We are thrilled (as is evident by Jesse’s dads expression) to participate in the Milkweed for Restoration Projects program of Monarch Watch.
Since 2014 the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust has been the key steward for the Deauville Riparian Buffer Project along Vaughn’s Branch in Cardinal Valley and while we have added milkweed that we propagated at the Dunbar Memorial Garden, this shipment of plants will help us make a real difference for Monarch Butterflies.
Did we tell you we are THRILLED?
A little background on the whys and wherefores of our project. Back in 2001 the city of Lexington purchased a row of houses along Deauville Drive – the area was deemed a floodplain and the houses were removed. The Lexington Urban County Council created a Greenway Master Plan whose vision is “to create a community-wide system of linkages that will contribute to the connectivity, preservation, protection and enhancement of riparian corridors, floodplain areas, environmentally sensitive areas, biologically diverse natural areas and habitats.” Incentive grants were offered and a variety of local organizations and environmental activists were encouraged to help.
But why the “Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust” you might ask? Well, we certainly had no designs on becoming involved in riparian buffer restoration but two factors encouraged us to do so: 1) Deauville Drive is part of Jesse’s neighborhood (here in Cardinal Valley) and 2) the Dunbar Memorial Garden – an all native plant garden we helped build in Jesse’s honor – a project he had been involved in to honor the life of another student at his high school.
The garden, now 10 years old, is a constant source of inspiration to us and we have dedicated countless hours to its care and upkeep. In return, that “sacred space” as a friend calls it, has rewarded us with hundreds of baby plants that we in turn sell at our annual plant sale to help fund not only the continued maintenance of the garden but also of the Trusts’ projects, programs, scholarships and awards. It is “sustainability” with a capital S.
And now the natural progression becomes clearer.
The Deauville Drive greenway encompasses about 5 acres of land that we are slowly but surely turning into a native plant habitat. There you will find countless varieties of native trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers – including Milkweed for Monarchs!
The work has been labor-intensive, especially given the amount of invasive nonnative honeysuckle we’ve removed but with help from our volunteers (including students from Dunbar High School and The Learning Center), it is becoming a remarkable place that is good for our environment and the “critters” who call it home.
And this week, thanks to Monarch Watch, we’ll be planting plenty of Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) and Asclepias verticillata (Whorled Milkweed) and posting regularly to document this newest addition to the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trusts’ repertoire of projects.
On Saturday, May 13th the Trust will once again host our annual Native Plant Sale at Dunbar High School. This will be our 8th sale and most likely our best – over time we’ve learned so much not only about native plants but about propagating, tending, best potting practices and even a little about what Jesse called “shameless self-promotion.”
The Dunbar Memorial Garden is rich with natives, our best “guesstimate” is that we have over 60 different species of plants from trees to shrubs, flowers to grasses and this year we are focusing on two important themes: Monarch Butterflies and native pollinators.
A little about our native Swamp Milkweed – it is home-grown, chemical free, “organic” milkweed: the plants are 2 years old with 2, 3, or 4 stems in each pot. It takes a lot of time, luck, wishful thinking and patience to grow perennial milkweed from seed! Seed was gathered as it matured in the Fall of 2015 then immediately “planted” in a protected area of the garden and lightly mulched with dried shredded leaves. Once it sprouted in the Spring and after developing two true sets of leaves the plants were carefully relocated to give them each plenty of room to develop. Last Fall (in October of 2016) those plants were then carefully lifted from the soil of the garden and potted up in tall, deep pots. The pots were then “planted” in a new protected area and left to over winter. This Spring (thankfully!) all the plants emerged and have been growing strong. Prior to the plant sale they are inspected then re-potted into larger containers. They look amazing!
The “very dirty” white pot on the right is the pot-in-ground pot that kept the milkweed safe all winter!
In our next blog post tomorrow, we’ll talk about our seed grown annual Tropical Milkweed – an excellent cutting milkweed for raising Monarch caterpillars in captivity. We’ll have two varieties of that at our Plant Sale on May 13th.
We’ll leave you with a beautiful photo of Swamp Milkweed in bloom taken from the Dunbar Memorial Garden last summer:
Sixty-five percent sounds good, since, according to IRS data, less than a third (32.64%) of all tax returns filed with them in 2010 included itemized deductions, which is where charitable contributions deductions are taken by individuals. If more people are donating than are itemizing their deductions, this means that people don’t just throw money at nonprofits for the sake of tax savings; there must be an element of philanthropy at work.
