As part of a class exercise to commemorate Earth Day/Week/Month, second-graders at Trowbridge School of Discovery and Technology made creatures entirely out of recycled materials. The students in Mr. Koney’s class learned how recycling can impact the environment and wrote a report about their projects and how their families recycle. One student created a life-size replica of her Great Dane (far right)! The creatures will be on display at the school through Math and Science Night on May 9.
Save at least $50 of your federal refund with IRS Form 8888
Boston – For many families, the IRS tax filing day marks the best period all year for financial goal setting – whether it’s setting money aside for a summer vacation, saving for a child’s education or planning for their retirement. But especially for financially vulnerable families, the goal of saving for the future often conflicts with more immediate needs. These families often find themselves one illness or car repair away from financial crisis.
To promote saving at tax time, the Boston-based nonprofit Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund has launched the nationwide SaveYourRefund promotion. Tax filers who save at least $50 of their federal refund using IRS Form 8888 can enter the promotion by April 15, 2013. SaveYourRefund has awarded 10 weekly prizes of $250 and will award one $25,000 Grand Prize on April 19, 2013. By offering large prize incentives and the chance to tell winners’ stories through videos and social media, SaveYourRefund has transformed the often stressful, anxious, moment of tax filing and the serious, earnest act of savings into a time of hope and optimism.
In 2009, President Obama announced that saving tax refunds would become easier, as tax filers would now be able to purchase savings bonds – for themselves or others, including children – by simply checking a box on the tax form. This expanded “Tax Time Savings” policy was a victory for low-income households, whose tax refunds are typically the largest lump sum of income they’ll have access to all year. In the three years since its inception, the expanded “Tax Time Savings” policy has generated more than $40 million in savings for 100,000 Americans.
“Winners of the SaveYourRefund promotion told us that it played a part in their decisions to save,” said Timothy Flacke, executive director of D2D. “We wanted to give families an incentive, and also make saving a fun, positive experience.
Supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), D2D targets vulnerable families to help them set and follow through on their savings goals through access to specialized financial services and innovative products and programs, like promoting the “Tax Time Savings” policy.
“Americans receive more than $300 billion in tax refunds from the IRS every year. For hard-working families, federal refunds are often the largest lump sum of income they receive,” said Alandra Washington, director of family economic security programs at WKKF. “The SaveYourRefund promotion encourages people to save as little as $50, which can jump start a year-round commitment to saving, even if it’s a little at a time.”
Learn more about the new winners at https://www.saveyourrefund.com/winners
For more information about the SaveYourRefund promotion, visithttp://www.saveyourrefund.com.
About IRS Form 8888
Since 2007, tax filers have had the option to send part of their federal refunds directly to a savings product through a “split refunds” option available on IRS Form 8888. Beginning in 2010, on this same form, refund recipients could request that a part of their refunds be issued in inflation-protected U.S. Savings Bonds-either for themselves or for others (including children).
About Doorways to Dreams Fund
The Boston-based Doorways to Dreams Fund (D2D), a non-profit founded by former Harvard Business School professor Peter Tufano, has long championed savings bonds as a tool for helping low-and moderate-income savers. D2D’s mission is to strengthen the financial security and opportunity of low- and moderate-income consumers, and the organization views encouraging saving as a critical strategy to advance that important mission. For more information, visit http://www.d2dfund.org.
FDIC statistics show that almost half of us spend more than we earn.
by Oretha Winston, Lead Editor, Elev8
A little over half of us live paycheck to paycheck. They report that 42 percent of us don’t have enough cash reserves to live or sustain our homes for three months. These numbers add up to a lot of worried families living stress-filled lives.
- Ask for help. When meeting with families in our local shelter, it has my job to list resources. I was amazed at how often people were unaware of the most basic local support systems for financial help and housing. If you are lucky enough to have a family or support system you can work together sharing wisdom, information, resources and, sometimes, expenses. There are many people who specialize in getting help for people in need.
- Find a healthy way to cope with stress. It’s acceptable to have a bad day. However, it is not OK to take it out on those around you. The American Psychological Association shares information on handling stress including being aware of what you do to handle stress. Do you have healthy ways to relieve pressure like exercise and creative hobbies? Or, do you do things that actually add to your pressures, like gambling money you don’t have, overeating comfort foods, drinking too much or other self-destructive choices?
