When I joined the Alabama Arise staff 16 years ago as its development director, I came to this work with little to recommend me other than a sincere desire to help the organization achieve its mission: to improve the lives of Alabamians with low incomes.
As a retired English teacher who had spent several years at a small rural school in the Black Belt, I had seen the struggles my students and their families faced on a daily basis. I observed how circumstances beyond their control compounded on one another to push them deeper into poverty.
Alabama’s lopsided tax structure creates great inequities in educational opportunities compared to more affluent communities. This can forecast a future of low-paying jobs without the benefits of health insurance, paid sick leave or child care.
Without public transportation, keeping a job often depends on being able to purchase a vehicle and keep it running. That’s a need that can send a panic-stricken mama or daddy to high-cost payday lenders. And Alabama’s insistence on taxing groceries makes this one of the most expensive states for struggling families to keep food on the table.
What I came to realize is that changing these and other conditions would take policy shifts at the state level. And that’s what led me to Arise.
I wish I could say that more progress has been made. But I do know one thing: As Arise has grown, so has its reputation and influence. With my retirement effective Jan. 31, 2021, I leave Arise with the hope for great opportunities on the horizon.
I have great confidence in the current staff and membership, many of whom have become friends as well as supporters. I’ll be cheering from the sidelines as I continue to support Arise, and I hope you will, too!