Geography error nets Superior charity an unexpected donationBecause of a geography mix-up, a one-time $250 grant went to Ray of Hope, a charitable organization based in Superior, instead of Ray of Hope, a charitable organization based in Maryland.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Deborah Washington was initially surprised to be told that Superior, Wis., is nowhere near Cumberland, Md.
“You see why I never went into geography,” said a laughing Washington, who is director of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable. “Don’t ever let me fly an airplane.”
Because the mix-up, a one-time $250 grant went to Ray of Hope, a charitable organization based in Superior, instead of Ray of Hope, a charitable organization based in Cumberland.
Not a lot of money, but it’s welcome, said Lynne Lowney, a board member of Superior’s Ray of Hope.
“All of it helps,” Lowney said this week.
Not a lot of money, but it would have been welcome, said Jenn Dziuk, residential director of Cumberland’s Ray of Hope.
“Anything makes a difference with our organization,” Dziuk said this week. “A $25 donation helps.”
This is what happened, according to Washington and Earl Ofari Hutchinson, an author who is founder and president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable:
The Los Angeles organization decided about three years ago to branch out from its original mission of bringing in speakers and forums to South Los Angeles. It would look outside Los Angeles to give a little help and publicity to charities in some of the poorest communities in the United States, as identified by the website 24/7 Wall St.
“We choose groups that do not receive grants from governments and large groups,” Washington said. “And something that pulls at the heartstrings.”
This month, the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable decided to help Cumberland, Md.
A good choice, Dziuk said, because Cumberland, a historic small city in far western Maryland, is distressed.
“Everything is shut down,” Dziuk said. “There are no jobs.”
The problem came, Washington said, when she scouted for charities in Cumberland, via the Web. She discovered Ray of Hope and clicked on it, but she somehow came to Superior’s different charity with the same name. She later learned there is a Cumberland, Wis., not too far south of Superior, and she thinks Google might have misdirected her because of that, she said.
In any event, she liked what she found.
Lynn Lowney and her sister, Fawn Lowney, founded Ray of Hope in 2006 in honor of their brother, Nathan Ray Lowney, who committed suicide in 1994 when he was 19.
Their idea was to provide opportunities for kids at risk to get involved in positive activities and learn to believe in themselves, Lynn Lowney said. So they provide scholarships to help kids participate in things such as sports, camps, clubs and arts.
The organization, run on a shoestring by an all-volunteer board, is small. “We haven’t been able to give as many scholarships as we hoped,” Lowney said.
Its mission and its small size made Superior’s Ray of Hope a good fit, Washington said. “This is so appropriate for this day and times, with bullying and cyberbullying and et cetera.”
And it took the local group unawares.
“It was a total surprise. I had no idea,” Lynn Lowney said. “I have no idea how they actually found us.”
Cumberland’s Ray of Hope, like Superior’s, started with a story. It was established in 1987 to serve adults with developmental disabilities by a woman whose daughter needed that kind of help, Dziuk said. It has grown to comprise 17 homes housing one to three clients, and also has employment and training programs.
It probably wouldn’t have qualified for a grant from the Los Angeles organization anyway, because it does receive government money. It’s also a much bigger organization than its Superior namesake. Cumberland Ray of Hope had revenue of $3.7 million in 2010, according to IRS figures; Superior Ray of Hope had $8,150 in 2011, according to its IRS filing.
But the Cumberland agency’s funding source has been tightening. “The state of Maryland three years ago took a huge hit for funding for people with disabilities,” Dziuk said.
A $250 gift would have gone to a fund that helps with residents’ holiday parties and gift shopping, Dziuk said.
But the Superior Ray of Hope is the one that best fits the Los Angeles organization’s mission, Washington said.
“You know, it’s a great organization,” Washington said. “It’s doing great things. It doesn’t make any difference where they are on the planet.”
To learn more
Ray of Hope, Superior: www.rayofhopeinc.net/
Ray of Hope, Cumberland, Md.: www.rayofhope-md.org/
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable: www.laupr.org