Thursday, October 27, 2005

10/27/05 The Birth of an Organization

It’s not easy to start a nonprofit organization. I started Project Jason with a $15.95 book, a truckload of determination, and a few friends and family members to help. I shared with you in another story that we had no money up to a day before we were to open our bank account, and how, at the last minute, an unexpected donation came, which was exactly the right amount for the bank account.

Next, we needed money for the IRS application. I had no idea how or where we were going to get it. Donations are not tax deductible when you are not a 501 (c) 3, making this a catch-22 situation. In Nebraska, persons could donate, but we had to make sure they knew that if our nonprofit status was denied by the IRS, then they would never be able to deduct it. If approved, it was retro back to the date of our state incorporation, and would then qualify as tax deductible.

One day a woman at work who knew what we were trying to accomplish, was asking me questions about the start-up. She asked me how much the IRS fee was. I thought she was just asking out of curiosity. She went back to her desk and I went back to work. It wasn’t but a few minutes later when she reappeared at my desk. I thought perhaps she had more questions. Instead, she handed me a check for the amount of the IRS fee! I was so overcome with emotion that I could barely get the words out to thank her. I even had to take a short break to collect myself. We had barely begun our journey with Project Jason, and we had already had two little miracles. Surely it was a sign from above that we were to continue.

Many months ago, I started conversations with a woman from Tennessee by the name of Shelley Brown. I knew of Shelley through a mutual friend of ours, Carol, (the same one mentioned in her story) so in some ways, it was as if we’d known each other for a long time. Shelley was trying to start a nonprofit in her state. We had several conversations about this, and I helped her with all that I knew about it. Shelley’s main problem, like mine, was lack of start-up funding. She certainly had the desire and the passion for our cause.

Many of the smaller nonprofits like Project Jason, were started by someone who had or has a missing person in their own life. Shelley is one of those people who have it in their heart and soul because of a personal situation. I’m going to let Shelley tell you her story.

It begins:

“Looking back, I realize now that Super Bowl Sunday 2003, was a day that changed my life forever. I will never be the person I was when I woke up that morning, ever again. When I finally went back to bed 3 days later, I was a changed person.

That afternoon my Grandson Dailen’s other Grammy called and said she needed to speak with my son, Mike. I could tell by the tone of her voice that something awful had happened. I told her that Mike had worked midnight shift the night before and was still asleep, but if it was important, I would wake him up. All she said was, “I think you need to wake him up, Shelley.” When Mike picked up the phone still half asleep and began listening, the color left his face and he looked instantly terrified. Dailen was missing. His mother and her boyfriend had left with him the night before, had taken all their belongings and her mothers car, and left. He was a little less than a month away from his 3rd birthday. She asked that we come to her house so we could talk this through, try to figure it all out, and figure out what to do next.

We sat at her house for hours talking, crying, and trying to pull ourselves
together, so that possibly our heads would clear and we could think of what to do. The police were called, and we were told that since she was his mother, and over 21, that she had the right to do whatever she wanted to do, she could come and go as she pleased, this is a free country. So, no help from the police. It was up to us to find him.

Two days later she called Mike and told him that she was at her grandmother’s
in Arkansas, and just needed some time away. She and her mom weren’t getting along, and she had some thinking to do. She said in that conversation that they would be gone 1-2 weeks. She and Mike spoke every couple of days and she promised that they would be back in time for Dailen’s 3rd birthday. She continually told Mike what a great father he was, said she couldn’t have picked a better father for Dailen, and this had nothing to do with him—it was her mother that was the problem.

Three weeks after she left, she was arrested for DUI, driving on a suspended
license, and auto theft, which Arkansas police bumped to a grand theft auto charge, since she had taken the car into another state. She called our house at 3 in the morning, collect from jail, ranting and raving at Mike for having her arrested. Mike had nothing to do with it, but in her mind he had somehow found out she would be driving at midnight on that specific night, on that specific highway, and had called the police. She was given a $5,000.00 bond, and a family member bailed her out the following morning. She and Mike spoke again on the phone and she said she was on her way to get her income tax done and get an instant refund, and would be home by Friday-Dailens birthday. No one spoke to her again until June. They simply disappeared.

No word was received from her until the end of June. She called from a hotel in Tampa, Florida, and said that Dailen was very happy, had adjusted well to the move, and that they were in a hotel on vacation. She said she had decided not to come back. I should mention that she called her Mom’s and spoke to her brother, this being retold to Mike. We were all crushed by this conversation, our hope once again dashed that he would be coming home soon.

During the months he was missing we did what we could to locate them. We had virtually no support until August when I joined a web based missing children’s org. One of the ladies there offered me endless support. If I got online at 2 in the morning she would be sitting there with her IM on. If not for her, I would not have made it through. Her name is Carol, and she was my guardian angel through the rest of the process.

Finally in November, Dailen’s mother called her mother, and told her she wanted to come home. Things had to be worked out financially to get them home and on the following Sunday (the Sunday before Thanksgiving) he was at long last HOME !!

During the time he was missing we all worried that he would not remember his
Daddy when he came home. Our prayers were answered when Dailen got out of the car, walked up the driveway, stopped in his tracks and said “Mommy, there’s my DADDY !“ They ran across the yard toward each other and hugged and hugged. It was wonderful to see the two of them finally back together. He wanted to come home with us, and he did.

