Free caregivers’ conference offers resources and support Sat., Sept 27

I was lucky to have had a third parent in my mother’s mother, who lived with my family my whole life until she died just after I graduated from college. In the beginning, she took care of us four kids and my parents. Toward the end, we mostly took care of her.

She had severe arthritis and used a walker for years. I remember using hyrdogen peroxide to clean the incisions from surgeries on her knees, massaging her back and shoulders sore from the walker, giving her her nightly prescriptions, helping her get dressed, and lots of other things I never thought about. I guess I assumed every teenage girl spent Friday night cutting her grandmother’s toenails.  I’m not going to say it was easy or that I always enjoyed it. It was tough. But it really felt like the least we could do since she practically raised us.

Anyone who’s taken care of an elderly or ill loved-one knows how tough that can be – and lonely. And even though it’s inevitable that some of us will take on this role sometime in our lives, most of us go it alone without the support we need to maintain our sanity.

On Saturday, September 27, AGE of Austin will host the 7th Annual caregivers’ conference, “Striking a Balance,” aimed at anyone who finds themself in that role now. The conference will help you find the resources and support you need to manage caregiving responsiblities and make them work with the rest of your life.

They offer a light breakfast and lunch – and they’ll care for your loved on while you attend the conference. Elderhaven Adult Day Center of Austin and Williamson County has signed on, but you’ll have to call them to make reservations at 512-458-6305.

7th Annual Caregivers’ Conference – FREE
Saturday, September 27, 2008
2525 West Anderson Lane, Northcross Mall
Norris Conference Center – Red Oak Ballroom
9 AM – 2 PM
Doors open 8:30 AM for registration
Light breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Go to Age of Austin for more information.

Sept 14: Take somone you care about to the Health Festival on Sunday

NOTE: NEW DATE SUNDAY SEPT 28. POSTPONED DUE TO IKE.

(This one’s for my people.)

Entre los adultos mexicoamericanos, un 31.6 por ciento de los hombres y un 34.4 por ciento de las mujeres tiene enfermedades cardiovasculares.

The good news is, there are lots of ways to avoid heart disease. Want to know more?

Head up to the Travis County Expo Center next Sunday, September 14, for the Hispanic Health Festival, from noon to 6 p.m. It’s free, and they’ll offer health screenings such as these:

  • Glucose (diabetes)
  • Blood pressure
  • BMI testing  

Plus they’ll have the usual children’s activities and live music, and Mexican food!!!!!

(Here’s where I have to chime in: In the flyer they actually called it “heart-healthy Mexican food,” as if regular Mexican food isn’t heart healthy. Well, I think it actually is…. or it was until anglos starting shaking cheese all over it. And sour cream… what Mexican eats sour cream like that? I grew up eating Mexican food three times a day, and about the only non-healthy, heart clogging thing we ate was avocados, when we could afford them. Of course, we ate plenty of non-Mexican food, too, which didn’t help in the health department. We used to call that “American” food. When’s the festival featuring “heart-healthy American food,” for the anglos? What would they do, make healthy versions of hot dogs and apple pie? Or meatloaf and Twinkies?)

Anyway…

They also need volunteers at the festival, which could be fun. See this Craig’s List ad for details.

I can see some of us grabbing our parents – Hispanic or not – and taking them up there for the fun part, then walking them over for that glucose screening they’ve been meaning to get. (Hint, hint, Scott.)

Sponsors for the event include St. David’s HealthCare, Seton Hospitals, Amerigroup Community Care, LCRA and AstraZeneca, in addition to Austin’s Univision media outlets.

Check it out.

How to be a young, nonprofit board member

You’re young – in your 20s or 30s. You’ve recently started on your professional path. Maybe you’re new to Austin. And you’ve decided that you want to get involved, but seriously involved – like at the board level. What next? 

 

Hal Meyer, Ronda Rutledge, Heather Davies Bernard, Heather McKissick and Abby Williamson

Hal Meyer, Ronda Rutledge, Heather Davies Bernard, Heather McKissick and Abby Williamson

More than 25 people attended the Greenlights Lunch & Learn event today at Leadership Austin, which included a panel discussion on the merits of young board members to nonprofits and what it takes to become one. Panelists included Heather Davies Bernard, a young, Sustainable Food Center board member; Hal Meyer, a young-at-heart Any Baby Can board member; Heather McKissick, the new president and CEO of Leadership Austin; Ronda Rutledge, executive director of Sustainable Food Center; and Abby Williamson, communications for People’s Community Clinic, serving as moderator. Mary Alice Carnes of Greenlights was hostess.

Here are some notes from the panel discussion. 

Fulfilling the financial commitment

The panel seemed to agree that having younger people on the board did not negatively affect the organization financially. Rutledge said that young people seem to be as connected as older board members, “They have so many people at their fingertips, and they bring them to the organization.” Bernard agreed, saying that when she sought out a board, the financial commitment was one gauge by which she would make her decision. “My husband and I are not yet in the position to write the checks we want to write in our hearts.” Later, Bernard brought up that social networking sites actually increased the number of her connections exponentially. 

