Hard-hit nonprofits needed most in crisis


POSTED: Sunday, March 15, 2009

The nation's downward economic spiral has added to the attraction of high-risk youths to gang violence, while a Honolulu nonprofit group that brings hope to them struggles to stay active. Government agencies and the private sector are needed to help Adult Friends for Youth to continue functioning at a level needed to make a difference.

Created in 1986, Adult Friends for Youth has intervened in a steady stream of gang activity, recognizing adolescent gangs as “;friendship groups”; and turning destructive behavior into constructive activity. It had a staff of a dozen, including social workers, going into this year, but already one person has been laid off and the rest of the year looks bleak.

The organization faces a shortfall of $300,000 from what has been an annual budget of slightly more than $1 million in recent years, most coming from federal grants directly or through other agencies. The group recently has been deemed a low priority for city funding. AFY raises about $350,000 a year at a dinner auction, but that is vulnerable because of public belt-tightening.

President Barack Obama has proposed limiting tax deductions for charitable donations by couples making more than $250,000 and individuals making more than $200,000. Fortunately, the proposal faces opposition from fellow Democrats.

Many charitable organizations in Hawaii and elsewhere are facing fiscal problems during the economic crisis, especially those without long tradition and public recognition. State agencies and citizens should make an effort to help organizations that play a valuable role in limiting adversity in the worst of times.