The ancient African proverb is true: It takes a village to raise a child. And in our modern context the “village” includes billion-dollar corporations. That’s why we’re encouraged by the revival of the once-moribund Dallas Education Foundation which, under the leadership of executive director Mita Havlick, has raised more than $3.1 million in corporate donations to restore campuses destroyed by a tornado a year ago. The latest donation, $1 million from the grocery chain Central Market, was given Monday, on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the storm.
Havlick is careful to note that Central Market’s donation was not restricted exclusively to tornado relief. Nor were most of the contributions totaling almost $6 million over the past year. But the storm was an impetus for many of those gifts.
Donations like these are evidence that corporate citizens see Dallas schools as a worthy investment. But they’re also evidence of renewed trust. Havlick stepped into her role last September and went to work building structures like a vision statement, communications strategy and areas of focus. She was on the job less than a month when the tornado struck, so her work relaunching the foundation has been upstaged a bit by crisis response. But now the foundation’s renewed professionalism is paying dividends.
When she started, Havlick told us, the foundation had about a dozen active donors. Now it has 650.
“People do not give to organizations that they do not trust,” Havlick said. “Now what we’re seeing is that because of our transparency, because they see that we have structures in place, that we’re not going anywhere other than forward, that there is that trust. That is a big thing when it comes to nonprofits and the development world.”
Most of those 650 active donors are private citizens making smaller donations, but in terms of dollars, most of the funding has come from corporations. Both are important. Both are part of our village looking out for our children.
We hope voters have the same outlook and approve DISD’s historic bond package on the ballot this election. Where Thomas Jefferson High School, Cary Middle School and Walnut Hill Elementary School were destroyed in minutes, dozens of other schools across the district have been damaged by the slow decay of time and deferred maintenance.
And we hope that 650 grows into the thousands, with people remembering the schools that raised them coming home to DISD with a check in hand to perhaps help get new band equipment or build a better science lab. This city’s generosity is legend. It can and should expand to schools.
The Dallas Education Foundation’s ongoing revival is a signal of the importance corporations, foundations and individuals are putting on DISD. As Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates said about efforts to rebuild the tornado-damaged neighborhood, “It’s not just the government that can get us through this. It’s not just the businesses. And it’s not just the nonprofits. It really is all of us, working together.”
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