Chronic Absenteeism Down, Grade Level Reading Up in United Way’s Square One Project

Three years after United Way California Capital Region launched its Square One Project, more students at its partner Robla School District are attending school consistently and improving their reading, according to United Way’s recently released annual report. These are key indicators of success toward the project’s 20-year goal to decrease poverty in the region by increasing the number of kids graduating from high school ready for success in college or career.

United Way’s Square One Project aims to end poverty by focusing on the one place that reaches all families – schools. With a focus on education and a community-based approach, United Way is working with community partners, schools and families, to help kids attend class every day, stay on track with educational milestones, set high expectations and have strong support for their community.

“If we are to make progress on this audacious goal of ending poverty in our region, then we need to work together to address the systemic issues that our communities face,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “Schools often are the center of communities, so Square One starts there. But our work and support go beyond education and the school campus to address the whole family. By focusing on our next generation, we are creating lasting change for our region.”

Kids who are not reading at grade level by fourth grade are more likely to fall behind in all subjects, including math and science. Last year, United Way and its partners helped 415 students with reading – 62 percent of those who were reading below grade level improved their reading and literary performance. In 2018, Robla School District reported that more students were meeting and exceeding standards in English Language Arts compared to 2017 – the rate of annual increase was three times higher than state and county averages.

One in five students in the Sacramento region is food insecure – higher than the national average – making them less healthy and less likely to attend school every day, which is key to academic success. Since the Square One Project began, United Way has served 935,772 free meals to students after school and in the summer. Last year, Robla School District saw a drop in the rate of chronic absenteeism by 26 percent.

“We know that Robla students experience barriers to learning before they even set foot inside the classroom,” said Erica Lee, coordinator of student wellness and nutrition, Robla School District. “Daily stressors including inadequate nutrition, unstable housing and limited access to medical care can all impede a student’s ability to learn and be successful in the classroom. United Way understands the whole child approach and works collaboratively with the district to draw upon resources from the whole community in order to serve the whole child.”

Other results announced included helping 9,000 families with free tax preparation this last year – resulting in $11.3 million in refunds and $1.8 million in tax preparation savings – and an expansion of United Way’s Kindergarten to College savings program helping families of local kindergarteners start saving for college. To view the full report: YourLocalUnitedWay.org/post/square-one-philosophy.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project. To learn more and make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Sacramento Life Center Receives $50K Grant from Irwin Foundation

The William G. Irwin Foundation recently awarded $50,000 to the Sacramento Life Center to help pay off the mortgage on the group’s medical facility. The grant will allow Sacramento Life Center to free up funding for current programs, as well as future programs such as prenatal medical care and well-woman exams for low-income pregnant women and teen girls. Since moving to the expanded medical facility in 2016, the Sacramento Life Center has seen a 30 percent increase in women, teen girls and couples seeking services.

“We are incredibly grateful to the William G. Irwin Foundation for its generous investment in the health of low-income women and teens in our community,” said Marie Leatherby, executive director, Sacramento Life Center. “This capital grant will help the Sacramento Life Center fund current and new programs for the next two decades, helping thousands of mothers and their children receive free medical care – especially those who have nowhere to turn.”

The Sacramento Life Center serves some of the most vulnerable women and children in Sacramento County. The majority of patients face serious financial challenges, and increasing numbers are battling unemployment, domestic violence, homelessness, drug and alcohol problems, mental illness, sexually transmitted infections and more. Fifty percent of the group’s patients have no medical coverage.

The Sacramento Life Center’s mission is to offer compassion, support, resources and free medical care to women and couples facing an unplanned or unsupported pregnancy. The Sacramento Life Center’s licensed Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic includes a primary clinic and two Mobile Medical Clinics that provide all services for free, including pregnancy tests, STD tests, ultrasounds, peer counseling for men and women, education and resource referrals. In 2018, the Sacramento Life Center achieved accreditation by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which ensures the group has met nationally recognized standards for the provision of high-quality health care. The nonprofit also offers a school-based teen education program, a 24-hour hotline and a program for women who have experienced reproductive grief. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center’s Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic, visit www.svpclinic.com. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center or to make a donation, visit www.saclife.org.

