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When we send our kids to school tomorrow morning here on Mercer Island, millions of 5- and 6-year olds across America will also be finishing their third month of kindergarten; one-third of them will be two years behind developmentally, as on the first day they walked through the school doors. Next spring, one-third of the four million high school-senior-age youth in our country will not graduate, then or in the future. Societally, economically, morally, that is the sobering news.
The good news is that there is a local group of philanthropists and civically-engaged people who believe, as Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Over 30 Mercer Island residents are members of Social Venture Partners (www.svpseattle.org), a network of engaged donors that contribute professional know-how, financial resources and philanthropic passion to nonprofit organizations in King County.
Mercer Island resident John Carey, who moved here four years ago with his wife, Beverly, has given his marketing and branding expertise to local non-profits to increase their awareness and effectiveness. Carey has enabled those non-profits to access in 40 hours, over four months, what it would have otherwise taken 400 hours and thousands of dollars to access.
Islander Connie Collingsworth was SVP’s Board Chair in 2004-06, and her daughter, Alexa Wilcox, has been a vital member of Social Venture Kids. SVKids is a program of SVP that introduces young people to the needs of their community and hopes to instill the desire to continue to give back throughout the rest of their lives.
Through SVP, partners gain a rich insight into community issues, the non-profit sector, giving strategies and philanthropic leadership. SVP offers a range of ways to get involved, when and if you can: attend educational seminars and workshops; evaluate grant proposals; volunteer strategically with local non-profits to learn from each other and positively impact the environment, children and K-12 education together; connect with a network of like-minded, caring people, not just locally but across North America and Japan in 25 cities — www.svpi.org.
SVP’s vision for its second 10 years is to become the most effective way for an individual to create positive social change in Puget Sound and beyond. SVP welcomes people from diverse backgrounds who want to pool their financial contributions and skills to make a greater impact. Through an annual tax-deductible contribution of $5,700 and optional hands-on involvement, you can contribute locally, build your knowledge and expand your impact.
At the same time we know the sobering facts about America’s children and youth, we also know that we live in a world where teen pregnancy has declined by nearly one-third over the last 30 years, where many of our rivers and lakes have come back to life after years of degradation, and where a disease that crippled an American president less than four generations ago is now on the brink of extinction in all but four nations on our planet.
We can and we must make our early learning and high school graduation deficiencies go the way of polio, both locally and nationally. SVP is a network of people who “never doubt that we live in a world where real and lasting positive change can happen; indeed, it must happen.” One child, one ecosystem, one school at a time. If you’d like to join this network of emerging philanthropic learners and leaders, please give us an e-mail or call.
Paul Shoemaker is the Director of Social Venture Partners of Seattle. Contact him at (206) 374-8757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.