Friday, February 13, 2009

An Open Letter to Our Community in Southern Arizona from Jason Cianciotto, Executive Director - Wingspan

I am writing to share with you some painful decisions we have had to make to ensure that Wingspan is here to provide critical, life-saving services to future generations and to ask for your continued support.

This economic recession is profoundly impacting individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofits, including Wingspan.

For example, contributions in December 2008 decreased by 75% compared to December 2007, and expected grant revenue is down by $120,000, which is 25% of our annual grant budget.

Because of the recession, reduced income, and the potential for more state, county and city funding cuts, we had to take action.

Over the past three months, we laid off five staff members and implemented other cost-saving measures. I requested, and the board approved, a voluntary reduction in my salary of just over 25%, and every director-level staff member has taken a voluntary pay cut.

It is painful and heartbreaking to say goodbye to our friends and co-workers who have been a part of our daily lives here at Wingspan. It is also extremely disappointing to see some of our programs cut due to a lack of funding and subsequent staff capacity. We need to give ourselves the time and permission to work through those feelings and to support our community as best we can.

Wingspan is a 21-year-old southern Arizona institution that has touched countless lives, including my own, in very deep and meaningful ways. I was reminded of this at a recent reunion of over 25 former youth program participants that coincided with the open house of our new youth drop-in center location.

At the reunion, we laughed, applauded, and cried with each other, while sharing stories about how we found Wingspan's youth program, often after being rejected or made homeless by our families.

Through the friendships and mentorships developed during our time in the youth program, we came to love and accept ourselves for who we are, and we began the often long healing process that can come from facing so much rejection, harassment and violence.

I am so grateful for that reunion, not only because of my personal experience, but also because it focused my attention on the life-saving impact of our programs.

My heart was filled by the love that Wingspan facilitates in the lives of countless people, a love that is then paid forward for generations in ways we may never know.

This is why the board and I are absolutely committed to making the strategic decisions necessary to ensure Wingspan is here for future generations.

Most of the remaining staff in our Antiviolence Programs, Youth and Family Programs, Senior Programs, and the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA) are funded by a variety of private, federal, state, county or city grants.

Many of those grants end on June 30, 2009, and it is too soon to tell whether they will be renewed, reduced, or cut completely. Additionally, keeping Wingspan open takes far more than the money provided by grants, which account for only a little over 50% of our budget.

We need our community now more than ever to come together to keep Wingspan running and to help weather the effects of this economic storm.

Right now, above all else, we need your financial support.

Any financial contribution you can make, no matter how small, is extremely important at this critical moment in our history.

To make a donation, please visit our donation page, or call Nick Ray at 520-624-1779 x113.

I am absolutely certain that we will come together in support of this incredible organization, and I am so grateful for your love, support, and generosity.

In service to our community,

Jason signature
Jason Cianciotto
Executive Director

P.S. In honor of Wingspan's 21st birthday, why not give $21 per month or even $2,100 this year to ensure Wingspan is here to provide critical, life-saving services. For more information, call Nick Ray at 520-624-1779 x113. Thank You!

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