How time flies. And crawls.

It dawned on me the other day that I'm 1/4 of the way done with my VISTA year. The ticker at the bottom of this blog confirms it.

I've been doing this for three months already.

It feels like it's been that long and like it's been no time at all. (Yes, it can feel both ways at once.)

I'm getting ready to write my next monthly VISTA report which always gets me thinking about what it is, exactly, that I've done in the last month.

Written grants. Check.
Been staff photographer for events. Check.
Worked on next donor newsletter. Check.
To use the hated phrase... made a difference..... er... check?

This is where it gets hard as a VISTA. Since we're not doing direct service, there are days when it feels like what I'm doing doesn't really impact the students we serve. I know that's completely bogus, but it feels like it nevertheless.

I guess maybe this feeling is partly because yesterday afternoon most of what I worked on was a postcard to donors about whether they wanted to get paper or electronic copies of things like newsletters. I know this is a good thing, but it took time to print the postcards, fold the postcards, run them all through the stamp/meter do-dad.

Today, much of my day will be spent at the library doing research through their Foundation Center database. It's good work, but it's solitary and isolated from what we really do.

This will pay off in the end, I know. More funders, hopefully, to support the heart of what we do. But in the meantime...


Mentoring Celebration

Starfish staff participated today in the first Mentoring Month Luncheon and Expo hosted by the Alliance of Youth Mentoring Agencies.

Starfish is a founding member of the Alliance and so it was a big day for us to see this event finally take place.

We had a mentoring fair where 16 booths from different agencies that do some level of mentoring set up so individuals could learn about each other and hopefully, recruit some mentors.

Then, at the lunch, we heard a great keynote address from Tarik Glenn, a former pro-bowl offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts. Glenn gave a great address, challenging mentors and mentoring agencies to have integrity, love and trust. "The most important thing is that if we mentor without love as the foundation, we aren't going to change anything," Glenn said.

One of our Starfish Scholars also had the opportunity to deliver the invocation for the event and did a great job.

As usual, I was the staff photographer and the photos are from the event. (I was going to post more photos, but at the moment, blogger.com is having conniptions...)


I think the phrase is "rollin' in it"

I forgot to post another good news announcement from last week.

Another one of the grant applications I wrote came in, with a positive response and a check.

This brings my total money raised so far to $8,500 and my "score" on applications to 2-1.

I know $8,500 in the grand scheme of things isn't really very much money, but it's important. When you are trying to raise significant amounts of money, you can't discredit even the smaller grants, just because they are little. Both of the grants represent organizations that believe in what you are doing and your mission.

And I say, getting the little ones is like the pre-show entertainment for when the $20,000 grants come in.


Mentor Appreciation Night -- Photo Proof

Last night, Starfish held our Mentor Appreciation Night since January is National Mentoring Month.

The event was at Conseco Fieldhouse, with a dinner and presentation of certificates of appreciation to mentors followed by going to the Indiana Pacers game and half-time recognition on the court. The event went well and based on some comments from mentors, it seems like they had a great time.

As usual, your faithful blogger was behind the camera all evening, capturing all the important moments on film (or technically, digital pixels).
Here are some of the highlights from last night.

The mentors on the court at halftime for a special recognition.

The mentors were also on the big screen in the arena.

Starfish Board Chairman Mike Feeney and Executive Director Joyce Johnson present with Huntington Bank VP Pat Schubach with some special gifts, including an autographed basketball from the Pacers. Huntington Bank sponsored our event last night -- making possible what we could never have pulled off without them.

And, as usual, some hardworking VISTAs making sure things run smoothly.

Stay Tuned

I've got a grant thing that I really need to finish this morning, but my plan is this afternoon to post some of the photos from our mentor appreciation event last night at the Pacers' game at Conseco Fieldhouse.

But first, the money-raising.


One for One

You can't get them all.

Today, I got the first rejection for one of the grants I'd written. I know writing grants to national corporations is a greater long shot than writing grants to foundations and companies in the same area as the organization, but still, I was hopeful.

It was a good proposal. It fit with the areas the company supports. But they weren't interested.

So right now, I guess that means I'm I have a 50 percent success rate. Put that way, it feels rather gloomy. In school when percentages meant things on tests and papers, 50 percent was not a number I ever saw.

I know I shouldn't get down on myself or my writing ability because we didn't get this grant. It's just one grant, to one big company who likely gets thousands of applications for groups all over the country.

Still, it's a bummer. A big bummer.



There's a meme floating around on the Internet looking at privilege. It comes from an exercise developed by Will Barratt et al. at Indiana State University. On Barratt's website, the original exercise is there, with an explanation that its designed to look at social class on campus and get students talking as part of a group activity and how to run the activity.

I decided to do the meme, just to see how it goes.

Bold the true statements.
1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college

3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college

5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor.
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.

7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children's books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18

12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18.
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels.
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18.
21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them.
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child.
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house.
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home.
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18.
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course.

28. Had your own TV in your room in high school.
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college.
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16.
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family.
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

I bolded 22 of the 34 items. I guess that means I was privileged, but I think this just shows how subjectively people look at privilege. I would say privilege means having those things that I didn't bold (ie, going on cruises) but then I have to think about the people who can't bold the things I did.