- Turn financial challenges into a positive learning experience. For example, if your child asks for money for a school activity, rather than explaining why you can’t afford it, let your child know it’s not in the budget, then get creative about ways to find the funds. Help your child work his first odd job like lawn mowing or holding a yard sale
- Break overwhelming tasks into bite-sized pieces. Sometimes when we feel hopeless about our finances, housing or other life challenges, we throw our hands in the air and give up. Getting our financial or physical house in order seems impossible. Begin chipping away a little at a time. If you feel you need a financial reserve to feel secure, save when you can. If you feel you need to move to safer housing, make a budget and look for small ways to sacrifice and watch your savings add up. Make a visible savings goal that you share with the family. Make trimming the budget a fun family affair as you work toward a unified goal.
Question of the Week: “What can our community do to eliminate domestic violence?”
Photos and question by Yvonne Kemp
Min. Bruce L. Powell: “We can live God-fearing lives to be an example of the love of the Lord. By doing this, we can lead others to walk in the peace of God; thereby overpowering the impulse to violently assault someone.”
Gilles Noutcha: “Men need more counseling on how to address anger and frustration in a different way. They also need to be made more aware of the impact of their violence on their families.”
Cynthia Hunt: “This is my season for coming out of darkness. I too was a victim (of domestic violence) as well as a victimizer. I would like God’s Chosen Vessels to know that they can turn to Jesus whenever you need someone to lean and depend on. Christ is the answer. Ask and seek. The Holy Spirit will open doors for you.”
Tamala Redmond: “Our community can help prevent domestic violence by first coming together to pray for each others’ needs. Second, we need to teach people how to utilize their gifts, talents and skills. Third, we need to find excellent, real people who have survived domestic violence to teach them how to forgive their past hurts so they don’t carry that over to victimize others. We need to give the victims and the abusers the tools to invest in themselves. Last, we need to focus our time on loving them and showing them they can learn how to be responsible citizens without having to harm one another.”
My mother-in-law spoke to us about growing up in a small town in Mississippi a decade after the first depression. Everyone in the room, particularly the half dozen teenagers were awe struck as she reminisced about working in the fields from sun up to sun down under the scorching sun. Mouths dropped when she spoke of the primitive living conditions most Black folks in that era had to endure: Eating what you raised, and having to use an outhouse in the dark.
Jaws were still agape as she recalled “those men in white sheets who terrorized the Black families.” The Klu Klux Klan posed a constant threat to Black people of all ages. Lord help you if you were on their list for crimes as simple as staring, “acting uppity,’ or not saying ‘yes sir’ or ‘no sir; to even a bum other Whites called ‘trash.’”
And God help the Black man accused of looking at a White woman. Remember Emmit Till?
“MaDear’s” father was illiterate, she explained, but wise in the ways of the world, and most importantly about the tactics needed to survive in a hostile environment. Even though he couldn’t read or write, he did what was necessary to provide for his family, to keep them out of harm’s way. Equally important, he stressed the importance of his children getting a good education. Education was the 20th century emancipation proclamation.
My great nephews and grandchildren listened intently as MaDear told her stories. They were in awe, not fully realizing what our ancestors had to endure in America’s past, or of the blood, tears and sacrifices they made to build the foundation on which they now stand.
MaDear was one of nearly two dozen family members who participated in our family Black history program at my house last Sunday. Surrounded by original Black art, African drums and hundreds of books primarily written by Black authors (that I encouraged the younger generation to take with them), we were each tasked with bringing a Black history hero or shero to life, prior to our sitting down to a potluck supper.
There were five generations present, ranging in age from 81 years to three months. Most of what the seniors talked about were events that shaped their lives. The youngsters had to research an African, or African American whose contributions changed the world even slightly.
My father spoke of early Milwaukee, when Black residents were not allowed to live north of North Avenue. He spoke of a famous Downtown Black hotel and how the White folks took it over when they learned the value of the property. Pops spoke of how Black families supported each other back when a community really meant “community,” and the few courageous Black men and women who bucked the system lobbying for equal rights for the growing Black population.
