Dr. Elenora Woods saw a need and tried to fill it.
The result was a summer youth work program that found jobs for dozens of teens and activities like grass cutting and learning about the environment for preteens.
But she promised the kids a stipend at the end of the program, and it was that promise that kept them coming back all the way to the end of summer.
In the end, Woods couldn’t deliver.
But the nonprofit Front Porch Alliance did, stepping forward with the money when the nonprofit learned that Woods would be unable to do so.
The alliance set a condition: Woods, executive director of the Alton Park Development Corp., cannot operate a summer youth program again where she promises financial compensation.
“It’s not about her,” said Al Chapman, president of Front Porch Alliance. “It’s about the kids who came in good faith to a program all summer and who were not going to get paid.”
The Front Porch Alliance supplied each child with $300 on Thursday night, increasing the nonprofit’s contribution to the program from about $10,000 to nearly $40,000.
The initial donation was intended to help with food for the youths during the summer.
Chapman said if the Alton Park Development Corp. wants to do a summer youth program again, it should raise the money for a full-time executive director. Woods’ position was part-time.
Chapman said his organization committed to giving Woods additional help on Monday and raised the $30,000 in two days. However, he emphasized that his nonprofit is not in the business of bailing out organizations.
“She was well intentioned. She had good ideas, but she was in over her head,” said Chapman.
That advice is from someone who has operated summer youth programs since 1981 and has never had a child miss a paycheck, he said.
Woods said she took the youths to City Council and made a plea for funding. She said she had confidence that the money would come, but it didn’t.
“They said they couldn’t fund the whole thing but they would see what they would do,” she said. “I take the blame. I should have got a definite [commitment] in writing.”
“You don’t promise kids money that you don’t already have,” he said.
<em>Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.</em>