As 2020 draws to a close and we mark the midpoint of the League year, we have been reflecting on our work so far. This year has looked different for our community volunteers, partners, and clients. But our commitment to deep meaningful change continues.
The Ready to Achieve project is all about helping teens and young adults in foster care gain the skills for an independent life. This year, participates are joining the Leadership Academy virtually but that has not stopped them from developing their potential. The project is underwritten by TD Bank with a specific focus on financial literacy, something that more is important than ever as the economy adapts to the pandemic. Students are learning everything from banking and investing to what a credit score means. Going virtual has had benefits beyond health and safety. In the new Zoom format, the Ready to Achieve committee has seen a jump in participation.
Kids in the Kitchen, a project dedicated to helping children build healthy habits for life, has embraced video, creating an on-demand digital library of lessons. Covering everything from the importance of Eating the Rainbow to fun Tae Kwon Do exercises, the video library has made it easier than ever for kids to learn about health and wellness.
Small Groups, Big Impact
The health and safety of our community has always been a priority and with COVID-19, it has meant adjusting the size of our volunteer groups. Our Love Bundles team, which packs backpacks of essentials for children entering foster care, experienced this at their first packing event. Love Bundles typically leverages over 75 volunteers over three separate shifts to fulfill monthly requests from Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Eckerd Connects. However, with group limitations in place for COVID-19, the September orders were fulfilled by a dedicated group of 14 women.
“Our shoppers and packers this month,” said Co-Chair Lizz Focazio, “made a direct different in the lives of countless foster children and the caretakers that support them. They are not just volunteering their time, they are showing these kids that they matter and are important to us.”
This season of change has brought new and expanded partnerships for many of our projects. In the literacy space, our MILO project has expanded its Giving Library program with Tampa Family Health Centers. The libraries provide free books to children visiting clinics across Hillsborough County. Girl Power!, a mentoring and empowerment program for girls, is joining forces with the Children’s Home Network. The Food 4 Kids Project is also realigning its model with a new partnership with Metropolitan Ministries.