McKissick of Leadership Austin weighed in, saying “I’m not underestimating the spending power of this group.” She noted that some young professionals don’t hesitate to spend $75 in one night at a restaurant.So that the financial commitments of board service shoulnd’t scare them away. (Comment from the crowd: “Hmmm, beer or board?”)

Both Any Baby Can and Sustainable Food Center ask board members to make a financial commitment, framed as a “give and get” – meaning the board member gives some and seeks out the rest in donations. At Sustainable Food Center, board members are responsible for $250 personally and $750 to “get.” Any Baby Can board members must raise $2000 in the same way. “We try to give them a number of ideas for ways to do this,” said Meyer.

Finding a good fit

McKissick offered a rule of thumb for young people trying to find their role on a board: “Don’t do your day job.”

“I think that some people assume that, because they’re an accountant during the day, then that’s what they should do for their board.” She said a person should instead consider taking on a role that matches an outside interest, say PR or leading a committee. “It works out great that way. They’re interested. They’re committed.” 

Bernard, the young board member, agreed. She told the story of how she first met Rutledge, Sustainable Food Center executive director, and went on and on about her outside interests. “Okay, I’m a lawyer, but forget about that.” 

“I had a sense I should choose something that would stimulate my other interests,” said Bernard. 

How to get on a nonprofit board

The panel offered a number of ways to get started. 

McKissick: “Apply to the Leadership Austin Emerge program! Find a way to connect with the community so that you learn more about what your passion is. What lights you up when it comes to community?”

Rutledge: “Attend a Greenlights board workshop. You can even attend a nonprofit board meeting. They’re supposed to be open to the public.” (GC suggests you contact the executive director ahead of time to politely invite yourself and express your interest.)

Bernard: “Talk to people. Look at Facebook and LinkedIn and get introduced. Then take that person to coffee and just pick their brain.”

Meyer: “If someone has never been on a board and doesn’t have experience with the organization, they should volunteer. It’s an excellent way to take that first step toward being on the board.”

What Austin kids should know by kindergarten – and almost half don’t

My 5-month-old daughter "reading"

My 5-month-old daughter

On the I Live Here, I Give Here site this month, the highlight is education. Here’s a disturbing number:

The sad truth is that a whopping 40 percent of children entering kindergarten in our community – the majority of whom live in poverty – are 12 to 18 months behind developmentally.

I have a preschooler (and an infant, Olivia, picture above, “reading”), and since he entered daycare a year ago, my husband and I have done little things here and there to prepare him for kindergarten. As he is my first child – and I didn’t go to kindergarten nor would I remember much about it, if I had – I really don’t know what he needs to know by kindergarten. But we’re working on the basics: his alphabet, some reading, counting to 100, shapes, colors, science, calculus… (no, not calculus. maybe a little trig.)

So what does it mean to be “12 to 18 months” behind? What does being prepared for kindergarten mean?

One collaborative effort lead by United Way Captial Area is called “Success by 6,” as in six years old. One of their guidelines for success is a document called “Austin Vision for School Readiness.” It lists a number of emotional, intellectual and health goals for children entering kindergarten. Here are some of the skills children should demonstrate by kindergarten:  

· Children are able to communicate ideas, interests, needs, and understandings in their native language.
· Children can tell or retell a story that is read or told to them.
· Children know some songs and rhymes
· Children show an interest in books and are familiar with basic book conventions such as how to turn the pages of a book.
· Children recognize some environmental print, for example “McDonalds”
· Children recognize and name some letters
· Children scribble or pretend to write
· Children can distinguish between and label basic shapes: square, rectangle, circle, and triangle.
· Children can distinguish between objects that are the same or different.
· Children have basic understandings of size and quantity relationships – big/small, bigger/smaller, more/ less.
· Children can sort objects into basic categories by color or other common
shared characteristic.
· Children can count at least three objects.
· Children use their senses to describe and learn about the world.

So are you telling me that 40 percent of Austin children entering kindergarten next week do not have all of these skills? I don’t mean to sound so shocked nor do I mean to offend, but for those of you who don’t have children, I’m telling you: The pre-K kids I know have these skills. My son is four years old and he has these skills, and it’s not because he’s a prodigy. These are basic.

SO what to do?

1. Give money, obviously. One place to start is the United Way, which funds a number of specific programs – not nonprofits, but programs – with measurable results. Other things you can do…

2. Donate preschool level booksto Eastside churches, preschools, and libraries
3. Volunteer to read to kids at the library and People’s Community Clinic
4. If you know any struggling families or single moms with preschoolers and toddlers, offer to help the mom once in a while to give her more energy to read to her kids
5. Read to your kids.We make it a special trip when we go to the bookstore or library. Sam thinks books are a treat. He insists on reading at least three every night. We act like he’s a hotshot when he reads a word by himself (Most recent scary reading moment: him reading “Google” in the top-left corner of my browser window, over my shoulder.) We read the comics to him.

