Announcing The Blueforest Gives Back Winner!

Almost three dozen nonprofits have entered our 2nd annual Blueforest Gives Back giveaway. While we would love to make a free video for every applicant, only one could be chosen.

The process of selecting a winner was extremely difficult for our judges. We did not always see eye-to-eye, but eventually we came to a consensus.

And the winner of the 2016 Blueforest Gives Back giveaway is…drum roll, please…

The Center For Volunteer Caregiving!

Congratulations! We look forward to telling your story.

The Center For Volunteer Caregiving is a Wake County based community engagement nonprofit that provides volunteer services to improve the lives of seniors, caregivers, and adults with disabilities who need non-medical assistance. The center is currently providing transportation, caregiver support, and in-home connections to about 700 Wake County adults. The Center For Volunteer Caregiving was chosen because of its positive impact on adults and seniors with disabilities.  

To learn more about their mission, visit http://www.volunteercaregiving.org/

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We would like to thank every nonprofit for entering our Blueforest Gives Back giveaway. We encourage you to enter next year’s Blueforest Gives Back.

In the meantime, keep a keen eye out for the winning video and updates for Blueforest Gives Back.

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: Wake County SmartStart

Wake County Smart Start Children

Seeing this picture of smiling children on the Wake County SmartStart’s homepage instantly brightened up our day. It is evident they are excited about the services Wake County SmartStart provides for them, which helps elevate the success of their future. We wanted a reason to smile, too, so we did some extra digging to find out what Wake County SmartStart is all about.

Wake County SmartStart, WCSS, helps Wake County children from birth to age five prepare for kindergarten and life in general. In addition to managing several programs, WCSS has 10 partner agencies who help them work towards their goal of teaching and captivating young minds.

WCSS aims to achieve many objectives including providing high-quality care to children, making sure children are healthy and developmentally ready for school, and ensuring children and families are supported by a strong, diverse, and integrated early childhood system.

They prioritize investments to support children and families with the greatest need in the community. Some of the many funded programs WCSS provides include The Family Literacy Program, Farm To Child Care and WAKE Up and Read.

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The Family Literacy Program consists of a parenting skills series and a home visitation program that focuses on literacy skills. Professionals provide parents with children from birth to 5 years old with two 10-week parenting skills series and an interpersonal problem-solving skills program.

Children are connected with local farmers through WCSS’ Farm to Child Care. They learn how to prepare food, grow food on site and even get the chance to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables at hand. The program helps children eat more healthy, nutritious food.

WAKE Up and Read, is a collaborative effort to engage and educate Wake County about the significance of childhood literacy and to increase access to literacy resources and opportunities for children. The WAKE Up and Read collaborative teams up with community agencies and partners to develop and share resources and opportunities focused on increasing early childhood literacy skills.

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What we love about Wake County SmartStart is that they provide a care and education system that helps equip children with the tools and skills for school and everyday life. The children of today are the adults of tomorrow, so it is critical for them to have sufficient learning resources. WCSS is a powerful brain builder that enriches and enhances the lives of many children.

Check them out and learn more about their mission at http://www.wakesmartstart.org/

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network

WIHN Family

This picture tells a thousand words of a struggle that is infinite. It saddens us deeply that many Wake County families are experiencing homelessness. Thankfully, organizations like Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network are working strenuously to eliminate that epidemic. Seeing this emotionally compelling picture struck our hearts and moved us to learn more about Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network.

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Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network, WIHN, helps Wake County families experiencing homelessness get back on their feet by giving them temporary stability as they work towards permanent independence. WIHN accomplishes its mission by providing families with shelter, transitional and permanent housing opportunities with continuous case management and life skills support.

Through WIHN’s Emergency Shelter Program, every evening, two churches provide shelter, meals, and transportation for up to five families each. Up to 10 families are served nightly in the WIHN program. Most churches provide shelter four weeks a year.

Ongoing case management services are offered to families who have successfully participated in the Emergency Shelter Program. These services include counseling, life skills development, and health, employment and financial assistance when available.