Jaws dropped when he spoke of a World War II German concentration camp that was built on Port Washington Road. Many of Milwaukee’s early residents were German, so it was only natural that they brought the Nazi prisoners of war here. Ironically, Pop told the astonished family members the Nazi POWs were treated better than Black citizens. And it wasn’t a coincidence that Negroes were not allowed jobs at the prisoner of war camp because we were considered inferior beings, both by the Nazis and the White Milwaukeeans.
My brother-in-law Clarence started a trend when he decided to introduce his subject by deed instead of name. He wanted us to guess who the figure was, a tactic that would reveal how much Black history we had absorbed over the years. “He was an escaped slave,” Clarence described him, “who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some felt he was the spark that led to the American Revolution”.
My brother-in-law learned of him when he attended a school named in his honor in Chicago. Few of the Black students who attended an elementary school named after him probably appreciated the story of the Black man who was the first to die in the Revolutionary War. Some of them today, given the history of this great nation and its exploitation of people of color, probably would look at him as a sucker, because the freedom he fought for would not be extended to people of color for another 100 years.
One of my nephews tried to stump me (I’m considered the family historian, the Black sheep of the family who provides Black history trivia at the drop of a hat, always ready to put things into proper context based on historical facts generally not found in the public schoos), with a story about the first Black graduate of a northern college. I couldn’t come up with an answer, which from my perspective was good because I’m always open to learn new things. Moreover, it showed that my nephew was serious about his assignment; he had to scan through dozens of history figures before he found the subject of his lecture.
Of course, sometimes you can misread our history and dilute the importance of a point.
That’s what happened with my niece, who posed the question, “who was the ‘actress’ who popularized the Afro, while drawing attention to American injustice?’
Everyone was stumped, until I figured out after another clue or two that the historical figure was not an actress, but an ‘activist’–Angela Davis. My sweet niece had read the bio wrong.
Davis was indeed an important figure in the fight for justice, I explained, while trying not to embarrass my niece. She was put on trial in the early 1970s for her alleged involvement in the attempted prison escape of Black revolutionary George Jackson, author of the “Soledad Brothers.” Later Davis joined the Communist Party, ran for vice president of the United States twice, and lectured around the country on civil rights and social equality.
There was an unusual link between Angela Davis and myself, I told the assemblage. In the late 1970s, then Chief of Police Harold Breier’ organized what was known at the time as a ‘Red Squad.’ Among the unconstitutional tactics this group utilized, the Red Squad spied on Milwaukee citizens who the chief felt were threats to the racist status-quo (activists, Black politicians, journalists). “Subjects” on the list ranged from Father James Groppi to Michael McGee. I even warranted a few pages because of my work with the Community Journal and participation in numerous civil rights campaigns. A surprising reference to me was that I “was known to associate with Communist and Workers World Party members.” In a nutshell, I was a ‘criminal’ because I interviewed Angela Davis and Workers World Party presidential candidate Larry Holmes.
My Black history figure prompted a debate that may never be settled. I had chosen Marcus Garvey, the father of the Pan-African movement, and at one point in time one of the most powerful–albeit controversial–Black men in America. I noted during my introduction that as a child, I overheard my grandmother tell a friend that Garvey was a crook. As I started my introduction, my mother repeated that statement (I never asked if she was serious or not).
What is not in dispute about Garvey is that he polarized Black leadership in the early stages of the civil rights movement (which didn’t begin with Martin Luther King, but decades–actually a century earlier). W.E.B. Dubois called Garvey a dangerous man. Other Black ‘leaders’ of the time called him everything from an anarchist to a separatist.
There is no doubt that he engineered the largest Black movement in American history through his Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Black Star Lines, which he purchased in the hopes of taking Black Americans back to Africa, where we would be removed from the slings and arrows of racial hatred and apartheid here in America.
Garvey was considered the preeminent Black Nationalist, encouraging Negroes of the day not only to have pride in themselves, but work together for upliftment. Garvey was the first to talk about Black empowerment, Pan- Africanism and Black Pride. He also introduced the red, black and green flag, and the concept of Black Power.