You get the idea. We’re not the best parents in the world, these are just the tricks that we use.

One more suggestion: Turn off the TV (after the Olympics are over). There’s stuff we can do, people!

Working moms volunteer more!

I just find this data on national volunteering rates so interesting. From the Corporation for National & Community Service report, Volunteering in America 2007:

  • About 29% of women volunteered last year, compared with about 23% of men.
  • Women with children have a higher rate of volunteering than those without.
  • Women who work have the highest volunteer rate.
  • Volunteers watch an average of 15 hours TV a week, non-volunteers watch an average of 23 hours a week.
  • People who live in mid-size cities are more likely to volunteer than people who live in big cities.
  • More people volutneer for religious causes than any other cause; runner-up is educational causes.
  • About 6% of all volunteers did volunteer work at least 120 miles from their homes (think Hurricane Katrina volunteers)
  • One out of every three people who volutneered in 2006 did not do so again in 2007.

And that last one is important. It’s great to bring new people to the volunteer crew, but if they don’t come back next year, maybe the experience wasn’t so great the first time. It’s all about having that satisfying volunteer experience, isn’t it?

Working women must have really satisfying volunteer experiences… I wonder where they’re volunteering?

Michael wants to give away $78 million

A series of very worthwhile posts going on in the Freakonomics blog at nytimes.com…. a philanthropy consultant is trying to teach Michael, a born-and-raised multi-millionaire, what poverty is.

In this post, Michael is paired with Curtis, a very low-income man living on the South Side of Chicago. The consultant has given both Michael and Curtis $20 to live on for the weekend. Curtis has learned to make it work, but Michael… not so much.

By 5 p.m. Curtis had made his first two purchases: frozen chicken wings and a can of beans ($4.75); a T-shirt and pair of socks from a vendor on the street ($2.00).

Meanwhile, Michael drove his rental car around the neighborhood. When he returned to meet us he was exasperated. “The food here is awful! No fruit, vegetables are moldy. Only meat, canned food, and soda. What do kids eat? The guy at the store told me no one would eat fruit unless it’s in a can. Is that true?”

Curtis shook his head. I told Michael, “When we get back to New York, I will talk with you about diet and quality of food availability in poor neighborhoods.”

But Michael was growing upset. “All I see are liquor stores and dollar stores and fast food. There was one guy who said he’d buy my food stamps — 50 cents for a dollar in stamps? How can people live like this?”

It’s really funny. Not poverty, no. What’s funny is Michael. Not all of us can identify with Curtis, but we can’t really identify with Michael either in that he has no concept of what food costs. (He couldn’t tell Curtis how much a banana costs, for example.)

It’s worth reading about Michael’s experience. It would be easy to blow him off as some out-of-touch millionaire who’s biggest problem in life is what to do with $78 million. WAIT. That’s what he is, actually.

Okay, it would be easy to blow him off. But how many of us know what it’s like to be as poor as Curtis? Michael isn’t the only one.

Yesterday’s homeless news… not so true

If you didn’t get my skeptcism in yesterday’s post, you might have overlooked this clue: It started with the phrase, “According to the Bush administration.” The  New York Times had reported that chronic homelessness in the United States had gone down 30% between 2005 and 2007.

Thirty percent is a lot. And it’s really a lot in just a two-year span. I thought it best to ask Alan Graham of Austin’s Mobile Loaves and Fishes what he thought of this news. Here’s what he told me in an e-mail:

Absolute unmitigated horse hooey!  If it appears to be too good to be true then that is usually the case. Manipulation of the numbers at best…dishonesty at worst. This is not true anywhere and especially not here in Austin.

Later, when I asked him whether Austin has made much progress in eliminating chronic homelessness, which is part of an official 10-year plan, here’s what he said:

In terms of the chronic homeless population not much.  Our Habitat on Wheels development is really the only significant development designed to tackle this issue of chronic homelessness.  We can say this or we say that but the only real long-term solution is to create PERMANENT housing for this particular population on the housing first model.  I am not aware that any have been created.

Remember MLF’s effort to build those homes and that community for the chronic homeless? Last I heard, the nearby neighborhood had pitched a little fit about it, and the city was re-examining locations and strategies.

Last I heard about homelessness, though, it really wasn’t going away. See today’s blog post from MLF:

What a crazy morning it was. There were at least 50 people in need this morning.  I helped at least 7 new people in my line this morning. All my hot water for Cocoa was gone, of course no more coffee. All cans of soup were taken and no more sandwiches. I had no extra shirts and only a few pants and shorts left over. I am humbled by the need on the streets as weekly the homeless come to me with their needs.

How we wish the news had been true.