Northwest Children’s Fund & Solid Ground aim to help children in need

Next year, Northwest Children’s Fund (NWCF) celebrates three decades of helping at-risk youth, healing abused children, and strengthening fragile families. In 1985, the organization started with two goals: helping children in need and growing social service philanthropy in the community. In the 30 years since, NWCF has evolved into one of the Northwest’s premier grant-making organizations, igniting the philanthropic spirit and granting nearly 14 million donor dollars to effective agencies who share its mission of ending child abuse and neglect.NWCF 30th Anniv Partner seal

Their pursuit to end violence against children includes finding and investing in the most effective prevention and intervention programs in the Northwest. They also seek out organizations that impact different points in the complex cycle of abuse and neglect and give them the resources they need to keep children safe.

As part of their milestone celebration, NWCF has designated 30 past grant recipients as “NWCF Anniversary Partners.” Solid Ground is one of those agencies, selected for its longstanding partnership with NWCF in the fight for better lives for all of our community’s children.

What does it take to be selected as an Anniversary Partner? “First and foremost, we looked for agencies with whom we have had long, consistent and significant relationships as grant recipients. Collectively, these 30 agencies had received over 300 NWCF grants, representing approximately one-third of the funds we have distributed to date,” says NWCF’s Catherine Beard. “It is important to us that we can say with confidence that the designated organizations are current partners with NWCF in the fight against child abuse and neglect.” Many of the other partners are long-time collaborators with Solid Ground, including:

NWCF has granted over $175,000 to Solid Ground since 1993, primarily supporting programs that help families navigate through homelessness and back to stability. Since 2002, they have focused on the Broadview Shelter & Transitional Housing program. The Broadview Shelter provides a safe haven for homeless women and children in a secure, confidential facility. Most Broadview residents are domestic violence survivors, and two-thirds are children. To help restore a sense of safety, normalcy and structure, Broadview offers specialized services for children including health screenings, school enrollment, computer access, homework groups, tutors, recreational outings and age-appropriate social groups.

“Since this program addresses the special needs of children who have experienced homelessness and domestic violence, we feel this really fits in with our mission – to end the cycle of child abuse and neglect,” says Catherine. Broadview’s commitment to provide safe housing and help families surviving domestic violence cope with the trauma of displacement and abuse is part of why NWCF has continuously supported this vital program over the years – because every child deserves to be safe, healthy and loved.

Community Forums Network seeks input on youth employment

It’s no surprise to anyone at Solid Ground that there is a crisis in our community regarding employment opportunities and readiness for young adults. There are no simple solutions to the variety of factors that combine to create barriers to young people gaining employment.

In an effort to gain collective wisdom, the Community Forums Network (CFN) is surveying the community about possible ways to address this issue.

According to their website, CFN “is privately funded and is a new public engagement platform that is part of the Dick Spady Legacy Project. Dick is co-founder of the Seattle-based Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants, Inc. The Spady family has invested over $400,000 in various civic programs and has provided the startup funds for CFN through 2012.”

The CFN website has a brief video highlighting some of the dynamics that impact employment of young adults and a short survey to register opinions. Nonprofits like Solid Ground are partnering with CFN to promote the survey. We will receive the results to assist program planning efforts.

PLEASE go the CFN website, watch the video and take the survey. Please encourage others to respond as well. The more people who participate, the better the results will be. Note that the first question asks folks to select their favorite nonprofit partner. Selecting Solid Ground will help make us eligible for a modest grant from CFN.

Thanks for taking a few minutes to participate in this important community engagement project! The survey is open through June 17!

A life transformed by hope

“They just thought it was my phone. That saved me from shame,” Samuel said. “That gave me the feeling that I was a normal guy."

Samuel grew up in a tough neighborhood, but life at home was even tougher. The third of 14 children, he struggled with poverty, abuse and emotional distance from his family. When he left home at 18, his bottled-up anger ultimately led to some bad decisions that triggered a cycle of homelessness.

Although he was jobless and living in shelters, it was important for him to keep his dignity. Samuel avoided telling friends he was struggling, and he wasn’t in touch with family members. He was isolated and simply trying to survive. When he began to look for work, he found the job hunt nearly impossible without a home – or a phone. It was at this critical point that he stumbled on a life-changing opportunity: Community Voice Mail (CVM).

“Normally, you don’t recognize the value of something until afterwards,” said Samuel. “But then I didn’t have a phone, so I knew how important it was and I used it right away.”

Samuel put his CVM number on his résumé and gave it out to potential employers when he applied for jobs. A CVM number looks like any other local number, so no one knew about his personal situation. Employers would call and leave messages, and Samuel would call back – often using courtesy phones in hospitals or social service agencies.

“They just thought it was my phone. That saved me from shame,” he said. “That gave me the feeling that I was a normal guy. This was one less problem I had to deal with. There’s no way I could have done it without CVM.”

According to Samuel, one of the most underrated aspects of phones is their ability to bring people together. This simple fact was borne out as soon as Samuel got his CVM number; his family was finally able to call him. “My sister, who I didn’t speak to for years, all of a sudden left me a message on that phone. I kept the message for more than a year.”

As a society, we often focus on the immediate concerns of food and shelter, but Samuel believes CVM offers something equally vital: human contact. “When you feed someone, you’re keeping them alive. When you’re communicating with them, you’re giving them hope – and a chance.”

For Samuel, CVM provided this human touch through its Broadcast Messaging service, where he got news about job fairs, housing opportunities and other relevant information. And, because the CVM messages always came from the same friendly voice, Samuel reflected, it felt like someone cared about him. “It was almost like having an activist on your side.”

That voice also told Samuel there were a lot of people out there just like him – that he was not alone. He was able to connect with people in similar situations, who were dealing with the same issues he faced. CVM gave him the ability and the encouragement he needed to seek help and move forward.

Today, Samuel is a youth counselor. He uses his past experience and the wisdom he’s gained to help other young people overcome the challenges of homelessness and despair. He cheers when kids achieve “baby steps,” and always tries to be that voice of hope that was so vital to him. “I quickly recognized that I felt better when I was helping someone,” he said. “I think that’s the key.”

(Editor’s note: Thanks to our friends at CVM National for gathering this story! Samuel got his voice mailbox through Seattle Community Voice Mail, which is a program of Solid Ground. The national office, which is headquartered in Seattle, supports CVM systems in communities across the country.)

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