By Tim Leeds
Stand for Children is a national organization trying to build a grassroots membership and local chapters to examine the needs of, and improve the opportunities for, children in the country.
The organization began on June 1, 1996, when more than 300,000 people gathered in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial to voice their opinion that there was something wrong when a country spent more money on prisons and prison construction than preschool or school construction, and that leaders who were making life more difficult for working families were wrong to try to tell them about family values.
Since then it has developed into a membership organization, building a coalition to try to improve children's lives. The organization's web site says some of the improvements made by members in local communities include helping to build new schools to ease overcrowding, creating a high school "drop-in" center, helping to provide more educational aides, increased access to dental care and education, elimination of fees to send children to some public schools, new after-school programs at low-income schools and creation of weekend night teen clubs.
The group will hold its first-ever national meeting from June 29 to July 1 in Washington. The people at the event will establish Stand For Children's long-term issue goals, set next year's issue priorities, work on
solutions for key issues for children and families and strategies to achieve solutions and build a national voice and vision.
part of the meeting will be a return to the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the organization's founding, for an anniversary candlelight rally with Marian Wright Edelman,
founder of Stand For Children Day.
The group has coordinated the annual Stand for Children Rally on or about June 1 since the first rally in 1996. Havre will hold its rally June 1 in Pepin Park. The rallies are intended to raise awareness about the organization and its mission.
Last year more than 2,000 events were planned across the nation for the rally, and this year events nationwide will include town hall meetings, rallies, marches, meetings with legislators, violent toy trade-ins, children's health
insurance sign-ups, carnivals, and book drives.
The organization also holds a "Cyber-Stand for Children" on the Internet, an educational and action campaign running from May 21 through June 10 this year.
The group became a membership organization in 1999 and currently has more than 5,000 members. It projects its membership
will grow to more than 50,000 by the end of 2002. Groups, such as organizations in Havre, also do work in affiliation with the organization.
The Stand for Children web site lists many accomplishments they have helped to achieve since the group began. The focus in 1997 was on health needs, and the web site says that more than 700 local events raised awareness and contributed to the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP,) a federal program helping states offer low-cost or free health care to close to 5 million uninsured children.
Working on the theme of "Stand for Quality Child Care" in 1998, more than 1,200 events helped pass the Kerry/Bond amendment to provide child care funding. "Ready to Learn, Ready to Succeed" was the theme in 1999, and more than 1,700 events focused on raising awareness about issues affecting children's ability to perform in school. "Building Safer and Healthier Communities for All Children" was the theme in 2000, and created including violent toy trade-ins, safety demonstrations and fairs, health insurance sign-ups, political forums, and letter-writing campaigns.
The web site says that despite the gains the group has made, it still hasn't achieved its most critical goal of creating a strong grassroots nonpartisan national organization, comparable to the Sierra Club or AARP, to promote children's issues. Stand for Children is continuing its campaign to create that membership.
On the net: http://www.stand.org