SHARE Foundation recently announced its 33rd round of grant awards and fourth year of grants focused on prevention and intervention of crime and violence through the Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP).
Implementation of the VIP began in 2018 in six focus areas; Mentoring, Re-entry, Neighborhood Watches/Clean Neighborhoods, Parenting/Life Skills, Jobs/Targeted Education, and Mental Health/Substance Abuse. According to research across the United Sates implementation of evidence-based programs and services in these areas of focus are strategic keys to proactively addressing crime and violence. According to Debbie Watts, VP of Community Impact for SHARE Foundation, each grantee has successfully adapted an evidence-based program to address one or more of the focus areas identified by the community in the VIP and currently measures outcomes to track long-term progress across the county.
VIP grants totaling $223,050 have been awarded to the following:
The Boys & Girls Club Teen Center received $42,000 for the Teen Life Skills Enhancement Program to promote alternatives to violence and pathways out of poverty. This program addresses the Jobs and Targeted Education Focus Area of the VIP.
For years Boys and Girls Clubs of America have been engaged in comprehensive strategies to help their members build self-esteem, acquire honest values, and pursue productive futures. The “Teen Life Skills Enhancement Program” increases soft skills and job readiness, and provides personal and professional development opportunities. The programs “Career Launch”, “Diplomas 2 Degrees” and “Money Matters” teach the importance of building job-readiness skills for a career, developing short and long-term education goals and money management. By partnering with local businesses, they offer on the job experiences such as internships, job shadowing, after school apprenticeship-like programs and introduce them to trades or other careers through real world experiences.
Mentoring is also an important part of the program, which enables a mentor to help guide the youth in areas they need most, with building motivation, confidence, teamwork, respect, responsibility and accountability. With this knowledge and consistent mentorship, they are able to be part of a higher level of society and contribute to the curtailment of current situations such as violent behavior, bad decisions and the unemployment rate.
Club staff provides life skills training such as the importance of being on time, dressing appropriately, how to write a resume, how to interview, and how to point out their own personal strengths. They arrange college tours and provide trade-school information.
The Boys & Girls Club is seeking men and women interested in being a mentor as well as businesses that would be willing to offer job shadowing or an internship to these young men and women.
Contact Larry Yarbrough, Teen Center Director, at (870) 863-8753 for more information on how to be involved as a mentor, to enlist your business to help, or to get your teen enrolled.
The CALL received $12,150 for support center operations in Union County and addresses the Parenting and Life Skills Focus Area of the VIP.
The CALL is a statewide organization that works to grow the number of foster families and homes in the state, to provide training and support to the families that do and the reunification of families when possible. The CALL Support Center is a home setting that provides a public footprint for foster care intake and a safe space for supervised biological visitation so that families can spend quality time together. The "home away from home" creates an environment of normalcy where children are comfortable as they visit, play and eat with loved ones.
Across Arkansas, over 8,000 children spend time in foster care every year due to neglect or abuse. At any time, there is an average of 50 children from Union County in foster care with 15 homes available meaning some children have to live outside their hometown.
The network created for foster parents through the work of The CALL is a crucial element in the success of foster families and their sustainability to continue the work to keep their home open for future children. Foster care is hard work; these families are the heroes that go unseen in many instances in our community. They need support, and they need to have a community that understands their needs.
The CALL Mall located at the Support Center accepts donations of food, clothing, games, and other supplies that foster families need as they open their homes to new children. To learn more about The CALL, contact Karen Hicks at (870) 904-0581.
The Eagle Foundation received $32,000 to expand services at the Eagle Learning Center and will address the Mentoring Focus Area of the VIP.
The Eagle Foundation Learning Center provides a supportive yet different learning environment for children with varied learning styles by forging collaborations with churches, schools, and nonprofits to place trained, compassionate mentors and role models with children and adolescents who need them.
Services currently include personal and small group instruction in reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, math, test prep, organization/study skills and ADHD support. They also include personal and small group intervention for students who exhibit characteristics of dyslexia and dyscalculia (both often associated with ADHD). As a support to social-emotional development, we offer a course in conflict resolution to students and their parents/guardians entitled The Young Peacemaker.
When students and families enter the doors, they experience a welcoming, comfortable, and structured environment where teaching mentors spend from 1.5 – 3 hours with their students each week. All teaching mentors are competent in their field of expertise, trained and intentional about building quality relationships with their students.
Eagle Foundation is providing educational programs that support families and complement our schools with services that fill educational gaps for some students. This relates to increased academic performance, increased school attendance, a subsequent increase in confidence and coping skills that will likely over time result in decreased in-school disciplinary actions, and long-range outcomes of decreased drop-out rates and crime.
For information on how to volunteer or inquire about enrolling your child, contact Executive Director Jennifer Wylie at (870) 310-5993.
Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center (HPRC) received $32,000 for A New Hope program. A New Hope addresses the Re-Entry and Parenting & Life Skills Focus Areas of the VIP.
This program seeks to build stronger families by increasing good parenting and life skills leading to successful re-entry outcomes and in doing so, reduces at-risk behaviors which lead to re-incarceration. The New Hope program is delivered in two ways. First, select women and men who are incarcerated in the Union County jail receive life-skills education using the Genesis Process curriculum which is a hybrid evidence and faith-based approach to address self-destructive behaviors. Clients served through Drug Court or court-ordered classes receive life skills education through the Rewired curriculum utilizing approaches that deal with fighting addiction and self-damaging behaviors. Second, women and men attend parenting classes at the Center or other locations using the Earn While You Learn curriculum. The curriculum has been used successfully by HPRC for 20 years with over 2,700 clients. The curriculum is offered in Spanish, is available online and can be personalized for each client's needs.
