Friday, October 2, 2009

Summary of Annual Activities

This past year has been filled with tragedy and triumph. The Fund lost one of our staunchest supporters in Yahya Abdul Karim; as a nation we saw the collapse of our country’s financial institutions and car industry; and, the world witnessed the election of the first African American President in the United States. As many celebrated President Obama’s victory, the jubilation was short lived due to the downturn in our economy, record job losses and slow retail sales.

Here in Philadelphia, the state budget crisis led Mayor Nutter to propose closing all neighborhood branches of the Free Library and recreation centers; massive layoffs of police, fire and nonessential city personnel; and, the draconian institution of bimonthly trash collection. While the City’s budget crisis was averted due to the state legislature voting to raise the sales tax here to 8%, we now know the price of that vote was the taxing of tickets to cultural institutions and museums (breathe a sigh of relief Phillies, Eagles and Harry Potter fans, your entrance fees have been protected from taxation). It’s patently unfair to place the burden of corporate institutional financial mismanagement on the backs of struggling nonprofits. Is it Freedom Theatre’s fault that AIG and Lehman Brothers hid their losses causing the financial markets worldwide to meltdown? Raising taxes from art and culture groups seems a little Scrooge-like on the part of legislators. Many nonprofits are already working with less this year due to donors cutting back on contributions because their retirement plans loss money or they were laid off. As we struggle to maintain services during the recession, let’s work together to ensure that legislators know that our services provide vital support to individuals and families that the government simply can’t reach.

At the African American United Fund, we have managed to continue to provide services and programs, even as the City threatened to shut down, that have improved the lives of 201,870 individuals through our public policy advocacy, direct services and referrals. The Fund conducted 2 voter engagement/education forums, provided technical assistance to 6 organizations, collaborated on programs and projects with 15 organizations and started a new Urban Garden Initiative. We are proud of these accomplishments, especially since our operating expenses were only $65,000 last fiscal year. A contribution to the Fund goes a long way. For only $100 you can help us provide services to 322 people. A true value in these hard economic times.

Since spring of 2007, AAUF has been hosting our Civic Engagement in the 21st Century Forums, formerly known as the People’s Voter Education Forums to bring community based organizations, community residents and elected officials together to discuss and improve upon programs and policies that address the social and economic issues affecting our community. These forums bring candidates to the community to respond to constituents needs and reinforce to constituents that candidates are in office to serve them not special interests, lobbyist or large donors.

AAUF will continue to highlight health disparities in the African American community through, the African Marketplace Health and Wellness Workshops. In June, we hosted the first annual Harambee Community Festival with the Black Women’s Health Alliance, Institute for the Development of African American Youth, Philadelphia Doll Museum and Uptown Entertainment and Development Corporation. The event was created to provide cultural enrichment, health information, entertainment and activities to residents and visitors to North Central Philadelphia. There were children’s activities, games, rides, a health pavilion, music and entertainment. The event also promoted National HIV Testing Day. The Black Women’s Health Alliance conducted twenty HIV tests during the activity. Over 1,000 youth and adults participated in the Harambee event on June 27. Planning has already begun for Harambee 2010. Next year the event will take place on June 5.

Our newest program is our Urban Garden Initiative at our lot, at 2229 N. Broad Street, between the main office and the AAUF Center. The lot was cleaned by youth and adult volunteers in April during the Philly Spring Clean Up. The soil was tested by college students and plans are underway to host a farmer’s market, grow food in raised beds and to use the space as an outdoor neighborhood gathering place. A special thanks to Monifa LaGrone and Anthony Singleton for their help throughout the spring and summer during our community clean ups.

In addition to our programs, AAUF provides operational support to organizations such as, X-Offenders for Community Empowerment. X-Offenders for Community Empowerment saw that the ease of access to illegal guns destroyed the lives of victims and the incarcerated. They conceived and supported laws that will reduce gun violence and the proliferation of illegal weapons in Philadelphia. Their programs also focus on educating and empowering the formerly convicted to overcome barriers to re-entry into society.

Finally, since 1997 the Fund has conducted an annual toy drive that benefits the children of low income working families. With the increase in prices for consumer goods, utilities and food, this year will be particularly hard for poor, working families to afford basic necessities let alone holiday gifts for their children. Our 12th Annual Toy Drive will be conducted from now throughout the month of December. Toys will be distributed to several dozen low income working families between December 14 and 18.

New unwrapped toys for children aged 0-12 can be dropped off at our main office at 2227 N. Broad Street, from October 1 until December 18. I would also like to ask you to financially support our charitable activities this year by making a $100.00 contribution to ensure that we are able to continue to serve our community. Your contribution will validate our hard work and help us reach a $2,500 fundraising goal for our Annual Toy Drive.

This month is the official kick off of the winter fundraising drive. Some contributions have already been received; won’t you help the African American United Fund provide a positive holiday experience for those truly in need by writing a check for our Toy Drive?

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