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March 31, 2014

Black United Fund: Record of Contribution Speaks Volumes

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Written by: Hermene Hartman
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In recent weeks, we have watched as the Sun-Times commits character assassination against highly respected people in the most cunning ways. Bottom line, the front page “Thug in Quinn anti-violence program accused in teen’s murder” article only aids an elected official like David Reis, to put forth House Bill 6011 to “halt any remaining Fiscal Year funding to the NRI program,” now under the direction of the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority.

In our neighborhoods, Quinn’s speedy move to curb violence in partnership with trusted nonprofits was an essential move in 2012. Halting any remaining Fiscal Year 2014 funding to ICJIA will stop grants associated with Chicago’s community-based violence prevention programs and after school programs. The translation is, discontinue funding that puts our youth and others in productive programs. This type of reporting has the consumer and lots of Sun-Times readers exposed to and repeating over and over erroneous statements without the full picture, which nobody seems to have bothered to get from the State audit.

N’DIGO took the opportunity to reach out to the State to examine the Illinois Auditor General’s audit of the $54.55 million in NRI funding. This is what we found in association with the allegations from the 2012 Report of the Illinois Auditor General that has literally gone “viral” throughout print and electronic news media. Governor Quinn’s adversaries are claiming “Auditors questioned 40 percent of spending in the NRI program.” The truth of the matter is, on page 98 of the audit, it clearly states that 40 percent of $4,398,462 (totaling $1,771,522) in Closeout Expenses over a two year period is being questioned. This is 40 percent of a line item – not the entire budget. The two organizations that went out of business could not be reached and account for 38 percent of the questioned funds ($673,674).

Deduct their amounts from the total and you get $1,097,848 or 25% of the line item as legitimately in question. Out of a total NRI budget of $54.5 million, the real amounts questioned range from the former (3.25%) to the latter (2.01%), not the headline grabbing 40% we keep hearing about in the press.

A critical concern to all of us should be the unjustified attack of Black United Fund of Illinois, Inc. The unfortunate death of a youth previously in the BUFI 2012 NRI program, targeted in part to help at-risk youth to be directed into jobs, school and other productive activities, is a tragedy for the entire city, but in is no way directly associated with BUFI.

“Of the 160 youth BUFI hired and mentored in the 2011- 2012 NRI Mentoring + Jobs program, more than 80% completed the program. Of the remaining 20%, many left the program early for college or job opportunities. Over half of the youth either went on to enroll in school or land permanent jobs–some of them even deciding to become youth mentors themselves,” says Henry English, President & CEO of BUFI. In addition BUFI has a track-record over the past few years of positively serving 4,000 youth through various programs. For the last ten years that number exceeds 10,000 youth. One life lost is too many but the fact remains that youth without work are more likely to have a direct association with violence than those who do. Our youth must work and it is the State’s responsibility to provide training and experience partnering with organizations like BUFI.

What we must do as consumers of information and voters at this point is question everything that might prevent our youth from work and training. Let’s be vigilant in our work to have funds for our youth for jobs be increased, not decreased. Certainly any agency not delivering should not be funded, but let’s work to increase the opportunities for youth to work year-round, and not just during the summer.

I am sure you get the message, but I cannot emphasize enough, BUFI has managed programs and been the fiscal agent for millions of dollars, and has not misplaced a nickel of those dollars in 29 years. Henry L. English, the BUFI President & CEO and the esteemed Board of Directors do an excellent job. The organization does not operate solely from grants, but also from payroll deductions many Blacks and other employees of the federal, state, county, city and corporate entities give to support BUFI and approximately thirty (30) other Illinois non-profits under its federation. Again, BUFI has been responsibly managing millions.

BUFI has a long history of consistently effective programs addressing youth violence, including years of work with the US Attorney’s Office, the Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Juvenile Detention system and a state-wide network of social service agencies. The organization coordinates comprehensive services for hundreds of young people and their families.

One tragic death of a misguided youth has left a family, friends and community overwhelmed by the inability to help him. He was a young man on the wrong path when he came into the program, like many of the youth BUFI works with. But let’s have an appreciation for the 9,999 or so others who found their direction and saw examples of community contribution and service while in those programs.

Let’s focus on the great things Black United Fund of Illinois has been doing for 29 years. There are too many to list here. I encourage you to take a look. Connect on Facebook or Twitter; mention something good if you have personal experience. Let’s change the story and slant it toward truth and success. Some may know of the Living Legends/ Passing the Torch© Awards Benefit, which showcases in a positive way those giving back to the community. Many neighborhood residents are currently taking advantage of the Residential Retrofit Energy Efficiency Program to make their homes more energy efficient or the Home Energy Auditor Training Program to gain marketable job skills in the energy sector, both free programs. Let’s find out and talk more about these.

What’s important for us all to know is the NRI no longer exists as it was highlighted in the Auditor’s report. It has been revamped and given a new funding source. BUFI remains a fiscal manager of granted funds and collaborates with partners to train, educate and prepare our community for productivity and economic stability.

Not only do we support the program, now with the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, we all should be demanding that funds for this type of program be increased and run by BUFI.



About the Author

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Hermene Hartman
Hermene Hartman serves as President and CEO of the Chicago-based, Hartman Publishing Group, INC. NDIGO, was founded in 1989 and is a significant voice in Chicago. Hartman provides social commentary on WVAZ's 102.7 radio Monday - Friday at 9:15 a.m. She is an author and appears as a guest on TV with commentary. Ms. Hartman is the founder of The NDIGO Foundation, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization, which began in 1995, for the sole purpose of raising funds for educational pursuits.




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