Partner Spotlight: Room At The Inn

Room At The Inn is a comprehensive program that helps homeless, single, and pregnant women with or without previous children. The organization provides shelter, food, clothing, case management, in-house daycare, transportation, life skills education, and more.

“We have two main goals, which are the healthy birth of the baby and for them to find stable housing when they leave,” said Marianne Donadio, vice president of marketing and development. “Some of them have additional goals such as getting a driver’s license, a GED, or other skills, so we help them with their needs.”

During their stay at Room At The Inn, the expectant parents work towards their goals each week. Up to six pregnant people and up to four children can live at the center, according to state regulations.

“We also have a house next door, Amy’s House, that we use for mothers who’ve graduated but who want to complete their education. We provide child care and housing for them while they work on their degree,” Donadio said. “As you can imagine, having a bachelor’s degree is significant and allows parents to plan to support their family in the years ahead.”

Whether a short-term or long-term stay, Room At The Inn, all residents can participate in an aftercare program. For some, it’s just the first few months, but others stay in touch for years after they move out on their own.

“We want them to remain stable,” Donadio said. “So whether we offer a child care scholarship that fills in the gaps while they wait for vouchers, a short-term small financial loan if they’ve been sick and had to miss work, or material assistance with formula, clothes, or groceries, it’s enough to keep them going.”

Room At The Inn is part of Ready for School, Ready for Life’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II. “The environment is continuously changing, and what may have worked when we opened our doors in 2001 may have shifted. Having been through COVID-19 has been a big example of that. Our CQI partnership with Ready Ready will help us improve our processes and more efficiently accomplish our goals.”

Partner Spotlight: The Barnabas Network

You have probably heard about food banks, but what about a furniture bank? The Barnabas Network is a nonprofit furniture bank based right here in Guilford County.

“Barnabas started in 2005 as a grassroots response to natural disasters,” said Judy Caldwell, The Barnabas Network’s marketing and development manager. “Local faith groups, community-minded volunteers, and other organizations realized there was a gap in services here for folks starting over, resettling, fleeing violence, transitioning out of homelessness, or breaking the cycle of poverty.” The next year, the organization gained nonprofit status.

Caldwell noted that while service agencies were helping to find stable housing, furnishing these living spaces was frequently beyond a family’s means. “Today, we serve more than 2,700 people a year – about 800 to 1,000 families.”

The Barnabas Network collects new and gently-used furniture, about 8,000 pieces a year, from donors in the community. “We honor your well-loved items, those pieces of furniture that have reached the end of the road in your home but still have a lot of life left in them. We share them to help make a house a home for someone who is starting over.”

The Barnabas Network is moving into a new strategic planning phase of its work and has partnered with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) as part of its Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II.

“We have bold visions in terms of expanding and becoming a national model and believe the work we’re doing with Ready Ready’s CQI process will help us capture the metrics around the impact we’re having. We were so thrilled to be chosen.” Caldwell said. “We have anecdotal evidence and some metrics to capture the impact, but having more data will help us become a teaching model for furniture banks in the United States and around the globe.”

Partner Spotlight: Out of the Garden Project

Out of the Garden Project began as a family project to help solve food insecurity for six to ten families at Morehead Elementary School fourteen years ago. Now each month, more than 800 volunteers collect food, sort it in the warehouse, create packages for families, and deliver packages to schools and other locations.

Additionally, more than 3,000 families in the Piedmont-Triad are served each month through the organization’s Fresh Mobile Markets – free mobile food pantries that distribute about 65 pounds of fresh produce, bread, meat, and shelf-stable items to families in more than 25 locations in Guilford and neighboring counties. The markets are for families with children 0-18 years of age who must qualify to receive the food.

“It’s literally like a grocery store on wheels,” said Executive Director and President Don Milholin. “We want to help the whole person, the whole family. It’s a chance for people to have dignity in having food they can take home and gather around their table.”

In addition to the Fresh Mobile Markets and a 17,500-foot warehouse at The Church on 68, Out of the Garden has created a shared-use kitchen so food entrepreneurs can make low-risk packaged food to sell and an urban teaching farm. Originally located in downtown Greensboro, the farm has moved to McCleansville, where more crop acreage is available. A USDA grant for innovation will allow the organization to increase its harvest, which will be sold to create more funding for the organization and its projects.