Families who successfully complete the Emergency Shelter Program are also eligible to live in Transitional Housing apartments for up to one year. The Transitional Housing Program consists of several components including staff facilitated support groups, information and referral services in addition to intensive case management.

After the Transitional Housing Program, families can be referred to the New Lease on Life Program. New Lease on Life provides families with high-quality apartment housing at reduced and affordable rates for 1 to 2 years. In order to qualify, families must continue to participate in the case management services offered by WIHN.

WIHN Day Center

The Day Center is a place where families engage in daily morning activities when they are not at a church for shelter.  Here, families receive case management services, search for employment and wash their clothes. The center also offers amenities such as showers, lockers for belongings, and a nursery.

What we love about Wake Interfaith hospitality Network is their focus on assisting families to the pathway of success despite the dark hours they are facing. WIHN provides empowerment and resources necessary for families experiencing homelessness to move forward. The teamwork of the churches and dedication of volunteers are essential to providing these services. As board member Nicholas Verna stated, the services WIHN provide are “not a handout. It’s a hand up.”

Check them out and learn more about their mission at http://wihn.org/

 

 

 

YNPN #NonprofitSTRONG summit

What can I say about YNPN’s NonprofitSTRONG summit?

To put it simply, it was inspiring. The summit was full of passionate people and powerful missions. But what stuck with me the most were the remarkable stories of these nonprofit groups. Here at Blueforest Studios, we are very aware that every nonprofit has a story, and we strive to tell these stories in a way that inspires action. And I gotta tell you guys, the exhibitors and nonprofits at the summit had AMAZING stories. Even though “storytelling” wasn’t exactly the theme of the day, you couldn’t escape it even if you tried! I can’t tell you how many great stories we heard from people just stopping by our table to take a selfie! (Yes, we had a selfie station. And yes, it was awesome.)

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Atrayus Goode from Movement of Youth was the keynote speaker of the day, and boy was he good. He had all eyes and ears on him from the moment he held the microphone. He told a gripping story of his childhood, in which he was a witness to his mother’s drug abuse among other traumatic circumstances. You could hear a pin drop, the room was so still. That’s the sound of good storytelling – held breath.

After he built up this story and had everyone invested, he came in with his mission: to start an open conversation about race, and to ignite change within the dynamic of this country’s leadership representation.

As storytellers, we here at Blueforest want to say BRAVO! to Atrayus Goode, for not only speaking out about something so important, but for also telling it so beautifully. Same goes out to all of the organizations there that day. It was an honor to be among such strong and passionate individuals, and to be able to hear all of your inspiring stories.

Hope to see you at next year’s summit!

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: Enable America

Enable America Job Board

The Enable America Jobs Board is one of many ways Enable America assists wounded warriors, disabled veterans, and individuals with disabilities. It provides an outlet for the individuals to find employment suitable for their needs. The picture is very inspirational and the direct message from it is: no matter what circumstance a person faces, anything can be achieved without limitations. We had to see exactly what else Enable America does for these powerful individuals.

Enable America is dedicated to providing employment assistance for wounded warriors, disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities. The organization’s goal is to work with all members of the community, such as advocacy groups, employers and government agencies, to eliminate employment barriers and bridge the gap between disabled job seekers and employers who want to hire them.

Enable America connects job seekers with employers through a wide range of programs such as VetConnect, Career Mentoring Days and Job Seeker Workshops.

The VetConnect program was developed to help wounded warriors, disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities readjust to their communities and the workforce easier, or return to active duty. Through the program, wounded warriors are paired with similarly wounded peer mentors who have completed or are completing the recovery process.

Career Mentoring Days promotes career development for people with disabilities through hands-on career exploration, job shadowing, and training opportunities. People with disabilities from the community, including high school students, college students, or adult job seekers participate in this program. Mentees are provided the positive support they need to pursue their dreams.

Job Seeker Workshops give disabled veterans the opportunity to work directly with human resources professionals to improve their job seeking skills. Human resources professionals meet with disabled veterans in groups and one-on-one, offering them job-related resources and advice. The workshops are held eight times a year.

