Pray for Ukraine

When I was 18 I went to Russia. It was 1983 and before the Berlin Wall fell and communist kleptocracy that was the old Soviet Block came crashing down.  Like most 18 year olds I was spoiled and had a very US-centric view of the world. When I came home, I was a very patriotic, very thankful young person with a much deeper knowledge of the special place and time God chose to place me on this earth.

One of the highlights of the trip was Kiev.   It’s a lovely, old city with onion domes as well as European architecture and I remember it felt more like Vienna than Moscow. The Red University stands out in memory because it’s actually red.

kiev-shevchenkouniv

But the real highlight was the people. I remember them correcting us when we said we were excited to be visiting the Soviet Union, they preferred to think of themselves as Ukrainian, not Soviet and certainly not Russian.  They talked about how close they were to central Europe and you could tell, longed to focus their society to the west, not the east.

Now, 30 years later, Kiev is torn apart by violence. Those desires of the people to face west have run afoul, again, of the old guard tied to the colonial influence of Moscow. I am certain that the leadership in The Ukraine and the leadership in Moscow have no intention of loosening their grip. And the will of the people is clearly unwilling to return to the status quo. This could get much worse before it gets better for the people of The Ukraine. Please add them to your prayers and maybe drop a donation off for their support. See Twitter for the latest.

 

 

 

End of the Year Giving Ideas…

So we’re coming in on the end of another year. If you are thinking of making a little bit more of an impact this year, consider an end of the year gift to one of these social movements in Huntsville, they are all amazing. Want to add one, just post it here.

  • Village Marketplace, Inc. – A 501(C)(3) Organization located in Lincoln Village area just north of downtown. VMP is engaged in 1) providing employment for people who can work but need a good first (or recovery) job; 2) providing low-cost goods to the neighborhood and 3) providing long-term funding to three local charities: Boys & Girls Club, Lincoln Academy and Village of Promise. Donate by donating material or your time to the store. Talk to Marisa Suarez-Stearns at the store.
  • Boys & Girls Club – What an amazing ministry! There are clubs all over the county serving kids with after school care, summer programs and all sorts of homework help, transportation, meals, mentors and basically a whole support system for a group of kids that really depend on them.  My friend Lisa Downs is involved with them as an education coordinator. Pat Wynn is the Director and a powerful advocate for the kids.  Several other close friends have served on their board including Jodi Adams, Bill Fowler and I am sure more I don’t know about. They do good work. Donate here. 
  • Lincoln Academy – A Christian school located in the Lincoln Village area just north of downtown. My Dad went there in the 30s when the Lincoln Mill was still operating. Since then the neighborhood went way down and was the scene of depravity and poverty and hopelessness.  Then, in 2005 some crazy people from Southwood Church lead by their chief crazy person my friend Mark Stearns began to pour into the area pledging to do whatever it took to drag the people out of the darkness that was overtaking their world. It worked, now they own the school and it’s a center of hope and excellence. Give till it hurts folks, these amazing people are changing lives every day down there.
  • Village of Promise – So Bobby Bradley grew up in the neighborhood, graduated from Butler High School and Vanderbilt University. She’s a smart, focused, dedicated business person and that talent allowed her to build a big company and then to sell it. Now, refocused on her home town, she’s determined to break the cycle of generational poverty in the University Place Elementary School area. She’s gathering support and supporters (and Board Members like me) to work on a data-driven, strategic initiative to tutor, mentor and otherwise push 1700+/- kids into college and into a better life.  Donate here.
  • Randolph School – The only K-12 Independent School in North Alabama, Randolph is the leading primary and secondary educational institution in the area. As a Trustee of the school and an alumnus it’s my sincere belief that no organization can do more to advance the pursuit of excellence in primary education in the area. As part of an effort to take that leadership role Randolph has established the Randolph School Community Learning Fund with the Community Foundation of Huntsville/Madison County.  It’s a great way to donate to the School and to focus those funds on an effort that benefits the whole city.  Donate here.
  • Land Trust of Huntsville & North Alabama – Driving east from the airport into Huntsville you see the city nestled against the rolling green hills of the lower cumberland plateau.  Those hills overlooking the town are for the most part undeveloped, creating a nearly unbroken “emerald necklace” surrounding the city’s downtown. That land, plus more than 5000 acres in three counties, was preserved by the Land Trust. It’s still today offering one of the best Urban Trail systems in the country because of the tireless advocacy of the Land Trust.  Want to help? Sign up for the Land Baron’s program that deducts a small amount from your account each month earmarked solely for the purchase of open space.
  • The Nature Conservancy – The Conservancy is the Land Trust writ large. The Conservancy has a big presence in Alabama and I joined the State Board of Trustees this year. I can’t say enough about the professionalism and dedication of their staff. Wow. The lands in Paint Rock Valley all the way down the Cahaba and the Coosa down into the Delta where Alabama spreads out to meet the Gulf. The lands and micro-habitats preserved by the Conservancy maintain the very life that makes up our world, and is so additive to our own experience in ways that we don’t fully understand.  Donate by becoming a member, it’s easy and cheap. If everyone I know did this we’d live in a measurably better State and you won’t miss a small auto-debit each month.

