8/25/05 The Little Nonprofit That Could
I had the blog on my mind and my campaign to build readership. Readership is what will make this blog a success. Because of the nature of our battle, we need the eyes of America upon us. We need them to see the faces and to put themselves in the shoes of these families. Time after time, it is proven that awareness is what will bring them back home. If we have 150 steady readers, that is a good thing, but we need so many more to be effective.
I watch the daily averages and am seeing a good, and slightly upward trend. I see more and more repeat readers, which is what we need. I have asked and will continue to ask you to spread the word about this blog. Send it via email, place links on websites, and post it on forums. Send it to your friends in the media, too.
Being the underdog does not deter me. I believe that if you have a dream and take steps to make it come true, even if these are small steps, you can accomplish anything.
Project Jason started with a trip to the bookstore in June of 2003. I carried out with me a book called "Nonprofit Kit for Dummies". I spent that summer researching the steps to take on the Internet and in other books.
In my reminiscing tonight, I remembered the press release that I sent out to commemorate Project Jason's one year anniversary, which took place last October. As a part of filling in the pages of this book called our cause and our life, I will share that press release with you.
The Little Nonprofit That Could
Like The Little Engine That Could, nonprofit organization Project Jason's founder Kelly Jolkowski did not let a lack of funds or knowledge of how to start an organization keep her from completing the task, and thus creating a legacy for her missing son, Jason. The organization now celebrates one year of assisting families of missing persons nationwide.
Omaha, NE October 6, 2004, Project Jason will become one year old. This is the day last year when they became a corporation in the state of Nebraska, with 501 (c) 3 status also effective on that day.
"Our mission as a non profit organization is to create and increase public awareness of missing people through a variety of outreach and educational activities. Project Jason seeks to bring hope and assistance to families of the missing by providing resources and support."
Kelly Jolkowski tells about the beginnings of the organization: "It's hard to believe that it was only just last summer that Project Jason was just a nameless dream in my head. After having fought in our state legislature for 2 years and not succeeding in getting Jason's Law passed to assist families of the missing due to budgetary issues, I knew there was something more I had to do to follow what I felt was God's calling for me. I was not going to wait another 2-3 years for our bill to pass. (Project Jason will take up this battle again in 2005) It came to me that I could start a nonprofit organization to fill the gap until such time as the law was passed, and then to complement it afterwards. Even though I had no idea how to go about doing this, I knew I had to go after the dream.
I know these words belong to another, a powerful voice in history, but they rang in my ears, too. "I had a dream....." While my dream was not the same, it once was a dream, and now is a reality. It's difficult to call it exciting, because of the nature of what we do, but yet it is exciting to have watched it unfold before my eyes over the last 12 months. The fact that Project Jason exists because of my own missing son, Jason Jolkowski, is bittersweet, but yet it is also joyous that his legacy could impact so many."
During the past year, Project Jason has either distributed in person or through downloads on our website at www.projectjason.org, well over 5,000 free personal ID Kits. They added a Spanish language translation and have recently rolled out a revision of the kit. The organization emphasizes how important it is for persons of all ages to have an ID kit. "Becoming a missing person has no age barrier. If we are loved by another, then we need to have a kit." Kelly explains.
Besides offering support and resources to families, education and prevention, Project Jason has carved a niche in the field in terms awareness programs. After the clues on a case have been sifted through, often awareness and hope is what the family has left. They feel that they offer both to the families served with the available programs.
Project Jason's original awareness program, the 18 Wheel Angels, is going strong with an estimated 7,000+ posters distributed nationwide. This program entails recruiting truck drivers and business travelers to place posters of selected missing persons along their routes. Additional information is available at http://www.projectjason.org/18wheel.html.
More fruits came from this program and their alliances in the trucking industry. They have been featured in several trucking publications such as "Women and Team Drivers". Project Jason also works together with another publisher, JB Scott, to feature one missing person per month on the cover and inside page of their magazine, "Through the Gears". The magazine has a circulation of 150,000+.
This summer, Project Jason went out on the road. Representatives drove to Scottsbluff and back on a tour of Nebraska. Governor Johanns declared State Missing Persons Week starting on June 13th, which marked three years since Jason Jolkowski disappeared.
They logged close to 1,700 miles and gave out over 1,400 free Project Jason Id Kits over the course of a week. It was on this tour that the organization introduced their newest awareness program, Adopt a Missing Person. Families of the missing send in photo buttons of their loved one, along with a personal bio. The person who chooses to "adopt" any one of these missing people wears the button and shares that story with others to bring about awareness for that person. More about this program can be seen here:
The Adopt a Missing Person program has been featured in several stories across the country including Omaha, NE's KETV, KYC, Cleveland, OH, The Montgomery AL Advertiser, and the Greenville News, SC.
In the past month, their website has averaged over 300 hits per day. Board members were then very pleased to find that they were a featured link on a national news story about the ignored missing persons cases. They were featured alongside of some of the "big guys", as seen in the gray links box in the MSNBC story here
Kelly Jolkowski was also featured in a national story about woman advocates for missing persons. http://www.womenenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/1924
The Jason A. Jolkowski Scholarship Fund has been established and will award a scholarship to a learning disabled student in the Omaha, NE area this school year. 2,400 free missing person labels were mailed to families this week as a part of Project Jason's Internet Angels program.
Project Jason has assisted more than 50 families, offering support and resources, as per their mission. They have seen several come home and be reunited with their families.
"I have personally learned so much this year, not just about running an organization, but about issues pertaining to our cause. I continue to learn and grow and try to find new ways to help those whom we serve. I've also learned so much from all of our families about faith, perseverance, and love of family and life. I feel it is such a privilege to serve. I am blessed in so many ways, including having a wonderful group of people serving along side of me on the board. Without their efforts behind the scenes and support of me, Project Jason would not exist.
There is yet another dream, and this is the dream that all families of the missing share: I have a dream that one day my son will stand before me, and as I look upon his face, I must remind myself that it is real, and that he is here. I reach out my arms to him, and we embrace, and I cry such tears of joy as the world has never seen.
For some this dream will become reality soon, and for others, it will be a longer wait. My comfort comes in knowing that the dream will come true, I just do not know when and where. May the families we assist also find comfort in that knowledge.
Please keep us in your prayers, but even more importantly, pray for the missing and their families."