Privilege, Barratt's exercise goes on to say is not about working harder than anybody else. It means, he says, that people with privilege had a head start... somebody else did some of the hard work for you.

Makes you think, certainly.


The check was in the mail

I'm sitting in my executive director's office when another staffer brings in today's mail. The ED flips through the stack, slices one letter open and hands it to me. "This is always fun," she says.

The letter is from the Shaw-Burckhardt-Brenner Foundation, the first foundation I sent a full proposal to back in early November. I had sent some preliminary proposals out already, but this was the first full one, from scratch. I didn't really blog about it at the time, but it was bit stressful. I found out about this foundation late in their funding cycle and had about two days to pull together a whole proposal. There was a last-minute rush trip to the post office to get it in the mail (priority) and then it was out of my hands.

Until today. When we received their check.

Knowing their meeting was in early November, I figured that not hearing anything by mid-December was not good news. I guess I gave up hope too soon.

It's not the biggest check in the world. Money is money though and we'll put their funds to good use.

The point is though that somebody sent agreed with my proposal, deeming Starfish a worthy recipient of their dollars. Bottom line, my grant proposal worked.

This is a huge encouragement for feeling confident that I'm writing good grants. As my ED also said, "It's like getting an 'A' on your paper."

Yes, yes it is.


I am not an ice cube. I also have dictionary overload.

Just in case anyone was overly concerned, we figured out the problem for why the heat wasn't kicking on regularly in the office. (I will not point fingers but there may be a few pointed glances to the VISTAs in the office next door who were running a space heater and confusing the whole system.)

Now that we realized what that was doing, the heat is running consistently in my office and at one point, I actually got up to go turn thermostat down because I was too warm. Amazing.

Today has, so far, been more productive. I wrote a whole grant application today. And got it ready to put in the mail tomorrow. This one doesn't have a deadline until Feb. 1; I feel good for being so far ahead of the curve.

Also today, a huge box showed up for me at work. I forgot this box was coming, but inside it were samples of dictionaries. I was very excited.

Excited about dictionaries? you say. Let me explain.

For many of our Scholars, a dictionary, a $20 or more book usually for a good one, is a luxury they can't afford. Try writing an English paper without a dictionary. With the help of a corporate partner, we want to get all of our new students in 2008-09 a dictionary and thesaurus. Being the word nerd I am, I took it upon myself to find a good deal for good dictionaries.

Enter the wonderful folks at Federal Street Press. After getting quotes from Barnes and Noble and Borders and Amazon.com and still coming up with a total in the thousands of dollars for dictionaries, I decided, why not try to contact a publisher directly.

Federal Street, a division or subsidiary or something, of Merriam Webster, responded to my plea. We can get a discount. And we got samples so we can check out exactly which books we want.

Five samples. Have you ever tried to lift a box with five different hardback dictionaries in it, one of which alone totals more than 2,000 pages? Save for the sheer tonnage, it's all very wonderful. There is a great choice and we should *hopefully* with our funder's help, be able to buy bunches of them for our Scholars this summer.

Oh and lastly, I signed up for a workshop Monday that will get me out of my windowless office for almost two whole hours!


A window and a heater! My kindgom for a ...

My office has no windows. It also hasn't had much heat today, the coldest day on record here in the Circle City in almost a year.

Since my office has no windows and no heat which requires me to keep the door shut to warm it up with the little space heater, I just got up to walk down the hall for no good reason.


Today has been a bit of a frustration. Stuck in my closed office, it's become apparent that the rest of the world, so it seems, gets to take off the whole week. The people who I need to return phone calls aren't in their offices.

And I'm not really in a job anymore where I can track them down and be annoyingly persistent. This is one of the things I miss about being a reporter. (So is being able to look out a window, but that's another story...)

Someone being out of the office wasn't usually a good excuse for why you couldn't reach them for a story. I'd badger secretaries, leave messages anywhere a person might be (home, work, cell phone, etc.). There were times I literally drove to someone's house just to see if they were there but dodging calls.

I don't get to do that as a grant writer. Or if I did, it wouldn't help my case much.

I've got proposal deadlines looming later this month, but I need questions answered before I can really start into things. There's no point in wasting my time writing a proposal that doesn't meet a funder's criteria. Really. We have ideas for how we would ideally like to spend their money, but if our ideas don't fit with their ideas, we are willing to think up other ways to use their grants.

Perhaps some of my frustration is just the whole I'm-back-at-work-after-a-holiday thing. I can't do anything about not having a window, but they are working on the heat and hopefully, tomorrow will feel like a more productive day.

Nothing says Christmas like...

...Laser Tag.

Yep, on Saturday, Starfish had our annual Christmas party with our Scholars and we went a laser tag place. The students really seemed to have fun and there was, admittedly, some good staff rivalry as well during the games we played.
I was certainly not the best tagger there. I think I would have done better my second game, but I'm blaming a pack that didn't work on why my score wasn't higher. I lost several minutes of play time while I had to cross the room, getting tagged numerous times on the way, and swap it for a pack with a charged battery.

Anyway, here are some photos from the event... none of yours truly. I was either taking the photos or playing...

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