There’s too much going on right now at Solid Earth, Inc.!

Two announcements in one day is heavy for us. But, there’s another one! About 400 brokers in the Birmingham area are getting notices today that the Spring MLS API has been released for GreaterAlabamaMLS.com. For the first time ever, broker members can signup for an API key and interact with the MLS real time. Post here for more information and look for an Early Adopter announcement Monday. Innovation is cool! See more at www.solidearth.com

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Villagemarketplace is closed today.

One of our staff was assaulted while taking her baby into Jackson Way daycare by the child’s father. He’s psycho and not stable. Pray for healing for all involved, especially this lost and misguided little shit who hurt his baby’s momma. Hope he has a looooonnnngg time think about it in the poky. Very soon. Today preferably.

 

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Marion Wright Edelman, or how to Fix Your Own Truck

So I have lots of conservative friends.  Dyed in the wool Republicans who hunt and fish and love America and barbecue and Bear Bryant as much as they love their mamas.  The idea of accepting a handout to them is about as foreign as sushi.  They are self-sufficient to a fault.  They will fix their own truck even if they posses no mechanical aptitude.  Because it’s bad form for another man to be messing with your truck.

What does that have to do with Dr Edelman?  I doubt she has a truck.  But she does know something about self-sufficiency and that’s a value system that I understand, that my guys understand and that the South understands.  When there is a problem, she set out to fix it herself.  She didn’t rely on someone else.  She didn’t wait on Washington, or Chicago, to fix the problems.  She just created a solution.  Her, and about a million friends.

We have a problem in Huntsville.  A really big problem.  There are schools in the north and west side of the city. that have not been successful in 20 or 30 years.  Elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.  A school with a 45% graduation rate is like a cancer in the neighborhood.  Or like a neutron bomb.  Remember those?  They were nuclear bombs that would leave the structures mostly intact but destroy all life.  Failing schools are like that and the good people of Huntsville have allowed this situation to exist for years.  For decades.

So what would a good ole boy do about that?  They’d insist on a government program to come in and remedy the situation!  Of course they would!  We know they just want more Washington DC in their lives!

No.  No they wouldn’t.  They’d do it themselves.  They’d see the problem, decide on a solution and get to it.

That’s what we’re doing at Village of Promise.  We saw a problem (failing schools) and we acted.

But first, because we’ve actually been successful ourselves, we stopped and thought about it.  We traveled to New York and Atlanta and St Louis and everywhere in between.  We met national leaders and brought them to Huntsville to see our schools and tell us how they have affected change in their cities.  We brought education reformer Geoffrey Canada to Huntsville and learned how he’s changed Harlem. We’ve partnered with the City Schools and we work with them, inside the school buildings.  But we’re not willing to wait for someone to fix it for us.  As Geoffrey said “no one is coming to save your children”.  If they are to be saved from generational poverty, we will have to do it.

Dr Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund have taken this approach.  They work with government and schools every day, and they also overlay their own programs on top of the school’s programs to fill in the wide gaps that exist in the inconsistent fabric that is American public education.  That’s what Village of Promise is all about.  Finding the failing schools (did that), learning from the best in the field (doing that) and making a difference in our own neighborhoods, doing Whatever it Takes to pull the next generation out of the cycle.

With your help, Huntsville can avoid the fate of Montgomery’s public schools.  Of Mobile’s public schools and Memphis public schools and so many other cities around the south where everyone who can goes to private school and the public schools get what’s left.  That’s not the Rocket City.  That’s not the Huntsville I know.  How can you help? You can donate to your favorite politician who says they have the solution, or you can donate to Village of Promise where essentially all of your money goes into educational programing.

You can also sponsor a table at the next Village of Promise speaker event where Dr Edelman will tell us about the Children’s Defense Fund and it’s work, and about the Freedom Schools.  See www.villagepromise.com for details.  I know who reads this blog so I will be calling for your sponsorship.

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