If asked to describe the city of East Liverpool, Ohio, many people would likely use adjectives such as gross, empty, broken and sad. Well, compared to the booming pottery town that the city once was, those words aren’t far from the truth. Although the town and the people in it might be hurting, there is an organization working diligently to spread love and hope, specifically to the area youth.
Bill Crawford, founder and Executive Director of Team Mojo Foundation (TMF), was kind enough to share details of how his organization was created and how it has benefited the community.
Q: In a nutshell, what is TMF?
A: Team Mojo Foundation is a 501c3 (IRS-recognized tax-exempt) nonprofit public charity registered in good standing with the State of Ohio, operating in the local tri-state area of Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide financial assistance to underprivileged K-12 aged children, to help them participate in events and activities that they may otherwise miss out on without our help.
Q: Where did the idea for TMF come from?
A: Nearly ten years ago both my sons were attending a youth basketball camp at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. The camp was great in that the coaches promoted character, discipline, responsibility and other positive traits, as well as basketball, and it was a weeklong overnight camp, a first for a lot of the kids. As I sat in the stands one evening watching the games I thought of all the kids who could really benefit from the camp but could never have the chance to participate due to the expense, as well as the logistics of getting there. That was when I had the epiphany to start a foundation that could “Help Kids Shine.”
Q: How did you know when you were ready for the next step (e.g., filing for tax-exempt status, recruiting board members, etc.)?
A: First, I waited; days, weeks. Just like when you have that idea to “build a better mousetrap”, I thought maybe this idea would wear off. But it didn’t, because there was no downside, it just made sense. Then I confided in some friends and associates, for feedback, mostly folks who had been involved in my “Team Mojo Army” movement- other people with similar interests who networked through physical fitness activities like my Spinning class at the local YMCA, cycling, running, etc. Team Mojo Foundation evolved from that Team Mojo Army concept that was centered on “positive energy” and “good karma.”
Q: What was the most challenging part of bringing TMF to life and how did you overcome it?
A: Money. Funding. Expenses. The IRS fee alone for a 501c3 was $850. So, like most startups, I asked for help from friends, family and other mojos. We started small, but when we achieved 501c3 status we were able to go for bigger and better grants and funding. The grants are out there, it just takes time and energy to research them and write them/apply for them. Fast-forward to today, the biggest challenge is finding time. We are 100% volunteer and I do all the busywork, it’s a huge challenge, but worth it.
Q: What qualities were you looking for when establishing your Board of Directors?
A: Good character, positive attitudes, folks who were selfless and genuinely interested in our mission of helping kids experience more.
Q: What factors do you think have helped TMF succeed?
A: Awareness first and foremost. It has taken several years to build up a presence in the community that makes people think of Team Mojo Foundation when a situation arises where a child needs assistance. Our network of teachers, coaches, community leaders, clergy, volunteers and other civic organizations has also helped us reach out to those in need.
Q: What types of events has TMF held so far?
A: We have done 5K runs/walks, dodge ball tournaments, corn hole tournaments, a church basketball league, farm animal exhibits, music concerts, hot dog sales, trunk-or-treat and more. Recently we’ve shifted our focus to “capital campaign” type of fundraising, however, as events tend to involve a tremendous amount of planning and preparation, with little financial gain.
Q: How much support, financial and/or other, has TMF given back to the community?
A: Since 2010 we have provided over $80,000 in individual assistance to 1,500+ local children. In addition, we have invested $30,500 in the Newell (West Virginia) community by way of grants awarded through the East Liverpool Fawcett Community Foundation in the name of late Bob & Carolyn Wells, aimed at benefiting the children of Newell.
Q: Any future plans for TMF?
A: We’re hoping our “winter project” is a capital campaign to add to our funds that provide our daily individual assistance, since this is difficult to achieve through grants. We’d like to expand our coverage area but as a 100% volunteer organization it just isn’t feasible at this time.
Q: Why did you choose the word “mojo?”
A: In June 2004, some friends (one of which is now a TMF VP) and I competed in a 4-man team adventure race in central Ohio. At the registration table, they needed a team name, and I just came up with Team Mojo. We ended up coming in 1st in the race, and the name stuck, we used it for the “Team Mojo Army” movement, and later Team Mojo Foundation. Contrary to popular belief, mojo is not an acronym. It simply means positive energy, charm, magic or good karma, so it applies to our mission statement.
: a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.
Team Mojo Foundation definitely stands out as a leader in a community that needs leaders. Many hours of work and planning were spent creating the organization, and many hours of work and planning are being spent to help it succeed.
If you would like to donate to Team Mojo Foundation, please click here!