TrTribune: We’re Here for You; April 2013

Shameless plug of the day…….like us on Facebook!

“Beautiful Scenery, Great Food, Friendly People, Classic Bluegrass and Fun for All Ages.” That’s the motto we’ve adopted and the best way to explain one of the ways Foothills Family Resources (FFR) provides the income needed to move our neighbors from crisis to self-sufficiency.  The 11th Annual Strawberry Festival Strawberry, presented by the Bank of Travelers Rest, is not only a great way to usher in the summer with thousands of other festival goers, it’s one way that you can help provide services to the less fortunate in Cleveland, Marietta, Slater and Travelers Rest. Please come join us on May 4!

 

Start the day with breakfast

The day begins at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast provided by FFR’s dedicated Board of Directors. Pancakes, sausage, strawberries freshly picked locally at Beachwood Farms, Leopard Forrest Coffee, orange juice and all the fixins. Breakfast will be served at FFR’s community room on 3 Main St in Slater.

$4 Adults, $2 Children

 

Stay for Bluegrass, festival food and fun

After breakfast stroll up to the beautiful grounds of Slater Hall to enjoy a full day of spring weather, Cherry Blossoms and a festival atmosphere. The day will begin with the raising of the colors by Boy Scout Troop 007 accompanied by the Slater-Marietta Elementary School Green Wave Choir’s perfect rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The musical performances that follow include the Young Appalachian Musicians Sweet Potato Pie Kids and the West End String Band, both based out of upstate South Carolina. Festivities begin at 10 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.

 

The Strawberry Festival is kid friendly, of course. Arts and Crafts activities provided by another nonprofit organization, Blue Wall Group, along with a playground and inflatable rides will provide opportunities for life long memories and ensure early bedtimes that night.

 

And of course, the food! Vendors from throughout the region will cure every festival craving. Items to be offered include BBQ, smoked turkey legs, Italian Sausage, hot dogs, hamburgers, snow cones, slushies, chocolate dipped cheesecake, funnel cakes, strawberry shortcake, strawberry cobbler and much more.

 

Check out UpstateStrawberryFestival.com for more information.

 

Get Involved

As you probably know if you’ve been partaking in this conversation, I always try to provide a way you can help the cause. It’s a true pleasure to let you know that one way you can help is by coming, participating and eating! FFR receives a percentage of income from all food sold at the festival. By merely enjoying some bbq, washing it down with a slushie and finishing it off with some strawberry shortcake you are helping to support your neighbors in need.

 

Another way you can support this mission is to become a sponsor of the festival.  By doing this you not only gain visibility for you or your organization, you join the sponsors below in helping provide food, education and counseling to the residents of Northern Greenville County.  Please contact me for more information on sponsorship opportunities.

 

Finally, volunteers are always need for an event like this.  Please contact me if you would like to enjoy a beautiful spring day while helping supporting FFR’s mission.

 


TRTribune: We’re Here for You; June 2013

As anyone that works in the nonprofit industry will agree, planning and executing a fundraising event like the Strawberry Festival, can be very challenging. Recruiting sponsors, volunteers and vendors along with all the minute details is a yearlong undertaking.  Luckily I am blessed with a talented staff that is willing to go outside of their “job description” in order to make the Strawberry Festival something this community can be proud of.

One thing we cannot control is weather, which can make or break an event. Last year’s festival saw clear blue skies while this year we were graced with clouds, a poor forecast and eventually rain which shut the show down an hour early. Last year had seasonal temperatures in the 80’s, this year was unseasonably cold with temperatures dipping into the mid 50’s. Last year saw thousands of festival goers enjoying good food, blue grass music and a festive atmosphere as can only be imagined in a Rockwell painting.  The 2013 Strawberry Festival saw the exact same thing.

As an organization, we have no choice but to accept the weather as is comes and do our best to make lemonade out of lemons. As festival goers, the community has no such obligation. But this community did. As I looked out over the grounds of Slater Hall, I was amazed to see thousands people enjoying hot dogs, BBQ, strawberry shortcake and even snow cones. Everywhere I looked, people dressed in raincoats, jeans and even winter hats were enjoying the craft vendors and listening to music. The grounds were essentially flooded in lemonade!

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of Foothills Family Resources, please accept my gratitude for believing that good weather is not a prerequisite for fun at the Strawberry Festival. For understanding that a sausage dog goes just as well with hot coffee as it does with sweet tea. Finally, for accepting that good family fun sometimes means dancing in rain….

