Our spotlight charity for September is Grow Into You Foundation, a Tampa-based non-profit that supports teens who have been part of the foster care system. Erin NeSmith is the founder who has a strong desire to make a positive impact on at-risk youth through relationship building, coaching and mentoring to support them in reaching their full potential. She holds a Professional Coaching Certification as a Life Coach and her passion for helping these teens shines through as she speaks of her work with them.
Learn More About Their Work
The majority of teens that find themselves in foster care live in residential facilities rather than traditional homes because families are fearful of taking in a teen.
These same teens often age out of the foster care system at 18 years old with little to no support. The possibilities ahead of them don't look like college, starting a family and financial stability. Their possibilities look more often like homelessness, human trafficking, hunger, drugs, jail and returning to the same foster care system- this time as a parent.
Think of a teen you know...can you imagine he or she stepping into the world alone knowing that they don't have a soul to turn to? No family support system that cares about where they go or what they do?
These teens need guidance. They need support. They need someone to empower them to pursue education, employment and shelter. They need the perspective that allows them to seek out wise choices, create healthy plans for the future, learn life and leadership skills, implement coping strategies and experience what success can and does look like for them.
How Does Their Coaching and Mentorship Help the Teens?
It can be difficult to know what kind of difference you are making with teens. They may not open up or express themselves. Grow Into You Foundation has direct feedback from those they have worked with, and it truly shows how important their work in our community is!
How Can You Get Involved?
Grow Into You Foundation would love your help and support as they guide these teens into adult life. They are seeking volunteers, donations for their organization, and gift cards for their teens. Additionally, they are hosting a Halloween Masquerade Ball on Oct. 27th with the Fred Astaire Dance Studios. Plan to support them if you can!
Please plan to meet Erin at our Roux Girls Night Out on September 25 from 5:30 – 8:30 pm. She can answer all of your questions and is excited to share more about the foundation with you. If you are able to donate, she will be collecting gift cards for the teens. Gift cards can be for anything from Publix to fast food, to restaurants, etc. Erin uses them to celebrate “little wins” that the teens accomplish and to provide them with when they are struggling.
I had the pleasure of meeting the amazing president of the TAG-IN Foundation (Teaching Another Generation In Need) at a charity benefit in April. Mary Rieves’ warmth and passion for their cause was immediately apparent, and I knew I wanted to spotlight TAG-IN at one of our monthly events. TAG-IN’s vision is to reach youth through youth. Inspiring, motivating, and equipping them for what is needed to operate successfully in their own lives and communities. Their aim is grooming and teaching a strong generation of young men and women.
What makes this foundation unique is their use of young mentors to inspire at-risk youth to set high goals for themselves. The mission is to bring forth youth that are confident in who they are and desire to help other youth in their schools, communities, and around the world.
This year, TAG-IN is working directly with Van Buren Middle School to support the teachers, staff, and students. There are two essential methods that TAG-IN uses to support their schools. Mentoring is a partnership that will occur in one or two forms: youth to youth and/or professional to youth. Through these relationships, youth will know that they have a partner with whom to share challenges and struggles, celebrate the highs of life, and brainstorm ideas. The goal is to build and enhance positive, caring, and supportive relationships
They also have devised a comprehensive tutoring program for youth. While they will have professionals to tutor and support youth in any area where they may struggle academically, they have another avenue of support that will prove equally beneficial. It is peer to peer tutoring.
Mary will be attending our Brandon Ladies Night Out at O’Brien’s Irish Pub on Aug 22. At the start of the school year, her organization strives to support the staff to ensure the highest level of education possible for the students. Teachers are often burdened with purchasing materials for the classroom, so we are asking for school supply donations of copy paper, pencils, and 3 inch binders.
Additionally, TAG-IN is hosting a Walk A Thon on September 16 in Al Lopez Park and would love your support. Details are below.
Our charity spotlight for July is for a cause close to my heart. Supporting Troops Area wide Nationally and Overseas (S.T.A.N.O.) Foundation is built on a foundation of volunteers whose motto is to serve those who serve with a focus of enhancing the lives of our U.S. Armed Forces and their families. They are committed to provisioning support to these selfless individuals who sacrifice so much for us. S.T.A.N.O. Foundation is a non-profit organization also dedicated to being a resource to military families stationed in the Tampa Bay area looking for places to spend holidays or join military related events.
