Category: Volunteering

Sprouts Celebrates One Year of Growth

“Last year, I started not knowing much about gardening, and when I leave the LIFE Project, I’ll have so much more knowledge in plant growth and growth within myself.”  —Melissa*

ACH Child and Family Services’ Sprouts Gardening Committee is celebrating one year of growth since beginning their journey in ACH’s garden in March of 2020. Despite a few challenges, the group is proud of the work they accomplished and has high hopes for the future.

“I am so excited for a new year to learn more,” said K, one of the young adults in Sprouts.

ACH’s LIFE (Learning Independence from Experience) Project is a program that builds self-confidence and self-sufficiency in young adults ages 18 to 21 who are homeless or are in extended foster care. Young adults are given guidance and support in developing life skills—such as applying to college, entering the workforce, and preparing to live independently.
A SUCCESSFUL YEAR

At the start of the pandemic, young adults in ACH’s LIFE Project program created a volunteer initiative by founding the Sprouts Gardening Committee on our Wichita Street campus.

During such an uncertain time, gardening became a healthy, peaceful activity. For the young adults in our care—many of whom come from a life in foster care or homelessness, gardening brought healing and a sense of belonging, which was incredibly beneficial for them.

“I am excited that we are turning one year old because it shows the dedication to a project, especially during a really hard year both in the world and in everyone’s personal lives,” said Cassie Morgan, LIFE Mentor.

In November, the committee received the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Fort Worth Metro Chapter. This award honored the more than 200 volunteer hours the committee spent in ACH’s garden.

Of all their accomplishments, the biggest blessing of the group was the new friendships that blossomed.

“I am excited because we still have our team together,” said Cole*, Sprouts member. “It’s the same people still sticking together, facing challenges we’ve never faced before.”

Melissa*, one of the young ladies in Sprouts, attributes gardening to helping her develop patience, something she struggled with before.

“I enjoyed watching the plants grow and change while learning more about myself as an individual,” said Melissa. “Last year, I started not knowing much about gardening, and when I leave the LIFE Project, I’ll have so much more knowledge in plant growth and growth within myself.”

The group also learned the hard work necessary for maintaining a garden.

“There is nothing cookie-cutter about gardening,” said Cassie. “We had to find what works best for us and our garden.”

ENTER THE POLAR VORTEX

Sprout’s first year was one for the books. They had some surprises, including the February Texas Winter Storm, which proved to be a valuable teaching moment for the committee.

The group, as with most Texans, was not prepared for such extreme weather. That week, they made their safety a priority and held out hope for the garden.

“We took care of ourselves instead of the plants,” said Cole. “It was frightening and scary, but had high hopes that the garden would survive, and it did… kind of.”

The group was sad to see some plants die but happy to see most of the plants hanging on. To be better prepared, the group formed a Weather Committee within Sprouts to track the local forecast in case of any extreme weather occurrences.

LOOKING AHEAD

LIFE Mentor Cassie Morgan looks forward to another year of gardening.

Having recovered from the storm, the committee is focused on their surviving crops, which include sea kale, cabbage, rosemary, and some flowers.

“We are excited to grow more this year and build on the skills we learned last year,” said Cassie. “Every time we check on the plants, there is more new growth happening.”

With volunteerism at the heart of the committee, Sprouts would like to open the group up to members of the community who want to volunteer in the garden. The group is even working on creating a resource guide for those future members.

“When we opened the garden, it was kind of difficult,” said Melissa. “When new Sprouts members come in, we want them to know what to expect and how to care for the plants.”

HELP SPROUTS GROW

For the garden to flourish, the Sprouts Gardening Committee needs a helping hand from our community. They are currently asking for in-kind donations that include seeds, plants, soil, and gardening tools. Most importantly, the group needs a wheelbarrow to help transport their supplies across campus.

If you would like to donate to the Sprouts Gardening Committee, click the button below. All donations must be new and unopened and through appointment only.

SCHEDULE A DONATION DROP-OFF

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes

A Community of Support: Volunteer Mentoring at ACH

Transitioning into adulthood is a challenging time for anyone. The number one factor in helping young people through challenging times is the support of at least one caring adult or ideally, a community of adults, who can provide support and guidance in many ways.

