As you read these meeting notes, you are encouraged to select a couple organizations that you’d like to learn more about and schedule a one-on-one meeting. If you are not familiar with these networking meetings, check out the ‘Nonprofit Tools’ tab at the top of this website for tips to get you started.
Linda Grabowski, David Grabowski, and Cary Sanders shared the story of their organization, Miriam’s Basket. Linda started this nonprofit in 2011, in conjunction with Child Protective Services, to help provide clothing to children who have been victims of abuse, neglect, or personal tragedy. To date, they have provided over 900 children in Clay County with clothing in brightly-colored bags with the child’s name on the bag. These bags include clothes, pajamas, shoes, socks, underwear, and coats, and an age-appropriate gift such as a bear.
Callan Bell of Take Stock In Children explained how her organization provides support to at risk students. Middle school and high school students are paired with mentors, and given the opportunity to receive college scholarships by maintaining a 2.5 or better GPA, and achieving certain attendance and behavior measures. Mentoring sessions are weekly, usually for about an hour, and at a school near the mentor’s home or workplace, during school hours. These sessions can change both the lives of the mentor and mentee.
Lea Rhoden of Tobacco Free Partnership of Clay County spoke about the outreach the organization is doing to encourage people to quit using tobacco products, or better yet not start. Presently there are 4 SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) programs in the schools, with a plan to grow to 10 and eventually 17. There are audits conducted by students and others to make sure that tobacco products are not sold to or easily accessible to youth.
Carolyn Kroll told us about the American Cancer Society’s outreach in Clay County. They conduct Relay For Life fundraisers to support the Hope Center at the Mayo Clinic. During the spring of 2015 there were Relay For Life events in Orange Park, Middleburg, Oakleaf, and Fleming Island. Individuals and teams run to raise money at these events.
Korey O’Neal of Career Source, is an organization committed to connecting people with jobs. His focus is on working with Youth Services to support those from 16 to 24 years old who have not been in school for 3 months or more. They work to get apprenticeships that are free to the employer, but they are not looking for low-level positions at McDonalds or Walmart. They want jobs that provide the apprentices with real-world experiences.
Sandy Coffey represents the Orange Park Library System and as such wants to bring back information to the library staff and patrons about youth programs in Clay County. The Green Cove Springs branch has a Teen Advisory Group for tweens to teens, grades 7 to 12. Young people are encouraged to participate in order to make new friends, help your community, and get volunteer hours.
Joseph Barnes actively serves in the Navy and is attending Saint Leo University working toward a bachelor degree in Human Services. He completes his 20 years of military service in the spring of 2016. Before then he is looking for opportunities to volunteer and use his service skills and education so that he can eventually land a position with an organization where he can work with children, adults, or even families. He stepped up to join the Shaping Clay team and is helping us restructure our Facebook page. Let’s help this soon to be veteran find ways to make a difference in Clay County.
Sylvia Barton, has a website Sylvia Vision where she offers products that can be used for fundraising. Sylvia is always actively looking for ways to support a variety of community organizations. As a member of the Clay County Chamber of Commerce she strives to make connections between for profit and nonprofit organizations.
Debra Troupe shared how Clay Behavioral Health Center provides mental health and substance abuse case management services to children and teens. This gives them access to medical, social, educational, and other services. Case managers use a holistic approach and each child receives an individualized, comprehensive plan. Kids First Florida is the community-based agency providing child welfare and foster care services to Clay County. KFF stays with the kids 16 weeks after they have been removed from their home due to abuse or neglect.
The PACE Center for Girls of Clay which works with the Dept of Juvenile Justice Services was represented by Chantell Miles. She told us how PACE helps girls that have lived through a variety of issues such as abuse, trauma, and neglect, heal and grow. But PACE depends on help from the community. For example, on the PACE Clay website, there is a tab called ‘Current Needs’.
Beth Vaughn of Reaching Milestones is a privately-owned organization which provides comprehensive behavioral treatment for special needs children. They provide research-based behavioral interventions, with autism treatment one of their areas of expertise. The treatment approach used is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) principles, a method recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General as an effective treatment for Autism.
Samantha Bane, of the ILRC (Indepdent Living Resource Center) shared information about their youth services program, among many others. This program serves children from birth to age 22, and provides resources to their family. Services include individualized assistance and advocacy in education, childhood development and parenting services. The program helps the family navigate through the complexities of the Individuals With Disabilities Act (IDEA) and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
Dana DeWeese represented the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, and told us of their mission to provide education, events, and networking opportunities that will connect and contribute to the success of Clay County companies, both for profit and nonprofit. She highlighted the value of membership and shared Clay Chamber Directories.
Karen Wintress of Utility Bill Checkup spoke about the service that she provides to nonprofit organizations. We audit a nonprofit’s bills for their use of electricity, gas, water, sewer, waste disposal, Internet, phone, and cable. Of the utility bills that we audit, more than 70% have overcharges, money that we recover for our clients, and that they can use to support their mission. We only get paid a percentage of what we recover, and only after our client receives the refund or credit from their utility provider.
Jackie Kujala of Guardian ad Litem explained that this organization uses trained volunteers who provide information about and advocate in the interests of abused and neglected children in the court system. Guardians gather facts about a child’s case, review reports, visit a child’s home, school or placement and provide the court with an unbiased recommendation on what is required to serve the best interests of the child. There are 300 children in Clay County that need an advocate.
Kiersten Patton from the Clay County Health Department’s Teen Health Center gave us an overview of their programs. The Center provides a safe and fun place for teens to participate in health services, activities, educational sessions, and networking with peers. It is offered in Green Cove Springs (Ed Stansel Clinic) on Tuesdays from 2 – 5 and in Orange Park (Bear Run Clinic) on Wednesdays from 2 – 5. In the educational sessions, topics raised by the teens will be addressed including sex and HIV. Transportation is provided from the high schools (Clay High and Ridgeview) to the program and at the end of the program to the teen’s home.
Jose Morales of the Clay County Health Department reinforced the value of the Teen Center. He also mentioned that we should be on the lookout for the soon-to-be-released Clay Health Assessment Report. It will give us some health data that we can use in developing health-related youth prevention and intervention programs.
Mike Ford, of Clay Today gave us very valuable advice on how to get the word out about our organizations. He emphasized that information in and of itself, is not transformative. In order to build community we need to strike a chord, to tell a compelling story that people will relate to. He encouraged us to capture and share stories of those we have helped. As nonprofits we don’t offer products like chairs. Rather we provide services that change lives. Clay Today is not there to promote us, but can help by sharing stories of those we’ve helped.
During the end of our meeting, we brainstormed about other ways to tell our stories, and get the word out about our organizations. Once suggestion was to have a speaker’s bureau, people that could provide educational and engaging information about our community’s needs and services. One avenue could be through lunch and learn programs. It was also recognized that our libraries can be invaluable sources of making connections with the community.