But how are those dollars contributed put to work? How do we know that the organizations we give to are actually doing with it – for the most part – what we intended?
Most, if not all, states require nonprofits to register with their attorney general’s office.
Secular nonprofits are required to apply with the IRS to gain tax exempt status, and thereafter, most are required to file some type of the federal Form 990 with the IRS every year. The 990 is – while not an income tax return, per se – a document that provides some information about the activities of the nonprofit for the year.
Nonprofits have long been required to make copies of these documents available for public inspection, but in the stone-age prior to the internet, this necessitated either mailing copies out on request, or having those documents available for viewing at their main location during “normal business hours.”
With the internet, it’s become a lot easier to check on how donated dollars are spent. There are several websites – the most well-known are guidestar.org and charitynavigator.org — that collect tax returns of charities from the IRS, and often summarize the more donor-pertinent data from them and assign a rating to the organization in order to assist donors in making their decisions regarding where to spend their contribution dollars. One of the things that make these sites great is that they often offer users the ability to view a good deal of information about a nonprofit – free of charge! A “guest” user can view basic information about nonprofits and after creating a free account can view the federal Forms 990 filed by the organization.
But there is a downside to some of these rating sites. Because there are so many charitable organizations in existence, the smaller ones are often ignored by the major rating sites. For example, The Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust, Inc. is not required to file the “long form,” or regular Form 990, annually with the IRS; we can file a Form 990-N, or 990-EZ. For 2011, we did file the long form, but since we are not required to file it, we are noteligible to be rated by Charity Navigator.
As an accounting professional of a couple of decades at this point, until the Trust came into existence, I had no experience in accounting for or any IRS issues for charitable organizations. As recently as a year ago, I recall that GuideStar had a similar policy to CharityNavigator regarding the smaller nonprofits and “ratings”, and in my research for preparing our first financial Form 990, read a how-to book that encouraged small nonprofits to go with the long form, in order to qualify for a rating on that site. A recent perusal of the GuideStar site, however, doesn’t appear to mention the requirement for the long form. This may or may not be due to the higher thresholds – beginning in 2010 – allowing for the shorter-form filing, which allows organizations with $200,000 or less in annual receipts and $500,000 or less in assets to use the EZ version; nonprofits with normal annual receipts of $50,000 or less can simply file the 990-N.
So we could probably file the e-postcard (990-N) indefinitely, unless the IRS changes its rules. Will we? Probably not. While the IRS seems to be making it easier for the small nonprofits – and accountants do not come cheap, you know – we are fortunate in having a board of individuals who are dedicated to assisting their Treasurer in gathering the data needed to present accurate financial information to our donors, the IRS, and anyone else who is interested. We are fortunate in that aspect, because so many worthy causes do not have access to free labor from CPA’s, seasoned bookkeepers, and otherwise well-educated and experienced people.
Jesse believed in helping others by sharing knowledge and we’d like to share some with you. It may seem daunting to someone without an accounting background to review an organizations Federal Form 990 but it’s not THAT difficult. Go to Guidestar.org and sign up, sign in and search for the organization you are interested in. Once on a profile page, scroll down until you see “Forms 990 from IRS” (see our red arrow).
Open a current or past Form 990 in pdf and start familiarizing yourself with the layout. Generally you will find “Compensation of Officers, Directors and Highest Compensated Employees” on Page 7 and/or 8. As well, expenses to run an organizations various programs will be listed on page 2. And if you really want an in-depth accounting, you can find “Functional Expenses” on or about Page 10. Depending on the size of the nonprofit, the 990 can range in length from twenty pages upward to several hundred pages. Use the “find” option to search for specific data and don’t be daunted by the volume of information. If you see an organization that raises $230,000 but then spends $100,000 to pay its staff, well, depending on you, you might want to place your dollar elsewhere.
As a donor, we encourage you to register at Guidestar.org and thoroughly research the nonprofits you are interested in helping. While you might be surprised at some of the information you find, you should be better able to determine if your hard-earned dollars are being spent in a manner that is in-keeping with your decision to donate. And remember, if a nonprofit can’t tell you how they spend your money, it might be an indicator that you shouldn’t give it to them.
Working against sexual violence has been a passion of mine for years now. Through all the different programs I have participated in, the well known Take Back the Night has always been a favorite. Lexington is hosting our own Take Back the Night this Wednesday, led by the University of Kentucky’s Violence Intervention and Prevention Center.
