Each year, The Junior League of Houston, Inc. provides Community Assistance grants to worthwhile organizations that do not receive ongoing volunteer support or financial assistance through the League’s Community Program. The Community Assistance Committee reviews grant requests based on their alignment with board-determined focus areas and conducts site visits before making recommendations for funding. This year close to 90 agencies applied for grant support through the Community Assistance program. When selecting recipients, the committee considers whether an agency request would address a critical or basic need, fund a pilot project or expand a significant service to the community.
For 2016 – 2017, the Junior League awarded $150,000 in Community Assistance grants to the following agencies:
The Arbor School
Founded in 1988, The Arbor School offers intensive early intervention and developmental education to children with special needs, regardless of diagnosis. The Arbor School works to assist these students in developing their motor, social, communication and problem-solving skills, enabling each child to reach his or her highest level of personal success. The Arbor School stands unique because unlike most schools for special needs children, it does not focus primarily on one population or diagnostic group. Instead, it accepts children of all diagnoses and tailors the curriculum to each individual child. League funds will support and expand the school’s scholarship assistance program, doubling its reach and impact. Funds will support each family at the school as well as provide a wider reach for those most in need.
Christ Church Cathedral At-Risk Youth (ARY) Project
The Christ Church Cathedral At-Risk Youth Project (ARY) provides assistance with basic needs to families in times of crisis. ARY provides non-traditional, emergency assistance to working families at times when they are at their most vulnerable, enabling the majority of families facing loss of housing and financial ruin to become more financially stable and allowing their children to remain in school. ARY is run entirely by six dedicated volunteers, therefore every dollar received goes directly to assist families in need. League funds will directly support the emergency assistance program, funding approximately one-half of the entire ARY emergency assistance annual outreach budget.
The HEART Program
The HEART program provides independence for individuals with developmental disabilities by providing innovative education, training, housing and employment programs. League funds will specifically support the HEART Summer Internship Program, providing scholarships and program services for low-income youth, ages 16 – 18, who have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. This program will provide these teens, who are approaching the age when they graduate from high school and will need to have a job, the opportunity to learn job skills and gain employable experience.
Have Shears Will Travel
Founded in April 2015, Have Shears Will Travel is a hair care ministry organized to serve the local community with special needs that restrict their ability to obtain these services due to physical impairment, lack of transportation or financial means and homelessness. The majority of clients served by Have Shears Will Travel are homeless men, women and children. Have Shears Will Travel provides haircuts, shaves, beard trimming and styling, in order to improve the appearance of those who are not able to provide this level of grooming for themselves. This service eliminates one more barrier to homeless individuals who are striving to become employed and break the bondage of homelessness. League funds will be used to hire a part-time stylist to expand the current service population from approximately 300 each month to 600, and for the purchase of hair care products, tools and styling implements to be given to homeless individuals.
The Mission of Yahweh
The Mission of Yahweh is a faith-based shelter that empowers, enriches and restores the lives of homeless women and children, and provides outreach services to low-income communities. The Mission of Yahweh has worked on a targeted project over the past three years to identify barriers to homeless women maintaining independence. Of critical importance is the lack of skills required to attract employment that provides a livable wage. League funds will provide scholarships for homeless women engaged in The Mission of Yahweh Workforce Integration Now (WIN) Program. This pilot program is a partnership between The Mission of Yahweh and the Houston Community College System (HCCS) intended to create career paths for resident women to prepare them for sustainable independence. The (WIN) Program will provide scholarships for short-term continuing education certificate programs and provide stipends to support clinical rotations. The goal is to increase the income level of homeless women and to prevent situational and repeated episodes of homelessness.
Neighbors in Action
Neighbors in Action is an organization established to help the neighborhood of Port Houston to grow spiritually, physically, emotionally and intellectually, resulting in a community that is self-sufficient and outreach-focused. More than 96 percent of the residents of Port Houston, located seven miles east of downtown Houston, are Hispanic and live below the poverty line. League funds will be used for the Neighbors in Action summer enrichment program for low-income children and teenagers, and will be utilized to fund the staffing for the entire summer program along with program supplies. The summer enrichment program will provide these children with activities such as an overnight camp, vacation Bible school, an arts academy, sports camp and educational field trips. For teenagers, a mission trip to serve and build homes for the less fortunate, and bi-weekly service projects are also part of the summer programming.
Opened in November of 2013 and the first of its kind in Houston, Nora’s Home provides affordable lodging, care, education, and support for pre and post-transplant patients and their families in a loving, home-like environment. Nora’s Home provides patients and families with educational seminars and presentations, support group meetings, free on-site parking, a free shuttle to the Texas Medical Center for treatment, meal programs specific for their transplant needs, and camaraderie with others going through a similar medical journey in a supportive non-clinical environment. Although the Texas Medical Center is the largest in the world and has several of the country’s top transplant centers, there is no other hospitality program in Houston or throughout the Gulf Coast region specializing in the care of transplant patients and their families. League funds will support the Adopt-a-Family program at Nora’s Home, which subsidizes the cost of housing for those unable to afford to stay during the course of their treatment.
Rebuilding Together Houston
Rebuilding Together Houston restores hope for low-income elderly and military veteran residents in Harris County, by making critical home repairs that they could otherwise not afford to make themselves. League funds will specifically support the Students In Service volunteer program, in which, under adult supervision and leadership, hundreds of high school and college student volunteers learn hands-on home repair skills in a compassionate, neighborhood service environment. Students gain basic carpentry skills, establish peer and mentor relationships, and earn the satisfaction of completing a job that has a positive impact on the life of a neighbor in need. The Students In Service program thereby builds the character of young people through community service while enabling seniors to remain in their homes as long as possible and the grace to age in place.
SIRE strives to improve the quality of life for individuals with special needs through therapeutic horsemanship activities and therapies. SIRE believes it provides what modern medicine rarely does: a Human-Animal connection that renders no judgment, but a true acceptance that is the first step in healing. This unique approach of implementing horses as a therapy tool has documented improvement for both children and adults with a large variety of diagnoses including those with autism, cerebral palsy, stroke and post-traumatic stress disorders. Unlike conventional therapy focusing on one sole area, therapeutic riding addresses global needs simultaneously, teaching the individual to learn and hone skills in a multi-sensory environment which touches mind, body and spirit. Specifically, this type of therapy promotes appropriate postural responses simulating typical neurological pathways and encouraging cognitive improvements in problem solving, sequencing steps, and communication. League funds will support those most in need by directly funding SIRE’s tuition assistance program which provides therapeutic horsemanship to children and adults with special needs who cannot afford to participate.
The WorkFaith Connection
The WorkFaith Connection equips low-income, disadvantaged job seekers with the skills and beliefs to gain employment and to lead productive, grateful and spiritually rich lives. The WorkFaith Connection’s 56-hour Job Search Boot Camp program focuses on training participants to use their current skill sets effectively. The program involves long term interaction and centers efforts in four specific areas: recruitment and selection, an eight-day job search boot camp, job attainment, and job retention and life advancement. League funds will support the opening of the third WorkFaith program site in mid-2017 at the new Star of Hope. Operating independently from the Star of Hope, WorkFaith will furnish and staff the new location. League funds will be used for computers for the new computer lab and classroom and computer lab furniture.