Wednesday, 01 September 2010 15:49 Christopher Toliver MMMC Technology Reporter
Did you get a chance to read my article on the Project for Pride in Living? My piece talked about an organization that has been compassionately making provisions of necessity for low-income individuals in the community. I was blessed to have had the opportunity to sit down with the Executive Director, Steve Cramer, and just recently, that blessing became a gift when I met the retired founder of the Project for Pride in Living, Joe Selvaggio.
I didn’t know what to expect as I sat and waited in the backyard gazebo, the birds’ serenade keeping me company. Selvaggio entered. His swagger was calm and gracious, and when our hands and eyes locked, I felt an instant connection – internal notification that this was an assignment I would enjoy immensely. Although now inactive with the PPL, Selvaggio still dabbles in the business of helping low-income people, and why wouldn’t he? In his forty-year career, he has pursued multiple avenues of servitude, including Catholic priest, founder of Project for Pride in Living, and founder of the One Percent Club, a philanthropic organization for people of means.
These days, Selvaggio is heading the MicroGrants program. “The program is designed to help low-income people become self-sufficient and to make a stride towards sufficiency with a thousand dollar bump of cash,” says Selvaggio. Selvaggio has taken a different tack than the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus. Yunus created a program to give people one hundred dollar loans to help get their businesses started. Selvaggio feels another loan would only create another burden and a bill to pay back, so he gives out microgrants. Selvaggio stressed, “If properly coached to use it well and to invest in their future and be accountable, it could be a positive bump in their direction.”
In order to help grant qualifiers succeed in a positive direction, several agencies have been chosen to oversee the progress of the applicants so that they don’t knowingly or unknowingly misuse the funds. According to Selvaggio, the money is not to be used for partying or other miscellaneous activities that are contrary to the intended use of the funds, and this is where the partnering community organizations come in. Jeremiah Program, Twin Cities RISE!, Summit Academy OIC, African Development Center, Project for Pride in Living, PRISM, Daily Work, Midtown Global Market, Wilder Foundation, and WomenVenture are the agencies that potential applicants can tap into for assistance. Selvaggio made his point clearer by quoting an old Chinese proverb, “Gimme a fish, and I eat for a day, but teach me to fish, and I eat for a lifetime.” He said it even better this way, “Gimme a fish, and I eat for a day, but gimme a microgrant, and I’ll open a bait shop.” Simply profound!!!
After our sit-down, Selvaggio gave me a tour of his home. I was exposed to art and its hidden meaning, pieces of antiquity, pictures of him in the motherland, and his “hit list,” a list of philanthropists who aid him in raising a half a million a year in order to provide the grants.
MicroGrants works like this: Selvaggio utilizes the “hit list,” partners with the agencies, and the agencies send the applicants. If you have faith in self, a plan of action, and your income doesn’t exceed $36,000 dollars, then you qualify. Why not take advantage of this opportunity to better self and community? Why not take a chance on your hidden dreams? Why not acquire the grant so you are able to purchase a quality computer to assist with your studies? Why not finish up your trade and embrace that grant to help with your tools? Why not use the money to start that landscaping business? Why not get those business cards made so that you are professional in your business endeavors? Why not utilize the lighter fluid that will get the coals to sizzling and your life burning?
It might be liver for dinner now, but to those who really want to do it, I see prosperity, success, self-gratification, and oh yeah, a little filet mignon!!!