As he once said, “Let us in shaping our own Destiny set before us the qualities of human justice, love, charity, mercy and equity. Upon such a foundation let us build a race, and I feel that the God who is Divine, the Almighty Creator of the world, shall forever bless this race of ours, and who to tell that we shall not teach men the way to life, liberty and true human happiness”
Garvey’s down fall came when questions were raised about the financing of the Black Star Lines. The federal government said he was crook (although there is strong evidence to suggest he was set up to break the movement). Many Black leaders supported Garvey, but as you know, once the feds get their claws in you…He ultimately was sentenced to five years in prison and exported back to his native Jamaica
That’s where the controversy over Garvey originated. Many Black people believed the stories planted by the FBI and other agencies. Conversely, many maintained the only crimes committed by Garvey were poor accounting and having the courage to speak the truth.
However you look at it, Garvey sparked a new movement that resonated with Black leaders from Malcolm X to Stokely Carmichael.
In many respects, our Black History pot-luck dinner opened our eyes to the foundation on which we now stand. In some respects, that mean’s my family is better prepared than many Black families whose heroes are rap stars and who believe that lie that our ancestors contributed little to nothing to science, the arts and math.
Its’ no surprise to me that many schools today provide children with a watered down version of Black history. They will tell our children about Booker T., but nothing about Delaney. They idolize Dr. Martin Luther King, but say nothing about Malcolm or Garvey. And I have yet to get an answer from a Black child when I ask them who Amenhotep was.
Several years ago, a sister speaking at a school for Black history month was chastised by the teacher who claimed the speaker’s presentation on the middle passages and slavery were misleading and incorrect. Slaves were not as bad off here America as the speaker claimed, the teacher said, adding had it not been for slavery, we wouldn’t be citizens today.
Aside from that being the most ridiculous, asinine and racist statement I’ve ever heard, I would venture to guess it’s not isolated.
That’s all the more reason we must keep our history alive. Our history empowers us, it gives us a sense of purpose and dispels the myths and stereotypes that America has used (and is still using) to belittle us. And oh yes, we must educate our children not just during the month of February, but every day.
As Garvey once said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”
Job losses, foreclosures, and fear for the future put tremendous stress on businesses and families. Veteran Chicago-based finance expert and sought after author Julie Murphy Casserly guides business owners through the emotional patterns attached to money that impact crucial financial decisions during the Wealth Management for Small Business Owners networking forum next week.
The event is on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Hudson Business Lounge (310 N. Broadway), and is sponsored by the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Small Business Development and the North End’s Business Capacity Building Program (BCBP). This event is a part of the BCBP Networking and Education series to impact the growth and vitality of small businesses in the Greater Milwaukee area. The event is free and open to the public. Advanced registration is required at www.bcbpnetworking.eventbrite.com.
Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, a strong supporter of encouraging entrepreneurs and small business development, said the event can help small business owners.
“I’m very supportive of the Business Capacity Building Program’s forum on wealth management because often small business owners must weather very tight financial periods, and it is important that they learn key strategies for keeping their enterprise going, and for looking at ways they can help it grow in the future,” said Alderwoman Coggs, founder of the MKE Business Now Entrepreneurship Summit, a key networking and educational event for city entrepreneurs.
BCBP Coordinator Genyne Edwards said she is pleased to welcome Julie Murphy Casserly to Milwaukee for the event. “Julie brings an unconventional approach to wealth management that we think will resonate with our business community, especially in our tough economic times,” Ms. Edwards said.
The Business Capacity Building Program is the City’s workforce and capacity building incubation program that provides wrap-around business solidification services for select small businesses participating on TIF sponsored development projects. For more information about the Business Capacity Building Program, please visit www.milwaukee.gov/bcbp
by Mikel Kwaku Osei Holt
For the past decade or so, about 30 to 40 local Black families have traveled to a small, nondescript little town outside Green Bay for a weekend of ‘Play, Praise and Partying.’ Unless natives of the exclusively White city happen to travel by the corner section of the resort where we congregate, they probably would never know we’ve invaded their segregated township. But if they get within a few hundred feet of our lodge they would immediately realize the music blaring isn’t the Polka and the floor isn’t shaking from folks engaged in a square dance. That, however, would probably be the only encounter they would have with us, as most of us rarely venture outside the confines of the resort. Not because we’re inhospitable, but more so because our days and nights are filled with activities.
For three days, a largely isolated section of the resort is converted to 1970 Black Milwaukee, complete with that era’s music and sense of community. It’s a special event, generally held, appropriately, the weekend before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
Usually there’s snow on the ground, covering the resort golf course, and limiting outside activities. But that’s not a handicap, since most of rarely venture outside anyway.
