19 Jan Unicorns are Jerks
It’s true. Even in the middle of a bitterly cold Indiana winter where the wind chill is as negative as the nightly news, it’s all rainbows and lollipops at the Community Foundation. We can’t help it; it’s our mission. We connect people who care with causes that matter like it’s our job—because it is! None of us are shy about sharing what we are blessed to do for a living. In a nutshell, we get to help the most generous people in our community learn how to make donations to help the most worthy organizations and people in our community…those are our rainbows and lollipops. But, the cold, hard, sparkly truth is this: Wherever you find sunshine, rainbows, and lollipops you will also find unicorns. And, unicorns are jerks!
While unicorns might be all the rage in fairytales, in reality the spiky horns extruding from their foreheads are sharp and they’ll get ya, if you’re not careful! The majestic nature of their white flowing manes does seem harmless enough, but unicorns live in the wild; therefore, they cannot be trusted to be mild-mannered and tame. Grant County discovered a unicorn in our midst last year. It was one that had been gallivanting in our community for years, but in 2015 its child poverty horn had become so sharp it couldn’t be ignored.
In fact, if not tamed, the unicorns can use their sharp horns to wreak havoc and leave a path of destruction wherever they roam. See what I mean? Even though unicorns think they’re all mysterious and whimsical, they can be real jerks sometimes.
But, there is good news. We can reduce unicorn-related injuries in Grant County and beyond. The last four weeks here at the Community Foundation prove that.
At a breakfast in early November, John Peirce—Collective Impact Consultant, spoke about the physical impact poverty can have on the brains of children. This negative impact includes a 30 MILLION word gap among children in poverty versus those who aren’t…by kindergarten. It’s mind-boggling to think about two 5 year-olds sitting next to each other in class…they probably play together at recess and call themselves best buds. But, one of those students knows 30,000,000 more words than his BFF. These kids are alike in many ways: innocent, being raised here, sitting in a tiny kindergarten chair, learning how to read. Then their paths diverge, slowly, but surely. It starts small. One student identifies that B is for Bird; but, his best friend recognizes that the right answer was really P for Pelican. Neither child did anything specifically wrong…or right. It’s socio-economic. One lives in poverty; one doesn’t. One went to preschool; one didn’t. The cost of preschool and the local waiting lists prevented both kids from having the same opportunity; one in which their brain architecture can thrive: early learning in preschool. That’s not something we want for the 33% of our children living in poverty, but it’s also not something we want for our workforce 15 years from now. Child poverty is a unicorn and he’s a jerk.
But Jim Sutter and John Earnest, local superheroes who don’t wear capes—but probably should—aren’t afraid of a challenge and have hearts the size of Texas. Both successful business men, in their own right, wanted to figure out how to open up more preschool seats in the Grant County community so that the cost of preschool and the current waiting lists weren’t barriers to the opportunity of early learning. The passion of these Marion Giant alums is palpable. So, when they learned that there was a $1 for $1 matching grant available to expand the Marion Community Schools Little Giants program, they were determined to raise the $600,000 needed in matching dollars—in a mere 4 weeks! The need was clear, phone calls were aplenty, meetings were held, donations were made…and the goal was met. These two men called upon family, friends, and colleagues to tame this unicorn and provide opportunities for hundreds of Grant County kids to become Little Giants over the next two years.
That last four weeks have been a whirlwind, but one I hope everyone reading this gets to experience one day. A need added with a vision combined with the passion of generous donors equals an amazing success story. And this is just one example of what can happen when we accept the fact that unicorns with their pointy little horns exist in our world, but they don’t calls the shots. We do. Jim Sutter does. John Earnest does. Generous donors do. And that, my friends, is the real cold, hard, sparkly truth!