Childhood Poverty Just A Stone’s Throw Away
Community members come together to combat childhood poverty and its effects
Close your eyes and imagine children hanging on the monkey bars, screaming their way down the slide, and giggling joyfully on the swings. Sounds of innocent laughter all around. Now open your eyes.
One out of five of those children are living in poverty and will go to bed hungry tonight. (United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), March 2017) Another way to look at the numbers – your child has a sleepover party. For one or two of those children, that was the first time in a long time they went to bed with a full belly.
No region, ethnicity or age group in America is immune to childhood poverty. Once you are touched by poverty, it’s hard to outrun its effects. Unfortunately, childhood poverty often means future poverty and long-lasting health and development issues. (USDA, March 2017)
So what can we do?
Chandler, AZ, is a fast-growing Phoenix suburb with more than a quarter million people.
“Most people driving through downtown Chandler - they see the beautiful downtown and the parks, but within a stone’s throw we’ve got people who are struggling to make ends meet,” shared Det. Kelley, a Chandler police officer.
Fortunately for these kids there is an organization with an army of volunteers who are committed to changing the trajectory of their lives. ICAN was founded 25 years ago by local resident, Henry Salinas, who wanted to provide safe after-school care for children in his low-income neighborhood.
Today the program is more than just an afterschool program for at-risk youth. “We use a nationally-recognized curriculum to build the skills necessary to encourage social behavior; prevent substance abuse and delinquency; develop life skills and leadership capacity; and enhance self-image and self-confidence,” shares CEO of ICAN, Shelby Pederson.
But ICAN needed help to provide their life-altering services to more members of the community - free of charge. In 2016, they heard about a crowdsourced grant program that connects individuals and communities with local non-profits to build safer, stronger, and smarter communities, State Farm Neighborhood Assist (SFNA).
And they won one of those 40 grants. “The grant money is going towards our Youth Development Program that tackles three major barriers: Free programming, meals, and transportation,” shared Shelby. “Without help from organizations like State Farm and their Neighborhood Assist program, we could not provide these services to our community.”
Together, Chandler residents and ICAN volunteers are giving their children the best chance they can at a brighter future. They are turning the power of caring into the act of doing with the help of SFNA. Is there a cause in your community you care about?