I recently had a good dialogue with members about where our hearing health mission is going. They expressed thoughtful concerns about the changes and wondered if we have a clear direction for our charitable mission – and more importantly, a direction that will make a real difference. Are our plans really to help people in need, like when we started to build speech and hearing centers?
The speech and hearing centers were an effort to provide direct service. Built originally as a program of the Sertoma Foundation, the centers over time became independent organizations. This was not so Sertoma could abandon its commitment to service, but because neither the Foundation nor Sertoma were structured to be direct service providers. As an all-volunteer organization, we have always been in the role of supporting direct service, not providing it.
That is and remains the focus of our efforts, though I would agree with these members that, for a period of time, club building and our grant program had a generic community need focus. But even during that period, the majority of Sertoma’s charitable resources (I am speaking of the national organization – as I cannot speak for any club or clubs) went toward direct support of either those with hearing loss, or those studying to work with those that have hearing loss.
In recent years the grants program was changed back to its original focus: grants to those who provide direct support to the hearing loss community. Audiologists and other health care professionals, who are in the best position to value the impact of these requests, judge those grant requests for us. Follow-up reports are required of all recipients and, if not satisfactory, they are removed from the list for future grant consideration.
This year we have added a new national fundraiser that will both raise awareness of the hearing health issues across communities, and have the potential to increase funds available to support direct service in communities across the country, as well increase the support for national scholarships and grants. As an example, we are currently in discussion to collaborate with a state agency and a university to use the walk as a means to develop funding for a statewide hearing aid bank for needy families.
Does not the charitable outcome seem clear? I know that in recent years, between the merger and other changes, some among us are not sure of where we are going. If you look past the organizational changes, I think the direction remains clear. We are focused on becoming the primary support organization for those in need of hearing health services. Just to be clear, that is where we are going in our second century.