Koinonia Breaks Ground on Construction Workshop for Foster Youth

Dozens of community members joined local foster youth and staff at Koinonia Homes for Teens and representatives from Beazer Homes and its Trade Alliance to break ground on the Dream Builders Workshop in Loomis on Aug. 9. The workshop, which is being constructed by Beazer Homes and its Trade Alliance, will provide foster youth at Koinonia with hands-on training in construction disciplines, including concrete, plumbing, framing, electrical, roofing, heating and air.

“This is going to be an incredible opportunity for the kids in our program to train in a growing field so they can leave the foster care system ready to work and earn a living,” said Bill Ryland, director, Koinonia Homes for Teens. “Too many foster youth leave the system unprepared and become homeless. We are grateful to Beazer Homes and its Trade Alliance for recognizing the amazing potential of these kids and for their generosity in building this workshop.”

The Dream Builders Workshop will stand alongside Koinonia’s Tech Classroom, which was funded by Principal Financial and is training foster youth in 3D modeling, music engineering and more. When Beazer Homes representatives toured the career center, they began talking with Koinonia about building a career pipeline into the construction industry and the idea of the Dream Builders Workshop was born.

“We’re proud to invest in our community’s youth by partnering on the Dream Builders Workshop,” said Laura Stickelman, president, Beazer Homes Sacramento division. “By learning important life and job skills, they’ll be poised for successful careers in the construction industry.”

Koinonia Homes for Teens, a division of Koinonia Family Services, has eight homes located in Placer and Sacramento counties, and a Placer County Office of Education WASC-accredited School and Treatment Center in Loomis. Koinonia is one of the premiere adolescent mental health and trauma-informed treatment programs in the state. Each home is staffed with caring professionals that bring a home-like atmosphere and quality treatment during this difficult out-of-home placement. Visit http://teens.kfh.org.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Beazer Homes (NYSE: BZH) is one of the country’s largest homebuilders. Every Beazer home is designed and built to provide surprising performance, giving more quality and more comfort from the moment of move-in, saving money every month. With Beazer’s Choice Plans™, owners can personalize primary living areas – giving a choice of how to live in the home, at no additional cost. And unlike most national homebuilders, Beazer empowers customers to shop and compare loan options. Beazer’s Mortgage Choice program gives resources to compare multiple loan offers and choose the best lender and loan offer, saving homeowners thousands over the life of a loan. Beazer builds its homes in Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. Visit Beazer.com or check out Beazer Homes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

16,000+ Diapers Donated to Sacramento Life Center

Local residents who brought an unopened pack of diapers to any Leatherby’s Family Creamery location on July 20 received a $5 gift card to Leatherby’s, resulting in donations of more than 16,000 diapers for the Sacramento Life Center. Daddy Dave’s Diaper Drive, which took place during National Ice Cream Month, provided diapers for low-income moms in the Sacramento area and honored the life of the ice cream shop’s founder Dave Leatherby Sr. who passed away earlier this year and supported the Sacramento Life Center for decades.

“It was heartwarming to see the Sacramento community come together to support local moms and babies in need, as well as to honor my dad who believed so much in this cause,” said Marie Leatherby, executive director, Sacramento Life Center. “Thank to you everyone who brought diapers or donated online – these diapers mean the world to families in our community.”

The Sacramento Life Center accepts diaper donations all year at its primary clinic at 2316 Bell Executive Lane in Sacramento. Families in need of diapers can call the clinic at (916) 451-4357 to learn if they qualify to receive free diapers.

The Sacramento Life Center’s mission is to offer compassion, support, resources and free medical care to women and couples facing an unplanned or unsupported pregnancy. The Sacramento Life Center’s licensed Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic includes a primary clinic and mobile clinic that provide all services for free, including pregnancy tests, STD tests, ultrasounds, peer counseling for men and women, education and resource referrals. In 2018, the Sacramento Life Center achieved accreditation by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care, which ensures the group has met nationally recognized standards for the provision of high-quality health care. The nonprofit also offers a school-based teen education program, 24-hour hotline and program for women who have experienced reproductive grief. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center’s Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic, visit www.svpclinic.com. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center or to make a donation, visit www.saclife.org.

