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Why I work for a nonprofit

Posted May 20, 2012, at 4:09 p.m.

I don’t work in the nonprofit world because I am nice. And I don’t work in nonprofits for the sole reason that I believe in helping the poor, downtrodden and underserved. I work at Child and Family Opportunities Inc. because I think it is my responsibility to contribute to making our communities a better place for all people, regardless of income, education, abilities or sexual orientation — any of the factors that make us socially unique.

I work in an agency that provides a federally funded program called Head Start. It has continually been improving since 1964, and multiple studies have shown that the effect to our communities is lasting and measurable.

Both the funds used to run our organization and my time as an individual are worth the investment. I work here because our vision is that all children and families deserve to thrive.

When a child receives services like those provided at our centers, research shows the following positive results for our communities:

• Students graduate from high school at higher rates;

• Families rely less on welfare or other income assistance programs;

• Participants are less likely to be violent later in life;

• They are more likely to earn higher wages later in life;

• And the measurable benefit averages between $7 and $13 for every $1 invested.

I have a friend who I like very much and with whom I disagree. She jokes that every time I open my mouth I am costing her money as a taxpayer. I do believe we should see a return on our taxes. I do believe that we should invest smartly, in the right places and that by doing so we will save money in other ways.

Let me ask one important question: Have we given individuals and families alternatives to the paths they are on in life?

Generally, individuals with low incomes as adults are born into families with low incomes and have markedly less access to quality education and resources — such as health and mental health services, financial literacy and access to enough healthy food.

An individual born into a situation where they have less access to these vital supports must struggle to escape what becomes generational poverty, and they face challenges that people with more resources do not understand, and most likely would not be able to navigate either, if they were in the same situation.

What level of economic and education security we have when we are born is not a choice. It is a circumstance. And the cost of one mistake, or error in judgment, is markedly higher when an individual has no resources to recover.

Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill that will reduce Head Start funding, among other vital services to our families. His supporters say the cuts will have little effect on our communities. It will have an effect, and it will not help parents take the steps to gain financial security and independence.

I didn’t choose a profession where I have no 401K or a salary less than the state or national average because I am a nice person. Truly, I’m not that nice. I didn’t choose this profession because I think it’s OK that my educator colleagues receive significantly smaller salaries than their peers simply because they teach children that are smaller.

I chose this profession because I recognize that I have so much, and others have so much less. I work at a nonprofit because I believe it is my responsibility as a citizen to make the good qualities of our country, its wonderful wealth and resources, more accessible to everyone. I don’t believe every family in financial crisis, even generational financial crisis, is scamming the system.

I work for a nonprofit agency that provides alternatives. This is about access to quality education for everyone.

Rachel L. Nobel is administrative support and development manager at Child and Family Opportunities Inc. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the nonprofit.

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