“These personal relationships with children is where the rubber meets the road for social change in Mobile. Turning kids away is what keeps me up at night. Kids stop me in the halls of schools asking me how to get a Big. So many kids who want these friendships. We serve children ages 6-18, but the younger we get them the better. They are killing it at school and are good, moldable kids, but they are acting out because they are starved for attention and accountability. We provide academic and emotional support, equipping them to make better decisions and reach their full potential before the problems happen.”
The idea for the 2020 Pledge began in December 2019, with this Souls interview with Aimee Risser, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Alabama. The program works and helps so many kids, but the heartbreak is the ones who are on the waiting lists, wanting and needing to be in these programs to get the support they need to walk down a better path. What happens to the children left out? Thousands of children are on waiting lists for United Way agencies in southwest Alabama, but the agencies need additional funding and volunteers to expand and take more children in.
Our Southern Souls is partnering with the United Way of Southwest Alabama to raise $50,000 to get at least 2,020 kids off of the waiting lists and into the programs they need. This will be more kids getting a Big Brother or Big Sister or into the Boys and Girls Clubs. More kids getting weekend backpack meals. It will help expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in Mobile County and provide free books for kids. It will provide shelter to a few more families with kids, and help a few more mothers with children get away from domestic violence.
It is not just the children who are helped by these programs, it is the families. It is a single mother working 12-hour healthcare shifts, thankful for the Boys and Girls Club for giving her daughter a safe place to go after school where teachers help develop her reading and leadership skills and provide a hot meal for dinner. She appreciates the staff who not only cares for her daughter, but also checks on her and finds ways to help her be a better mother.
It is a grandfather waiting in line for four hours for food from Feeding the Gulf Coast. His son lost his job and home due to the Coronavirus and the family, including young grandsons, moved in with him. His disability check is barely enough to cover his needs, now he has grandchildren to help care for and feed.
These are the stories we will be sharing this week on Our Southern Souls. Real-life stories of families trying to survive and the agencies that are making a difference one family at a time.
Ginger Woechen begins work this week on our 2020 Pledge mural on the wall of the United Way building on St. Francis Street. As we hit giving levels, children from some of these programs will add flowers to Ginger’s mural. There are also sponsorship levels that will include names on the mural. Contact Justine Herlihy Bixler with the United Way and she can tell you about that. To give, text “2020 Pledge” to 41444 or go to www.uwswa.org to give today.
Helping kids means helping families. This is how we can make a difference in our community.
Thank you for caring about our community and people in it, no matter who they are and what they are going through.