Diaper Drive at Leatherby’s to Benefit Sac Life Center

Local residents who bring an unopened pack of diapers to any Leatherby’s Family Creamery location on July 20 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. will receive a free scoop of ice cream as part of Daddy Dave’s Diaper Drive, benefiting the Sacramento Life Center. The drive, which takes place during National Ice Cream Month, will provide diapers for low-income moms in the Sacramento area and honor the life of the ice cream shop’s founder Dave Leatherby Sr. who passed away earlier this year and supported the Sacramento Life Center for decades.

“This is a really special drive, as it not only fills an important need, but honors my late father who was so beloved in this community and who had such a heart for helping low-income pregnant women and teens in the Sacramento area,” said Marie Leatherby, executive director, Sacramento Life Center. “We hope everyone comes out on July 20 to help women in need and enjoy a free scoop of Leatherby’s ice cream in honor of my dad.”

According to The Nation, a third of American families struggle to afford enough diapers. The 2018 article quoted a study that found families would leave a child in a diaper too long, risking diaper rash and urinary tract infections, and others would bleach a wet diaper, dry it and reuse it. The Sacramento Life Center’s diaper drive will ensure that every mother who walks into its main clinic can receive free, clean diapers for her children.

The Sacramento Life Center’s mission is to offer compassion, support, resources and free medical care to women and couples facing an unplanned or unsupported pregnancy. The Sacramento Life Center’s licensed Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic includes a primary clinic and two Mobile Medical Clinics that provide all services for free, including pregnancy tests, STD tests, ultrasounds, peer counseling for men and women, education and resource referrals. The nonprofit also offers a school-based teen education program, a 24-hour hotline and a program for women experiencing reproductive grief. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center’s Sac Valley Pregnancy Clinic, visit www.svpclinic.com. For more information about the Sacramento Life Center or to make a donation, visit www.saclife.org.

Society for the Blind Receives Grant to Expand Literacy for Kids

The ECMC Foundation’s GO! Program recently awarded Society for the Blind in Sacramento a $25,000 grant to expand its academic program for children who are blind or have low vision and increase their educational outcomes. Grant funding will help Society for the Blind provide Braille literacy classes, an After-School Academy and accessible STEM workshops through its CareersPLUS Youth Program that works to combat the 70 percent unemployment rate for people who are blind. The grant will help expand the program’s reach beyond high school to elementary and middle school students.

“Society for the Blind is truly grateful for this grant funding from ECMC Foundation,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “Literacy is vital to improving the academic futures of visually impaired children, yet today less than 10 percent of children with vision loss are literate, meaning the majority cannot read, write or comprehend. This grant funding provides necessary programs to help kids succeed in school, college and career, and it helps us reach kids even earlier.”

More than half of high school students who are blind drop out before graduating, and without access to Braille education, they cannot read or communicate effectively, Roeseler said. Through literacy classes, assistive technology such as screen readers and video magnifiers, and accessible STEM workshops, Society for the Blind is improving academic outcomes for children and ensuring they can access the information they need to succeed, starting in elementary school.

Brenda Anderson, an employee from Mather-based ECMC, nominated Society for the Blind for the grant provided through ECMC’s affiliated organization ECMC Foundation.

“I am thrilled that Society for the Blind will be receiving this grant,” Anderson said. “Knowing that the dollars will be used to help students receive the specialized tutoring and Braille skills development they need so that they can continue to be educated and succeed is amazing.”

Celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for more than 5,000 youth, working-age adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation, visit SocietyfortheBlind.org.