I had the pleasure of speaking with the founder, Paula Stano. She is a single mom of a US Marine who is the inspiration behind this organization. After his enlistment, she quickly learned of how many of our military troops didn’t have any or much support from back home. With her son being stationed overseas, it became painstakingly apparent during the holiday season that these men and women would have to celebrate in either their barracks or maybe a local USO and not with their families. Paula would like to incorporate a program here in the Tampa Bay area where anyone stationed here without family would be able to sign up for a program where they could spend holidays with host families so they didn’t feel so alone. Paula has a great passion of helping others and wants to help our soldiers feel closer to home even when stationed far from their families.
The STANO Foundation is best known for their personalized care packages that they send overseas. They focus on providing a personal, heart felt touch into every package. This is done by asking “what can we do better?” And “what would you like in your care package?” They send out these packages throughout the year, with particularly large shipments during July and before Christmas time. The packages are made possible by item and shipping cost donations from the community. You can view the entire list of requested donation items on their website.
Paula will be attending our Girls Night Out at Primebar on July 19th and is looking forward to meeting you all! We are requesting donations of beef jerky and/or black crew socks to help fill their care packages. Please bring your donations to Primebar for Paula to collect.
Our spotlight charity for the month of June is the non-profit Reality Speaks. Some of you may have even met the founder at our May Girls Night Out at Carmel! Dr. Chinyere Okpaleke, better known as ChiChi, founded Reality Speaks when she experienced first-hand the challenges faced by student athletes after graduation. This is how Reality Speaks came about; a guide to dream and be motivated beyond your limits. Reality Speaks facilitates student-athletes through a series of specialized programs dedicated to the successful transition after sports, while enhancing individuals’ mindset to be motivated beyond athletics.
There are more than 460,000 NCAA student-athletes, and less than 2% of those athletes will go on to compete professionally in their sport. An NCAA study on the experiences of college athletes revealed that 60% of student athletes reported viewing themselves "more as athletes than students.” Many hours are devoted to training, practice, and conditioning during their college years, leaving them unprepared for the professional world, damaging their ability to compete in the job market post-graduation. Reality Speaks, Inc. is a non-profit organization that targets student-athletes in successfully preparing them for life after sports. They aim to discover athletes’ interest outside of their sport, and motivate these young minds to dream beyond their limits, while guiding them in the process. The staff at Reality Speaks believe “a vision cannot be taught, but it can be directed.” A dream beyond sports…this is reality.
How Can You Help?
Reality Speaks will be having their 3rd annual clothing drive on June 18th. Every year, they donate kids, men's and woman's clothing, jewelry, accessories, and shoes to handpicked organizations who need them most. During our drives, they use student-athletes to volunteer at the events. Their experience volunteering helps with the Reality Speaks mission to help build resumes and volunteer exposure. The last couple years they’ve had USF and UT Mens and women's basketball teams volunteer. The collected clothing will be donated to local charities in need: ECHO, The Spring, and Generation Next.
In support of this spotlight charity, please consider bringing a clothing donation to our June 13 event. Dr. ChiChi will be in attendance to collect your donations and answer any questions you may have about Reality Speaks. For more information, you can also visit their website, RealitySpeaks.org.
I was lucky to meet Elizabeth from the Answered Prayers Project at a charity benefit, and I knew immediately that we would find a way to support each other. Elizabeth uses her role in her non-profit not only to help those involved with her projects, but to donate her time and resources to those in the local Tampa/St. Petersburg communities. She shared some incredible stories with me about the work she does with homeless shelters and the gap she sees in the services offered. Please be sure to meet her at our Girls Night Out on Tuesday, May 9th, to hear these stories first hand.
Now for Elizabeth’s story –
The Answered Prayers Project is focused on bringing people together with a common bond. Our society does not foster face-to-face relationships like it used to, and Elizabeth launched her non-profit to bring people together in hand-making crosses and other shaped ceramics to make new connections. While the ceramics are being molded and painted, people are sharing their stories and making new bonds.
Upon completion, the item, likely a cross, but there are other shapes available such as birds, butterflies, and more, can be registered on their website. The website carries stories of over 3,000 people whose lives have been impacted in the giving and receiving of these precious items. The St. Pete Clay Studio hosts open clay sessions and schedules events as well.
Elizabeth’s involvement in her local community highlights a need for all of us to stay connected. In her philanthropic efforts, she wants every person from every walk of life to feel important and valued. She shared with me that she sees all too often that our homeless and shelter population are not receiving help with their basic needs, and would like to ask for food donations at our event. While we are accustomed to being asked to donate to canned food drives, Elizabeth stressed the fact that this population does not have access to healthy fresh produce. If you are able, please bring fresh portable food such as bananas, apples, and grapes to our event. Elizabeth will be bringing the donations to a local shelter on Wednesday morning.
If you would like to get involved with The Answered Prayers Project, please visit their website for more information.
