Give Us Wings

ACORN Ideas and Issues International Personal Writings

Minneapolis        Timing is everything, so while in the Twins for the Association Board, Kevin Whelan, a long time staff member, let me now that Give Us Wings was having its annual gala.  I jumped at the chance to get to attend and see how Mary Steiner, his mother, had assembled the support for the last 9 years for support in a number of rural communities in Uganda and Kenya.

    Quite impressive!  50 tables holding almost 500 people had a great dinner in the Alumni building that was architecturally amazing.  Film clips powerfully showed the progress in running water pipes, dealing with health and education programs, and increasing income in the area.  

    GUW understood their audience perfectly.  They wanted to put a human face on each dollar raised.  They converted the pledges to how many children would have school fees paid or how many houses would be built or water piped in.  And, it works.  The pledges tend to go past $100,000 and the overall fundraising budget for this one event goes north of $150,000 providing almost all of the money to support their program in these four communities.  This is a people-to-people affair rather than a corporate sponsor’s photo opp.  
    I wondered looking at the almost all white Minneapolis crowd rather this is phenomenon isolated to these very generous citizens in this community and the bonds that Steiner and her staff have forged with them or could happen elsewhere.  Would other communities come together this way to support small projects in Africa?  Does this happen elsewhere?  Anywhere?  

    Give Us Wings knew their people in the Twins and made this happen, but as I left in the cool spring evening with Sunday Alabi, one of our senior leaders, and Zach Polett, ACORN’s chief of staff, we were talking about ACORN in Nigeria, his own homeland, and wondering if we could catch this lightening in our bottle elsewhere.