There is strong evidence that group-based parenting programs reduce inappropriate conduct, behavioral, and emotional problems among participants’ children while improving their mental health, problem solving, and emotional regulation skills. Positive and warm parent-youth relationships in which parents set consistent, developmentally appropriate limits and demonstrate an interest in their children’s education and social relationships are associated with a healthy child, positive adolescent development and the prevention of violent behavior. Healthy parents and healthy home environments lead to a reduction of violence overall.
HPRC acts as a referral to other services from community partners such as mental health counseling, food, nutrition, and health education programs, childcare, and spiritual support. For more information on the services provided by Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center contact Executive Director Paula Williams at (870) 862-1317.
Magdalene House received $28,700 to address the Re-entry Focus Area of the VIP.
The Magdalene House is a successful model that originated in Nashville, TN 20 years ago for women that have experienced violence and betrayal on the most intimate level. These negative experiences in many cases lead to drug addiction, which then led to prostitution, homelessness and other life altering situations. Women entering this program are ready to break the cycles to live a life free of trauma, addiction, and incarceration through safe housing, long-term support and community partnerships. The program provides a 24-month, rent-free home environment helping residents learn how to live honest, sober, and self-sufficient lives through required training and education.
Magdalene House El Dorado opened its doors June 1, 2020. Women that enter the program first get accustomed to the house and community, get connected to resources such as therapy, education and social services provided to those in low-income situations and begin to set realistic goals while focusing on recovery. Step 2 keeps a focus on recovery while finding a part-time job to support herself, and completion of a GED if necessary or other educational aspirations available. Step 3 will work toward financial independence and completion of the program while maintaining a healthy lifestyle and becoming a leader for others in the house. At completion they will become Sisters for Life. Sisters actively encourage and support others walking the road they once walked.
In 2021 Magdalene El Dorado will be expanding to include additional services identified by residents and partnering with individuals or organizations to provide such services, especially in the areas of straightening out financial situations, enhancing and restoring family relationships (especially with children), formal education programs available, and job search programs/resources available, housing after program completion and transportation.
There are opportunities for volunteer and financial support from the community at large to include individuals, civic organizations, businesses, churches, mental health professionals and facilities. To learn more about the Magdalene House contact Becky Choate at (870) 918-6476.
South Arkansas Arts Center received $20,500 for the Art of Learning program that addresses the Mentoring Focus Area of the VIP.
Programming pays scholarships for after-school classes, camps, workshops, and lessons for at-risk and underserved students in Union County.
While after-school and summer arts education has been an essential part of the South Arkansas Arts Center’s mission since its founding, the “great disruption” of COVID-19 lent the opportunity to find new ways to reach more students. SAAC has thrived for decades efficiently and creatively using resources available to provide the most services for the most people. In 2021, Arts Academy schedules will include a blend of in-person, virtual, and video classes finding at least one way to reach every student, so our teachers/mentors can continue to build those bonds with their students that offer benefits far beyond the classroom.
Evidence-based research from the Centers for Disease Control and the Office of OJJDP shows that mentoring and after-school programs, including arts programming, translate into better grades, attendance, and citizenship at school, relating into higher graduation rates, as well as increased engagement with parents. All are a vital part of reducing the risk for involvement in crime and violence. Contact Executive Director Laura Allen at (870) 862-5474 for more information.
Wyatt Baptist Church received $55,700 to expand the National Church-Adopt-A-School (NCAAS) Program in Union County schools by addressing the Mentoring Focus Area of the VIP.
The National Church Adopt-A-School Initiative began 35 years ago when Dr. Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, was asked to send men from his congregation to walk the halls of a local high school during school hours. The students were participating in gang activities and were disruptive and disrespectful in school. The presence of these men made a big difference in the student's attitude. After seeing the success their members were having on the communities of their area, they began the National Church Adopt-A-School Initiative with the goal of training and equipping 1000 churches within the United States to reach public schools.
Wyatt Church attended the NCAAS training in 2014 and began mentoring in El Dorado. Mentors follow up to three students throughout their education to foster deep and lasting relationships with each mentee and his/her family. Mentors spend time focusing on their strengths and building their self-esteem. Students are encouraged to stay in school, avoid drugs and alcohol, abstain from pre-marital sex, discourage bullying, and promote other healthy life choices. Mentors also point to corrections that need to be made with bad choices or problematic school behavior when necessary. Regardless, students have a strong desire to participate, grades and class attendance have improved and a decrease in in-school disciplinary actions has been seen in these students compared to previous years.
Teachers indicate students return to their classroom with a mind more relaxed and ready to learn. Part of the decrease in violence must begin at school. Many of the arguments that happen at school are a spillover from something that has gone on in the students' neighborhoods. Helping our students deal with negative peer pressure is a big part of the mentoring program.
A local Program Coordinator works with area churches to train their members as mentors to students in the school setting. Currently, there are eight additional churches who have undergone training for mentoring through the VIP and mentors are in eight schools.
We want El Dorado and Union County to be a safer place for our youth, both now and in the future. To learn how you can be involved as a mentor or to enroll your child, contact Program Director Vicki Harmon at (870) 862-2619.
In the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” You can help us reduce crime and violence proactively by volunteering as a VIP coalition member for one of the six focus areas or for any of the grantees listed today.
Go to https://sharefoundation.com/our-agencies/grants-vip/vip.html to view, use and share the Violence Intervention Plan, its outlined strategies and anticipated outcomes for the long-term. Also, you can like our Facebook page VIPUnionCounty to stay informed. Please contact Debbie Watts, Vice President of Community Impact at SHARE Foundation (870) 881-9015 for more information, to get involved in any of the focus areas or to volunteer for any of the VIP agencies listed today.