By Vanity Robinson
At the 2018 StandUp For Kids national conference, hosted in Atlanta, Georgia, the awards committee sifted through nominations from executive directors around the country for to present four different awards, including Program of the Year (see recent posts in our blog detailing other awardees)
This year, StandUp For Kids honored three of our 18 programs nationwide that particularly excelled through strong volunteer recruitment and engagement, dedicated and stable leadership teams, the development of effective and consistent services to youth, timely correspondence to the national team and general public, and exemplary collaboration with — or generosity towards — other local programs.
The nominations team decided to honor one small program, one medium program, and one large program. Programs were grouped in relatively equally-sized groups based on 2017 operating expenses.
The small-sized Program of the Year award was presented to the Olympia-Thurston County program, under the leadership of Danny Burkett. This program has made so many tremendous strides. They have managed to increase their footprint, recruit more volunteers, increase awareness of StandUp For Kids, and expand their service offerings to our kids.
From January to August 2018, the program assisted 704 youth, nearly 300 of which they met for the first time. They provided over 1,000 meals. Their expanded name reflects their relevance to Thurston County, Washington, which relies on their services beyond the Olympia city limits. They also laid the groundwork for an outreach center, which has a great name: POSH, which stands for “A Place of Safety and Hope.” POSH intends to incorporate creative expression through arts, music, and poetry and will expose youth, many of whom are suffering from limited access to mental healthcare services, with healing through art.
They are addressing the prevention of youth homelessness through a partnership with the North Thurston County School District. They do all this and more with a backbone of eight passionate volunteers who donate hundreds of hours each year. One of their nominees said, “Under the direction of Danny Burkett, StandUp for Kids, the chapter has gone through an amazing transformation. With Danny’s dedication and drive, he has been able to grow his volunteer team. His passion to execute our mission as an organization is contagious, which is reflected in his volunteers’ commitment and dedication.”
Next, the medium-sized Program of the Year award went to Hampton Roads, the second oldest chapter. In fact, in 1991, just a year after StandUp For Kids was born in San Diego, the Hampton Roads chapter began right on the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
The program, under the executive leadership of Mark Stevens, runs three core services. They have an outreach center, which provides hot meals, games and crafts, counseling, and assistance with immediate needs for about 20 kids three times per week. Hampton Roads operates street outreach, runs a successful High School Mentoring Initiative in partnership with Old Dominion University college students that supports a pay-for-good-grades program to further encourage our kids’ successes.
Last year, they helped provide transportation to a 16-year-old to get to one parent across the country after his other parent put him out. They placed a young mom and her kids into a hotel and worked with the city to get them into housing. After an overdose, they helped a young man get into a rehabilitation program.
Every year, the Hampton Roads programs runs a huge and very generous holiday party for dozens of youth, complete with stockings, Santa Claus, and a DJ. Not only does the Hampton Roads program make years-long connections to youth, and not only did one of their youth come up with our logo for this year’s conference, but their leader Mark is actively generous with his time, contributing to the Executive Director Advisory Council.
The large-sized Program of the Year award went to Atlanta. The Atlanta chapter was established in 2003. It has shared this great city with StandUp For Kids’ national office, and extended its hospitality as the host of our recent annual conference.
The program offers two services. Street outreach runs weekly and accompanies a dinner for youth every Wednesday evening. They also operate a very large and constantly-expanding school-based mentoring program. Here, adult mentors are matched with a homeless or at-risk high school student mentee and meet for lunch two times a month at their student’s school site. This program is in five different counties.
By the numbers, 30 of their mentees graduated high school last year, and two were selected as their high school’s “star senior.” The program also received last year’s Fulton County Schools’ Partner of the Year Award.
Atlanta knows quite well that consistent relationships give our kids the support and encouragement needed to stay in school and graduate. They help young people navigate the hurdles of housing instability on top of common teenage concerns. They even provide some with scholarships to attend college.
The Atlanta program has a growing staff and close to 100 volunteers who logged more than 6,500 hours last year. They are innovating on technology and offering online resources to volunteers. They are rallying their community with more than a half-million dollars in donated community support. Furthermore, Kelly Fields, who currently serves on the ED Advisory Council, and she and her team pulled off a tremendous conference.
We sincerely congratulate all 2018 awardees and celebrate each of our winning 18 programs and counting in our StandUp For Kids Family.