April 1, 2010 in City

A precious investment

Children’s fund among this year’s top efforts
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Marilee Roloff, chairwoman of this year’s Our Kids: Our Business effort, visits with Crosswalk Early Head Start program children, left to right, Gabe Watson, 2, Eddie Taylor IV, 3, Clementine Share-Pettit, 1, and Hymilee Summers, 1.
(Full-size photo)

Award recipients

The Spokane Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Council sponsored the Our Kids: Our Business kickoff breakfast Friday. The council presented awards to four businesses with family-friendly outreach and practices:

•FLSmidth Rahco, a global engineering firm with offices in Spokane, offers a paid day off for employees who volunteer in the community. The company’s major volunteer effort this year: helping St. Margaret’s, a Spokane shelter for women and children. They worked on the shelter’s community garden. They also donated money for a playground, and company engineers assembled it.

•Clinkerdagger Restaurant in Spokane has served a free gourmet Thanksgiving meal to homeless and low-income adults and children for 20 years. The restaurant has sought innovative ways for restaurants to help feed the hungry, including the Take a Bite out of Hunger campaign and Feed Spokane. They also sponsor home remodels for low-income residents.

•River Ridge Hardware & Rental in north Spokane hosts an annual Halloween neighborhood party; 1,000 children stopped by last Halloween. They also donate to schools and youth organizations and role-model care for the elderly, including the homebound, by delivering items from the store (birdseed is especially popular).

•Heiskell MacGillivray & Associates, a Spokane accounting firm, offers flexible schedules and the option of working from home so that employees can meet emergency and nonemergency family needs. The firm’s philosophy: Employees should have work-life balance at every stage of their lives.

Events fill monthlong campaign

Here’s a sample of Our Kids: Our Business events this month. For a complete list, go to spokesman.com/ourkids.

Mock DUI Crash. A simulated car crash to raise awareness of the impact of impaired driving by teens. April 8 from 9 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. North Central High School, 1600 N. Howard St. Free. Contact Chuck Filippini at charlesf@spokaneschools.org.

Our Kids: Our Business Breakfast 2010. April 14 at 8 a.m. The Coeur d’Alene Resort. Speaker: Public interest activist Jason Sabo. Cost: $15. Contact Caryl Johnston at caryl@kootenaiunitedway.org.

Pinwheels in the Park. Eastern Washington Association for the Education of Young Children will share creative projects for children. April 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Franklin Park, 302 W. Queen Ave. Free.

Our Kids: Our Business Capstone Lunch. Speakers: Gary Livingston, retiring as chancellor of the Community Colleges of Spokane, and Bill Robinson, retiring as president of Whitworth University. April 21 at 11:30 a.m. Spokane Convention Center. Cost: $30. Contact Janice Marich at janicem@unitedwayspokane.org.

Our Kids: Our Business turns 3 today.

It began April 1, 2007, as a collaborative approach to prevent child abuse and neglect in the Inland Northwest. About 30 social service agencies and media organizations came together, united by the desire to help children grow into healthy adults.

Now, the Our Kids: Our Business e-mail list includes nearly 300 individuals and agencies. Sometimes, the monthly Our Kids meetings run out of room at the table. The list of Our Kids events, available at spokesman.com/ourkids, fills seven pages when printed out.

Mary Ann Murphy, executive director of Partners with Families and Children: Spokane, says: “We wanted Our Kids: Our Business to be the umbrella that unites all the good work everyone is doing for children. We didn’t want to be yet a new program copying what already existed. We wanted to unite all that exists. I think it’s done that.”

This year’s theme: Invest in kids.

“We ignore this investment at our peril,” said Marilee Roloff, president and CEO of Volunteers of America and this year’s Our Kids chairwoman. “When we say invest, we mean all kinds of investment. Obviously, invest money. But just as important is our time, our vote, our voices.”

This year’s main project: collecting enough signatures from registered Spokane voters to place on the August ballot a Children’s Investment Fund. Modeled after similar successful levies in Portland, Seattle and Miami, it would raise $5 million a year for programs that prepare kids for school and help them stay there.

There are nearly three dozen Our Kids: Our Business events in April, designed to educate citizens to children’s needs and raise awareness about community resources that help children. Adults will be encouraged to invest in children’s well-being in opportunities large and small.

Jonah Edelman, of Portland, is the CEO of Stand for Children, a grass-roots children’s advocacy organization. He was the Our Kids kickoff breakfast speaker Friday in Spokane. He shared an example of one small opportunity to help a child that had larger implications about societal attitudes toward all children.

Edelman was in a crowded airplane that was delayed on the runway. After the plane finally took off, a baby wailed in the back. Edelman asked the mom if he could help. The baby’s bottle was empty. He approached the flight attendant who was beginning the beverage service at the front of the plane. He asked for milk for the baby. She told him the baby needed to wait for the beverage cart. She was sorry, she told Edelman, but there was nothing she could do.

“We live in a culture that allows that,” Edelman said. “But things can change when people step up.”

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