The staff at Foothills Family Resources and Blue Wall Group have already started to plan a bigger and better Strawberry Festival for 2014 and we promise a good time, rain or shine.  Look forward to seeing you there!


TRTribune: We’re Here for You; August 2013

As fall approaches, Foothills Family Resources is looking forward to the inaugural class of the most empowering service ever offered by this historic organization. The “Center for Working Families” will help move citizens of Northern Greenville County from crisis to self-sufficiency. I’ve talked a great deal about that move in previous columns, but the next two will explain how a small organization, located in a historic mill village, aspires to help our neighbors from Travelers Rest to Cleveland attain financial security and move towards happiness.

Let’s first talk about the word “crisis.”

A crisis is any situation which makes getting through the day a ”to do” item. It may come in the form of an empty cupboard, teenage pregnancy, crippling mental duress, lack of health insurance along with poor health, looming power disconnection, overdue rent or pending foreclosure, loss of employment or disability to name a few.

Most of us have felt at least some of these needs at one point in our lives but handling most or all of the above at one time qualifies as a crisis. This is where Foothills Family Resources meets many of our clients. Urgent services such as food, emergency shelter/utilities and Medicaid enrollment are immediately dealt with through FFR staff with the remainder of services provided by a diverse group of partners on site. These services include SNAP services from DSS, Nutritional Guidance from the Department of Health’s Women Infant and Children’s program, Therapeutic sessions from Greenville Mental Health, Pregnancy Counseling including Ob Ultrasounds from the Piedmont Women’s Center, employment services from Vocational Rehabilitation and educational daycare from SHARE Head Start.

 

This multi-disciplinary group of partners provides all services at no cost to this community or to FFR.  In return, they are provided all the amenities of a modern office environment rent free. It is this leveraging of resources which allows FFR to provide more opportunities to our neighbors than any organization in Greenville County.

 

Once the crisis has been dealt with, many families will be afforded the opportunity to improve financial knowledge, gain much needed work skills, attain employment and change the course of their family’s future through the Center for Working Families. But there are no strings attached to crisis services. FFR has always been a place for our neighbors to turn when times are tough.  Asking for food may be the first step to financial security, but it may also just be a means to get through another day.  We respect each person we serve because situations are all unique; each client will get what is best for them simply because it’s the right thing to do.

 

It’s a pleasure to continue this conversation and I look forward to discussing financial education, job training and employment placement, along with the partners providing those services, in our next conversation. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me at dwbolto@bellsouth.net.


TRTribune: We’re Here for You; September 2013

In this conversation, we’ll cover some services provided by Foothills Family Resources (FFR) that we haven’t touched on in the past as FFR will focus on moving families in crisis to a place of self-sufficiency through the Center for Working Families (CWF) to be launched this fall.  According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the CWF model is “an approach to help low-income families reach financial stability and move up the economic ladder” that specifically helps families “increase their earnings and income,” “reduce financial transaction costs” and “build wealth for themselves and their communities.”

As you can see, our goal is not just to effect those we serve, but expectations are to see an effect throughout this community over time. This new program will follow our long standing tradition of leveraging resources through partnerships. In fact, we have forged new partnerships with SHARE, Goodwill and Greenville Human Relations to meet the self-sufficiency side of the “crisis to self-sufficiency goal” we have talked about so often in this conversation.

The CWF will welcome fifteen new families each quarter to begin a process of healing, education and empowerment through a program which they will experience as a group. Though each family will come in with different needs, from GED to higher level job training, all will benefit from the support and accountability a group environment provides. Each family will have at least one person involved in the most empowering educational elements of CWF, but the entire unit will benefit from a case manager guiding them through the entire network of services offered by FFR and Greenville County as a whole.

In order to facilitate this program, FFR has had to make improvements to our facility and foster new relationships with organizations viewed as the best in the county at what they do. To begin, FFR has opened previously unused office space to accommodate the needs of CWF. JPS Composites has donated computers allowing for a new computer lab which will provide GED and Workkeys testing along with resume building, online learning and a myriad of courses on computer skills along with tax preparations which will be available to the public as a whole.

