José Luis Villegas /

Teen coordinator Richard Johnson high-fives Brianay Andrews, 12, during a work exercise Friday at Roberts Family Development Center in North Sacramento.

Ginger Rutland: Readers want to know: How can I help a kid to succeed?

Published: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10A
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013 - 9:51 am

I received a deluge of response to my July 23 column on the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case. For those who missed it, my take on the "outsized reaction" to the not-guilty verdict was concern. I worried it would give too many young black men and women "permission to nurse resentments, a reason to smolder, an excuse to fail."

I said I was "sick and tired of outrage. Don't march and shout slogans."

Instead, to honor Trayvon, I urged readers "to help a black high schooler pass algebra, give him a summer job, teach him a trade."

Not everyone agreed with my pronouncements, but many did. It's been more than a week and responses continue to trickle in. Several are asking how they can help.

I was particularly moved by an email I received just this week from two recently retired women. "We have been floundering in the waters of community service choices," they wrote, "unable to decide how best to use our time and whatever talents we may have. … We are interested in seeking your guidance."

Then came their postscript; for me, the gulp factor in their message.

"For what it's worth, we are not wealthy 'do-gooders' seeking to assuage our guilt for being successful. We are just two women (one white and one Japanese) who have worked all our lives, raised our children and yearn to continue to be valuable contributors to this world of which we are so blessed to be part."

Such a heartfelt appeal deserves a response – in fact, it demands one.

Unfortunately, I feel inadequate to the task. I am by nature and by profession an observer, not much of a participant. But in the more than 40 years I have spent practicing journalism in this community, I have come across many good people doing remarkable things in service to others.

So, for what it's worth here are three suggestions for those two retired ladies and for the many others who contacted me:

• Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Greater Sacramento Area pairs adult mentors with children aged 8 to 14. The vast majority of the kids served are from single-parent homes. Many of their fathers are incarcerated. The local organization serves a six-county area – Sacramento, Yolo, Yuba, Sutter, San Joaquin and south Placer. Big Brothers, Big Sisters has hooked up about 400 local kids with mentors. But there are another 111 on a list waiting to be paired with a caring adult who is willing to commit at least one day – really just a few hours – a week or every other week. Another 70 have pending applications.

For more information visit their website at

• Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Sacramento is another place to help kids in need. Local clubs serve approximately 1,400 children a day at seven sites in Sacramento County. An eighth is set to begin operations next month. The clubs offer tutoring, mentoring, sports, arts, cooking classes and more.

Almost any interest or talent a potential volunteer has can be matched with a need a specific club or youngster has. Those interested can learn more at the organization's website,

• Finally, there's the Roberts Family Development Center. Headquartered in North Sacramento, the center serves poor families at five different locations throughout Sacramento. It provides after-school tutoring, chess clubs, computer labs, gardening and more for 300 to 400 kids a day. They take inner-city kids to places they've never been, on camping trips and to visit college campuses. While programs are designed primarily to help youngsters succeed, the center also offers help to struggling parents. More information is available at

I have highlighted three local charities that are focused on helping poor children who need caring adults in their lives – organizations I know that have a structure in place and a track record of success. There are many others in Sacramento. I don't have the space or time to list them all.

And by the way, for those who don't have the time or ability to volunteer, all of these organizations also need money.

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