Youth Mentoring Efforts Get Boost with Grant Funds

Posted on Jun 12, 2019 by

Every child deserves a champion. Efforts to provide area youth with adult mentors will get a “shot in the arm” as a result of a new round of Basic Needs Giving Partnership grants.

The grants, which were recently awarded by the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, will fund collaborative projects in Winnebago, Green Lake and Waushara Counties that address root causes of poverty like the lack of family support and social connectedness.

Three of the 10 new grants awarded — and about $601,000 of the $826,104 total — explicitly focus on improving the quality and quantity of mentoring relationships. For the people working regularly with our youth, the link to poverty could not be more clear.

“Children at-risk who have a mentor for more than one year are more likely to enroll in college, less likely to skip school, less likely to use drugs or drink and more likely to hold leadership positions,” said Lindsay Fenlon, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fox Valley Region (BBBS). “We’re excited to begin offering a new, innovative approach to mentoring that will make it easier than ever to support the youth in our communities.”

Big Sister Stephanie and Little Sister Sari love spending time together during a workplace mentoring program.

In the coming school year, BBBS and the Oshkosh Area School District will pilot a nationally successful, vocational mentoring program with the support of a three-year, $300,000 grant. The Mentor 2.0 Program recognizes that instant messaging and using a computer or smart phone are natural for today’s students. Mentor 2.0 will use specialized technology as a bridge between regular in-person meetings, allowing mentor pairs to continue to build their relationship and work on vocational-related goals introduced in weekly classroom lessons at school.

The Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area aims to expand its mentoring program offered in partnership with the Berlin Area School District and the Green Lake Area School District. The program’s three-year, $286,500 grant will allow them to take steps to reach more kids in Berlin and start a mentoring program in Green Lake.

“The club and the school districts share a commitment to supporting youth so they can reach their full potential,” said Jason Presto, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Tri-County Area. “We are beyond excited about the Basic Needs funding as it will allow us the opportunity to serve and impact more kids in our rural communities.”

Presto said three years of funding is invaluable, not only to the grant recipients but also to the communities. It’s enough time to show a community that a program is working and to work out any kinks.

The grants are from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, which is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs within the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, the J. J. Keller Foundation, and other community partners. Proceeds from the U.S. Venture Open help fund the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs. The golf outing raised a record $4.13 million in 2018. Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey will be the featured guest at this year’s U.S. Venture Open on August 14.

The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation announced new grants totaling $826,104 and distributed $332,500 to multiple year grants. New grants include:

Youth Mentoring Consolidation – $15,000 to design a program model and hire a program team that will allow for greater depth and breadth of service to the Oshkosh community through a newly restructured organization that merges Best Friends of Neenah-Menasha and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Fox Valley Region.

Healthy Families Waushara County – $94,938 over three years to offer voluntary nurse home visiting services to parents facing challenges such as single parenthood, low income, and current or previous issues related to substance abuse, mental health issues, and/or domestic violence. Collaborators are Waushara County Health and Human Services Departments, CAP Services, Aurora Health Care, and ThedaCare.

Transitional Shelter for Oshkosh Community – $15,000 to research potential locations in Oshkosh for a transitional homeless shelter with supportive services as well as build community awareness and support. Collaborators are COTS and Partnership Community Health Center.

Fall Prevention for an Aging Community – $14,550 to create an action plan that ensures all Oshkosh seniors, no matter their income level, can access fall prevention programs and services. Collaborates include Evergreen Retirement Community, City of Oshkosh Fire Department, Rebuilding Together, Oshkosh Seniors Center, Finding Balance Together, and Wellness Plus.

Qualitative Study of Youth Suicide-Related Behaviors – $10,000 to conduct a research project to figure out why our 12-18 year olds (Calumet, Outagamie, Winnebago Counties) are attempting suicide at nearly twice the rate of the rest of the state and national averages in order to develop real, local, targeted prevention and intervention strategies. Collaborators are NEW Mental Health Connection, Winnebago and Outagamie County Public Health Departments, Neenah Join School District, Samaritan Counseling, and UW Extension – Winnebago County.

Grade 8 Mental Health Screening in Oshkosh Schools – $27,472 over two years to add case management capacity in order to expand mental health wellness screening to 8th graders, which was planned but put on hold due to the higher than anticipated number of students in grades 9-12 screening positive for concerns. Collaborators are Samaritan Counseling Center of the Fox Valley, Oshkosh Area School District, and Catalpa Health.

State of the Child Deeper Dive – $6,144 to support pilot projects to increase the number of children that receive developmental screenings and enter data into a shared community database. Collaborators include Valley Packaging Industries-Birth to Three Early Intervention Program, Winnebago County Health Department, Oshkosh Area School District, Davis Child Care Center, ThedaCare, UW Oshkosh Head Start, Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin, and Fox Valley Early Childhood Coalition.

Regional Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator – $56,500 over three years from the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation and $169,500 over three years from the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region to create a community-level staff position to build infrastructure for responding uniformly and effectively to suicide attempts and completions, drive the Zero Suicide framework into healthcare, and use data to drive strategy in Winnebago, Outagamie and Calumet Counties.

About the Basic Needs Giving Partnership

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership aims to end poverty in Northeast Wisconsin. Grants are funded by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, which is supported by monies raised from the annual U.S. Venture Open, and the J. J. Keller Foundation. The U.S. Venture Open is the nation’s single-largest, one-day charitable event dedicated to ending poverty. In the 33-year history of the event more than $42 million has been raised and $26 million granted.

For more information, please contact Amy Putzer at (920) 426-3993 or [email protected].

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