My first Take Back the Night was in Ann Arbor, Michigan while I was an undergrad. I remember two of my initial reactions clearly – it was cold, and it was unsettling to be talking about rape, an issue that has become so stigmatized and politicized, so publicly. But any discomfort I felt went away quickly and I was left with just a feeling of awe. Inspired by the strength of the survivors who spoke out, the friends and family supporting their loved ones, the allies working to end the violence, and the community that came together put together this event – a community that finally did what was right and encouraged a diversity of voices and perspectives to speak out about rape.
Since my first Take Back the Night, I have been determined to continue to work to break the silence, continue to get rid of the stigma, continue to support the voices of survivors, in hopes of creating a community that every day makes it clear that victims and survivors aren’t to be blamed, but instead are to be supported and loved. Take Back the Night is a unique experience, one that is simultaneously heart-breaking and empowering. You stand and listen to how rape has effected the lives of so many people and it is shocking and sad, and frustrating. But you also watch as people come together, you witness people’s strength, and you are inspired to really try and make change.
If there is one event I could recommend, it would be Take Back the Night. VIP’s schedule for Take Back the Night is filled with wonderful parts and you can choose what you wish to participate in. The march starts at 7 PM at three different locations (Patterson Office Tower at UK, 3rd Street Stuff, and Thoroughbred Park). We will meet for the rally at 7:30 at the courthouse plaza, where we will have amazing guest speakers and performers, a speak out, and a candlelight vigil. And finally, there is the after party at 3rd Street Stuff. For more information, check out the VIP center’s website. I hope to see you there.
Whoa…What a busy day at Mindtriggerz! One of our new clients came back for his second session on the computers. Just two more and he will have his own at home. He has mastered finding the letters on the keyboard and managed to beat me at the connect four game a few times before he had to go home. We can’t wait wait to see him next week.
Another even younger client came back for her second time. She really blew us away learning her alphabet using an animal game. By the end of her session she was able to spell kangaroo by sounding it out! I’m telling you these kids are amazing.
Then we had a pair of brothers; one in kindergarten and one in middle school. Jerome showed the older brother how he could use the games to work on his math and science skills. They worked on times table, fractions, and even got into some algebra. I worked with the little one and we played lots of animals and matching games, then wrapped up the session playing with the Tux Paint program.
We also had a client from over a year ago come in needing us to check out their system. We love it when clients come to us when they have issues with their computers. We are more than happy to fix any bugs or replace any parts that are no longer working. After taking a look at it it was decided he needed a whole new computer and he will be getting it next Saturday afternoon.
At the end of the day as an extra bonus we had some parents come in asking about our program. They had seen several of our flyers that were distributed through Cardinal Valley Elementary and decided to check it out. They filled out an application and will be starting their sessions next weekend. That’s 3 more kids to train and one more computer! I can’t wait! Why is next Saturday so far away?
On a personal note I have started the first of 400 hours of field work required for my social work degree at Cardinal Valley Elementary. I have enjoyed working with the wonderful staff in their newly renovated school. Have you seen it? The place looks fantastic. The kids are adorable and I’ve learned a whole mountain of new things about working with children just in the few days I’ve spent observing. I knew I would learn about social work, but I had no idea that I’d learn to be a better volunteer for Mindtriggerz. I just might be the luckiest gal in the world.
We had a slow couple of weeks at Mindtriggerz last month as far as new families go; probably due to the cold weather. But we’re seeing an increase in activity in February and are excited to reach our goal of 100 free computers before the end of the season in May!
Just yesterday we gave our first ever “Mindtriggerz Laptop” and are so excited to help a deserving young college student pursue a degree in nursing. This is Maria – and check out her shiny new Ubuntu computer!
A friendly reminder to future volunteers and clients: The Jesse Higginbotham Neighborhood Center is warm and toasty! We’ve been able to use the extra down time to discuss important things related to the trust like transparency and accountability. We’ve talked about Jesse’s vision of technology being available to everybody and what all the Mindtriggerz project has done to help realize this vision. We’ve been able to discuss at length how we can improve what we already do and opportunities in the future to do more. And of course we’ve been able to joke and laugh with each other 🙂 On a personal note it’s been great hanging out with Jesse’s parents and friends. I’ve never in my life met such a kind and diverse hard working group of people.
Great season so far! Come by and see us Saturday mornings from 10am to 2pm at the Jesse Higginbotham Neighborhood Center.
When you’ve got a big name like the “Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust, Inc.” you’ve got a lot to live up to.