Along with this capital improvement, FFR has fostered several new partnerships to facilitate this new programming.  Greenville County Human Relations will provide an education on all facets of money management, from debt reduction to capital investments and wealth building allowing families to attain a wealth of knowledge to better manage their finances moving forward. Lifelong learning has long provided GED education and testing at FFR and will add an increased focus on Workkeys certification, which is a tool many regional employers use to gauge the qualifications of prospective employees. The SHARE LADDER program, which has earned the William “Sonny” Walder Self-sufficiency and Audrey B. Nelson awards along with the 2004 Innovative Program of the Year distinction, will provide job training in a wide range of fields including medical, healthcare, manufacturing and computer technology. Finally, Goodwill JobConnection will add another widely respected element which provides comprehensive services in job training very similar to that of CWF as a whole.

So we’ve come full circle in this conversation. I hope that you’ve come away with a better appreciation for what this little non-profit is doing for our neighbors in need. I hope it’s also clear that we’re thinking big about our community and the ways we can move those in need from crisis to self-sufficiency.

As always, feel free to contact me at dwbolto@bellsouth.net with any questions or comments you may have.


TR Tribune: We’re Here for You; February 2013

In this, my first letter to the residents of Northern Greenville County, I intend to make you aware of an organization that has been at your service for more than 25 years. It is odd, even to me, that this is the beginning of a public awareness campaign considering the organization I serve has helped thousands of your neighbors get through difficult situations over more than two decades. This is not to say we are the only provider of services in the region, but we are the only one to provide all of the services that we do. We are Foothills Family Resources (FFR) and, though we are located in Slater, over half of those we serve reside in Travelers Rest. It is truly my pleasure to begin a conversation with you on what we do, how we do it and the exciting changes that are about to occur which will have an economic and cultural effect on our community.

You may know of us through the Strawberry Festival. Over the past 12 years, this festival has become one of the great traditions in ushering in the summer for all of Greenville County. Maybe a neighbor received some help with food and utilities while unemployed, but you’re not sure from where. It’s possible that the nurse who took such good care of you started her career as a Certified Nursing Assistant through FFR funding or even received her GED within our walls. In the past four years alone, FFR has provided services over 30,000 times, so there is a good chance someone you know has been impacted considering the tight knit community we all call home.

So who are we?

FFR provides resources to an underserved population beset by generational poverty, a lack of transportation, high unemployment rates, high teen pregnancy rates, low graduation rates and poor healthcare. Clients receive services in our facility from a diverse group of professionals which includes five counselors, four therapists, four R.N.s, two M.D.s, two teachers, a caseworker, nutritionist, job coach and a family advocate. FFR’s impressive staff provides for the mind and body of our clients via therapeutic counseling sessions, medical/financial assistance and education. FFR nurtures our clients through stressful times, escorts them through the maternity process, educates them on healthy dieting practices, provides them opportunities to further their education and nourishes them when the cupboards are bare. Without FFR’s services, most of those we serve would miss the opportunity to move from crisis to self-sufficiency.

 

I should tell you that the current state of FFR has little to do with me, as I began my work here in April of 2011. I am amazed that what FFR does can be summarized into a little over 100 words like I did above, but, as is the case with a summary of any kind, things are left out. I can give a good overview of the great things that are happening, but it is going to take an extended conversation to educate you on the incredible web of services available to this community.

 

This and future conversations are taking place because one day you may need us and we may need you. FFR wants to be sure that every citizen of Northern Greenville County knows where to turn when times are tough. As you will see in future columns, we want to be known not only as the place to turn to meet your immediate crisis, but as the place that meets you in that crisis and helps you move to a place of employment and financial security through education. You can also be sure that future letters will include opportunities for volunteerism, such as through the Strawberry Festival and Board membership. And yes, we will probably also discuss how nonprofits function and ways you can contribute monetarily if you feel inclined. As the executive director, I am always considering our budget, so that conversation will occur, but not yet. FFR has been around for more than 25 years, but we’re just getting started.

 

I look forward to talking with you once a month, but if you have questions please feel free to contact me directly at dwbolto@bellsouth.net.

 

March Column: Center for Working Families


TrTribune: We’re Here for You; November 2013

We’re Here for You: Being part of an ‘Abundant Communmity’

In the book “The Abundant Community,” authors Peter Block and John McKnight present the argument that the community is better suited to meet the needs of its neighbors than the systems currently in place to meet those needs. At Foothills Family Resources we are taking this concept of how much a community can do all by itself to heart and we ask you to join us while supporting the Center for Working Families (CWF).

This support of CWF does not necessarily have to be financial as Foothills Family Resources’ goal is to essentially create a database of the skills in our abundant community which we are all proud to live and/or work in. Whether you make a mean lasagna, have serious plumbing skills or would like to serve as a mentor, every skill is welcome to assist those working to move from crisis to self-sufficiency.

