Newsmakers for December 2006 – January 2007

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Last summer, it looked as if the nation’s main suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-SUICIDE, was about to fade away. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which had indirectly financed the hotline’s operation for three years, stepped in to keep the line running – but the line’s founder says SAMHSA put the operation in jeopardy in the first place.

Here’s the twisted story:

1-800-SUICIDE has been operated for seven years by the Washington-based Kristin Brooks Hope Center (KBHC). It was founded by H. Reese Butler and named after his wife, who committed suicide at age 28 after their child was stillborn.

When a call comes in to the line, the call is sent to the nearest of the nation’s 120 crisis centers, based on the caller’s area code. If that center is closed or backed up, the call gets rolled over to the next-closest center.

KBHC also oversees other help hotlines, including the Youth America Hotline and lines for veterans and for mothers suffering from postpartum depression.

Butler funded the work with his own money for two years before getting federal dollars in 2001. That year, SAMHSA awarded $7.5 million over three years to the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) for suicide prevention work, and KBHC received a subcontract from AAS to operate 1-800-SUICIDE.

During that grant period, Butler says, AAS and KBHC were notified that the funding was a one-time thing: If 1-800-SUICIDE was to survive after 2004, it would do so with non-federal support.

“I actually agree with that philosophy,” Butler says, referring to the notion that government support of service programs shouldn’t last forever. KBHC had always enjoyed private support from pharmaceutical companies and the Take Action concert tour. (The 2007 tour benefits the Youth America Hotline.)

But in 2004, SAMHSA created another help referral line: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at (800) 273-TALK. It contracted with the Mental Health Association of New York (MHANY) to operate the line, which began operating in 2005. Neither AAS nor KBHC applied for money during the 2004 grant competition won by MHANY, according to SAMHSA’s director of communications, Mark Weber.

KBHC was suddenly in a huge hole. It had no more federal support. But worse, Butler says, it had a federally supported competitor.

“We were told they’d end the funding, then they set up a competitive line,” Butler says. “Now when we go to the private sector” for funding support for the hotline, “guess what they tell us? It already exists!”

Butler continued to operate 1-800-SUICIDE into the summer, but it was on the brink of death. It owed at least $177,000 to AT&T in phone bills, with potential additional penalties that could bankrupt the charity if AT&T chooses to apply them.

Butler also claims that the federal government still owes KBHC more than $400,000 from its past grant, which KBHC could use to pay off the debt it has accrued since then.

SAMHSA issued a statement that the allegation was “simply not true,” particularly since SAMHSA never directly funded Butler’s operation in the first place. SAMHSA said it has never had a direct financial relationship with KBHC and, as a result, cannot “owe” KBHC funds for past work.

Butler says KBHC sued AAS for the money, and in a settlement gained the rights to claim funds from SAMHSA on behalf of AAS.

Money issues aside, SAMHSA did not want a known hotline to go cold. Its new line takes about 10,000 calls a month; the beleaguered 1-800-SUICIDE routinely takes 30,000. SAMHSA agreed to pay the current phone bills to keep the line active, and KBHC essentially donated the line to the agency (but did not relinquish trademarked rights to the name, Butler says).

We will continue to “consult with [KBHC] on the operation” of the hotline, SAMHSA’s Weber says. “They have been extremely helpful and supportive in making sure the phone line gets answered.”

That’s news to Butler. “They have yet to ask us a single question,” he says. Contact: SAMHSA (240) 276-2130,; KBHC (202) 536-3200

The Alliance for Children and Families in Milwaukee, headed by Peter Goldberg, hired two new staff members in its communications department. Communications Administrator Trudy Archie comes to the organization from nearby United Neighborhood Centers of America, where she was membership services coordinator. Mary Ryan, a program associate at the FairVote Center for Voting and Democracy in Takoma Park, Md., will serve as a communications specialist. Contact: (414) 359-1040,

One of the Alliance for Children and Families’ closest partners, Milwaukee-based Ways to Work, hired Zorian Lasowsky to serve as national program manager, bringing more than 15 years of management and banking-related experience. Lasowsky will help the 50-plus local Ways to Work loan offices in 25 states to ensure the timely collection and analysis of information generated by the national network.

Ways to Work provides low-interest loans to low-income families with challenging credit histories. It incorporated as a 501(c)(3) sister of the alliance in 1998; all of its loan offices are located at alliance member agencies. Contact: (800) 221-3726,

Outward Bound USA hired Anthony Di Spigno to serve as vice president of advancement.

Di Spigno comes to the Garrison, N.Y.-based group from Atlanta, where he was one of the vaunted money men for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). While Kurt Asherman oversaw corporate partnerships and Robbie Callaway was busy bringing in federal cash by the [pork] barrel, Di Spigno and Cyndi Court, now BGCA’s vice president of resource development, oversaw the organization’s $200 million Centennial Campaign. Contact: (845) 424-4000,

The New York-based National Academy Foundation, a leading educational reform organization with a network of more than 500 college preparatory academies, announced that J.D. Hoye will take over for retiring President John Ferrandino in January. Ferrandino has led the organization for nine years.

Hoye is the president of Keep the Change, an Aptos, Calif.-based nonprofit that helps communities implement education reform initiatives. Before that, she ran the now-defunct National School-to-Work Office, which fell under the jurisdiction of the departments of Labor and Education. Contact: (212) 635-2400 ext. 262,

Carole South-Winter resigned from her position as executive director of Reclaiming Youth International in October, after serving for three years. South-Winter’s position will not be filled; the executive functions of the organization will be assumed by President Steve Van Bockern and Vice President Mark Freado. Contact: (800) 647-5244,

The Academy for Educational Development won a grant to manage Youth Media Reporter, a journal for youth media professionals formerly operated by the Open Society Institute, said Jessica Bynoe of AED. The institute invited AED to apply through a limited bidding process intended to find a new home for YMR.

