wants to grow up. And this is just the beginning. MCI hopes that, like the HCZ, in 20 years it will look out at Liberty City and see almost 100 blocks completely transformed.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Miami Thrives Network: Why Service Providers?

Written by Felix Acuña, New Media Coordinator

You may have read our recent post about the Miami Thrives Network (MTN), a network of Miami-area service providers committed to ending poverty. Or maybe you've heard about our dialogue series that brings nonprofit leaders together to discuss our common challenges and opportunities. So you might have wondered, since many people are interested in ending poverty, why focus on service providers? 

In one word: reach. If we are to create a network of nonprofits that can exert political pressure, we need the people-power of all of of our constituents. Each service provider in South Florida served an average of 5,070 people in the year 2010, with one organization reaching 43,000 people.* Looking beyond the numbers, we find something of a higher value: connections with people of low-income and other marginalized communities.

As members of nonprofit organizations, we are driven by the mission to care. With the Miami Thrives Network, we're going further and extending that care to take down some of the pillars that sustain structural inequality. It is a big goal, but despite our oftentimes frantic search for funds just to stay afloat, we are already connected and able to mobilize our constituents. As Catalyst Advocacy Director Jake Coker-Dukowitz says, “Even if we can mobilize 1% of those people, that's 50 people!” Multiply that by 30, approximately the number of organizations that have participated in MTN dialogues, and you get 1,500 people at a town hall meeting. And even as these numbers may vary widely by organization, an effort to invite our constituents to participate in the actions that affect them is likely to amplify our voice in way that hasn't been seen before in South Florida. 

*"For the Safety and Security of our Community," a study by the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Turning students' dream careers into reality

Managing class schedules, going to club meetings, and speaking with advisers about life after college are some of the many responsibilities college students face each day. Amidst all this pressure, there are those nagging questions running through students' minds: How prepared am I to enter the real world? What experiences should I gain now to prepare me for my career?

Students can now participate in the Connect For Good Internship Program, which is specifically designed by Catalyst Miami and Florida International University (FIU) to give college students hands-on experience with local nonprofit organizations throughout Miami-Dade County.

No matter your major or passion, Connect for Good can make your dream career a reality.

For a glimpse of what this program can bring to the nonprofit community and students at FIU, we spoke to Jaheera White, AmeriCorps VISTA and Catalyst Miami's Community Learning Coordinator. Here she explains her vision for The Connect for Good program and what it can offer students at FIU this semester.

What is Connect for Good and what makes this program unique?
The Connect For Good Internship Program is a program very unique to Catalyst Miami. We have taken the role of being an intern to the next level. We hand pick organizations as well as students that have exemplified hard work, determination and interest in bettering the Greater Miami. The main goal of the program is for students to connect to nonprofit and government agencies, to serve the community that surrounds them, and to gain critical career and life skills. 

We supply tools and train our partner organizations in techniques that will assist students in seeing their growth and accomplishing goals in projects to ensure a successful internship. Not only are we striving to promote nonprofit working experiences, but we are also promoting learning experiences outside the classroom. Connect for Good is a chance for students to receive exceptional professional experience, experience personal growth and show solidarity in being a proud Miamian.

What opportunities will students have through their involvement in the Connect for Good Internship program?

Students will have the opportunity to choose an organization they would like to apply to aligned with their intersts and academic studies. Students will also have the opportunity to receive first-hand experience with social-good organizations that work to provide programs that directly serve the community.

What advice would you give to students who are looking to gain nonprofit work exposure and pursue a career in the nonprofit sector after receiving their degree?

I would suggest that students specify what interests them the most. Whether that is volunteer management or strictly providing social services, become an expert in what you would like to persue to better serve your future employer and community. In that same breath, remain open to learning and continually broadening your knowledge on nonprofit sector as a whole.

FIU Students can apply via the Career Services JobLink. A Matching Fair will be held on January 22, 2013 for selected students and the partner organizations.

 The Connect for Good student application is available at: https://fiu-csm.symplicity.com/students/

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Miami change makers are teaming up to tackle poverty

Written by Felix Acuña, New Media Coordinator

As I think about the astrological projections that I heard on Telemundo right before the ball dropped on New Year's Eve, I'm relieved I have a backup plan for optimism for the year to come. At the risk of sounding too cheesy, I must admit that this past year I was reminded that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can overcome the system of structural inequality we live in. One such group of people, which will be growing this January, is the Miami Thrives Network (MTN).

For those of you who might not be familiar with the initiative, MTN is a network-in-development of nonprofits in Miami-Dade County. MTN aims to address the root causes of poverty, and ultimately we envision the group conducting policy campaigns. At the moment, we are in the process of developing the network and holding discussions for interested participants.

