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My head is stuck in an idealist cloud of stone soup fantasy

January 31, 2009

n11403991_30331991_9238I need to vent…for those who know me, they know that I am big into raising money for charity, volunteer work, donating blood and anything else that I can possibly do to make the world a better place. I live here, my kids are growing up here and I’d like for the world to be safe, happy and secure. I am the woman who gets laughed at by my kids because I carry around $5 Burger King gift cards in my purse to give to homeless people so they can get food. Which brings me a quote that you’ve heard me use before said by Mother Theresa, “If you can’t feed 100, feed one.”

I do a ton of fund raising at work and it has made Herzing College a better place to work. The volunteer spirit has infected many of our employees and helped out a lot of local folks. But here is where it comes to venting. For three years I’ve been asking our administration to allow me to give away a full ride scholarship to some lucky area resident. I would partner up with a local radio or TV station to give away the almost $50,000 award and we together would change someone’s life. What a wonderful gift to give away and something easy for us as an educational institution to do. With all the layoffs, businesses closing and bad news appearing on the nightly news; wouldn’t an effort like this give people a little lift a little faith that it is going to get better?

I am a dumb idealist.

I approached area radio, TV and newspapers. The radio stations wanted money to advertise the contest to the tune of over ten grand. The newspapers wouldn’t respond to my various attempts at contacting them and the TV stations seemed interested and then disappeared off the radar screen. In total I reached out to over a dozen media outlets trying emails to DJ’s, calls to sales managers, calls to editors, calls and emails to community events editors, and on and on. I couldn’t believe that in these “terrible economic times” we are experiencing, that a local entity wouldn’t want to be our partner in giving away the chance of a lifetime to some Milwaukee resident; the chance to earn a college education at no cost.

After my failure with the locals I was contacted by a certain “made for women TV” national program about being a consultant for a talk show on women achieving their dreams through education. How exciting! I thought to myself that this would be a wonderful venue to give away our “new year, new career” full ride scholarship. So I propose the “partnership” to the producer who agrees with me that this is a great idea and her people are going to love it. Then the kicker – she needs $35K as an “assurance fee” to make sure that we will show up for filming. So I am supposed to now pay 35K to give away 50K. I am no genius but I can do this math. I broke up with the woman channel.

Feeling beyond defeated in my effort to change someone’s life, I stopped trying to pitch my partnership to anyone else. Then yesterday, a full month after I had given up my quest, I had a woman from a local charitable organization here in Milwaukee call me to see if we were interested in purchasing a $600 booth for an event specifically aimed at empowering women. I explained that I was the Director of Career Services and that although I had no interest in purchasing a booth, if they needed a speaker for the event or for a workshop I would be happy to volunteer to do so. As these words left my lips; the lost dream of my educational partnership crossed my mind and I thought to myself, maybe I will offer this up to this organization and their attendees. After she woooed and wowed about my speaking pitch telling me how wonderful my ideas were, I was informed that I would have to pay them…are you ready…$6,000 to speak at their event. (Insert Amy shaking her head here).

So here I am. I have permission to give away a dream and no dream catchers to share my vision with me. I am saddened by the responses to my efforts. Back in the day, if I wanted to do something “good” there were people jumping out of the woodwork to help. At the technical college we built a house teaching high school students construction skills by forming a partnership between several entities. No one asked any other partner for money; not once. A partnership was defined as a collective “stone soup” effort with each party bringing something to the table to benefit its purpose. Now it seems that the world is trying to sell me a pot to make my stone soup in. When did the definition of partnership change?

Any dream of being an educational philanthropist is gone. I will stick to donating blood as the Wisconsin Blood Center only turns me away when my iron is low and I’ll continue to use my own money to support my own little charities. I hope that my little increments of $50 here and $100 there are helping someone somehow. As we look forward to our country changing, I hope that we once again remember that we are suppose to all live here together, support each other, give to one another and take care of those who need to be taken care of. Giving shouldn’t cost and cost shouldn’t hinder trying to give back to your community. I hope that we can rediscover the meaning of partnership and reap the benefits to mind and soul that occurs when making stone soup.

Amy

You are welcome to contact me at achastek@onl.herzing.edu or visit the greatest place on Earth to work and go to school at http://www.herzingonline.edu

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