What we love about Enable America is how they greatly support individuals and families who have served us well. Wounded warriors, disabled veterans and individuals with disabilities all have the ability to work, but sometimes it can be a struggle to find employment. Enable America is a valuable vehicle that connects these individuals with a multitude of opportunities to guide them on the pathway to success. They are providing the ultimate gratitude for serving our country.

Check them out and learn more about their mission at http://www.enableamerica.org/

 

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: Shepherd Youth Ranch

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Shepherd Youth Ranch provides equine assisted therapy and learning programs to in-need children and families. Children from the surrounding counties participate in a wide variety of therapy sessions at the ranch, at home, and in school. Children who are eligible for services include those suffering from mental disorders, abuse and neglect, autism spectrum disorder, and referrals from the juvenile court system.

Each horse counseling session is administered by professionals who have (or are pursuing) a master’s degree in the fields of counseling, education, and social work.

Children who are suffering from hardships such as loss of a loved one, abandonment and abuse are referred to the ranch’s 24-week trauma-focused therapy program, consisting of group and family sessions. Shepherd Youth Ranch also gives in-need children the opportunity to participate in other equine assisted therapy activities including a one-week summer camp and community service projects.

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What we love about Shepherd Youth Ranch is their mission to restore the lives of children and families. Animals alleviate stress and allow people to become calm and comfortable. They also reduce boredom, bring smiles to people’s faces and uplift spirits. At Shepherd Youth Ranch, creating priceless bonds between children and horses is a fundamental element to the healing process. They have had tremendous success and we look forward to learning more about Shepherd Youth Ranch.

Check them out and learn more about their mission at http://shepherdyouthranch.org/

 

 

 

 

 

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: The Center for Volunteer Caregiving

We are currently in the middle of selecting a winner for our second annual Blueforest Gives Back Giveaway.

Among the contenders who stood out to us is The Center for Volunteer Caregiving.

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving strives to engage the community in providing volunteer services to improve the lives of adults, caregivers, and seniors with disabilities who need non-medical assistance. These services are provided by Volunteer Caregivers, individuals who are 18 years or older with the desire to help others. The center provides all of the necessary training.

Volunteer Caregivers serve Wake County adults age 60 or above with economic and social needs, as well as adults between the age of 18 and 60 with a disability or chronic health issue who are at risk of being placed in an institution.Typically, the adults are living at home and are not in a long-term care facility.

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving provides three types of services: transportation, caregiver support, and in-home connections.

Volunteer Caregivers provide transportation for adults and seniors with disabilities, whether it is getting to a medical appointment or simply going grocery shopping.

Caregiver support consists of respite care which is when the Volunteer Caregiver offers companionship to an adult with memory impairment or other disabling conditions so that the primary caregiver can enjoy a few hours to his or herself. In-home connections involve a variety of services including visiting adults and seniors with disabilities who may be socially isolated, phone calls, light housekeeping and helping them with paperwork.

All of these services are provided at no cost to the adults and seniors with disabilities.

What we love about The Center for Volunteer Caregiving is their passion for lending a helping hand to those in need. Despite the hardships these adults and seniors may be facing, The Center of Volunteer Caregiving strives to make their lives brighter and fun.

Check them out and learn more about their mission at http://www.volunteercaregiving.org/

 

 

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: Families Together

by Kendra Jones & Kathy Langfield

One of the things we liked most about Families Together is their very strong home page.

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This is by far the best Call-To-Action that we’ve seen in a long time.  The image and text does not leave any doubt as to what the problem is and there’s a direct statement about how we can help and a prominent “Donate Now” button.  Once we saw this we had to learn more about the organization.

Families Together

There are thousands of children experiencing homelessness in Wake County. Families Together works toward its mission to help those Wake County children and their families move from homelessness to stable homes through mentoring, housing support and connections to community resources. Their vision is to end homelessness for Wake County families.

Families Together has been providing families a way out of crisis for over 35 years, helping them move into permanent homes as quickly as possible. The program is designed to shorten the time a family is homeless and address the trauma of children and parents, all while supporting each family as they find permanent housing.

