Grant Puts Kids First in Florida
CHP will be continuing its efforts to strengthen Parkside Garden Apartments families thanks to a second year of grant funding it has received from Kids Central, Inc.
Kids Central is a nonprofit organization serving Florida’s Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion, and Sumter Counties that develops and manages a comprehensive, community-based system of care for abused, neglected, and abandoned children and their families through abuse/neglect prevention services, in-home care, foster care, and adoption. The Kids Central grant received by CHP is administered by Marion County Children’s Alliance.
Located in Marion County, which has the highest Child Protection Services rate in all of Florida, Parkside Garden Apartments has a great need for community assistance funding.
Before receiving money from Kids Central, Parkside Garden Resident Services Coordinator Diane McElveen had often asked herself, “What other pieces of the puzzle can Resident Services contribute to the life of our children? What else can we do to support parents in raising strong, healthy, and educated young adults who will become a positive productive members of the community? That’s were Kid Central came in.”
McElveen explained that the after-school program has traditionally provided a place for approximately 45 children—both Parkside Garden residents and non-residents—to receive nutritious snacks and help with homework. It also encourages parent participation and involvement through regular one-on-one conferences.
During the first year of Kids Central grant funding, CHP was able to hire two part-time resident services assistants to work with the apartment community’s after-school program on advancing its young participants to the next grade level through on-site enrichment programs. The concurrent Kids Central grants of $27,732 in 2014 and $23,832 in 2015 has allowed for the same resident services assistants to continue their work with the after-school program offering full tutoring services, and also provide enhanced educational programming focused on youth-related issues such as bullying, anger management, suicide, and high school drop-out rates.
McElveen said, “These programs, together with our caring staff and the support of Marion County Children’s Alliance, have made such a difference in our afterschool programming. I know this to be true when a parent of a participant walks up to me and says, ‘I don’t know what you guys are doing but [my daughter] is coming home reading books!” or ‘[My son] hasn’t had a [poor behavior] referral in three weeks!’ One of my favorite remarks was from a parent who saw me standing in line at the store and stopped me to say, ‘I don’t know how you got [my son] to do it, but he is washing dishes and vacuuming the floor now.’” McElveen attributes this chore-minded behavior to the fact that the older afterschool kids who frequent the center must give back by either volunteering to help with the smaller ones or help cleaning up the center.
“We try to give the children a sense of responsibility and teach good citizenship. In 20 years, it will be great to say, ‘I helped enhance the lives of children through a great program that encourages children to realize their dreams.’”