Never let it be said you didn’t do the least that could be done

close-up-compass-gold-841286

There was a small element of surprise when a recent lunch and learn regarding four Early Education Tutoring (part of the OPPORTUNITY Task Force) reading programs moved as smoothly and enlightened so well. Twenty-six potential volunteers attended (only one other guy), but the feeling of helpfulness and purpose regarding a necessary grass roots effort permeated the room.

The surprise at finding the right type situation– on my fourth attempt at volunteering to help with reading programs– was gratifying and easy to schedule. The Freedom School at St. Gabriel has linked with Oakhurst STEAM Academy for six years now, with the goal of reducing the summer learning loss for about 50 kids. There are two three-week sessions, with an opening for a Harambee Reader to kick things off in the morning June 18-July 6. Its only 10 minutes of the half-hour jazzing up, but when Laura Hull said, “Boy, do we need some male readers!” a magic button was pressed.

The focus of these programs is significant. If you haven’t heard about the Chetty Study, it’s a Harvard/UC Berkeley project that found Charlotte ranked last (4.4%, San Jose was tops at 12.9%) of 50 major cities in economic mobility, essentially how many children rise from the bottom of one economic quadrille to top of it as an adult.

Early care and education is one of three primary factors that correlated with economic mobility, and one specific and very relevant fact is that students not reading to grade level by fourth grade are almost destined to fall further behind as reading-writing needs/material become more difficult.  The Task Force goal to have 80% of Char-Meck students reading at that level is lofty—its currently only 39%, with Afro-American (22%) and Hispanic boys (18%) lagging significantly.

As a writer, its somewhat simplistic to state that reading made a major difference along the way for me. While a well-regarded high school journalism program and college sharpened the tools,  knowing words (comprehension) and structure was the start. I had a ninth grade reading level in second grade, but I doubt that walking two blocks to a book mobile– my childhood included one available in a bank parking lot every Friday for years– is an option kids have in 2018.

Early care and education is one of three primary factors that correlated with economic mobility. One specific, very relevant fact is that students not reading to grade level by fourth grade are almost destined to fall further behind as reading-writing needs/material become more difficult.

As a Wyzant tutor, I’ve focused on reading-writing-public speaking, and being able to see real progress with an 8th grader’s comprehension after a simple suggestion about pausing for punctuation during a second session was meaningful to both of us.  While she’d blazed through several paragraphs in a book, her comprehension of individual ideas was obviously jumbled, so making that kind of a difference counts.

As Director-writer for SCHOBY (South Carolina Hugh O’Brian Youth) leadership program, even ten minutes of coaching before the groups of high-caliber rising juniors began doing group essays had the effect of focusing them, which improved the quality of product that was edited into a read-along, Aesops Fables-type children’s book.

It was pointed out during the lunch presentations that the non-academic period of year is where support lags and students in high-poverty schools fall back. Because those SCHOBY kids are the 90-95 percentile achievers, the point of extra help becomes even more valid—  many students need a much greater push compared to what those Ambassadors required.

Four programs worth learning about

Augustine Literacy Project – (Fall 2018) Structured, explicit lesson plan format, tutor twice a week during school time for 1 ½ years (60 hours of tutoring), is quite a commitment. Two weeks of training ($250 cost for materials is generally handled by scholarship). Free, long-term, one-on-one instruction is their goal, because 74% of poor third grade readers are still poor readers in ninth grade.

Heart Math Tutoring – Executive Director Emily Elliot stressed that “Growth in concepts counts. The nature of math as yes/no answers means that enthusiasm and academic confidence increases when the student gets the 1-1 help that makes the difference in understanding.”  Their success—98% of students have met program growth goals—is admirable. (Fall 2018)

The Padres y Padrinos (Parents and Godparents or ’PYP’) program is a LAWA (Latin Americans Working for Achievement) project that has addressed the academic and social development of ESL students in East and South Charlotte elementary schools since 1992. They need volunteer commitment to 14 or 28 weeks of one hour per week for reading and basic math skills.

Ten minutes a day for ONE day as the Harambee Reader? I put myself in, and if I won’t immediately promise to get money for supplies, or extra people to listen to kids read for an hour on the July 18th Great Day of DEAR (Drop Everything and Read), I also refuse to be someone with good intentions who fails to do the least that can be done.

To participate in or learn more about any of the programs, please contact Annette Dreyer at annette.dreyer@yahoo.com.

