Throughout Grant County, there are a number of organizations in the business of improving the quality of life for children.

Lift is a nonprofit after school program that focuses on literacy improvement, whole child development and spiritual nurturing for children that attend Eastbrook Community Schools. According to Lift Executive Director Samantha Cocking, the organization’s passion is literacy and relational support for the 36 second-, third- and fourth-grade students from Eastbrook South Elementary.

“Every part of the Lift day is designed to provide opportunities for each student to be healthy, engaged, supported and challenged as they grow,” Cocking said. “This is accomplished through literature, play, healthy snack choices, music, games, art, enrichment and positive relationships.”

Each child in Lift receives approximately 91 days of two and a half hour intentional programming, including literacy instruction, music, structured play, healthy snacks, enrichment activities, spiritual instruction and character development.

“Lift is grateful for the partnership with Eastbrook Community Schools,” Cocking said. “We exist to give children an extra lift, and this additional layer of support that we provide is intended to enhance the great work that is taking place at Eastbrook South. When schools are successful and students become literate, our community benefits.”

Project Leadership works with middle school and high school students in Grant County to focus on mentoring students as they prepare for college or the workforce. Project Leadership helps students enter the 21st Century Scholars program to fund their college education.

In the 21st Century program, if a student’s family meets certain economic requirements, and the students abstain from crime and substance abuse, they could receive full tuition if they choose a state university.

“Our mission is to help students to and through college and into careers, so we do a lot of work in the community partnering with schools,” Director of Content Steve Gibson said.

Project Leadership also offers a mentorship program connecting students with an adult they can look up to. Along with this, they offer FAFSA help for students and families in Grant County.

“The greatest need is for our young people to have adults invest in them,” Gibson said. “The most successful students that we come in contact with are the students that have a network of adults supporting them.”

PULSE, an acronym for “Positive Understanding of Life Skills and Empowerment,” teaches healthy coping skills to all students in Grant County except for Oak Hill schools, which use a different mental health program.

The importance of this program is in offering children other options to cope with stress and trauma than turning to substance abuse or violence, according to PULSE Chief Programs Officer Susan Miller.

“I think the most important thing for our youth is having meaningful relationships with adults,” Miller said. “We can help on the poverty end. We can help with all these little things, but it needs relationship… Every adult in our county should be looking at one youth and asking how they can help them.”

The St. Martin Community Center offers food and clothing to children and families struggling in Grant County, and the Voices Project from the Community Foundation of Grant County is taking qualitative data from listening to families to shed light on issues the community is facing. Both programs are attempting to meet immediate needs in the community.

“We’re a warm place,” Executive Director of St. Martin Community Center Teresa Campbell said. “Kids don’t have heat at home, but they are warm here. We do the best we can to help them with these immediate needs. We are not an after school program. We’re on the front lines. The ones with the greatest needs come here.”

The RedBarn is an organization and ministry that is considered an official drop-in center through Youth for Christ (YFC) and Lightrider Ministries. Director of the RedBarn Troy Shockey is the only paid employee of YFC, and all other adult and college-aged staff are volunteers.

Approximately 90 sixth- through 12th-grade students come to the RedBarn before and after school as a recognized Eastbrook bus stop. Students from Eastbrook are greeted by name from a “RedBarn mom or dad” and offered breakfast or a snack Monday through Friday. Any day Eastbrook is open, so is the RedBarn.

“The hope is that we are providing a safe environment but also a positive environment, something that some of them don’t get at home,” Liz Shockey, Troy’s wife, said. “A lot of them come from low socioeconomic area homes that are single-parent incomes and single-parent people… So, we just hope to provide something that gives them an atmosphere of encouragement.”

According to Liz Shockey, the greatest practical need for children in Grant County is food. She said she has a dream of someone using a rundown mall to house opportunities for low socioeconomic families to get help and encouragement.

For these organizations, children are in need of relationship as well as practical help, and in Liz Shockey’s opinion, it does not just stop there.

“We’re just people that came in and are trying to stand in the gap. It doesn’t matter who we are. That’s not important; what’s important is there are people who care, and I think the kids need to know that people care,” she said.
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