H.A.W.K. Foundation President, Ali J. Easley:
Since stepping into the foundations top spot in July in 2000, Ali Easley, a Pittsburgh native, has developed a close-knit relationship between the H.A.W.K. Foundation and the people it serves. From meetings with key community leaders to impromptu lunches with volunteers and children in the community centers, Easley has clearly put his finger on the pulse of the foundation and the local community.
“This foundations commitment to the State of Michigan and the advancement of the children it serves has made it an invaluable resource for this community,” stated Easley. “I can’t tell you how many times I have heard stories from people whose lives have been impacted tremendously by the work of the Help A Willing Kid Foundation family.”
“It quickly became apparent to me how important this foundation is to the community, and the vital role we play as a safe place for children,” noted Easley. “The strong community support for this organization speaks to the generous spirit of our community and how deeply people appreciate our work. The Help A Willing Kid Foundation is most fortunate to have so many willing to help us with their financial gifts and volunteer efforts in these tough economical times.”
Even with the support of our community, it is becoming more and more evident that the H.A.W.K. Foundation needs to expand upon its funding to continue its mission. “In the time that I’ve been here, this foundation has seen an increase of 65 percent in the number of children who come to us for care and help. While the Help A Willing Kid Foundation has been providing it’s services with little funding from the Kent and Ingham Counties, these costs have dug deep into the foundations finances. This year, the community outreach program expects the costs of providing services to reach $25,000. We are one of only a very few community based operations across the country that is not receiving any financial support at the government level. According to the National Association of Community based organizations, the average center receives about 15 percent of their operational revenue from government programs and sources.”
With the help of some local and state legislators, Easley has had some success in bringing this issue to light on the state level. In examining this issue, Easley hosted several meetings with state representatives to familiarize them with the work being done at the H.A.W.K. Foundation and the need it has for alternative funding to carry out that work. While touring the community center, the representatives met with our volunteers and members had learned first hand how much the Help A Willing Kid Foundation means to the community.
“I am thankful for our local legislators and community leaders who helped me bring others to see the work we do at this community center and put meaning to our request for financial assistance,” expressed Easley.
“These visits will help us get back some of the funds that we lost, but our foundation needs to investigate and pursue options to ensure it has the resources necessary to continue its mission. This is a major factor contributing to our financial condition and we need everyone to understand it and be part of the solution.”
Setting the foundation’s course and guiding it through a financial turnaround is a commitment that Easley takes very seriously. “It is so important that this organization remains strong to serve the community. I’ve come here with a long term commitment to the Help A Willing Kid Foundation and to ensure that it can continue to meet its mission for many years to come.”
Over the past three years, Easley fine-tuned and launched an extensive strategic planning process at H.A.W.K. with the purpose of creating a new vision for the foundation. “I am very excited to get this planning in action,” said Easley. “In this process we will bring together the collective ideas and dreams of our board, staff, volunteers and the people we are here to serve. It will result in defining a direction whereby we can all work together to continue to make great things happen at this foundation…As the new vision of the H.A.W.K. Foundation started to come into focus, several community-wide forums helped bring the community into the process of defining the Help A Willing Kid Foundation Foundations future.”
In addition to initiating the strategic planning process, Easley has been instrumental in bringing about changes to make the Help A Willing Kid Foundation a more nimble organization that is better prepared to face a tough financial situation. Easley has already brought 18 projects geared at increasing revenue and/or cutting costs to help the foundation shore up its financial position. These programs will be reviewed to determine which to expand and which to deemphasize or discontinue.