ISCU UPDATE - From the President's Desk
Dear Members and Friends of ISCU,
I hope that you had a peaceful holiday season and are going into the New Year re-energized and full of expectations. May it bring all of us, but especially our immigrant friends, health, joy and the fulfillment of a special wish!
The past year was both challenging and rewarding for our organization: challenging because so many of our immigrant friends needed urgent help, and we were growing fast and taking on new tasks. Rewarding because, again and again, we could see and hear the relief our assistance brought to our immigrant friends. We know that for quite a few of them we made the difference between having enough to eat and cutting back on the number of meals, between being able to stay in their home and eviction, between getting to a medical appointment or receiving urgent medication and deteriorating health, and, yes, even between receiving a dignified funeral and not having enough funds to pay for the undertaker and the repatriation of a loved one’s body to their home in Guatemala.
As a young organization – founded just over five years ago! – we are still growing, constantly adjusting to new tasks, and figuring out best practices. Here is a budgetary measure of that growth: annual expenditures of ISCU:
📅 2019: ca. $50,000;
📅 2020: ca. $100,000;
📅 2021: ca. $400,000.
And that is not counting the enormous amount of in-kind donations (furniture, bedding, baby and toddler clothing, and kitchen items) and the thousands of hours spent volunteering for our clients. Those would conservatively add another $120,000 to the 2021 expenditures! We are so grateful to the hundreds of members and friends who have donated time, money and household goods to ISCU in the past year. ISCU would not exist without you. And we are grateful also to the many partner organizations that are increasingly recognizing the unique approach to working with immigrants – its holistic case work - that ISCU offers. This has made 2021 a breakthrough year for grants we have received.
Increased volunteering, donations and grants mean two things: 1. ISCU has taken on new tasks: Beyond all the things we were already doing in 2020 – providing transportation, assistance with legal, medical and educational services, emergency assistance in case of illness, fire or death, and rental, utility and food assistance – we developed an important program of COVID mitigation and vaccination, serving hundreds of infected immigrants and organizing vaccination clinics in immigrant neighborhoods and places of employment. And 2. our organization is changing to allow us to fulfill these increasing expectations in what ISCU can deliver: we are developing a more informative and nimble presence on social media and on our web-page (check it out!); we have purchased software programs to professionalize our bookkeeping, budget planning and donor-response (still not perfect); and we now have a small paid staff: our amazing Executive Director Ben Mueller, our wonderful driver and warehouse deliverer Mike Skinner, and our five dedicated community health navigators Maria Bautista, Susana Pedro, Anthony Erlinger, Lesley Nava and Sevy Mueller and the savvy COVID project coordinator Abdullah Özkaldi. As we grow, such measures of professionalization will remain essential. Yet, one thing will never change: at heart we will always be a volunteer organization, built upon C-U citizens’ passionate belief that immigrants deserve the same rights, opportunities and protections as each of us.
2022 brings tremendous challenges for ISCU. They revolve around making our growth and the increasing delivery of services to our immigrant friends sustainable: this means finding new sources of funding, becoming better at connecting new volunteers with fields of work in our organization, and improving communications both within ISCU and with the broader community. In other articles of this Newsletter you will find some of the steps we are taking to reach these goals. If we master this challenge, ISCU will become an even better and stronger organization by the end of the year. Please help us to get there in any way you can. Thank you for your continued support!