Out of the Garden partners with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) in several ways, but the most recent is participation in our Continuous Quality Improvement process.

“We’re excited about the CQI process and just getting started in the work,” said Beth Crise, director of development and operations, “We’re thinking about how we can put policies and procedures in place at the urban teaching farm to improve communication and become more and more successful. We can also streamline volunteer operations in our warehouse to rotate food in and out more efficiently to better serve families.”

“We believe we’re the most influential food partnership in the Piedmont and the largest non-governmental agency not affiliated directly with Feeding America in the area,” Milholin said. “Our mission isn’t just to give out food. Our mission is to provide stepping stones out of poverty.”

Out of the Garden will soon open a store at The Market Shoppes on Sandy Ridge Road to sell produce grown at the urban teaching farm. “We’re growing cabbage collards, raising chickens to sell eggs, and planting strawberries for next spring,” Milholin said. “We’re focused on creating a community where no one goes hungry.”

Partner Spotlight: Reading Connections

One in five people in Guilford County struggles with basic literacy skills. Reading Connections transforms our community by improving literacy and promoting educational equity for people of all ages.

“We’ve been in operation for more than 30 years and started as a way to provide extra literacy support for adults, but now it’s grown into much, much more,” said Alison Welch, Reading Connections family literacy manager. “We started the Family Literacy program in 2006 and work with parents, caregivers, and their children. We want to help parents know how they can support their children in becoming ready for kindergarten.”

Welch made the point that literacy is cyclical – which is why Reading Connections takes a multigenerational approach and partners with organizations like Ready for School, Ready for Life.

Reading Connections plans to enroll 150 families in its Guilford County program this year. In the 2020-21 academic year, 68 percent of the parents in the program reported reading more to their children, which is key to breaking the cycle of illiteracy.

“Research shows that children who start kindergarten behind their peers are less likely to experience success in school and read on grade level by third grade,” Welch said. “Working with Ready Ready and its program The Guilford Basics helps us explain to parents that early brain development is critical for future success in school.”

Reading Connections’ Family Literacy program provides six 15-week sessions during the school year at Title 1 elementary schools and community centers in Guilford County. Because parents are their children’s first teachers, the program incorporates literacy instruction for adults and children.

“A lot of the strategies included in The Basics Guilford are also included in the Motheread Fatheread curriculum we use in our program,” Welch said. “Encouraging parents to be actively engaged when reading with their kids, letting children turn the pages, repeating key phrases, or pointing at pictures are good examples. We had a Ready Ready staff member give a training in The Basics and Active Reading with our parents and loved how she emphasized that you don’t have to be reading the words on the page to engage your child in a story.”

Partner Spotlight: March of Dimes

The March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. The organization supports research, leads programs, and provides education and advocacy so every family can have the best possible start.

Nationally, the organization partners with similar nonprofits on advocacy issues such as Medicaid expansion and other programs that support maternal and infant health. In North Carolina, the partnerships hit even closer to home.

“We are proud to partner with Every Baby Guilford as part of the Guilford County Health Department and the effort to reduce maternal and infant mortality,” said Michaela Penix, director of maternal infant health for the March of Dimes in North Carolina. “We want everyone to understand that becoming pregnant does not magically make you healthy.”

Another March of Dimes project, in conjunction with the local American Heart Association, Every Baby Guilford, and Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready), aims to raise awareness about how health impacts moms and babies. In response to the high rates of infant mortality in Guilford County, Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies is a collaboration between these four organizations to form an innovative approach that aims to address the drivers of infant mortality while empowering mothers of Color in trusted community spaces. Programs such as Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies support mothers and contribute to raising healthy, smart babies.

“We are equipping barbers and stylists in Guilford County with health information they can share with their customers, train them to talk with their peers or clients, and share statistics and information, so they are like a patient navigator,” Penix said. “We want them to know about community resources offering primary care services and talk with their clients about their health while cutting and styling their hair.”

