October 6, 2017
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These kids run an organization that’s raised over $420,000 for charity

Get inspired by three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Kidz For A Cause started as a project in Hawaii, but is growing in California as well. Photo of some of the board members is courtesy of Kidz For A Cause

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Kids lead the way: It started as a homework assignment and blossomed into a nine-year $420,000 fundraising effort—run entirely by kids. Kidz For A Cause began in 2008, when Nicki Lee, a third grader in Hawaii, held a benefit concert to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Hawaii. She raised $1,100. Since then, she’s hosted more fundraisers in the form of concerts and talent shows across Hawaii. Kidz For A Cause also developed “ThinkTank,” a campaign that helps kids launch their own fundraisers, such as bake sales and art exhibits. Most recently, Kidz For A Cause made the leap to the mainland: in early September, the organization started recruiting kids in California in an effort to export its model to the rest of the United States. “When kids motivate other kids, it’s not like a teacher or parent telling them to do something, and it’s not like a homework assignment. It becomes something that seems fun and cooler,” Lee told NBC News. “A lot of kids look at community service as a boring project they have to do for a grade, which isn’t necessarily how community service should be looked at.”

Connecting workers to work: A program in Wisconsin is shuttling workers out of the city of Milwaukee—where unemployment is high—to places outside the city where workers are in high demand, such as Sheboygan, New Berlin, and Horicon. The jobs are primarily entry-level, but they provide benefits not available in the city, such as healthcare and 401(k)s. The program, called the Joseph Project, is named after the Biblical Figure; it runs out of a church, and attendance at least twice a month is mandatory. Employment transportation is a smart community-based solution to unemployment, but it’s not a catch-all. “The notion that you’re going to make a dent in unemployment in Milwaukee by matching people with jobs in Sheboygan is fanciful,” Marc Levine, the director of the the Center for Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, told the Christian Science Monitor. Even so, those enrolled in the program consider it a godsend. “It’s worth it,” says Michael Ewing, a Joseph Project enrollee. “It definitely is. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for work.”

Buying and building for the least fortunate: The Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco is one of the poorest in the city—and it’s surrounded by some of the wealthiest. Roughly 80 percent of the housing in the Tenderloin cost less than the market rate. However, many of the apartments are single-occupancy and don’t meet the current population’s needs. Since the 1980s, nonprofits such as the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation have been purchasing buildings in the neighborhood in order to keep them affordable for the local population; TNDC now manages roughly 3,500 units in San Francisco for tenants who predominantly make less than 30 percent of the city’s median income. However, the nonprofit hasn’t been able to actually build any new housing—until now. In August, TNDC started development on a new eight-story building in what was previously a parking lot. All of the building’s 113 units will be rented out below market rate, and some of these units will be designated for families leaving the shelter system. The construction is slated to take two years. TNDC also hopes to attract a grocery store to the building to serve its tenants.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project.