Monday, June 20, 2011

June 20, 2011: Losing a Sense of Community

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Is it coincidence that one of the weakest communities in the country in terms of volunteering is one of the communities that has also seen the numbers of shootings of young people go up? Probably not.

It's been the start of a long, hot summer in Miami-Dade County, with recent drive-by shootings in Miami's Liberty City neighborhood. Police are responding with a reinforcement of a curfew for teenagers; Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Florida chapter, suggested to WPLG-Channel 10 that the curfew unfairly targets minority teens. In any case, the Florida Supreme Court threw out a similar curfew in 2004:

There are a number of private and public efforts to get youths involved in productive summer activities. But it's easy to get the sense that efforts to do so have declined - in part because of the economic rough waters, in part because of leader changes. For instance, it seems as if former Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones - legal troubles and all - was better at helping to finance and support productive activities for District 5 youths than current commissioner Richard Dunn.

If Hands On Miami goes under, it may get even worse. Last Friday, The Miami Herald reported that the 18-year-old organization, one of the groups created in the wake of President George H.W. Bush's emphasis on volunteerism, has a $200,000 shortfall, cannot get funding from either the United Way or government budgets and will likely fold on June 30:

How much local impact could be lost? Take a look at Hands On Miami's June calendar:,specialevent

In 1989, Bush said: "Your work and the work of many others as motivated as yourselves is a testament to a powerful idea: that along with the many rights and privileges that distinguish us as Americans is the shared responsibility to look after one another.....You understand that helping the less fortunate is in everyone's best interest; that the most powerful gift we can offer anyone is a sense of purpose, a path to self-esteem; that the fabric of the family, like that of society, must forever be renewed and rewoven."

The Greater Miami area needs to understand and do more about that responsibility.

Update: Sad news about the Bertha Abess Center that proves the point even more:

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