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A precious investment

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. (Colin Mulvany)
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. (Colin Mulvany)

Children’s fund among this year’s top efforts

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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