The first formal donation, $1,000 from the Genesee County Bar Association, was made to Genesee Justice today.
Even though the nonprofit corporation for Genesee Justice is not yet approved by the IRS -- it's a lengthy process -- the American Baptist Church, Genesee Region, has agreed to act on behalf of Genesee Justice to accept tax-deductible donations.
Last year, about $100,000 was slashed by the Genesee County Legislature from the Genesee Justice budget. With staff taking cuts in hours and Director Ed Minardo resigning his position, the plan worked out with the legislature and the legal community was for Genesee Justice to become funded in part by new grants and donations.
"Funding is just getting very tough, hence we started this foundation to start looking for alternative means of support for this work," said Jane Schmider, president of the new Genesee Justice Foundation.
When the suggestion was made that the programs of Genesee Justice might be turned over to the Probation Department, judges and attorneys -- both prosecutors and defense -- came out in force to support Genesee Justice.
"It was in November 2010 when our organization passed a resolution overwhelmingly objecting to the merger based on the knowledge of the practitioners," said Bar Association President Durin Rogers. "The donation today continues that support."
Alan Newton, executive minister for the American Baptist Church, Genesee Region, said part of the reason the church board stepped forward to help is because restorative justice and reconciliation are a big part of the regional church's mission.
"Godly justice, respect and reconciliation," Newton said. "Those are common themes through our churches in the Genesee Region."
The Genesee Justice Foundation will need to work quickly to raise sufficient funds to save the pioneering restorative justice program, and Schmider said the board is looking at a variety of ways to raise money, including from big donors and possibly a membership program.
"I have no assurances (for 2012) other than that the plan we came up with last year was temporary," said Tiffany Szymanek, assistant director of Genesee Justice. "We know we have to come up with that money regardless. If some of that does come from the county that would be absolutely beneficial to us, but we still have to be aware that that might not happen."
To donate: Make checks payable to American Baptist Church of the Rochester/Genesee Region, with "Genesee Justice" in the note field. Mail to Genesee Justice, 14 W. Main St., Batavia, NY 14020.
Photo, from left, Jane Schmider, Alan Newton, Durin Rogers and Tiffany Szymanek.