Who Is Helping the Kids Left Behind?

America now has 1,571,056 tax exempt organizations of which 1,097,689 are public charities according to Urban Institute. There are another 105,030 that are private foundations and 368,337 that are like chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues. Nonprofits accounted for 9.2% of all wages and salaries, and are 5.3% of our GDP (gross domestic product). Of these nonprofits, there are 312,373 congregations in the USA. Nonprofits had $1.74 trillion in revenues. 25.3% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered for a nonprofit organization, which is down from 28.8% in 2003. Our volunteer time translates to 8.7 billion hours which has a value of $179.2 billion.

All of these are big numbers. So why do we still have so many Americans struggling to get by each day? And especially during the summer with school being out, why are so many of our kids left behind?

In New York City, there are 23,000 children between the ages of 6 and 13 that live in the city's homeless family shelter system. As we all know, homelessness places profound stress on a child's life. The nonprofit Homes for the Homeless, since 1989, has provided a 16 day summer camp at the Harriman State Park, which is 30 miles outside of NYC, for many of these inner city kids. Most of these kids have never left NYC or experienced nature up close. It gives these homeless children a chance to escape the stresses of everyday life and engage in healthy activities. What if every town had a program like this?

The city of Cleveland has a 58.5% poverty rate for children compared to the national average of 21.1%. The Footpath Foundation was founded by two mothers to help underprivileged and at-risk children by connecting them with positive life experiences. Like NYC, these Cleveland kids are sent to local camps that temporarily help them let go of the pressures of life and begin to feel safe and at peace.

The White House has also stepped in this year with the new summer opportunity project. When schools close, millions of youths are cut off from access to education and nutritional support systems. This leads to summer slide when students lose educational achievements made during the previous year. In 2015 46% of our youth who applied for summer jobs were turned down, so helping out our youth this summer is crucial. The Department of Education created a grant in Baltimore, Washington D.C., Pittsburgh and Richmond to open 5 new achievement centers, which is a mentoring program for underserved middle school students. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) committed $15 million to launch Summer Opportunity AmeriCorps, which uses service-learning projects enabling 20,000 youth to gain new skills and earn money for college. The Department of Labor launched a $20 million grant competition, which it awarded 10 communities, providing young people summer and year-round jobs connecting them to career pathways.

Cities are stepping up to help. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a goal to hire 15,000 young people in 2016 through his Hire LA Youth program. This program targets youth from low-income families, families on public assistance, foster youth, youth on probation and homeless youth. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray committed to reach out to 15,000 youth in his community with summer jobs and enrichment. The city will also serve 5,000 children over 200,000 meals and invest in 23 summer learning programs. In Charlotte, Mayor Jennifer Roberts in a partnership with the Microsoft Charlotte Campus is holding high tech camps for 4,000 underprivileged kids. What is your city doing?

America does have nonprofit organizations dedicated to kids to help fill the gap created in our imperfect society. Big Brothers Big Sisters is the oldest and largest youth mentoring organization serving hundreds of thousands of six to eighteen year-old kids. The Boys & Girls Club serves 4 million young people in 4,100 clubs throughout the country with programs that build character and help educate our young people. The Children's Defense Fund was formed to leave no child behind and works on every child to have a healthy start. The Southwest Key Programs is a national nonprofit organization that is committed to keeping kids out of institutions and home with their families in their communities. And at DollarDays, through the contest on our Facebook page, we are giving away $5,000 worth of products to nonprofit organizations that support kids.

As much as our government and our cities are reaching out to pull the less fortunate kids up, they are only affecting a small portion of those who need our help. We do have a vibrant nonprofit system in place to begin to help those children in the most need. But these nonprofits need our help both financially and as volunteers. Giving is as good for your own soul as it is for the people you help. If you don't have the cash, do what 25% of Americans do - volunteer to help a nonprofit that helps our youth. Giving your time or giving your hard earned dollars does have a rippling effect in our society. A single act of kindness can change several lives, while helping to reduce the daunting statistics that is poverty and lost opportunity in this country.