Franks, Dawn

Dawn Franks

Grady, our adopted tabby cat, came to live with us eight years ago. He had a sizable chip on his shoulder, and a look that said, “What took you so long to bring me home?”

It took a long time to smooth the chip off, but eventually he accepted 30 seconds of affection in addition to feeding time strokes he loudly demands. Over time he adopted our corgi, Casey, and now accompanies us on morning walks.

Like most cats, if you move it, add it or change it in any way, and he will know. His curiosity fuels a frequently played game of "keep out of my glass." He jumps on the table; I move the glass. He acts insulted, disappears for a short time only to reappear after my glass is back on the table. Mostly he wins, sipping on the liquid, hot or cold. Driven by curiosity, he’s the king of I wonder.

I wonder questions always possess some level of curiosity. For mere humans, such questions trigger as much doubt as fascination, bewilderment and total confusion. If you wonder long enough, you’ll stumble right into skepticism and possible surprise.

Curiosity is essential for donors who are intent on impact, determined to make a difference. Like Grady, first curiosity, then determination, stealth and investigation.

Recently, this paper published an editorial with the headline “Do not fight sensible prison-reform ideas.” Mostly addressing the status of the First Step Act of 2018, the writer admonished Congress as the swamp of politics threatens to prevent specific federal prison reforms. With a $50-million-dollar impact, it would expand the number of days a person spends in a halfway house on good behavior, ban the shackling of pregnant women and seek to confine prisoners to facilities within 500 driving miles of their families. Those sound like appropriate reforms.

Meanwhile here in Texas, we pay 3.3 billion dollars for incarceration, not including pardons and parole. That adds another 190 million dollars to the budget.

After spending that much money, why do we feel unsafe when felons, who paid their debt to society, re-enter our communities? According to a 2016 report to the Texas Legislature, 46 percent of criminals re-offend within three years of leaving prison and, as well, 62 percent of those leaving state jails. The re-entry side of the equation is not working.

Did you know, right here in Smith County, two small programs need donors like us? This is when a curious donor makes a difference.

At Goodwill of East Texas, a small program called Second Chance for Her serves women who are re-entering our community after incarceration, assisting with job readiness, counseling, soft skills training and job placement assessment. Supported by grants, donors and some funds from the Goodwill Industries of East Texas budget, they are successful at helping women in the program avoid a return to prison. Learn more about the program at http://goodwilleasttexas.com/services/second-chance-for-her.

Equally important, One Man’s Treasure, is a small organization that started serving men returning from prison to Tyler and surrounding areas in 2016. In 2017 they helped 190 men who returned to this area, providing needed clothing assistance, so they are better prepared for job searches and training. Started in Dallas in 2005 by a Kairos Prison Ministry volunteer, they have a solid track record. Learn more about the program at https://www.onemanstr.org.

How does a donor find such programs when curiosity combines with a drive for impact? Do you remember reverse phone directories? Consider help resources as a reverse directory tool in your donor toolbox. By calling 2-1-1 Texas or going online to 903-HELP.ORG, you can identify the organizations that are providing services you want to support.

Your next step is to call the organization and say, “I’d like to know more about how to be a donor.” You will soon be talking with someone who can answer your questions and make your donation count.

One newspaper article ignited my I wonder question. A little research helped me find organizations committed to changing the statistics. Don’t wait for a letter in your mailbox. Solutions abound at small and large organizations. They’re waiting on us to make a call.

Dawn Franks, CEO of Your Philanthropy, offers advising services to families, businesses and foundations to enhance the giving experience and maximize impact. She writes a blog, the YP Journal, at www.your-philanthropy.com. Comments and questions are welcome. Send to info@your-philanthropy.com.

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