The young adults in ACH’s LIFE Project are facing all the challenges and responsibilities of adulthood on their own. As a result, we must recruit a community of supportive adults who can help them with this major transition. Mentoring does not remove every obstacle but gives them the important knowledge that they are not alone.


Qua’ (far left) chats with a group of mentors from Connections for LIFE during a night out at Alley Cats.  (Pre-pandemic)

“Mentoring at ACH gives our young adults a community that walks beside them, through all the ups and downs, to help move them forward,” said Kate Faggella-Luby, ACH’s Volunteer Mentor Coordinator.

ACH’s volunteer mentors are committed individuals who together form a community of support for young adults in LIFE through two groups: Connections for LIFE for the young men; and, Circle of Caring for the young women.

Volunteer mentors participate two to three times per month in fun group activities with the young adults and other volunteers to build connections and provide a sense of belonging for them,” said Kate.

Before the pandemic, the groups would get together to cook a meal, play a game outside, or leave campus to visit a museum or see a movie. They also celebrate birthdays, graduations, and other big accomplishments. In the past year, they’ve shifted their activities to Zoom, with some socially distanced events.

BUILDING BRIDGES


Volunteer Mentors celebrate milestones with the young adults in LIFE, including graduations as seen here in 2019.

Qua’ has been a part of the LIFE Project since July 2018 and he’s actively participated with the volunteer mentors.

“Connections for LIFE was the highlight of my time at ACH,” said Qua’. “They gave us opportunities and resources, and just having dinner and interacting with them was engaging and fun.”

Qua’ met his mentor, Dennis, last year and the two bonded over stand-up comedy and rap music.

“He’s old-school and I’m new school,” laughed Qua’.

It wasn’t long before Qua’ began to open up to Dennis and the pair grew closer.

“I try to give them the sense of being wanted and appreciated,” said Dennis. “I try to guide Qua’ the same way I do my own son.”

For Qua’, Dennis became the first male role model he ever had, and one of the first adults to make him feel seen and heard. Experiencing years of emotional abuse made him feel ignored and abandoned, which made it hard for him to develop a connection with trusting adults.

That changed with Connections for LIFE.

“Getting the chance to know all these volunteers is definitely a milestone in my development,” said Qua’.

Dennis believes that taking a vested interest in these young adults creates a much larger impact in the long run, for both them and the community.

“They’ve never had anybody take a vested interest in them or care about them, so when you show them that, they know how to give that love and care back into the world.”

Qua’ encourages other young adults in LIFE to get the most they can out of the mentorships.

“Without those friends, those bonds, and those connections, you’re not going to make it very far,” said Qua’. “It’s good to know that you’re appreciated every once in a while, and that there are people you can depend on.”

That’s what Kate wishes all young adults in LIFE receive from the volunteer mentors.

“The fact that the mentoring group shows up for them time and again, sends a message that they matter, that they have something to offer, and that the world can be a safe and good place for them,” said Kate. “That sense of belonging, of receiving and giving support, is what I hope they take away from the experience.”

LOOKING AHEAD

Qua’ will soon graduate from the LIFE Project and venture out on his own, but he and Dennis still have plans to remain close. For Dennis, the most rewarding part of the mentorship will be getting to see Qua’ “spread his wings and fly.”

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer mentor and making an impact on ACH’s young adults, reach out to Kate at Kate.Faggella-Luby@ACHservices.org to get started.

Thank You Thanksgiving Volunteers!

We are so grateful for the volunteers who came out to fill 240 Thanksgiving bags for the families in our care!

Thank you to Brooksource, Lhoist, AT&T Pioneers, BNSF and our individual volunteers!

Here are just a few responses from our grateful foster families:

“What an awesome thing we get to share with our families and thank you for putting it together.”

 “Thank you so much for all you do. Dakota and Kinsey are life savers. They have taught us so much. Thank you again for your blessings.”

 “Thank you so much what a great gift of caring!”

 “Thank you for all the special touches y’all put together for us! We’re truly blessed!”

 “A true blessing to the families!”