We assemble to party and play in limited space indoors, and even if the heat were off I suspect we’d warm of the housing unit just the same.
There’s generally about four to six ‘party suites,’ each with its own flavor, but essentially overlapping theme. There’s always concurrent bid whist and other games, DJs blasting their interpretation of 70s and 80s music and enough food to feed a small church after a two-hour sermon.
The adjoining rooms allow for movement from event to event, and since we’re all clustered together—separate bed rooms of course—we’re always just a stone’s throw of a different experience with a host of assorted friends. You gotta’ participate to fully appreciate the experience. It’s a full weekend of rejuvenation, reminiscence and old-fashioned fellowship. By the time you leave on Sunday morning, your jaws are tight from laughter, you mind is reeling from memories renewed and your stomach is swollen from a feast of fine foods covering the soul food spectrum.
OK, most of us will drink a little here and there. That too is part of the social structure. But no drugs are allowed, and in fact, don’t bring the cheap bottom shelf stuff.
In fact, there’s no store brought food allowed either. Every couple brings their signature dish, which this year ranged from my super hot and spicy hot wings, to Curt’s 24-inch crab legs, Harper’s Midwest clam chowder, and Sara’s Monkey Bread. Chances are you can’t fully partake of all of the various dishes, although many of us try.
Before the first of several meals, we always gather for a cycle of friendship, which also provides the foundation for our praise reports and prayer. The circle may not be uniquely African, but it is the essence of our culture; for the circle means there is no beginning and no end. It means we are all an equal part of the whole; linked by a higher being and a grand purpose. It is during this libation that we give praise for our good health; for our commonality. For our friendship. For allowing us to meet again. For the president and world peace. For unity of purpose and prosperity, amid all that is happening—and not happening— 80 miles south.
Each year the circle grows as others are admitted to join; adding and enriching those who share the common cultural thread that bends us all. After our libation, we party. Hearty. Bid whist at several tables. Board games command other tables. Loud talk and smackin’ fill the room. Stories morph into imaginable tales (that’s not lying). Reminiscing about the good ole days. Current politics. Community happenings. What’s wrong with today’s generation? What’s right with them? How we survived, and the foundation we laid.
All of this to the beat…. the drum beat…the trumpet, the guitar, a tenor sax and the piano—sweet soul music, the harmony that connects our people, the descendents of the Motherland. The music, played by alternating DJs has a common cord, even if the rhythms are as unique as the performers. Mostly oldies, message music, classic Soul and R&B, some jazz and a little blues…down home and some of that ‘does my ring hurt your finger when you go out at night’ stuff. Not my cup of tea, but everybody gets into it, because we share a common history and overlapping memories of the good ole days.
As they do when Marvin Gaye is asking ‘What’s Going on? Or James Brown reminding us to “Be Black and Proud.” Can’t help but tap your feet and collect yourself when Curtis Mayfield declares “We’re a Winner,” or proclaims, “We’re Moving on Up.” Of course we get off on a little Usher and Beyonce, but the DJs always find their way back to the oldies that spark vivid memories. Some may not appreciate our ‘old timers’ weekend.’ But most of us are over 50 and the world we grew up in is vastly different from the Black community most of us left on Thursday or Friday. We grew up in segregated schools and neighborhoods. Discrimination was legal during my youth and there were never any doubt that the wall of apartheid was there even if you couldn’t see it.
But there were many positives. Neighbors actually knew it other. Our teachers, ministers, lawyers and doctors were our neighbors, because in the Milwaukee we grew up in, the walls of apartheid were highly visible.
Nonetheless, we survived in part because we were a community; we shared and cared. We didn’t lock our doors, and nobody ever went hungry. When someone on the block couldn’t pay the rent, we held rent parties. And as in African and Indian cultures, everybody was your mother, and didn’t hesitate to beat your behind if you strayed off the path.
Back in the day, the majority of girls were virgins entering adulthood (or at least we thought). Boys made it through high school without ‘getting any,’ at least from the ‘good girls.’ If a sister got pregnant, she disappeared for five months and came back home with a niece.
That may sound strange to people today, but we grew up Christian; morality was important and Black nuclear families—however poor—were the foundation, following by extended family and then community.
