A Serious, Complicated, and Disruptive Force

Written by:  James Todd, MCCOY board member and retired IMPD Officer
 Domestic violence is a serious, complicated, and disruptive force on families

and their children. Sports can have a positive influence on the lives of
young people, but lately some major professional sports organizations have
had some bad times regarding their treatment of the issue of domestic violence
among their team members. As unfortunate as these incidents are,
this is also an opportunity to shine a light on this important social problem.
Here are some steps I would like to see all professional sports organizations
do in response to the recent spate of domestic violence issues. This
would be a way to pay for past mistakes and begin to establish a sense of
social responsibility for the future.!
1) I would like to see an independent study to compare rates of DV in the professional sports world with that of the general population. I wonder if the rate is the same, higher, or lower. This would be useful information.
2) I would like to see Public Service Announcements broadcast during every game, paid for by the organization. These PSA’s should:
  • Denounce domestic violence as criminal behavior, and unacceptable in a professional organization.
  • Provide information about DV hotlines and services so that victims would have access to them and begin the process of escape.
  • Refer perpetrators of DV to organizations that can help them to learn to stop abusing.
3) I would like to see the same steps repeated in the collegiate and high school sports communities. This is where the pros come from, and if there is going to be a true shift in perception it must begin early.
All professional sports organizations in America have an opportunity and an
obligation to make something good come from these recent events. This
seems to me to be a pretty good place to start.! !
James Todd!
Sergeant IMPD (retired)

My Craigslist Car and the Poverty Cycle

I bought my ’98 Cavalier for just over $1000 on Craigslist. 

This is the first car I can truly call my own; I saved up the money, put in several hours of research, and met with the previous owner in a Dollar General parking lot to exchange my hard-earned cash for a set of wheels. 
When I first got my license, my trial vehicle was our beat up baby-blue family van that eventually stuttered to a permanent stop on a back road in my hometown when I turned 17.  Dad gave me his work truck after that, which was totaled when a middle-aged woman T-boned me on 16th street.  I then acquired a retired police Chevy Impala with the insurance money, and later sold it when my meager bank account began to dwindle. 

I took IndyGo bus 25 from home to work to school and back home for half a year.  I thought of my bus rides as hour-long adventures, prime people watching.  I made friends with the regulars; I became a regular.  However, I grew sick of the hard, plastic seats and the lack of air conditioning in many of the buses.  I hated the way some businessmen and women looked at the bus stop with loathing—some even crossed the street to avoid us.  And I couldn’t help but to feel like a stranger to the people who stood waiting with me.  Here were people who pushed old grocery carts with their belongings around the city.  Here were young mothers nursing their crying babies in the middle of a crowded bus.  Here were middle-aged women with aprons who went to work an hour early every day and left an hour late every evening.  I, on the other hand, am a student from a lower middle-class family who will likely never know the true struggles of a poverty-level life. 

When I bought my Chevy Cavalier, although it was old with high mileage, I couldn’t help but to feel a sense of empowerment—that I was moving up in the world, and that I deserved this car.  I needed it; I wanted to go places on my own time.  I was no longer going to stand riding on that gross bus anymore.

So this weekend when I took my beloved car to the auto shop and they told me the repairs might cost upwards of $800 dollars, I lost it.  I make under poverty-level income as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and that $800 dollars is a full month of payHow can I afford to fix my car and pay my rent?  Groceries?  Utilities?  My phone bill?  Many of my days begin at 8 a.m. and end at 9 p.m. with school and work, and I can’t fathom how a bus will fit into that equation.  Plus, I love my car.  I love the freedom of driving it to my buddy’s place on the weekends, and my favorite picnic spot for lunch.  My mother sent me a text earlier that said, Please tell us how much this will cost.  We can help pay.  In the meantime, we can drive you to and from work. My boyfriend’s family offered to let me drive their extra Ford Focus while my car gets repaired.  Everyone I talked to this weekend offered up their support in one way or another, sometimes at the expense of their own comfort.

My panic subsided this morning as I drove the borrowed Ford Focus to work.  The ride is so smooth, and unlike my Cavalier I didn’t hear the roar of the muffler every time I accelerated.  I won’t have to ride the bus after all.  I am so thankful for the family and friends who will help support me, and for the money that I can eventually save up to buy a nice vehicle.  But in the back of my mind, I think about all the bus-goers who travel to minimum-wage jobs, and who might not have a solid support system.  Where is the fairness in that?  I am lucky enough to have help out of a tough situation because I’m not stuck in the cycle of poverty.  I chose a job that puts me at poverty-level income for a year, but I still have my family to fall back on, my student waivers, my friends and loved ones who are more than willing to lend a hand. 

