May 2012

Funky Flamingo Offers Job Skills for Youth

Shop at Funky Flamingo 2nds and your purchase will help support at-risk youth transitioning into independent living.

H.O.M.E.S., Inc., an organization that provides former foster and relative care youth with low-cost housing and other supportive services, recently opened a thrift store. Funky Flamingo 2nds specializes in quality, gently-used home furnishings. In addition to helping generate entrepreneurial revenue for the nonprofit, the brightly colored storefront also serves as a model for economic community development and provides essential job training for young adults residing in the housing program.

T.M., a young man who lives at H.O.M.E.S., just received his GED. To gain work experience and cover his rental obligations, he began interning part-time at the store. T.M. picks up donations, inventories and restocks shelves, and cleans and refinishes donated furniture.

Nearly all of the H.O.M.E.S youth (some with children of their own) were at-risk or already homeless after "aging-out" of Florida's system of care. Through opportunities like this one, T.M. and other young adults are gaining employment skills necessary to live successfully on their own.

Students Succeed and Give Back

Andre (seated at front) and other Communities in Schools' students try on ties they received, along with dress shirts, after a community service project.

Having been abandoned as a baby, Andre felt that he had little value. He became an introverted teen and lacked academic motivation. Then he connected with a leadership-based program through Communities In Schools (CIS) of Jacksonville. Andre discovered what he had been missing: a sense of community and belonging. Today he is an honor roll student surrounded by friends.

CIS provides comprehensive services, such as academic coaching and life skills, to help youth stay in school and prepare for life. The Student Enrichment Program, which The Jim Moran Foundation supports at three Jacksonville-area schools, operates on the principle of relationship building through full-time advocates who are embedded within schools and work directly with students, their families and school officials.

"It's really important that students know that we genuinely care for them and are here for them on any given day," said MaryAnn Foster, CIS of Jacksonville student advocate and site coordinator at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology.

Recently, Foster offered Andre two community service activities to choose between — sorting clothes for needy families or representing CIS at a meeting about school and community improvement. Andre chose both, demonstrating how far he has come and his interest in giving back to others. At Frank H. Peterson, Andre and the other 47 seniors involved in CIS are expected to graduate in June and most will continue on to college.

Learn more about Communities in Schools of Jacksonville.

One-Stop Resource Center Delivers Compassion and Results

Women's Center Coordinator Mabel Leon (right) coaches her client through the program, "Investing in your Future, Finances and Finesse."

At Oasis Compassion Agency in Palm Beach County, 80% of clients who walk through its doors for the first time are seeking food assistance. In addition to meeting their immediate need, the organization offers a path towards independence.

New clients work with a case manager to create a plan to overcome obstacles and then put that plan into action. As a "one-stop solution," Oasis operates a career center, food pantry, thrift store/clothing center and a women's center providing an empowerment series for those who have already completed traditional programming. Participation in services such as counseling, personal finance, computer classes, and job training is required. Last year, 700 individuals and families gained self-sufficiency with the help of this comprehensive and compassionate approach.

Recognizing the impact that Oasis is making by reaching out to stabilize and then equip women and families to create a brighter future for themselves, The Jim Moran Foundation recently awarded a two-year grant to help support its case manager, women's center coordinator, and emergency client assistance.