In October, the journal moved to the Youth Fund at AED. Bynoe said AED intends to maintain YMR’s mission to “sustain and develop the youth media field by covering its topical issues, trends and challenges, while growing the publication’s reach and capacity.”

AED’s goals for the future of YMR include “increasing grassroots ownership of the publication through a peer review board and increased opportunities for youth media practitioners to publish articles,” Bynoe said. Contact: (212) 367-4608,

The West Palm Beach, Fla.-based National Alliance For Youth Sports (NAYS), a nonprofit promoting positive, safe youth sports, hired Kate Cowan to be its director of international development. Cowan will oversee and expand the alliance’s Game On! Youth Sports Initiative.

Also added to the NAYS staff: Director of Fulfillment Dana Owen, and Brock Lambert, who will run the Hook A Kid On Golf program. Contact: (800) 688-5437,

The Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) in New York appointed Rodney Christopher to serve as regional vice president of the New York state and New England areas. Christopher previously oversaw all NFF advisory services nationally, including product development, staff training and quality assurance. Contact: (212) 868-6710,

Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), the 36-year-old New York youth and family service provider, landed one of those rare grants that changes everything in a New York minute. The New York-based Starr Foundation (assets: $3.5 billion) announced in late October that it would provide the nonprofit with $25 million over the next five years for new projects. The funding will be matched by Stanley Druckenmiller, chairman of HCZ’s board of trustees, whose donation will go toward the start of a planned $150 million endowment.

The numbers are more staggering when put in human terms. The expected number of low-income youth served by HCZ will rise from 4,500 to 14,000, which equals half the schoolchildren (of any age) located in central Harlem.

Formerly known as the Rheedlen Centers for Children and Families, and founded by current Youthline America CEO Richard Murphy, HCZ is led by CEO Geoffrey Canada, whom the U.S. News and World Report named one of America’s best leaders in 2005. The Starr Foundation, headed by President Florence Davis, was created in 1955 by Cornelius Vander Starr, who founded the American International Group.

This is the largest single grant ever made by the foundation. Contact: Starr (212) 230-5044,; HCZ (212) 534-0700,

Forum for Youth Investment (FYI) Executive Director Karen Pittman was appointed to the JCPenney Afterschool Fund’s board of directors in November. Pittman, a columnist for Youth Today, is already a member of the fund’s audit committee. FYI seeks to help communities improve their ability to provide youth development services. Contact: FYI at; JCPenney at

Two new board members were elected by the Washington-based Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The Rev. Michael Place, vice president of ministry development for Resurrection Health Care, served as an official of the Archdiocese of Chicago for about 14 years and was counsel for policy development and a member of the archbishop’s cabinet. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan’s surgeon general since 2003, was the founder and director of the African American Initiative for Male Health Improvement, a health screening initiative funded by the Michigan Department of Community Health. Contact: (202) 478-8500,

Benita Singh, 24, has joined the board of directors at the Baltimore-based International Youth Foundation, a nonprofit working in 70 countries to improve conditions for youth. During her college years, Singh was the president and co-founder of Mercado Global, which connects economically disadvantaged women’s cooperatives to the U.S. market. She is vice president of marketing for the League of Artisans program, an initiative of the American India Foundation. Singh was profiled on the cover of Newsweek in July as “one of the 15 people who make America great.” Contact: (410) 951-1500,


The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (assets: $808 million) named its interim planning director, Harvey Robins, to be director of strategic planning and operations. Before joining Clark in April, Robins directed Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Office of Operations for the City of New York. He previously served as deputy chancellor for finance for the city’s Board of Education.

Also joining Clark is new portfolio manager John Kalafatas, a former executive at Boston-based City Year. Contact: (212) 551-9100,

It’s been more than a year since the release of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, the final product that capped a four-year, $4 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to Christian Smith, then a professor at the University of North Carolina. The book presented the findings from the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), a two-wave project on the importance of religion in youths’ lives. It entailed 3,370 phone interviews and 267 face-to-face interviews with teens. (See “What Teenagers’ Faith Means for Youth Work”).

The Indianapolis-based Lilly (assets: $8.4 billion) has green-lighted a third wave of NSYR, a repeat of all phone and face-to-face interviews from the first waves that will take place from January 2007 through December 2010. The headquarters moves with Smith, who left North Carolina for South Bend, Ind., to become the director of Notre Dame University’s Center for the Study of Religion.

Lilly also made a sizable donation to build an endowment for the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The center, which trains some 8,000 fundraisers annually, will receive a $40 million donation that is expected to generate $2 million a year. Contact: Lilly (317) 916-7304,; Center for the Study of Religion (574) 631-4531,; Center on Philanthropy (317) 278-8972,

Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families in Silver Spring, Md., elected Fasaha Traylor to be chairwoman of the board. Traylor has been the senior program officer at the New York-based Foundation for Child Development in New York for the past five years. She is vice president of the board of Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth. Contact: (301) 589-4293,


Terry Cline, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Health, was nominated by President Bush last month to fill Charles Curie’s shoes as administrator of SAMHSA. Cline’s early career included a stint as clinical director at the Cambridge Youth Guidance Center in Massachusetts, and time with SAMHSA as a health care policy fellow. Curie resigned this summer. Contact: SAMHSA (240) 276-2130,