First there’s that little guy with a big name and a big heart, Jesse himself. Everything we do we do to honor him and to celebrate his life and what he did for us all. And while Jesse was good at a lot of things, he was great with Technology. All kinds of technology, but especially computers. So the very first thing we came up with to honor his spirit was the Mindtriggerz Project, a community based effort to reuse donated to computers which are loaded with open source educational software and placed in the homes of children and families who need but cannot afford them.
Mindtriggerz is my pet project. Ironically (Jesse loves irony!) because, unlike Jesse, I never really loved computers. Sure I used them when I had to. But I had a computer genius at home. So I got Jesse to do everything for me.
Now I had to learn how they worked, how to load them with software and put them together and run a computer lab to train the kids. Needless to say, I had to have a lot of help. Jon Jones and Jesse’s many other friends schooled me as best they could. Jesse’s Mom collected, tested and cleaned computer components. And does all the literature and marketing and social media.
And, we have done pretty well so far. 96 families served and we should reach the 100 mark soon!
But we want to do more! We can do more! And not just with Technology. It’s the next word in our name.
That’s what people place in us. Our donors. Our clients. Our community. And with that trust comes responsibility. Not just to help bridge the digital divide but to help provide for the needs of those same people who have been left behind so many times. Sure, we have always tried to improve our community. The Dunbar Memorial Garden provides a native plant habitat and service hours for Dunbar high school students, as well as providing a place to honor and remember those who left us too soon.
We pick up litter on Versailles Road through the Adopt-A-Highway program. But we are doing more!
It started a couple of years ago with Hats for the Homeless, with Jesse’s Mom and friends knitting and crocheting hats a scarves that were donated to the Hope Center. Next it was a windfall of pumpkins and over 100 home baked pies delivered to local shelters and missions.
This became part of our new initiative called a “Year-Round Plan for Giving” when each month we will promote and encourage efforts to help those who need our help.
This month we set up drop boxes at the University of Kentucky to receive donations of much needed items to support the work of The Nest and MASH, which provide much needed services for people in crisis. If you would like to help and learn more, visit and “like” us on Facebook.
For all of those who have and continue to help us build a better community, one which Jesse can be proud of: Thanks! For those who are new to our cause: please help us make this world a better place for those who so deserve it.
At the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust we have committed to a year of giving. Volunteering and working towards change has become a major part in my life, and it mostly started with working with the Dunbar GSA and at the Dunbar Memorial Garden. Jesse, Josh and Hannah all hoped for and worked towards creating safe and inclusive environments.
We have all worked at the garden with their shared vision in mind to create a safe space to remember and relax. This is especially important in high school, when kids are growing into their identities and dealing with peer pressure and bullying. To be able to give kids a space away from parents, and away from worry that they’ll have to deal with bullying, is to give kids a place to be comfortable, grow, love, and learn from others. I’ve seen kids come to the garden, go through high school, and it’s always inspiring to see the experiences they bring, and the unique ways they make change and continue to want to make change after they leave Dunbar.
Being back in Kentucky for graduate school, not only do I have more time to spend at the Memorial Garden, but I have also managed to find a place at two wonderful organizations at the University of Kentucky: OUTsource and the Violence, Intervention and Prevention Center. Both these organizations have agreed to help us with our upcoming donation drive benefiting The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families and Arbor Youth Services.
OUTsource is a resource center and safe place for LGBTQ* students at the University of Kentucky. OUTsource offers a fun, friendly environment where students don’t have to worry about hate-speech, discrimination, and others kinds of bullying. In addition to being an inclusive space, the OUTsource works to improve the university’s climate and culture by hosting programs and doing presentations across campus. One such program is “Question Box” in the dorms where students can anonymously ask questions dealing with homophobia, gender norms, identity, and the LGBTQ* community, which later get answered by OUTsource volunteers. The OUTsource is an empowering student-run organization that let’s students take control and make change.
Violence, Intervention and Prevention Center works both to end power-based personal violence (PBPV) (sexual assault, partner violence, and stalking) on campus and as a resource for victims and survivors of violence. The VIP center is the home of the nationally known Green Dot, a program that teaches students how to step into the role of an active bystander. As bystanders, students, staff and faculty hopefully will be able to safely intervene in potentially harmful situations as well as foster an anti-violence environment on campus. It is incredible and inspiring to see an organization on campus try and approach the problem of PBPV from a proactive and positive perspective.