Children and their families are kept together during the entire process while they connect with personal mentors, community services, and skill building. The Families Together staff serves each individual family for up to a year.

What we love about Families Together is that they focus on changing the lives of children and families experiencing homelessness while giving them the ability to move forward. A home is an incredibly essential need for a family to sustain itself. The Families Together mission shows their compassion for strengthening families.

Check them out and learn more about their mission at http://plmft.org/

 

 

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: The Power of the Dream

It’s that time again. It is year two of our Blueforest Gives Back Video Giveaway and we are thrilled to have so many impressive applicants. Thank you to all of the organizations who have participated in the process.

Among the contenders who stood out to us is The Power of the Dream. Here is some more information about them:

The Power of the Dream formed in 2008 with the mission of creating jobs and advocating for adults in the Triangle with autism and intellectual disabilities (IDDs).

Given that many of the adult population with autism/IDDs are unemployed, they created a thrift store called HandmeUPs Thrift, which opened in Raleigh in 2013. Since then, the store has been very successful and has employed 21 part-time associates with autism/IDDs who work a variety of positions including cashier and production associate.

To create even more jobs and opportunities, The Power of the Dream also led several “PowerUp” projects: PowerUp Inclusive Employment Task Force, PowerUp Micro-Enterprise and PowerUp Advocacy.

The goal of the PowerUp Inclusive Employment Task Force is to create extra job opportunities for adults with autism/IDDs. The force consists of businesses, support agencies, community leaders, and individuals/self-advocates who team up with The Power of the Dream to create a program for customized employment. Representatives from companies such as Lenovo and Wake Tech have participated in this process.

Adults with autism/IDDs learn how to own their own business and receive financial assistance to establish it through PowerUp Micro-Enterprise. They are given individualized planning and support strategies necessary for success based on their strengths and talents.

PowerUp Advocacy is about improving the lives of individuals affected with autism/IDDs. The advocacy movement focuses on making changes to issues the adults face such as employment opportunities and accessibility. The aim is to reduce the isolation of people with disabilities.

What we love about The Power of the Dream is that adults with autism/IDDs are the heart of their mission. Oftentimes, many with disabilities are treated differently as members of the community. Through The Power of the Dream, these individuals are treated well, have a voice, and most of all, have the same opportunities as everyone else. We agree with The Power of the Dream that “Quality of life is not a dream.”

Check them out and learn more about their mission at http://thepowerofthedream.org/

 

 

Blueforest Gives Back Applicant Spotlight: Exchange Family Center

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It’s that time again. It is year two of our Blueforest Gives Back Video Giveaway and we are thrilled to have so many impressive applicants. Thank you to all of the organizations who have participated in the process.

Among the contenders who stood out to us is the Exchange Family Center. Here is some more information about them:

Life as we know it can sometimes be difficult. Everyone is facing daily hardships, which unfortunately may include mistreatment of various forms. The Exchange Family Center in Durham works to prohibit such harsh realities. The Exchange Family Center’s mission is to strengthen area families and prevent child mistreatment and neglect through family support, counseling and education. Their vision is of a world where children are safe from physical and emotional harm. They strive to guide children and their caregivers through life’s not-so-great moments.

Through resources such as counseling, case management, group counseling, education and supportive services, the Exchange Family Center has made a huge difference in the lives of many children and their families. Those services are provided through three of their main programs: Early Childhood Outreach (EChO), Family Support Program (FSP), and Parenting of Adolescents (POA).

Their three main programs have created plenty of success stories for many families. Through EChO, the Exchange Family Center has helped a child in daycare curb their aggression and instead use words to express themselves and solve problems. The center’s FSP taught a mother skills to help her child stay focused in school as well complete homework. The POA program has completely turned around a teen whose life spiraled out of control after getting caught up in gang activity.

What we love about the Exchange Family Center is that they work hard to strengthen families and ensure the safety and well-being of young people. Young people are the next generation. It is vital that they are happy and protected so they can make a positive impact in the community. The center values respect, which is the glue to making relationships work harmoniously.

Check them out and learn more about their mission at: http://www.exchangefamilycenter.org/

 

Kendra Jones