Teen-pregnancy fighters seek nonprofit status

Teen-pregnancy fighters seek nonprofit status

August 12th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Christina Featherstone from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department talks at the Harriet Tubman Express offices on Thursday afternoon to discuss ways of funding the group.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

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Those interested in discussing funding sources and guidelines for Harriet Tubman Express are asked to meet at the former Express site at 2106 N. Hawthorne St. at 2 p.m. Aug. 25.

Twin sisters, a housing authority official and a Hamilton County Health Department employee are among a handful of people who met Thursday to revive a teen pregnancy prevention program that served more than 1,000 students before its funding was cut this summer.

Though the Harriet Tubman Express served East Chattanooga, the community with the highest teen pregnancy rate in the county, program officials claim that only four of its 1,100 participants became pregnant before reaching adulthood.

"If you don't have it [the Express], you just have kids hanging on the street and they will get into trouble," said Brenda Tolliver.

She and her twin, Belinda, a former mentor at the Express, plan to head the program in the future if they can keep it alive. Former Executive Director David Sabir, who headed the meeting, is retiring but will act as an adviser.

The group met in space offered by Chattanooga Housing Authority Executive Director Betsy McCright. She also offered funding advice.

"You can formulate your own 501(c)(3) [tax-exempt nonprofit] or you can affiliate with a church you're working with to get 501(c)(3) status so that when you're asking for money you can say any contributions to this group is deductible," she said.

David Sabir talks with others while waiting to start the meeting at the Harriet Tubman Express offices on Thursday afternoon to discuss ways of funding the group.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

McCright also tipped the members on a grant they could apply for if they get nonprofit status. And Sabir talked about bringing in an artist to raise funds for the group.

"Let's stay and think out of the box, because staying in the box is how our money got taken," Sabir said.

The Express operated for two decades before Hamilton County funding cuts forced the organization to close.

The group decided to use a $62 contribution from Tucker Baptist Church to sponsor a fundraiser toward the $1,200 estimated fee needed to apply for nonprofit status. They discussed having a fish fry and talent show.

East Chattanooga resident Christine Dobbins dropped in on the meeting and said she also wanted to help revive the Express.

"I'm 71 years old. I've been 18 and I've been 14. I've been there and I can tell young girls something," she said. "If it didn't work for me, it won't work for you. Get your education and leave these boys alone."

The group will meet again at 2 p.m. Aug. 25 to develop bylaws and a name.

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