Back in the day, civil rights activities empowered us, and we watched our parents chaining themselves to bulldozers to force the public school system to allow us to attend ‘desegregated’ schools. We were expected to continue the fight, and most of us did.
We fought for each other–for our race–and there was no jealousy if a child down the street made it out, went to college. Education wasn’t only for nerds or White people as some youth feel today. Hell, we contributed our nickels and dimes for the neighborhood kids to go to school, because his or her educational growth, it was a source of pride for all of us.
Think about that reality and you might better understand the people who attend our annual retreat and the mindset we share. Our history is part of us, as was the beat, the bush and the battle.
So between bites of good food, slamming down that trump card or singing along to the Temptations or Smokey, we talked about the good ole days and how we can bring a sense of that unity and purpose to today’s society. We take pride in our battle scars, whether they came from a Southside kid who hit us in the head with a brick during the open housing marches, or from bumping our head against the lamp during a ‘blue or red light’ party in somebody’s basement.
Yeah, it was an enriching, entertaining and reinvigorating weekend. Each year we bring someone new, someone younger into the mix. That’s something we should really focus on because ours are stories, not just bout civil rights and survival, but of the music, our mission and our muse.
Monday night, I attended one of two balls that were held to celebrate President Barack Obama‘s swearing in on Monday afternoon. Called “The Inaugural Ball,” this much-sought-after event followed the “Commander-in-Chief” Ball, which, like the Kids’ Inaugural Ball that took place on Saturday, was started to honor the contributions of the military and their families by former President George W. Bush in 2005.
The two official balls are a stark contrast to the 10 official balls that were held back in 2009.According to ABC News, 2013′s balls are the fewest amount of balls held since incumbent President Dwight Eisenhower‘s inaugural celebrations in 1953.
While the Inaugural Ball was expected to hold more than 35,000 guests, with President Obama, First Lady Michelle, Vice President Joe Biden, and Biden’s wife, Jill, in attendance, the event didn’t disappoint as one of the final soirees in the weekend-long Inaugural festivities.
Similar to the National Day of Service, the ball had stations with each region of the country represented, i.e., the Northeast, Midwest, and South (pictured above). At the stations, one could enjoy a light snack or purchase some alcohol for the night, with most opting for the alcohol. There were also places where guests could pose and take pictures against the presidential seal.
And you’ll never guess who was the MC for the night: none other than old-school-rapper-turned-DJD-Nice (pictured below), who held it down on the ones and twos with Michael Jackson andRihanna to keep the crowd on its feet.
While many in the press were quite run down from a full day — and weekend — of activities,Alicia Keys got everyone riled up by tweaking her hit “Girl on Fire” to commemorate President Obama’s second term, singing:
“Obama’s on Fire
Obama’s on Fire
He’s Walking on Fire
He’s walking on fire
Obama’s on fire
Everybody stares as he goes by
Because they can see the flames in his eye
Watch him as he lights up the night
Everybody knows that Michelle is his girl,
Together they run the world
And they going to let it burn, baby, burn, baby
Obama’s on Fire….
One of the acts to follow Keys was country singer Brad Paisley with a number of crowd favorites, and new pop trio fun. performed their rousing hits, such as “We Are Young” and “Some Nights.”Practically ragged from all the excitement, attendants regained their energy when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle (pictured at top) were introduced onstage with Jennifer Hudsonserenading their first and only dance.
While Michelle looked stately and distinguished during the swearing in, she looked the part of a leading lady with a red flowing dress by 2009-inauguration designer Jason Wu that accentuated her small waist.
Oscar-winning actress and singer Hudson joined the loving pair on the stage, singing Al Green‘s “Let Stay Together,” with Mrs. Obama beaming as her husband embraced her and glided smoothly across the stage.
Naturally, the event, which was held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, was teeming with celebrities. Singer John Legend, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, gymnast Gabby Douglas(pictured below), and “The Wire” actor Jamie Hector were just some of the stars that were in the building.
Indeed, the evening was a night to behold with the great music, beautiful guests, and awesomely cool First family — yet another night to cherish forever and always. Hey, I could get used to this!
