Nonprofit Spotlight: Upholding a 161-Year Tradition of Therapeutic Help for Kids

Home of the first school for social work in the U.S., Children's Village has a 161 year history of therapeutic and emotional care for kids and teens.

This post is in partnership with CITGO

Children’s Village was founded in 1851 as a refuge for homeless immigrant boys living on the streets of Manhattan. In 1927 it moved to 277 acres in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and was one of the first therapeutic communities in the United States.

The “home-like” environment was ahead of its time in its caring approach, and included residential cottages where the boys lived while taking part in the treatment and educational programs. Children’s Village was also the home of the first school for social work in the United States.

Today, Children’s Village is focused on changing the lives of vulnerable children and teenagers, many from abusive homes or foster care families. Children who are at-risk can benefit from being away from bad influences. The organization has cottages that give a respite from a troubled environment by providing a structured, caring place located in a natural setting. "Our work is not only to care for children during times of crisis, but to help the family unit become strong for a promising and hopeful future," says Topher Nichols, Communications Manager at the organization.

The programs at Children’s Village run the gamut from the residential cottages with a K-12 school to foster-care placement to after-school programs at a satellite location at a Harlem community center. An Assistance Dog Training program teaches boys how to train dogs that will be used as service animals for the handicapped or seeing-eye animals.

Volunteers are an important part of the life at Children’s Village, helping out with programs like “Books for Boys,” founded by literacy coach Pam Allyn. With a network of volunteer reading mentors, book authors, and writing coaches “Books for Boys” encourages the kids to see themselves as readers. Students from Amherst College tutor the boys in reading and writing during the summer. The boys go on to start to book clubs, read at Dobbs Ferry senior centers, and participate in poetry jams.

According to the annual report, in 2009-2010 Children’s Village helped 9,422 children and its results are consistently higher than the national and state averages in reuniting families and having less children in foster care, and fewer youth offenders are re-arrested.

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Nonprofit Spotlight: Farming in the Heart of a City

Located in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, Jones Valley Urban Farm offers fresh vegetables and health education to an area known for its food deserts.

This post is in partnership with CITGO

Wander downtown on any given day in Birmingham, Alabama, and in the heart of the bustle of the busy streets you can see small groups of school children marveling over vegetables like radish or spinach grown on Jones Valley Urban Farm's 3.5 acres.

The children are participants in Seed 2 Plate, a K-8 healthy food curriculum program aimed at counteracting "food imbalance" and educating children about where their food comes from.

Birmingham, Alabama's largest city, contains some 43 square miles of neighborhoods categorized either as "food desert" or "food imbalance."

Food deserts are defined by The Urban Food Project as communities where it's difficult to find a grocery store that offers fresh produce or healthy food choices. Stores in food deserts (gas stations, liquor stores) tend to offer foods that also fall under the definition of food imbalance: instead of healthy options, the offerings are only high fat, high salt, candy, fried food or fast food.

The food desert/food imbalance areas of Birmingham are home to more than 88,000 residents, 23,000 of whom are children. Lack of access to convenient fresh produce and healthy food choices is directly related to such health crises as obesity, diabetes, and premature death, according to studies conducted by the Urban Food Project.

Jones Valley Urban Farm was started in 2001 as the antidote. The farm was created on a vacant lot in the middle of the city. The current iteration is housed on 3.5 acres in downtown Birmingham adjacent to mixed-income public housing, an essential component to the farm's public education programs.

The farm has created a wide range of programs, from selling at farmers' markets to sourcing produce to high-end Birmingham restaurants. Grant Brigham, executive director of JVUF, intends to increase the focus on the public-health education component.

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Nonprofit Spotlight: Giving Providence's Most Vulnerable a Head's Up Rhode Island Nonprofit HeadsUp Helps the Most Vulnerable

HeadsUp operates with the understanding that nourishing the mind and creative spirit is as important as providing shelter and hot meals.

This post is in partnership with CITGO

Founded in 2000, HeadsUp (an acronym for "Health, Education, Arts Developing Strength, Unity and Peace") was a grassroots effort focused on reaching downtown Providence, Rhode Island’s vulnerable populations, including those diagnosed as HIV-positive, at-risk children and families, and residents emerging from a low-income or homeless background.

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