ECMC Foundation is a Los Angeles-based, nationally focused foundation whose mission is to inspire and to facilitate improvements that affect educational outcomes – especially among underserved populations – through evidence-based innovation. It is one of several affiliates under the ECMC Group enterprise based in Minneapolis. ECMC Foundation makes investments in two focus areas – college success and career readiness – and uses a spectrum of funding structures, including strategic grantmaking and program-related investments, to invest in both nonprofit and for-profit ventures. Working with grantees, partners and peers, ECMC Foundation’s vision is for all learners to unlock their fullest potential. For more information, visit ECMCFoundation.org.

United Way Announces Summer Meals, Launches Summer STARS

Summer can bring food instability and learning loss for low-income students. This summer, United Way California Capital Region will help local kids fuel their summers with free healthy meals and fun educational activities to prevent the learning achievement gap known as “summer slide.”

Starting in June, United Way will operate 16 summer meal sites throughout the region, providing nutritious meals for children who may otherwise not have access while they are out of school. Local students will get an added boost with the Summer STARS program at select summer meal sites. Summer STARS will offer free early literacy curriculum and fitness activities designed for kids in addition to healthy meals.

On average, kids can fall behind by two to three months over the summer unless they have learning opportunities to help close the gap. By the time they reach fifth grade, this achievement gap compounds and low-income students can fall up to three years behind their peers.

“Our Square One Project is working to make sure all kids are able to graduate from high school, college or career-ready. We know that grade-level literacy is key to reaching those milestones. Our AARP Experience Corps volunteers tutor students to help them read at or above grade level. We’ve been successful in improving literacy during the school year, but summer is critical to maintaining that momentum,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “With Summer STARS, we’re able to nourish kids’ minds and bodies and ensure they are ready for school in the fall.”

United Way leads the Healthy Meals program throughout the school year, as well as the Summer Food Service Program. Since 2014, United Way has served 935,772 meals during the school year and summer to help kids learn, play and grow. For summer meal locations across the Sacramento region, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/fuel-your-summer.

Summer STARS builds upon this foundation by offering educational enrichment programming at select summer meal sites from June through August. For more information, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/SummerStars.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Tickets on Sale for Women’s Empowerment Gala

Community members are invited to the 18th Annual Celebration of Independence Gala that benefits Women’s Empowerment, a local nonprofit job training and empowerment program for women who are homeless and their children. The event, which raises funds for the organization and honors the group’s 1,574 graduates, will take place 5:30-8:45 p.m. on June 20 at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento, 1209 L Street. Guests will mingle with program graduates and enjoy a formal dinner, live and silent auctions, live music and graduate presentations. 

Tickets are $150. Those who cannot attend, or wish to contribute, can sponsor graduates to attend the event. For tickets or sponsorship opportunities, call (916) 669-2307 or visit www.womens-empowerment.org.

At the event, Women’s Empowerment will announce the winner of the 2019 To Heal the World Award, created in honor of founding social worker, Erie Shockey. The award, which was first given to Mayor Darrell Steinberg, recognizes a local hero who inspires others to engage in social change and makes the Sacramento community a better place for all.

“Joy and laughter fill the room every year at this beautiful event where donors, volunteers and community members have the chance to connect with women who were once homeless and invisible and are now wearing evening gowns and being celebrated for all they have accomplished,” said Lisa Culp, executive director, Women’s Empowerment. “This gala not only celebrates the amazing women who break the cycle of homelessness each year, it also is our largest fundraiser of the year and ensures we can continue to meet the needs of homeless women in our community as Sacramento battles housing and homeless crises. This is a chance to come together and tackle these issues in a positive way.”

Women’s Empowerment was featured on NBC’s The TODAY Show in 2015 for offering the most comprehensive job-readiness program in the Sacramento area designed specifically for women who are homeless and their children. The award-winning organization has graduated 1,574 homeless women and their 3,627 children. Last year, 82 percent of graduates found homes and 76 percent found jobs or enrolled in school or training. The program combines self-esteem courses, job training, health classes and support services to help homeless women across diverse ages, races and cultures. Women’s Empowerment is funded through private donations from the community and receives no government funding except for in-kind rent from the County of Sacramento. To make a donation: www.womens-empowerment.org.