‘Gigging’ and Second Career Boomers: How a 2018 Entrepreneur Looks at Life

winslow-wifey at oroast
Oyster Roast is one of our Men’s Club special events. With Winslow & ‘wifey’.

Moving onward/adding another ‘gig’ has proceeded positively, and I am embracing to the max the 2018 embodiment of freelancing that’s always been a strong club in my personal creative bag. Having utilized verbal and written communications across all previous jobs, bringing those strengths to a Second Career notion we Boomers hold so dear is a legitimate attitude.

Similar vein, making a three chapter submission–  9200 words and tight– for my second book is less a milestone than an essential process.

There are numerous outlets-ways to monetize extra skills in current writing arena, in part because of people’s ability to telecommute with work product. I’ve been a reading-writing-public speaking tutor with Wyzant and Thumbtack for years, now I’ve hooked up with FlexJobs, Dice, The Creative Group and a couple others. I’m involved with a sports blogging function for the local NFL team,.  Economically I’ll be a resource, not an employee, the rest of my career. I didn’t have any problem prospecting in earlier careers like real estate, but in 2018 its sooo much easier to utilize the volume of pointed, quality, reliable leads possible from sites like FlexJobs than early 1980’s search in Tampa.

Having made Mom’s lunch, I’m available and dedicated to the process, BUT, it’s a fantastic 76 degrees of Carolina spring outside, and the temptation to really stress test my replacement knee with a 16-18 mile bike ride is probably going to be the deal. I have great faith and enthusiasm for that knee, re-adding athletic skills that got shelved the last half-dozen plus years is exciting. I have a preliminary date to whack a bucket of balls Saturday, and there’s a captains choice golf tournament at the end of April as a goal. I’m back up to my rugby weight (188) from 1986, been going to shoot hoops regularly, and *running* after misses is a joy, as is hoisting catch ‘n shoot jumpers from all over.

Mom has made great strides on mobility, too, we walked completely around the lake several times last week, and yesterdays stroll around the building was done fairly quick. Along with improved appetite and keeping her meds right with a dispenser 3x a day, that walking has improved her 84 year old knees to a great degree. We play ‘Kings in the Corner’ card game a lot, watch Dr. Phil, and yes, there’s a lot of psychic income knowing I’ve made a difference with walks, appointments, lunches, and health by being a good, helpful son.

That’s what being entrepreneurial looks like to me: I’m the brother in Charlotte with a job description that allows me to work wherever I am. Although Mom’s apartment at Carmel Hills doesn’t have wifi, I grin and bear that, and yes, I’d create a hot spot if really needed it. Carrying a sketch pad to journalize with is a long time habit, and I can be highly mobile any time of the day.  (Just FYI, cars name is Bullitt2– don’t get deep on politically correct, its more about Steve McQueen.)

mom-rummicub

‘Time’ is a primary factor for giggers, usually the ability to devote chunks to specific ‘other’ circumstances. From mid-December surgery until the beginning of March, I rehabbed hard, and being primary caregiver for my mother since she got out of hospital on Valentines Day was 35-40 hour commitment, down to twenty by July.  While that’s not a killer schedule by any means, gigging mitigates conflict—even if that means writing proposals or blogging after 11:00 SportsCenter.

Glenn S.

When there’s a *Working* Engineer on it, That Equals Results

chef-chris
Chef Chris at Oyster Roast, another great community event. (Monthly mtgs. 1st Fri.)

I have to give a small, generic, shout out to the efforts of a couple guys from my men’s group. After over a year of knowing the disposal in our school kitchen was absolutely shot– and repairs would cost $1,000s— three guys whipped the whole kitchen at St. Gabriel into significantly higher productive shape.

The guy who handled everything but the disposal, Seth, was hired help, and he got several other faulty elements (a second oven was big news, unkink a gas line), and all those fryers we’ll be firing up for our annual Fish Fry on March 10th tested-operational. Last year Men’s Club served almost 700 parishioners and others between 4:30-8:00, when almost everyone is gone. Fryers check was important, the oven appreciated, but that disposal represented an expensive choke point.

Kurt and Pete getting down with  the element required taking it apart down to its guts, and rebuilding from bearings up. (Kurt got the manufacturer  to send it free.) Although neither guy really expects or needs kudos, I still feel – as a journalist, in these more often petty times if you will – its legit to point out simple above-and-beyond deeds.