Penix says the program is a natural fit for barber shops and hair salons since stylists and barbers develop relationships that foster intimate conversations. “My beautician is somewhat of a therapist for me,” Penix shared, “Many people have similar relationships. We want to make sure the barbers and stylists have accurate health information and can dispel myths about heart health and pregnancy. Their encouragement to a client to get a checkup or check their blood pressure can impact the health of our community.”

As part of Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies, The Basics Guilford will provide bookshelves and books for young children in the barber shops and salons. Those book nooks will be installed this summer.

“The barbers and beauticians have been so incredible and excited to do their part in making their community healthy,” Penix said. “There are so many studies that have supported the use of barbers and beauticians as peer educators and an effective means to help reduce the rates of HIV, increase the rates of condom usage, breast cancer screenings, barbers and beauticians have been made making it happen for decades. And so, for them to know that they are part of an effective strategy and they are being highlighted as champions, they’re thrilled.”

The Cemala Foundation has provided a one-year $67,000 grant to these four organizations for Trusted Spaces, Healthy Babies in Guilford County.

 

Partner Spotlight: Greensboro Bound

Greensboro Bound’s vision is to bring outstanding writers of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, and children’s books to our community and into our schools. While it may be best known for the annual Greensboro Bound Literary Festival, the organization’s efforts to connect authors and Guilford County Schools students are highly praised.

“We find local authors, North Carolina authors, and diverse authors and bring these authors virtually now to our students,” said Natalie Strange, Director of Library Media Services at Guilford County Schools and a member of Greensboro Bound’s leadership team. “We also provide books for our school libraries that accompany these author visits.”

Guilford County students have the opportunity to read the text, then submit questions to the author. During the virtual visit, the author and students have great conversations about the topics, themes, and more. Greensboro Bound also creates lesson plans with each title so school library media coordinators can incorporate them.

Traditionally, these author visits have been offered to students in kindergarten through grade 12. But in the 2021-22 school year, a partnership with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) helped create a new opportunity for children in Pre-K.“Working with our early learning department, we figured out a way to structure these visits for younger students and pre-readers,” Strange said. “We created shorter videos, incorporated songs, explored the story, and let them see what it’s like to talk with an author.”

The book they chose was Laundry Day by Jessixa Bagley. It’s about two bored badgers who get a little carried away while helping their mother.

“Students got hands-on learning by sorting different types of socks and using clothespins to put them on a laundry line, ” Strange said. “Thanks to Ready Ready, each student was given a copy of the book to take home. We knew it made a lasting impression when one of our students came in for book character day, and she had pinned old clothes, baby clothes, and socks on herself so she could be a character from that book.”

Strange said the lesson plans could also be used for Pre-K students in the 2022-23 school year since the author permitted the videos to be used again and again. “The students build a relationship with the author and the text, so now these characters have true meaning to them. It’s the beginning of a partnership that will continue to bring support for our young students as they become readers.”

Partner Spotlight: Care Management for At-Risk Children

Guilford County’s Health Department has a number of programs designed to support children and their families with healthy development. One of them is Care Management for At-Risk Children, also known as CMARC. That’s a recent name change – you may know them better as Care Coordination for Children (CC4C.)

“CMARC is a team of nurses and social workers who provide comprehensive care management for children from birth up until their 5th birthday,” said Deborah Goddard, CMARC’s supervisor. “A lot of the work we do is in direct correlation to the work Ready Ready does. We help prepare children for school readiness by helping parents identify and address any learning or developmental concerns they may have about their child. In addition to developmental concerns, the children in the CMARC program must have a chronic health condition or be impacted by Social Determinants of Health. Care Managers also help families that are being impacted by challenging levels of toxic stress and trauma.

One of the things that make our program unique is that we have always provided home visits for any CMARC family that desires a home visit. It’s so important to engage families in their own environments as it can often provide valuable insight about the child and family’s needs that might not otherwise be obtained. Goddard said that Guilford County families can participate in the CMARC program at no cost to the family as there are no income guidelines to be in the CMARC program. Children are referred by various sources such as pediatric offices, hospitals, the Department of Social Services (child protective services/ foster care), preschools/child care centers, and other community agencies.