When you come by to drop off your donations at either OUTsource or the VIP Center, say hi and learn more about what these organizations do and what you can do to help.
To learn more about the donation drive, what The Nest and Arbor Youth Service need, and where the OUTsource and the VIP center are located, click here!
For many nonprofits, donations received during December can have a huge impact on their continued work. While the Trust has never been “keen” on actively seeking monetary contributions, we truly value and appreciate our donors! Much has been accomplished in 2012 and 2013 promises even more opportunities to help and serve our community.
While January affords a bit of breathing room, rest and relaxation, and evaluating the years accomplishments – for us it’s time to move forward in our Year-Round Plan for Giving. Last month we asked our friends and supporters to help us increase the Trust’s Facebook presence and in exchange for new “likes” we committed to donating desserts to area food shelters’ holiday meals. Our page jumped from 53 to 144 and we provided over 400 cookies, 6 pies and several loaves of zucchini bread to the Men’s and Women’s Hope Centers and Lighthouse Ministries. We are also pleased to say that many of the desserts were made with locally grown ingredients – berries, zucchini and fresh pumpkin!
We’re asking our friends and supporters to continue this effort in January as we launch our 2nd project: providing basic necessities to two Crisis Shelters. Several “drop boxes” will be placed around the city to collect items such as soap, deodorant, toothpaste, combs, brushes, baby items (diapers, food, formula, gently used clothing), socks, tshirts, and shampoo. We’ll also be soliciting our “stitching friends” to create homemade scarves, hats, mittens and wash cloths through our “Crafting for a Cause <3” events!
December found some of us receiving items we didn’t really need. Perhaps a family member gifted you socks but your sock drawer is already full. Maybe Grandma gave you a hat you don’t like or need. Did Mom give you MORE underwear? Consider donating these to us and we’ll make sure they get to folks who need them. We’ll be posting a “wish list” on our Facebook Page so please stop by and see what you can do to help others. We’ve aligned with Arbor Youth Services’ MASH Drop Inn (serving children 0-17 years old who are runaway, homeless, or otherwise in crisis) and The Nest Center for Women, Children and Families (providing high quality, comprehensive services to women and families in crisis while working to prevent child abuse and neglect). Please take some time to visit their websites and learn more about their work!
So do we stop giving now that the gifting season is over? Nope. Will you stop giving because the gifting season is over? We sure hope not. Join us. Come stitch with us. Share our page. Start your own initiative. There’s always good work to be done, work that serves those in need and those less fortunate, work that will make you feel good while doing it. Jesse would like that. <3
The primary mission of the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust is to sponsor and support work in keeping with Jesse’s spirit of helping others. Please continue to follow us on Facebook and share with others who are involved in and concerned with community service actions, ideas and altruism
At our recent Board of Directors Meeting it was decided that along with the current projects we do in honor of Jesse, we should also expand our reach by doing more things in keeping with his spirit of helping others in his community.
Several members volunteered to organize a “Year-Round Plan For Giving” – it is an idea in progress but will begin this month with a bake-off to provide area homeless shelters with homemade desserts for their holiday meals. We’ll be promoting this event by asking for “likes” on the Jesse Higginbotham Technology Trust’s Facebook Page . For every 10 likes we receive we will donate a homemade treat to one of several area organizations including (but not limited to) the Hope Center, the Women’s Hope Center and Lighthouse Missions.
In order to increase awareness of our work, our goal is to surpass our current Facebook presence from the 53 likes we now have on our page to well over 100! We want others to learn about our projects and potentially help us with donations of technology, financial support, volunteerism, and most importantly sharing our mission and purpose with others in the Lexington area as well as the global community of which Jesse was so large a presence.
In 2009, with assistance from friends who supplied locally grown pumpkins, farm-fresh organic eggs and baking skills, we personally donated over 100 homemade pumpkin pies for holiday meals to a variety of Lexington Shelters. This is the inspiration for our latest endeavor: we need your help and support.
We believe that even in seemingly small ways, we can all work together and do something “big.” To help, simply like our page and share it with others: invite your friends, co-workers, organizations, associates and businesses to join us and then ask them to do the same. An act of giving just by clicking – Jesse would love that! His beloved technology and social networking being used to help someone less fortunate – truly “giving” during the giving season.
We’ll start counting at 53 and even if we don’t reach 100, we’ll be baking pies, cookies, cakes and breads for our local shelters – and looking for more ways to do good things in honor of Jesse the whole year-round.