At a series of informal meetings, or dialogues, held this past year, a handful of MTN members had lively discussions on topics ranging from competition among nonprofits to the incredible people power that these groups have. Dialogues were held at organizations such as MUJERBelafonte Talcocy Center and Catalyst MiamiThe issue that was brought up the most was the need for education and workforce pipelines for youth living in poverty. It was agreed that this network belongs to all of us and therefore responsibilities and authority must be shared across groups. 

I'm excited that several participants in Catalyst Miami's nonprofit advocacy training, Harvest Democracy, will be joining the movement this year. I refer to the network as a movement because I sense among the participants a conviction that we can use collective action to change society and a commitment to doing so. It's hard to say what will come out of this network in the long run, but to use a truthful cliche, it's not only about the destination--the journey is just as important.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Child advocates are rising to leadership in PLTI

“Communities have power and stick together,” proclaimed one parent at the latest session of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI). Each Thursday evening, she gathers with like-minded child advocates to discuss ways local residents and government officials can work together to best support the well-being of children in Miami-Dade County.

This 22-week program is one of a kind in Miami and a model across the nation for engaging child advocates and parents in meaningful discussions about the health, safety, and education of youth. Since its inception, PLTI has seen more than 100 parents in Miami and 1,600 parents around the country take leadership roles in local Parent Teacher Associations, parent involvement committees, boards of education, nonprofit organizations and advisory boards following the program. Participants address issues spanning neighborhood safety, education and park restoration through community development projects.

“We need to remember the human side of the community. We cannot just generalize them,” expressed one parent at Thursday evening’s session. Rather than define communities as set geographic locations, PLTI participants contextualize them as areas with shared resources and people with a common vision. 

Yader Medal joined PLTI because of this. “What I love about the program is the focus on community-wide issues that need attention,” Yader said. “It’s motivating to be part of a program to keep the community good.”

As a father of two, Yader hopes PLTI will make his family stronger and more informed about ways to advocate on behalf of children. He also envisions his and other kids getting along through simple acts of giving back to their own community. Yader's wife also attends PLTI. They worked together during Thursday evening’s session to identify community assets in an Asset Mapping exercise—pinpointing specific places and resources that make their neighborhood thrive. Later in the year, Yader and his peers will revisit their asset maps to plan their community development projects.

What sets PLTI apart? Some credit the program’s ability to engage voices of individual participants while mobilizing the entire cohort to act collectively for the betterment of local neighborhoods. Others credit the community-feel fostered by trained facilitators. Join us and find out what the program can do for you!

Applications are now being accepted for the next class of the Parent Leadership Training Institute, which will begin January 26, 2013. PLTI is a FREE educational experience that trains parents and child advocates to effectively advocate for all children—in schools, communities, and government. For more information, contact PLTI Coordinator, Gina Ha, at ginah@catalystmiami.org.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

ReServe Celebrates One Year of Service in Miami-Dade

Written by Kaan Ocbe, ReServe Cultivation Coordinator

The ReServe Miami team recently held its one year anniversary celebration at the beautiful Governor House in Coconut Grove. In its first year, ReServe Miami placed over 50 volunteers ages 55+, known as "ReServists," in  service opportunities with nonprofits across the city. The ReServists have been able to reinvest their lifetimes of skills in some of Miami's most vital institutions and receive a stipend for their work.

Timothy Barber of the Black Archives Historyand Research Foundation with ReServist, Richard Gibson
Our recent celebration was a chance for our partners to meet one another and unwind with good food, drinks and music. It was also an opportunity for members of Miami’s nonprofit community to network and learn more about ReServe and the benefits ReServists bring to their organizations. Most importantly, we celebrated ReServe Miami’s phenomenal first year and its impact on  Miami nonprofits.

One such organization is The Black Archives History and Research Foundation, which recently added Richard Gibson to their team as a fundraiser. When we asked Executive Director Timothy Barber about working with a ReServist he said, “It has been delightful.  Any time you are the director of a nonprofit you’re always dealing with capacity, and if you can have a professional like Richard take one of your hats then it’s definitely a plus. You don’t just get a temp worker; you get a professional with a wealth of knowledge."

ReServists and their partner organizations work together to create a vibrant, multi-generational workplace that is better suited to help meet the needs of the community.
Vanessa Merine of Florida International
University with ReServist, David Ramsey
My time at the Black Archives has been very enriching," Richard Gibson said. "A lot of excitement because we’re always working hard to reach our goals and closing in on them is very exciting. I’ve also gotten a chance to meet a cross section of people all across the board from the South Florida Community.”

To learn more about ReServe Miami and how you can get involved, visit our website at www.reserveinc.org or contact Monica Salinas, ReServe Development Manager, at (305) 576-5001 ext. 18.
The ReServe Team from left to right. Front row: Debi Hoffman, Ann Machado, Virginia Aponte, Patricia Jones, Kaan Ocbe. Back row: Dacia Steiner, Chris Armstrong,
 Monica Salinas, Julio Lopez-Brito.