CMARC care managers along with the parent work together to develop a care plan and goals that are tailored to meet the child and family’s needs. CMARC care managers also encourage parents to develop strong relationships with their child’s medical providers and work to link families to various community resources. “While it’s the child that is our primary focus, we try to help the whole family,” Goddard said. “If the parent needs housing or a job resource, or services for domestic violence, mental health, substance abuse, or transportation, we try to help the parent get linked to the organizations that can help them. As many studies have shown, the parent’s needs and behavior often have a direct influence on the child’s overall development and wellbeing.”

With 27 years of community services experience and visiting families in their homes, Goddard said she has an immense appreciation for the parenting journey and each family’s individual path. Goddard also stated she is extremely grateful to lead a team of skilled and professional care managers who are dedicated to serving approximately 650 CMARC families in our community each month.

Partner Spotlight: Guilford County Partnership for Children

The Guilford County Partnership for Children (GCPC) mission is to ensure that all Guilford County children ages birth to five are emotionally, intellectually, and physically ready for success in school.

Using public dollars and private donations, GCPC creates new programs and collaborates with existing ones to measurably improve the lives of children while strengthening families. The organization also administers one of the largest NC Pre-K programs in North Carolina, serving more than 2,000 preschoolers every school year.

With Smart Start expansion funding, GCPC is now able to fund the Child Care WAGE$ program in Guilford County.  WAGE$ provides education-based salary supplements to child care educators working with children ages birth to five.

“We are very excited to bring WAGE$ back to Guilford County,” said Ann Vandervliet Stratton, GCPC executive director. “We’re hearing there’s a 50 percent turnover rate in the county’s early education sector due to low wages and benefits. There’s enough pandemic-related hardship for working parents.  We need to support stable, accessible, high-quality child care for our families, children, and the local economy.”

It’s a natural connection. GCPC is also involved in early childhood training, workshops, and other resources for early childhood educators. The Child Care WAGE$ program is designed to increase retention, education, and compensation.

According to the program, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University reports that “substantial investments in training, recruiting, compensating, and retaining a high-quality workforce must be a top priority for society.”  WAGE$ helps attract educated teachers to the field in the first place who might not otherwise choose it due to typically low salaries and benefits.  The additional compensation helps retain those educated teachers, and the program encourages (even mandates) additional education.

“WAGE$ produces measurable results,” Stratton said. “N.C. communities that invest in WAGE$ typically see a 25 percent reduction in the turnover rate.”

To be eligible for WAGE$, educators must work in a licensed child care program, earn less than $17 per hour, work at least six months in the same child care program, and meet certain educational criteria.

Lower turnover rates are important for children in early child care settings. The bond children create with their teachers sets the groundwork for positive learning experiences. When a program has teacher turnover, it is difficult for the center owner and the young children they serve.

Achieving higher levels of education can increase the supplement amount an educator can receive. The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Program offers scholarships to child care professionals who want to earn course credits toward certification or a degree. GCPC is sharing ways early childhood educators can get help with the training and education to increase the supplement they will receive through the program.

WAGE$ is a funding collaboration between GCPC (Smart Start) and the Division of Child Development and Early Education. It is administered by the Child Care Services Association.

Partner Spotlight: Kellen Foundation

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing and Communications

The mission of the Kellin Foundation is to strengthen resilience for children, families, adults, and communities through trauma-informed behavioral health services focused on prevention, treatment, and healing.

“We prevent, treat, and heal,” said Dr. Kelly Graves, Kellin Foundation’s executive director, and co-founder. “We do this primarily two ways – one is behavioral health services including mental health and substance abuse, and the second strategy is community and systems transformation.”

Focused on advocacy and outreach, clinical and peer support services, and building resilient communities, the organization serves about 10,000 people a year. The Kellin Foundation is one of only two nationally recognized community behavioral health centers in North Carolina with expertise and focus on trauma and resiliency as a partner with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. Duke University is the other center.

“Using that trauma-informed lens is critical because our behavioral health, our physical health, and our health, in general, is strongly connected to stress and adversity,” Graves said. “It’s understanding and realizing the impact that trauma has, recognizing the signs and symptoms of stress has on our bodies and integrating what we know about these impacts into our practices, policies, and treatment.”

