Have you ever heard the phrase –“I’m as excited as a kid at Christmas”? In this line of work our team engages with families facing lots of circumstances that are difficult and uplifting. We are working at full speed to get as much food out the door as possible to over 67,000 struggling people who need this assistance. We see gratitude and thankfulness from people which is exciting.
We see first-hand, up close and personal through our Forward S.T.E.P.S. initiative engaged families who are committed to positive change toward self-sustainability. These are hard working families who are challenged to make ends meet, better known as ALICE families, (Asset Limited, Income Challenged, Employed) who commit to SMART goals and work with intentional community relationship partners from Middle Income and/or Wealth with mutual accountability goal-setting. The exciting part is that progress is being made! This year we have had 53 youth enrolled in our enrichment program, 13 Empowerment Leaders earned raises in their jobs and 4 leaders are new home owners. That is exciting!
We are also excited to finalize the re-branding of our School Pantry Program (I have decided that was the worst possible name that I could have come up with some 2 ½ years ago). This initiative is really focused on relationship building between parents and school staff with the long-term strategy of raising a generation of children that become parents and are involved in their children’s school as a normal activity, because they grew up that way. You may want to read it again because it may seem too simple. Reality is that both you and I do things every day because of the way we grew up. We both also don’t do things because of the way we grew up. Children are influenced in both directions at school, home and their environment (neighborhood), with others as well that I haven’t mentioned.
This initiative is all about changing the child’s perception in a positive way as they watch parents and teachers engaging in a growing dialogue aimed at benefitting the child’s educational experience. Parents see value in engaging with teachers and administrators as the relationship grows month after month. Parents and students begin to see school as safe to form and build relationships, one that is friendly and welcoming, filled with partners who are concerned about their child and finally, as a place where they can go to enjoy themselves.
Educators tell us that parental participation is significantin the educational progress that the child makes. When the child experiencesthis reinforcement over time their focus improves. This initiative is aimed ata better educational experience which can lead to broader employmentopportunities as an adult. This is our long-term strategy aimed at breaking thecycle of poverty (shortening the line of need) and dependence on assistanceprograms for them and their family. Our data gathering is in its first year andwe are excited about what we are learning. We will continue to gather the dataand share the findings as we go forward.
by Tim Kean