Look at exclusive pictures of the 2013 Inaugural Ball here:
Pastor Cora Parchia (far left), Eld. Alvin Morris (second from left) and Pastor Monica Parchia (far right) of Mt. Zion Assembly Healing Temple, recently presented one of several boxes of items to Larry Walles of the Salvation Army to be given to the families of the children and educators who were victims of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn. (Photo by Yvonne Kemp)
The Social Development Commission (SDC) began administering the Emergency Assistance contract for W-2 in April of 2010. When SDC took over the program, it continued a subcontract with Community Advocates for the portion of program services that assists the homeless and families left homeless by fire or natural disaster. This was the part of the program that Community Advocates had provided for other W-2 agencies for several years prior to SDC’s involvement. Eventually, SDC decided it would be most efficient to operate the entire Emergency Assistance Program and ended the subcontract with Community Advocates.
Prior to and after SDC took over the entire program, Community Advocates did not communicate with SDC that they had further subcontracted a significant portion of their work with the American Red Cross in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Once the transition to SDC was completed, SDC became aware that Red Cross had been and was continuing to provide Emergency Assistance services to a number of Milwaukee County residents. This discovery was made despite the Red Cross not having submitted any bills for payment to SDC because they had not been informed by Community Advocates that their subcontract was now transferred to SDC.
SDC had several options upon learning this, including negating the contract. The agency chose to continue working with Red Cross while at the same time conducting an audit by W-2 Quality Assurance staff to ensure SDC would learn the breadth and scope of Red Cross’ involvement with the program. This close examination of the program was completed on the initiative of SDC.
The audit raised concerns on SDC’s part because Red Cross indicated their processes had been accepted by Community Advocates and the State of Wisconsin prior to April of 2010. Those processes did not meet the written procedural and paperwork standards SDC had established. SDC’s close scrutiny also provided signals that some individuals receiving the Emergency Assistance through the sub-contractor may have used some of the funds inappropriately.
Following its established procedures, SDC sends checks for rent payments or deposits directly to landlords rather than the client, something that was not being done in some cases prior to SDC taking on the administration of the program. A separate audit was conducted as part of the agency’s internal controls by SDC’s Quality Assurance Division to examine thousands of processed payments which confirmed our process was valid.
SDC and the Red Cross discussed this situation and mutually decided the most beneficial course of action was to end the contract at the close of 2011. During the time of the subcontract with SDC, Red Cross disbursed approximately $60,000 to residents. Since that time, SDC has processed all Emergency Assistance payments internally. SDC contacted the State to report their findings. The State recommendation was to conclude the audit, negotiate a payment with Red Cross, and move forward, precisely the action SDC has taken.
Since ending the Emergency Assistance contract on Dec 31, 2011, the Red Cross and SDC have continued to work together by referring clients to each other’s respective services. SDC has also maintained a productive working relationship with Community Advocates including a partnering relationship in the Energy Assistance Program.
• SDC began to administer the Emergency Assistance contract in April of 2010 and initially continued the pre-existing subcontract with Community Advocates
• Upon taking on the administration of the entire program and ending the subcontract with Community Advocates, SDC learned on its own that Community Advocates subcontracted some of their work to Red Cross
• Red Cross continued to do the Emergency Assistance work after the contract changed hands, not having been notified of the change
• Through an audit conducted by SDC W-2 Quality Assurance personnel, it was discovered that Red Cross continued the same documentation process they had used in the past despite not seeming to meet State standards
• When given the request and opportunity to change those procedures, Red Cross chose not to and, by mutual decision, the two agencies ended the contract effective at the end of 2011
• SDC informed the State of the situation, received their input, and implemented the agreed-upon approach
•SDC’s Quality Assurance Division conducted a separate audit that reviewed thousands of payments to validate the payments SDC was issuing on behalf of clients
• SDC followed its procedures to send checks directly to the landlords and not the clients to assist with rent payments or deposits
In conclusion, SDC found itself in charge of a program with a subcontractor who had not been informed of the process and documentation requirements or that SDC had assumed the administration of the program. SDC’s plan to address the situation followed State recommendations and was approved as the proper approach. The plan included SDC and Red Cross mutually agreeing to terminate the subcontract and the agency directly taking on administration of the Emergency Assistance work.
It was the diligence of SDC staff that revealed the lack of communication and the potential problems it had caused. Since becoming aware of that problem, SDC has taken steps, in concert with the State, to correct the problems and keep the W-2 program operating in an efficient and effective manner that is fully compliant with all requirements.