I had lunch with Becky James-Hatter, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri recently. I consider her a friend and I was so glad to catch up with her. While we only took about an hour or so for lunch, we managed to cover a ton of subjects.
One of the things we talked about was the needs the agency is facing as they continue to strive to serve as many children as possible. Right now, they need to raise around $400,000 in order to help fund one of their most successful and beneficial programs. $400,000 sounds like, and truly is, a significant amount of money. However, when you consider what that $400,000 will do, it seems like such a small amount. In the world of investing, which I profess to know less than nothing about, it seems to me that the return on investment would be considered high.
Becky explained that next year, the government will cut her funding for the AMACHI program. The Amachi program serves the children of parents who are incarcerated. So, Dad is in jail, Mom's working and trying to make ends meet and BBBSEMO, through Amachi, connects a positive adult influence into the life of this child. That positive adult role model could be the difference between that child following in the footsteps of his father or following a different set of footprints. Still, $400,000 is a LOT of money for just one program that may help keep a few kids out of prison later.
So, I did some checking to find out why $400,000 would be so important. Here are a few facts for you to mull over:
1. 2.5 MILLION children in the U.S. have a parent in prison.
2. 60,000 children in Missouri have a parent in prison.
3. BBBSEMO provides a positive role model for 1,140 of those children.
4. According to the article "The Cost of Prison", it costs approximately $16,308 per year to incarcerate a person.
5. "Prison Count 2010" stated that there were 30,792 prisoners in Missouri as of January 1, 2010.
6. The Missouri Department of Corrections lists their FY2011 budget is $660,034,212. That's 660 MILLION, 34 THOUSAND, 212 DOLLARS! (I checked and the math doesn't add up just right because $660,034,212 divided by 30,792 prisoners equals $21,477.10. But, I'll stick with the $16,308 figure from the report.)
Allow me to play around with the math...right now, it takes about $1200 to match one adult to one child. That sounds like a lot of money "just to let two people meet and form a friendship." However, that's not what really happens.
There is a very intensive screening process for both the adult volunteer and the child joining the program. There are match specialists and folks who work to ensure that the match becomes a good one according to very specific indicators. The matches are even color-coded into red, yellow and green.
And, of course, there's the all important matter of match retention. How long does the Big stay in touch with and remain active in the life of a Little? BBBSEMO has the nation's highest quality of matches and longest match retention rate. I hope you are still with me, I'm getting to the big finale!
So, $400,000 could be spent on housing 25.527 prisoners for one year or it could be spent on matching 333 (at $1200.00 per match) kids to caring adults who will work hard to keep them out of the prison system later on. If you look even deeper into this, the return on investment is even greater because the matches typically last for several years.
Now, consider the fact that they are serving 1,140 children of parents who are currently incarcerated. If they only made an impact in the lives of 26 of those kids (that's 2% of the total kids served), they would be saving the state more than the $400,000 they need to keep the program going.
Are you with me on this? Do you see what needs to happen here? Will you help me make it happen?
I'm on a mission. I'm going to ask, beg, plead and do whatever I can to help them raise that $400,000 by next December. I'm going to make a small donation to get the ball rolling. It won't be anything stellar or grand because, like many of you, the economy has affected us. However, my fat butt can give up a few trips to Starbucks in order to make a donation.
Here's what I'm asking you to do:
1. Pray for this organization and the good works they do.
2. Think about making a donation.
3. Go here to DONATE. It's ridiculously simple! You can donate as little or as much as you want! $5, $10, $15, $20, etc. (If anyone wants to give $100,000 or more, I'll clean your home from top to bottom and I'll iron your bedsheets! It's an OCD thing of mine and I will be glad to put it to use for you !) If you donate because of this post, put it in the comment line on the website and ask them to direct it to the Amachi program.
4. Send the link to this blog post to every person you know in Missouri (elsewhere if you want!) and ask them to match your donation!
5. Consider becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister.
If you absolutely cannot afford to donate please simply say a prayer for them and for the 60,000 kids in Missouri who have a parent in prison. Pass this link along. Ask people you know to donate. Do whatever you feel comfortable doing to help this worthy cause.
Finally, here's a little scriptural motivation for you: Matthew 25:31-46.