Trimming chicken and talking at the Men’s Shelter yesterday, Pete made it sound like he barely held a wrench, just read some of the complex directions, which Kurt, lynch pin do-er engineer on the project, was often a step ahead of.

A definite legacy of doing good – SGMC

Our organization, St. Gabriel Men’s Club (SGMC) has a legacy of doing good, beyond our post-Thanksgiving sale of Christmas Trees and this upcoming fish fry, which is actually our biggest one-day community event. The fact that kitchen is *100%* righteous for this event, that a couple someones you’d given a gnarly, long-term negative situation to, and gotten a REALLY great result from them, that’s still worth pointing out.

When you give someone a gnarly, long-term negative situation, and get a REALLY great result from them, that’s still worth pointing out

Open house for new six-unit Hospice opening at Southminster. Not only was hors d’oeuvres cuisine of roast beef-small rye breads, or seared ahi on cucumber (plus) and desserts delightful, its actually fare available to residents. Everyone from the wine server to tour guide, white-coated others, and the bus driver back to car at far side of the impressive Southminster complex, could articulate their part of that community’s mission. As a networking event attitude, having extra time to talk with/learn about people, I told him about Charlotte Bridge Home, because he’s ex-military.

How a Great Fish Fry is Like Your New Home

20160311_184825 - Copy

After the final customers had left our charitable organization’s annual fish fry last week, there was a significant amount of clam chowder left. After I informed one of the other workers about that and suggested he fill some to-go containers, he asked, “Can I selectively skim it so I get more clams? I didn’t think there were enough in the bowl I had. And I really think the potatoes should’ve been a little more tender.”

Now, we haven’t seen the financial totals, but between 4:30 and 8:00, we served over 600 people all you can eat baked or fried tilipia, shrimp, mac ‘n cheese, fries, crab-shrimp-artichoke dips in line, ice cream– and that chowder– provided free (donations accepted) beer, wine, tea and lemonade, and had both a bluegrass trio and the ACC tournament on a big screen TV for entertainment. No doubt in anyone’s mind the event had been a huge community success once again.

Those comments about the chowder were actually true though, which makes for a great analogy about the search for a new home: There’s almost no such thing as a 100% perfect house.

Top 5 Factors vs. Wish List Items

Customer satisfaction with the home buying process doesn’t rely just on price, or having granite counter tops in a super-large kitchen, a well-situated bonus room for Mom’s internet company office, a fair amount of yard, 2 1/2 bathrooms, and 2,150 square feet of space on a quiet cul-de-sac in a desired school district. It would certainly SEEM like everything is in apple pie order if buyers could check off that many favorable factors, but any real estate agent will tell you, everyone wants More.

In the hot-hot Charlotte market, clients probably only get one shot at really liking a house. If they aren’t pre-qualified and ready to make a decision-offer, the next people in the door almost certainly will be.

“Gee, we’re going to have to paint that room something besides Carolina blue,” or “We really wanted to be a little closer to X, the yard isn’t enclosed, the 4th bedroom is a little small, the homeowners association dues are kind of high,” are common enough examples of Wish List.

Unless someone has to move NOW because of a company relocation or similar situation, it’s rarely *just* the house that’s being considered, and that’s when having clients keep a Top 5 checklist in hand makes a difference. (Schools? Yes, you’ve told me its third..)

Perfect House idea in perspective

Most agents will put The Perfect House idea in perspective at the beginning of the process by asking what a client needs, then “If there was something else, what would that be?” and probably even a “If one more thing would make it perfect…” type question.

Beyond all the what if…? desires though, the single biggest factor in the hot-hot Charlotte market is that clients probably only get one shot at really liking a house. If they aren’t pre-qualified and ready to make a decision-offer, the next people in the door almost certainly will be. Those dreadful days (years!) when buyers could dither over fourth bedrooms or expect major concessions on closing costs by the seller are history.

Like more tender potatoes, or the abundance of clams in the chowder relative to 600 smiling faces, free beer and entertainment, or even a highly successful fundraiser, the buyer of today has to know what really counts for them.

Buying a home is one of the biggest and most stressful decisions people make; its a commitment right up there with marriage. If you (with your agent’s enabling) want to continue searching for that specific seventh aspect, that’s your prerogative.

‘Settling for’ is not the answer, but when a fourth or fifth strong possibility goes under contract while you thought about things, recognize how serious your Top 5 is to fulfilling both a need for shelter and an overall happy home.