by Leslie Ford –
Although the weather was chilly, the women of Seeds of Strength were not deterred. They braved the wind to celebrate another successful year of lending a hand to a variety of nonprofits serving the Georgetown community. The Second Annual Harvest Fest was held at Celebrino Event Center, a lovely venue with plenty of space to accommodate the crowd of approximately 200 members, guests, and our grant recipients. Staff members from each nonprofit were available throughout the evening to talk with members. For me, learning more about each organization was the highlight of the evening. So, in this blog, I am sharing some of the interesting things I learned about how our 2019 grant dollars are being used.
Kids in a New Groove (KING) has had an exciting time since receiving their grant. The organizations’ goal is to provide free weekly, private music instruction to 10 Georgetown children in foster care by summer 2020. The staff was excited to report that they are already half-way there! In addition to using music as a tool for building success and self-confidence in children living in foster care, the weekly instruction also provides opportunities for mentoring. Instructors, called Music Mentors, are a stable and consistent role-model for the students, even when a child is moved to a new foster home.
The Georgetown Family YMCA used their grant to provide a summer camp program for 19 low-income middle-school teens. Although most middle-school students would prefer spending their summer on the couch playing video games, “Cat” Phelps, Extension Director, and her team created an innovative program that kept the kids coming back.
The teens met at the YMCA on Williams Drive, where they participated in sports, crafts, and games designed to support academic skills. In addition, “Cat” was able to secure a “Fun Bus” that allowed the campers to go on a variety of outings each week, such as learning to paddleboard on Ladybird Lake and canoeing at Twin Lakes in Cedar Park. Another activity that occurred weekly was called Kids Give Back. On this day, the campers and staff boarded the “Fun Bus” to visit residents of The Legacy at Georgetown on Williams Drive. The teens shared donuts and played games with the residents.
At the end of the summer many of the teens shared that it was their best summer, ever. “Cat” wants our members to know that the SoS grant proved that the need is there for a camp program for teens in Georgetown.
The Caring Place is using their grant for their Supporting Independence Program, for clients 65 and older. Through case management, the program helps their clients “age in place.” I was impressed that The Caring Place created this program for low-income adults, as I know this is the wish of so many seniors, myself included. Residents in Georgetown are fortunate to have this resource available in our community.
Austin Sunshine Camps proudly shared that this past summer they had the most campers in 91 years–1093. Sixty of these campers came from Georgetown and were able to spend a glorious week at overnight camp. SoS played a big part in providing this opportunity for these Georgetown children.
I had attended the site visit in August and was able to tour the beautiful camp on the grounds of Zilker Park. Being there helped me understand how life changing it could be for a low-income child to attend the camp. The program is innovative as well as nurturing. Many campers come back year after year. In fact, we met a junior counselor who had been an Austin Sunshine camper from the time she was seven. Now that she is in high school, she still wanted to spend her summer at Austin Sunshine Camp!
The Dog Alliance is using their SoS grant to expand the Bow Wow Therapy Dogs program. It was fascinating to learn about the work this organization does in the community. Some dogs in the program are Bow Wow Reading dogs that go into elementary schools with their volunteer owners and listen to at-risk children read aloud. The volunteer and dog meet with their child each week throughout the school year, creating a non-judgmental and nurturing environment in which children with reading difficulties can practice and improve their reading ability. Other teams have worked with hospitals, nursing homes, and nonprofits such as Meals on Wheels, Hope Alliance, and The Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center. As the owner of three dogs myself, I completely agree with this quote on The Dog Alliance website, “By working in harmony with dogs, we improve human lives every day, in so many ways.”
Representatives from Girls Empowerment Network, ROCK, Southwestern University/First United Methodist Church, Samaritan Center, Hope Alliance, and Williamson County Children’s Advocacy Center were also in attendance sharing information with SoS members and guests.
The Second Annual Harvest Fest was a wonderful celebration of the work that Seeds of Strength and our nonprofit partners do in the Georgetown Community. We also enjoyed delicious food, drinks, and entertainment provided by Attila the Horn. Many thanks to Cook-Walden Funeral Homes and Cemeteries for providing the printing and catering for this event.