When we got him home, he ran to his toys and had forgotten all the things he had gotten just a couple weeks before they left, for Christmas. He went through
them one by one asking if each item was his. When they came home, all he had was 2 shirts, a pair of pants, a pair of shorts, shoes, and a little wooden car that Mommy found at the beach, that he had painted yellow with a magic marker. So, I guess his toys at home seemed like a whole toy store to him.

Every day since November 23, 2003 has been a gift to all of us. Having him missing was the worst nightmare of our lives. The not knowing was so frustrating, the fact that he was only 3, and out there somewhere with two drug addicts was nothing short of terrifying.

After some time had passed following his return, I started realizing that this was one of the things in life that not everyone goes through, and not having anyone to talk to about it who totally understood the fear, the broken heart, nightmares, and sheer agony that one goes through, made it even harder to deal with. This ordeal changes who you are, how you feel about a lot of things, and certainly makes you look at life with a whole new perspective. So I started volunteering with the org. that had helped me.

After a time I started realizing that there were many, many families in my own state that were now going through what we did, and felt I was called to help people here in Tennessee. I left this organization and began working on setting up a Tennessee based site. Our site went up on May 1, 2005.

There are still some kinks to be worked out as far as the website goes, but, it is there with all names listed, stories about each person, etc. It is my goal, and the goal of all who joined with me to not separate people into categories. I don’t think it matters if a teen ran away, or was abducted. It certainly does not matter if a child was abducted by a stranger or by a parent. Missing adults are often ignored on other sites, they are important to us too. We all agree that a missing child is a missing child. One day we hope to have our non profit status, so that we will be able to do much more for the families, but in the meantime we do what we can and do it wholeheartedly.

I have been so blessed to have a great little group of dedicated people join with me in the mission to help these families. Each for his or her own reason, and all with goals they would like to see achieved through our group. None of us are afraid to ask questions, call a stranger, or reach out to someone who needs us. We would like to become the state clearinghouse for Tennessee someday, and as with all things this will come in its own time. If we work at it everyday, this will become the organization we all envision. I feel that we will see our goals achieved one at a time, and we are all excited about the possibilities the future holds for us.”

Shelley and her family were among the fortunate ones who recover their missing loved one in under a year, although I am sure to them, it seemed like eternity. As she states, we are never the same again, regardless of the outcome of our stories.

When I started my blog, and after another one of our conversations about the start-up of her organization, I told Shelley that I wanted to tell her story. What’s more, I told her that I felt strongly about helping her in some way, just like the “earth angels” helped me. My hope is that a reader or readers out there would be willing to help Shelley with their start up costs, knowing that it may not be tax deductible. The rules in TN are tougher than in NE, so they are not allowed to do any fundraising at all, prior to obtaining their IRS approval. They will need a private donor(s) to help them with the start-up fees, which is $325.

In case anyone is wondering, I have no intention of making this blog become a donation request mechanism, but sometimes something (or someone) comes along, and you just know in your heart that it is the right thing to do. I knew from the beginnings of our conversations that I must try to do this for Shelley and for families of the missing in TN. As I have been blessed, I must find a way to return what was given to me, even if indirectly.

When, not if, Shelley gets this nonprofit off the ground, the benefit for families of the missing in TN will be tremendous. Every state needs an organization like Project Jason or like Tennessee Alliance for Families of the Missing. Every state needs people who care and who have been there to help these families.

The Mission Statement for Tennessee Alliance for Families of the Missing is:

“Tennessee Alliance forms a strong alliance with families of the missing in the state of Tennessee and ensures that these families have resources available to aid in efforts made to locate their missing loved ones.

Tennessee Alliance will provide fliers of missing persons along with resources to families, including information about awareness events, fundraising, and benefits that may be available from other agencies. Support will be provided via an email group, online chats, and forums made available for each child or adult. By forming this alliance with the families of the missing, we will bring awareness to the plight of these families, and effect change in state laws regarding the safety of our loved ones.

With the help of government and law enforcement agencies, Tennessee Alliance will be a primary organization in which families of the missing, federal, state and local governments, can rely upon for assistance when any person, child or adult, becomes missing in the State of Tennessee. “

Some of our readers may be interested to know that Kathy Holloway, mother of missing Jennifer Wix, and grandmother to missing Adrianna Wix, featured in a story here, is also a founding member of TN Alliance.

http://voice4themissing.blogspot.com/2005/08/happy-birthday-please-come-home.html

Please visit their website: http://www.tnmissing.org/

You may write to Shelley Brown at sdb041@yahoo.com

5 Comments:

Blogger Carol said...

Thank you!! What a great article and story. Sometimes I am just amazed at how God works and how the circle just grows. What an honor to know you both!!

Carol

12:05 PM  
Blogger Mimi said...

Thank you so much, Kelly. You, my dear, are an Earth Angel!!! I agree with Carol, it is an honor to know all three of you!

Kathy

5:02 PM  
Blogger Kelly Jolkowski said...

When people who have a sincere desire for positive change get together, good things happen!

Many blessings to both of you special ladies.

Kelly

1:12 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Kelly,
Thank you, thank you for doing the blog for us. We will all be eternally grateful ! Kathy is sooo right, you are an "Earth Angel!". You'll have to forgive me for waiting to post a comment--I was,and still am, stunned.

7:07 PM  
Blogger Kelly Jolkowski said...

Well, you'd better recover fast, Shelley, because you have alot of work ahead of you. :-) I will be there to help in any way that I can.

And....

Happy Birthday to you!

Kelly

7:46 PM  

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