History of the S.C.O.P.E. Foundation
The SCOPE Foundation’s origins grew from the pilgrimages and international service programs over the last 30 years to El Salvador and Mexico for students, faculty and alumni from the University of Scranton and Scranton Preparatory High School, both Jesuit institutions in Pennsylvania, and Pontifical North American College in Rome.
The mission of these programs was to foster a solidarity with the poor in the Light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the mid-1990s, through the efforts of SCOPE’s founder, Rev. Brendan G. Lally, S.J., former rector of the Scranton Jesuit Community (Society of Jesus) of the Maryland Province, the Bridges to El Salvador pilgrimage program was begun.
Groups of pilgrims continue to travel to El Salvador from these Jesuit schools to see the post-civil war-torn and earthquake-devastated country, to witness the Universal Church through the eyes of the poor and the Good News and to walk in the footsteps of the Central American martyrs like Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Jesuits at the University of Central America and the Maryknoll Sisters.
In 2002, to celebrate Father Lally’s 25th anniversary as a Jesuit priest, past pilgrims of Bridges to El Salvador
began a humble SCOPE Fund (Salvadoran Children of the Poor Education Fund) at the University of Scranton to attempt to do something small, yet tangible for the poor of El Salvador.
In 2005, after three years of success in raising donations through the original SCOPE fund, Father Lally and several Scranton alumni created a free-standing, non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)3 public charity, the SCOPE Foundation, Inc. He invited past pilgrims, university staff and faculty, former students and friends to establish a public corporation in the Commonwealth of Virginia and form a board to guide this endeavor of serving the poorest of the poor children of San Salvador.
In 2006, the SCOPE Foundation, Inc. received its 501c3 tax exempt status from the IRS. The SCOPE Foundation’s board of directors meets in person once per year to hold its annual board meeting and conducts quarterly conference calls to govern and develop its stewardship for the poor. The founding board meeting was held in February 2005 in Washington, D.C. The focus and mission of SCOPE Foundation is simple: To sustain and endow the operations of Santa Luisa Elementary School in San Salvador, El Salvador, which serves the poorest of the poor in the capital city. The school’s annual budget is approximately US$30,000.
Additionally, during 2006, SCOPE doubled the size of its board of directors, recruiting committed professionals with expertise in Audit, Accounting, Tax Law, Finance, Bookkeeping, Graphics, Web Development, Communications and News Media. SCOPE also completed the filing of its initial Exempt Organization (EO) Return IRS Form 990 as a 501c3 Public Charity and registered with the Commonwealth of Virginia to actively commence fundraising efforts with the public.
SCOPE’s board of directors grew in 2007, and in June 2008 several of its board members traveled to El Salvador, along with SCOPE’s friend, Maria Menjivar (click here for Maria’s story), Bill Howard, a Catholic journalist, and Matthew O’Rourke, president of the SCOPE Foundation, visited El Salvador with the Bridges to El Salvador program of the University of Scranton. Bill had previously visited El Salvador with the Catholic press in 2001 to report on a devastating earthquake, and this was Matt’s first time back since his initial visit in 2001. They focused primarily on the Santa Luisa Elementary School on this visit.
Father Lally has frequently led pilgrimages to El Salvador and Santa Luisa School. In the past, those pilgrimages have included seminarians from Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he was assigned as a spiritual director from 2003-10. He currently serves as chaplain of St. Joseph University in Philadelphia, Pa., and rector of the Jesuit Community there.
All the members of the SCOPE Board of Directors are volunteers. There are no paid staff or executives. Many of the board members have traveled throughout Latin America, Central America and the Developing World, including El Salvador. The operating costs of this charity are kept to a minimum such as the annual costs of a website and filing fees with the IRS, the respective state governments including Virginia and others, and with the non-profit sector associations and watchdog organizations like GuideStar.org.
The SCOPE website continues to be updated, enabling our generous donors to choose to give on a one-time and recurring basis. Our board of directors believe this offers a safe, convenient, flexible and regular means of giving to the poor.
The Board of Directors meets each summer at St. Joseph’s University. The goal of this meeting, aside from the regular governance of the corporation, is planning tangible fundraising initiatives to grow a foundation endowment to $500,000.
Awareness of SCOPE Foundation and Santa Luisa is growing across the United States, leading to individual support across the country and support from parishes in South Dakota and Rochester, N.Y.