The organization created the Child Response Initiative (CRI), which helps children impacted by violence and stress and their families. CRI has four objectives: early intervention, information and education, community connection and referral, and building relationships. It provides community-based coordinated services delivered within a trauma-informed framework, leveraging the Guilford County Trauma Provider Network, a group of about 30 partners and organizations that work together to support safety and wellness among children and families.

Graves explained that traumatic stress can be experienced through an adverse childhood experience and systemic issues like discrimination and racism. She says the COVID-19 pandemic has created a broad awakening that stress impacts every aspect of our life, including mental health.

“The pandemic has opened the door to deeper conversation around how stress impacts us and the importance of monitoring and addressing that stress,” Graves said.

In addition to her work at the Kellin Foundation, Graves has been involved in Ready for School, Ready for Life’s system-building work, serving on various focus groups, workgroups, and committees throughout the years. She recently participated in the ages 3-5 social-emotional development workgroup for Phase II of Ready Ready’s work.

“What I’m excited to see in Ready Ready and in groups across the community is the emphasis given to the importance of social-emotional development and mental health as critical to helping children get ready for kindergarten, as well as the importance of taking a multi-generational approach to the work,” Graves said.

Graves and her team at the Kellin Foundation believe that behavioral health is strongly connected to adversity and trauma; everyone deserves to live in a home and in a community that is safe and free of trauma; that people, families, and communities are resilient and can thrive despite adversity; and that community organizations and systems play a key role in addressing adversity and building resiliency using a trauma-informed framework.

We work with more than 100 community organizations. You can see the extensive list on our website. If you’re one of our partners and would like to be featured, please contact Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications.

Partner Spotlight: Say Yes Guilford

Say Yes Guilford is an educational nonprofit committed to providing access to support services and scholarships designed to prepare Guilford County Schools’ students for success in college, career, and life.

“Our whole mission is centered around giving students access to support services and scholarships,” said President and CEO Wendy Poteat. “We’re trying to make sure Guilford County students are ready for college, a career, or life – whether they choose a four-year degree, a two-year degree, or a certificate program.”

Poteat joined Say Yes in 2019, at the time when it became a local nonprofit. During her time at the organization, she deepened its reach with Guilford County Schools to offer tutoring and other supports to promote success starting in elementary school.

“While Ready for School, Ready for Life focuses on prenatal to age eight and setting kids up for success, I see our work being part of that continuum,” Poteat said. “Say Yes Guilford takes up at that transition point in third grade to help make sure they are proficient in reading and supported through middle and high school. It’s a continuum of care.”

When the pandemic hit, a new opportunity to help students arose. Say Yes Guilford began offering virtual tutoring to alleviate learning loss to students now learning remotely.

“We offer a virtual tutoring prep platform from kindergarten to eighth grade with volunteer tutors. We thought we might offer it for one semester, but as the pandemic lingered, we had families asking us to keep it going,” Poteat said. “Ready Ready and The Duke Endowment helped us with funding, so we can continue to offer this support to students.”

Poteat says close partnerships with Guilford County Schools and community organizations help Say Yes offer support to GCS’ 70,000 students. “While we may be best known for providing last-dollar scholarships, more of our work is focused on listening and asking what families in Guilford County Schools really need. That’s how we can identify gaps and offer services that families say they want.”

Say Yes is using that information to develop its new strategies. One Poteat is particularly excited about is bringing career technical education (CTE) exposure to students starting in middle school. “We want sixth, seventh, and eighth graders to know more about the career academies and the amazing CTE opportunities available so they can plan better for their high school registration in eighth grade.”

When it comes to high school, Poteat says her staff is focused on equipping students to follow their best path and eliminating finance as a barrier. Say Yes offers a variety of coaching for students, such as one on one consultations that explore career or college options, SAT/ACT prep classes, individual scholarship counseling, or financial aid workshops, to name a few.

In addition to her work at Say Yes Guilford, Poteat has served on Ready Ready’s Ages 3-5 Active Reading strategy team. “It’s a tenet of servant leadership when you think about helping the community or helping people. That’s what I love about Ready Ready and being involved with this strategy team,” she said. “There are so many voices in the room and communities being heard. We must work through these ideas to engage active reading through different experiences and connections.”

We work with more than 100 community organizations. You can see the extensive list on our website. If you’re one of our partners and would like to be featured, please contact Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications.