By Elia Rocha
2013 has been an eventful year for Children Today. We've had our share of obstacles and challenges, true, but we've also had some great successes too. Here, then, a brief recap of the year that was.
January - March
Audit Season Begins
Call us lucky, because in the first quarter of 2013, Children Today prepared for and underwent three separate programmatic and fiscal audits for various federal and state contracts. For those who might worry that non-profit organizations are less regulated than for-profit enterprises, take heart in knowing that we've been thoroughly vetted and reviewed. We did fine, by the way.
It's a New Car!
Wow! As part of their 40th anniversary celebration, Toyota's TABC Manufacturing Plant gave us a brand new Toyota Sienna! We love this minivan and use it all the time to buy groceries and supplies, and to pick up donations. TABC has been a supporter of Children Today for years, and this beautiful car was the icing on an already very rich cake. Thank you so much!
Hearts and Soles
For the past five years, a local Long Beach family has donated new shoes to the children in our Play House programs to commemorate co-founder Jennifer Fitzgerald's birthday. This family's generosity is emblematic of the many other families, groups, and businesses who conduct toy and diaper drives, give us their birthday money, host small fundraisers on our behalf, and come up with other creative ways to show their support to our children and families.
April - June
Bad News and Good Friends
Early in the year, our Play House facilities were burglarized twice and many of our diapers, wipes, hygiene products, clothes, socks, and underwear were stolen. After a brief Facebook post sharing the bad news, we were flooded with product donations that far and away replaced what had been taken.
The Run/Walk and Our Ten Guys
Children Today's 5th Annual Run Walk was held on Memorial Day weekend. It was a lot of fun, and we had hundreds of runners and walkers join us for this important fundraiser for Children Today. On its own, the Run/Walk was a great event, but it was made extra special by 10 Guys and 200 Miles. 10 members of the Long Beach community agreed to walk in relay fashion for 200 miles from Santa Barbara to the start line of the Run/Walk in Long Beach. Along the way, they raised $50,000 for Children Today. Their efforts were truly inspiring.
July - September
An Expanded Mission
Children Today expanded our mission to include serving families involved in the child welfare system. We did this for two reasons: 1) there is a considerable overlap between children who have been homeless and those who have experienced abuse and neglect, and 2) the effects of both types of trauma – homelessness and abuse/neglect – manifest themselves in similar ways in young children.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Dora Jacildo, teaching staff have undergone and continue to undergo extensive training around providing trauma-informed care. These efforts are aimed at ensuring that our program staff are always mindful of the needs that children and families are communicating (verbally or non-verbally) and that our Play House programs are safe havens for the disenfranchised and vulnerable.
October - December
A New Home for Children Today
One of the agency's biggest dreams came true in October when we closed escrow on a property that will be the future home of all Children Today programs. Plans are underway to rehab the place and get it ready for our kids and families. We are projecting to be able to move in by fall of 2014.
After years of renting, finally owning our own facility is an absolute joy. We are so grateful to all of our supporters who helped to make this dream a reality.
Holiday Cheer Ends the Year with a Flourish
Children Today and Holiday Cheer go together like peanut butter and jelly. As the agency's marquee event, Holiday Cheer is our highest profile fundraiser, bringing together hundreds of supporters for a great party with the aim of raising a significant portion of the following year's operating budget. This year's Holiday Cheer was a smash hit, raising nearly $200,000. More than that, it raised the bar for all future Children Today parties.
Thanks for reading our Year in Review, and be sure to stay tuned for all the goings on in 2014. Happy New Year (almost)!
By Elia Rocha
At no other time is the giving spirit of our community of supporters better illustrated than during the holiday season. Right after Thanksgiving, we host our annual Holiday Cheer fundraiser, an auction and party that we hope will generate enough income to cover a significant portion of our operating expenses for the following year. Every year, we spend months planning Holiday Cheer, and worrying about meeting our goal, and every year, our community of supporters comes out in full force to get us there. This year did not disappoint. Holiday Cheer brought in nearly $200,000! An amazing result, and we are all so thrilled and so grateful.
Then there's the Holiday Store. The week before Christmas, we set up a temporary "store" in our administrative offices at The Play House North. We organize donations of toys, clothes, shoes, & personal care products and invite current and alumni parents to select and wrap gifts for their children. This year, our parents were able to select gifts for 125 children.
We received some amazing things too. Besides all the new toys, clothes, and shoes, we had donors knit and sew us dozens of beautiful scarves and cozy blankets. These were real labors of love.
While it undoubtedly feels great to give, it sometimes is hard to receive. We recognize how difficult the holidays must be for some of our families, how ambivalent some parents might feel about not being in a position to buy their children gifts themselves, and instead have to rely on other people's donations. That's why the graciousness and sincere gratitude our parents express to us and to all of our holiday donors is a gift in itself. One parent even made us her signature banana pudding as a thank you. It was delicious.
To all of you who have donated to Children Today in 2013 and have kept us and our families in your thoughts, we thank you. Happy Holidays from the Children Today family.
The toddlers at Play House West love using their hands to explore different textures. These fun and messy sensory activities help young children develop their motor skills. Here, our little ones are making "clean mud" using baking soda and water.
Various members of the Children Today staff contribute to these blog posts.