FRI holds a special place in my heart, partly because of the good work it does to improve my neighborhood, but largely because it was a major inspiration for the neighborhood news strategy we pursued at Pegasus News.
Like other Weed & Seeds, FRI leveraged Federal funds and a volunteer network to weed out crime via crimewatches and police overtime while seeding positive development and business. In addition to spending more than $1 million on police presence, FRI provided drug education programs, reclaimed struggling schools, helped residents with their taxes and successfully worked with the city to bring in a library (under construction) and a recreation center (to come). Crime in the areas the organization covers is down 60 percent.
Now that work is in jeopardy.
Here’s CBS 11’s report on the situation:
We’re not alone.
- In 2004, my discovery of the group was an inspiration in the formation of Pegasus News.
- I got some national attention for my use of the group to illustrate that neighborhood news needn’t be a bore.
- Lots of FRI coverage at Pegasus News
- I went a little crazy on video coverage of the group’s tenth anniversary.
So what now? FRI has been working for almost a year now to try to become self-sustaining, but for an organization that has for more than a decade used all its volunteer resources on delivering programs, it takes longer than that to turn around. Doubly so when you serve a low-income area.
Many volunteers and staff have been working on the problem, putting on the group’s first ever fundraiser event back in November and working on a long-term campaign to raise funds. I’ve been helping with that effort, including working with a great group of volunteer interns to better brand and market the organization.
All of this will continue, but with substantially less money, there will be a severe reduction of services. A negative impact. Time spent on programs now goes to fundraising, and there’s not enough time to go around. We’ll see fewer cops on the streets. It’s frustrating.
But, I do know that FRI’s good work will continue and the organization will make it over this hurdle. Spend five minutes with FRI founder Vikki Martin or any of the other dedicated folks and you know that a group that started with a small potluck twelve years ago isn’t going to let this stop them.
In the meantime, if you care about Far East Dallas, your help is needed more than ever.