Fulfilling our youth’s dreams

I am the league director of the not-for-profit, Westside Youth League. We have four teams, and a newly formed T-ball league. We are based out of the Austin area even though some or our players come from other West Side areas, such as Lawndale and Garfield Park. Our travel baseball teams are for kids ages 8 to18 while our T-ballers are from 4 to 7 years old. Our travel games will be played all over Illinois, Northwest Indiana, and even in Wisconsin, while our young guys will be playing over at Galewood Park at Bloomingdale and Central. Our organization needs your help. We need some face-time to have people recognize that there are African-Americans who still play baseball and do have dreams of becoming a major league player. I truly believe that our players would dispel this myth that African-Americans no longer play baseball if people could see how much they love the game. For the past three years, I have been banging on doors left and right, in and out of our area; to businesses and politicians. I have given presentations to them in the hopes that a little donation can curb our financial burden. With the exception of three big retail, food and financial companies, most would not or could not donate. With the politicians, I have basically gotten a lot of fanfare with the end result being disappointing. I understand that there are way more important situations going on in our city, state and even country-the economic crisis being the main concern. I understand that everyone is feeling this burden, but I am positive that there is someone out there that can truly help us. We are trying to do our part and volunteer our time to help our kids, and I want to “pay it forward,” like what was done for me when I was young child. All we want to do is help supply the players with the necessities that they need-uniforms and baseball equipment-to have a great summer ’09 summer. I’m just asking to give us a hand. If we can get several companies to help us out, I am sure we can make this dream work for the players.

Thomas Bowling

Organizations suffer under economic, political crisis

There’s rarely a good time for a political scandal, but the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief-of-staff comes at a particularly bad one. The State of Illinois is facing a major budget deficit, set against the backdrop of an international economic crisis. The shortfall is threatening a host of state-dependent organizations and the thousands of people they serve and employ. Bethel New Life, a non-profit that has served Chicago’s West Side for nearly 30 years, is one of many direct-service providers threatened by the state’s financial crisis. Currently, Bethel offers housing and in-home care to 700 elderly residents, and supports more than 7,000 individuals and their families through various programs every year. Bethel also employs more than 300 people and accounts for $14 million in annual revenue to the community. All of these services directly reduce homelessness, poverty, unemployment, and the cost of health care in Illinois. To keep organizations like Bethel providing needed programs, the state legislature must act now. In addition to effectively dispensing any federal funds received, legislators can consider a number of revenue-raising options, ranging from short-term borrowing to an increased income tax. These options and others require sincere, deliberate debate. Amidst the many distracting news stories sure to unfold over the next few weeks and months, it is critical to organizations like Bethel that both legislators and the media keep their eyes on the ball. Regardless of what happens to the governor, the issue that matters most in the long-term is the financial crisis and its impact on critical social services.

Steven McCullough
CEO/President, Bethel New Life