Here’s the bottom line: I work as a VISTA because I want to decrease the disparity between classes. I know firsthand the struggles of being without a car, and I don’t want to go back.  Many Indianapolis residents have no choice.  

My challenge to readers is this: next time you walk past a bus stop, try not to stigmatize.  Imagine yourself without a vehicle, and with no means of getting your hands on another.  Imagine the lack of freedom that comes with this, the weight of the groceries that you must carry from stop to stop. 

How do you help?  Sometimes a simple smile will do, or any small show of support.  If you find yourself truly passionate about making a change, I recommend looking up AmeriCorps VISTA, whose mission is to break the cycleHere’s a link: www.nationalservice.gov/program/americorps/americorps-vista

Numbers don’t lie

I saw a couple different news stories this week which show how having resources makes all the difference.

The Federal Reserve last week reported that “the shares of income and wealth held by affluent families are at a modern historically high level.  The numbers show that the top 10% of earners take home almost half (47.3%) of all income, while the remaining 90% of earners take the other half (52.7%).  To make it simple (so I can understand!), 1 person gets half the apple pie to eat while 9 people have to divide up the other half amongst themselves.

Researchers have reported that the wealthiest 20% of families spend $8,000 more per year on enrichment opportunities for their child than the poorest 20% of families.  This adds up to an almost $100,000 spending gap over the course of a child’s primary and secondary school career—that is a HUGE amount.

So there is where youth development and resources intersect.  Every parent wants to provide the very best opportunities for their child and I am so glad to see that better-resourced parents are investing so significantly in their child’s growth and well-being.  But it not good enough for only the top 20% of our children to have the opportunities to fully achieve their potential.  We want ALL children to be successful–to thrive, learn, participate, and engage.  As a community, we have to find ways to make sure that happens–and that doesn’t just mean putting more resources into programs that serve children and youth.  It also means investing in parents so they become more skilled and compete for higher paying jobs.  It means having better schools so youth are well prepared and able to compete in a competitive global economy.  It means accessible and affordable healthcare for all.

Clearly, the numbers show we have the resources—-how will we direct them to bring about the greatest good for individuals and the community?  That’s where we have work to do.

September 2014: Youth Champion – Reverend Malachi Walker

Each month MCCOY shines a spotlight on hard working Youth Development Professionals and the great work they and their organizations do. This month’s interview is with Young Men, Inc.’s Executive Director Reverend Malachi Walker. Founded in 1993, Young Men, Inc. is a youth ministry dedicated to working with African-American males, ages 9-16. The ministry’s purpose is to work with young men to help them gain the skills and knowledge to succeed in life. Check out the interview below to learn more about Reverend Walker and the organization:
1)      Why did you want to go into youth ministry?
I’ve been a youth worker all my life and it started in earnest when I was a teenager. Once I grew older I got serious with God, wanted to utilize my gift with God and decided to do that in the form of youth ministry.

2)      What was your the first day at Young Men, Inc. like?
As the founder and director, I was present on the first day camp started. The experience was uplifting and a dream come true. I always wanted to work with men and this was uplifting, rewarding and exciting. Working with boys, learning how to talk and interact with them has been a learning experience

3)      What is most rewarding about working at Young Men, Inc.?
The boys that are a part of Young Men, Inc. made the decision to change their life and to live a different life than they’ve been living. They’ve found Christ and follow the knowledge and teaching they’ve been given. They listen and follow the lessons they’ve learned. They’ve turned their life around and are on the path to being successful, and to reaching their goals.

4)      What is the most challenging part of working at Young Men, Inc.?
The most challenging part is dealing with the different issues young men are facing. They face social issues and some men come from dysfunctional families. You have to deal with families and parents who may not be a good influence. You are trying to keep them on one path but their home life or neighborhood takes them on another.
5)      How has MCCOY helped Young Men, Inc succeed or grow?
After being listed in MCCOY’s Youth Activity Directory Young Men, Inc. received an increase in calls from young men interested in joining. And many young men and their families have gotten involved in the program due to the increased exposure. Since then we’ve had to do little of our own advertising or promotion.
6)      Where do you see Young Men, Inc. in five years?
I see Young Men Inc. growing, hopefully into a city or statewide program, so other cities or churches that want to work with young men can use this model of programming. I’d like to expand into a larger area of the state of Indiana.
We’d like to thank Reverend Walker for taking the time to answer our questions. For more information about Young Men, Inc. check out their website: http://www.greatcommissionchurchofgod.org/ministries/young-men-inc.