Our monthly charity organization spotlight this month is the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. In order to understand the impact this organization has on our community, the best place to start is its mission: to ensure that no one in our community has to face crisis alone. It has been in operation for 45 years in Hillsborough County, and provides a “gateway to healing” for the community. The Crisis Center has a multitude of services available to achieve their mission.
2-1-1 Call Center
The 2-1-1 Call Center operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and received over 110,000 calls for information and services last year. Staff and volunteer Intervention Specialists provide immediate and confidential short-term crisis intervention, and information and referral to over 4,600 human services available in Hillsborough County, including resources for: basic needs for food, rent, clothing, shelter and utilities, relationship counseling, senior services, health and substance abuse issues, depression and suicide, teenage issues, parenting help, disaster assistance, legal affairs and financial support.
You can reach the 2-1-1 Call Center by simply dialing 2-1-1 from a landline or cell phone in Hillsborough County. They have Interpretation service available for more than 150 languages and translation services for people with hearing impairments.
You can also access 2-1-1’s collection of over 4,600 on their website www.211atyourfingertips.org. The database includes resources in Hillsborough County and some for the surrounding areas, the state of Florida and nationally.
Learn more about the Call Center on their website.
The Crisis Center provides up-to-date information about their services on their user-friendly website. Access these links for the topics below to learn more:
The Crisis Center has some needs to continue to operate and support our community. If you would like to donate, they are always in need of gift cards (Walmart, Target, Publix, Restaurants) and currently need yoga pants in any size for sexual assault victims. Sandy, the VP of Development, will be attending our Girls Night Out event on April 6 at Vuelo Mexican Grill to collect donations and answer any questions you may have about the Crisis Center.
The mission of Tampa Crossroads is to provide holistic, client-centered, family-focused opportunities for positive change and personal accountability through evidence-based treatment, housing, and supportive service. Hillsborough County is very pro-treatment right now, understanding that treatment costs much less than sending people to jail, where they don’t receive adequate treatment and are not rehabilitated. The goal at Tampa Crossroads isn’t just to provide drug and mental health treatment, but to also set them up for long-term success: getting employment, securing stable housing, changing their support network, finding hobbies, etc. In addition to typical psychotherapy sessions they offer things like yoga, exercise groups, mindfulness meditation, art, cooking classes, and employment skills building classes so the women can leave with new health skills they do on their own outside of treatment. They work really hard to break the cycle that the women and their children are in.
If you would like to help the women in these programs, Tampa Crossroads has some needs that they shared with me. When the women find jobs, they are responsible for their own transportation, so they always need bus passes such as 1-Day, 10-Day, and 31-Day passes. The counselors purchase their own supplies for sessions so items such as writing, art, or gardening supplies would be greatly appreciated. Tampa Housewives in the City will be collecting socks and various sized undergarments, which are extremely important for the women they work with who are experiencing homelessness. You may bring these items to our World of Beer Fowler event on March 7 if you choose to donate.
Tampa Crossroads is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and you can find more information about their programs on the Tampa Crossroads website.
One of the ways that Housewives in the City supports our local community is by spotlighting a charity during each of our monthly events. This month, we are spotlighting a local Tampa charity called Faces of Courage. Faces of Courage is actually celebrating its 13th birthday today! Peggie D. Sherry founded the non-profit in 2004 to provide day outings and overnight camps for women, children and families touched by all types of cancer and blood disorders.
Through corporate sponsors, civic, social and service organizations, individual donors, grants, fundraisers and bequests, Faces of Courage provides their camps and outings free of charge for their participants. They currently have served over 7,500 cancer families with the help of over 1,500+ active volunteers.
These events focus on developing strong positive attitudes towards recovery and good health management and include:
• Kid Camper Outings
• Adult Camper Outings
• Family Picnics
• Empowerment Days (Educational Workshops)
• Women’s Cancer Weekend Retreats
• Minority Women Cancer Weekend Retreats
• Santa’s Workshop Weekend for cancer kids ages 2-12 and their well siblings
• Young Adult Cancer Camp Weekend (ages 13+ and up)
Faces of Courage founder, Peggie, will be joining us for our Girls Night Out event on January 11 at Primebar at the Shops at Wiregrass. If you would like to support this charity, they always appreciate gift cards to stores such as Publix, Walmart, or even gas cards for their campers. Even $5-$10 makes a difference for these families. They also hold these camps locally, so if you would like to volunteer your time with Faces of Courage, speak with Peggie or visit their website Faces of Courage.
Hi! I'm Diana. I love the beach, my family, chocolate, coffee, and meeting new people. I host monthly events in the Tampa area and cannot wait to meet all of you!