United Way Brings Together 130 Leaders for Foster Youth Summit

United Way California Capital Region gathered 130 foster youth and community leaders working on foster care issues for its inaugural Foster Youth Summit on April 5 at the Sacramento State Ballroom. Participants in the summit identified opportunities to increase the number of foster youth who graduate from high school and go on to complete post-secondary education. Initial opportunities identified include a need for trauma-informed training for service providers, permanent relationships that last into adulthood, financial resources to assist with housing, employment training, and mental and physical health care. United Way is convening an action group from interested attendees and will release a summary report of findings in late spring that will determine the direction of United Way’s foster youth programs.

“This summit uncovered significant gaps between the needs of Sacramento-area foster youth and the services being provided,” said Stephanie Bray, president and CEO, United Way California Capital Region. “We heard reoccurring themes from former foster youth about the challenges they face when they age out of care. We need to disrupt the systems we are currently using to care for our foster youth, and the outstanding participation in this summit was an important first step in our action plan to bring our community together on this issue.”

Nonprofit service providers, state and county foster youth advocates, school districts, foster youth and other supporters came together for a deep dive into community level data, a foster youth panel on real-world implications of the data, breakout sessions and a keynote speech by Jennifer Rodriguez, JD, executive director of Youth Law Center and a former foster youth.

For nearly 100 years, United Way California Capital Region has brought local people together to make community change happen. Today, the nonprofit is bringing people together across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties for its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of students in our region who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones and their families receive support and resources. To learn more and make a donation: YourLocalUnitedWay.org.

Lions Donate $150,000 to Society for the Blind

Society for the Blind recently received a Vision 2020 campaign donation of $150,000 from the Northern California Lions Sight Association (NCLSA) and the Lions Clubs International (LCIF) to support the expansion of the group’s Low Vision Clinic and training space for people who are blind or have low vision. NCLSA donated $75,000 to purchase equipment and vision testing devices for the clinic and secured an additional matching grant of $75,000 from LCIF to add an indoor orientation and mobility course.

“Lions Clubs across the world have a long history of supporting organizations that help people with vision loss, so we are deeply honored that the Lions chose to invest in Society for the Blind here in Sacramento,” said Shari Roeseler, executive director, Society for the Blind. “As the only comprehensive vision rehabilitation center in the Sacramento region, Society for the Blind is a critical resource for people who are blind or have low vision. The generosity of the regional and international Lions means that more people across California who are experiencing vision loss will have access to critical assessment and treatment.”

Society for the Blind’s Low Vision Clinic is one of the longest running community-based clinics in the region. The Low Vision Clinic provides care, vision rehabilitation, low vision devices and transportation assistance to more than 375 people each year. Clinics are staffed by three optometrists with special training in low vision eye care and serve patients with cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other congenital and degenerative eye diseases. Clinic staff includes a vision rehabilitation therapist who works with patients with some functional vision, teaching them techniques to use their remaining vision safely and effectively and providing training on assistive devices.

“It’s in our Lions Club DNA to help organizations like Society for the Blind,” said Douglas Wight, governor, Lions District 4-C5. “Across the world, we work to bring greater stability and independence to people with vision loss by providing services and supporting organizations that do this work.” 

Celebrating its 65th anniversary this year, Society for the Blind has created innovative ways to empower individuals living with low vision or blindness to discover, develop and achieve their full potential. Society for the Blind has grown from a dedicated group of volunteers to a nationally recognized agency and the only comprehensive rehabilitative teaching center that provides services for a 27-county region of northern California. The nonprofit provides low-vision eye care, life and job skills training, mentorship, and access to tools to maintain independence for more than 5,000 youth, working-age adults and seniors experiencing vision loss each year. For more information or to make a donation, visit SocietyfortheBlind.org.

Lions Clubs International is the largest service organization in the world with more than 1.4 million members. The organization’s mission is to support the efforts of Lions clubs and partners in serving communities locally and globally, giving hope and impacting lives through humanitarian service projects and grants. For more information, visit LionsClubs.org.