I'm gearing up for a five-hour smiley marathon this afternoon. Our local Jason's Deli is running a fund-raiser for a 501 (c) (3) with which I'm involved. Actually I'm the incoming president, so I guess that's more than "involved!" Anyway, the organization is Mid-South Lions Sight and Hearing Service--a four state (TN, MS, AR, MO) organization. Lions Clubs in those four states raise money and then provide FREE eye care and hearing aids for indigent patients. Each potential recipient must be sponsored by a Lions Club, who checks eligibility (at or below federal poverty line, no other insurance) and provides transportation to and from one of our satellite clinics or the Hamilton Eye Institute here in Memphis. Then the doctors who work with us, many of whom teach at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center, provide all necessary medical treatments, at no cost to the patient. Our own Mid-South organization pays for hospital time, equipment, disposables, etc.
We operate on a budget of over million dollars and treat hundreds of patients a year. We used to say we performed "a miracle a day," but we've already exceeded that 365 number for this fiscal year and have some 200 other patients on a waiting list. Per patient costs average out at around $1000 per patient, but I've seen costs go up to as high as $40,000 for a single person.
Where does our money come from? Well, we have a booster club of well-wishers who make individual contributions every year. We have some corporate support, particularly from Walmart. Individual Lions Clubs make yearly donations. And beyond that, we have to raise the money through fund-raisers like the one we're doing tonight.
Starting at 4:00 PM and running until 9:00 PM, Jason's Deli (two locations) is donating 10% of its gross profits to Mid-South. Local Lions will be hosting the event-- greeting customers, informing them that 10% of their total check will support our efforts (so please eat a lot!), and passing out information and brochures to anyone interested. I'll be at their suburban location for the whole five hours (abdominal brace and all), while our CEO and Program Director handle the other site.
Will we make a lot of money? Probably not. I have no idea of how many customers we'll have, but most two-person checks will be for under $20.00, which means $2.00 for us. It'll take at least 1000 customers to pay for a single surgery. But that will be one more person who will have sight restored -- one child whose eyes will no longer be crossed, one grandmother who will see her grandchild for the first time, one person whose catastrophic accident will be reversed.
These are the "before and after" photos of one of our patients, a little girl attacked by her grandmother's dog.
It's worth it. But I have to admit, I often wonder at the amount of work we put in to keep this non-profit afloat. What does it take to convince people to help those who are so very much in need of help? How many people will actually make the effort to come out tonight to support us? What would it take to convince you to write a check? To make a regular monthly donation of $10.00?
If you've had experience with raising money for a non-profit organization, I'd love to hear about your projects.
If you'd like to read more about Mid-South, I invite you to visit our website: http://www.midsouthlions.org/