Do you want to serve on a board of directors which has a direct impact on your neighbors in need? We always need members dedicated to the cause. Are you good with woodworking? You can donate some time to help a young child learn how to make a birdhouse. Do you make paper-mâché? Let’s gather the CWF families for a crafts session on making piñatas and use them for birthday parties for our students’ children. The beauty of this program is we can think outside the box and effect our students in ways most programs don’t. Remember, we are serving the entire family unit, and I’m sure that you have a talent to share which can have an impact!

When we create programming it’s important to identify goals which will indicate success and, in the case of the Center for Working Families, those goals will revolve around the financial success of the students. This includes improvements in employment status, decrease in debt and an increase in savings. But there’s another angle we will focus on which will revolves around our community that’s a bit more abstract, but just as important. Our goal is to hear graduates speak of missing Ms. Smith’s lasagna at monthly meetings or to hear them tell stories of how Mr. Jones was always there when there was a plumbing issue at their house.

We are just as excited to hear about the times when mentors went above and beyond as we are to learn that a student is working in a job that will change the course of their families’ future.  Helping people find a successful career is a primary goal, but helping them establish positive relationships skills is just as important in the long run for that person and our community. If students graduate, change their lives and talk about lasagna, plumbing, mentors and piñatas we’ll know that it’s the community helping the community. That’s when we’ll know this is a sustainable way to empower those in need. That’s when we’ll know that we have a program that will not only change the lives of its students, but will have an impact on our entire abundant community.

If you would like to be part of this abundant community please contact me at dwbolto@bellsouth.net or 864-836-1100. Remember, there’s no skill or talent we don’t want to hear about.


TR Tribune: We’re Here for You; March 2013

As we move forward in this conversation, I hope to make it clear that the primary focus of Foothills Family Resources (FFR) is to move our neighbors in need from a place of crisis to one of self-sufficiency.  Crisis to self-sufficiency…..a phrase you will hear a good bit in this conversation, but we do not place a greater emphasis on the former or latter. Through the Integrated Services program and the soon to be instituted Center for Working Families, FFR does work to provide mental/medical health, educational and financial services that will aid in the ultimate goal of a more fulfilling life for all those we serve. But today we are going to talk about a service that I, and the great staff I am blessed to work with are very proud of performing. That service is providing food to those without. No matter what your culture, religion, ideology or political leaning, we all feel that inner spark encouraging us to be there for our fellow man or women.  It’s that unmistakable feeling in the pit of our stomach encouraging us to share this most basic of needs with those we inhabit this planet with.

At FFR, the food pantry is often the means by which someone is introduced to the myriad of services we offer as well as being one of the most utilized services we provide. In order to address this need The Graham Foundation generously funded the expansion of the food pantry in 2012, allowing FFR to store a greater amount and variety of food. What were once two adjoining closets is now a 15’ by 10’ area with shelving that contains primarily peanut butter, pasta, rice and canned vegetables/fruit/meat. Along with this, 2 chest freezers house anything from whole chickens to ham, fish and fresh bread.

As is consistent with our mission discussed in February’s column, FFR strives to provide not just food for sustenance, but food for health. One high quality protein source, 4 vegetable/fruit products and one starch such as rice, pasta or bread is provided per every 2 people in a household. And while FFR cannot be seen as the primary means for food in a household, we do understand that return visits are sometimes needed to get an individual or family through a difficult time.

There are no strings attached to the food pantry, but it is through this entry point that FFR’s staff can often identify other needs that may be addressed by FFR. As an example, a young woman can enter in need of food and be immediately referred to the Piedmont Women’s Center after informing staff that she is pregnant. Upon learning that she dropped out of school, the Women’s Center would refer her to the Foothills GED Program to continue her education and Greenville Mental Health to help process this new stressful situation in her life. FFR staff would then provide Benefit Bank counseling and opportunities to receive SNAP benefits (Food Stamps) and WIC(Women Infants Children) food and nutritional programming in house.  This type of situation occurs regularly at FFR, and this system will become even more focused and empowering this summer with the institution of the Center for Working Families which will include financial counseling, job training and employment services. I look forward to discussing this further in a future column.

As you can see, it is not just FFR’s individual services that make this organization so vital to Northern Greenville County; it is the close proximity of all of these services to an underserved population that makes FFR irreplaceable in the region. This is especially true considering FFR serves a population that faces a lack of transportation as a huge barrier to receiving services. These individuals need help and would go without if FFR did not exist.