The Family First Center empowers the entire family with the necessary tools to change their lives

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Toys for Tots & A Story to Make You Smile :)

A reminder for all parents...
Registered trademark of the US Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program
Registration for Toys for Tots is still going on at the Family First Center, Monday to Friday from 3-6pm, until Wednesday, November 20th. All children in Lake County who are in need of toys this Christmas are eligible to register for Toys for Tots. Registered children between the ages of 0-14 will receive three age appropriate gifts. 

Parents need to have the following to register: 

1) birth certificates (or adoption records) for each child
2) any photo ID
3) proof of residency (e.g. piece of mail showing address, cancelled check, vehicle registration card, rental/lease agreement, etc)
***Photocopies acceptable

So remember to make it over to the FFC to register before November 20th - we want to put smiles on the faces of as many children and families as possible this holiday season!

Last time I spoke about donating and the incredible positive impact that some time and money can have for another person who has been down on their luck. I also mentioned the passion that the staff here have for their positions and how they put their whole heart into their work. Today I'd like to share with you a recent success story at the FFC that warmed our hearts, proving that persistence and positive attitude will get you far!

*written from the point of view of the FFC staff member

I had a lady who came to me and she needed to pay her rent.  She was referred from the church and was a mother who worked full-time. She received over $1,000 with each paycheck, paid twice per month. She was a single mother of two and pregnant with a third child. She did not find out she was pregnant until she was 7 months along, leaving her little-to-no time to prepare. She did not qualify for any public assistance - no food stamps, WIC, or housing - because her monthly income put her $58.00 over the maximum income for public assistance. 

Ultimately, she was having trouble coming up with the money for rent, which was $1000 per month. Since she was not able to pay rent the month before and could not pay the outstanding fees for the months when she paid days late (though in full), she was looking at a near $3000 payment for the next month's rent. However, she had lived in this apartment as a good tenant otherwise for over 5 years. So, after advocating for her with the landlord, he agreed to take half of the payment that was due and wipe the rest away. 

But when this agreement is made, this client was due to have her baby in 2 weeks. So we began our race against the clock to pay the rent before the baby arrived. She had $1000, so we needed to find $500. Soon we found $300, but when I called the landlord, he refused to take $1300 for rent. But I knew it was worth another try, and when I called again with a different tone, he changed his mind and agreed to the $1300. There was a catch, though; when I told her to get the agreement writing, the landlord clarified that it would $1300 up front, but then $300 per week. That would leave our client with $17 per month! Given that she would have three children and all her other bills, including food, I told her that living with this agreement was not feasible. I called the landlord again to argue that this is impossible; it is not legal for even wage garnishment for debtors to leave someone with that little left! But as we argued with the landlord, he changed his mind again and said, "Forget you, we will just evict her!" 

At first, I wanted to fight it - and it would have been legally right to do so! When I consulted with a lawyer on the matter, they agreed that the landlord had gone about this the wrong way. He never sent her a five day notice until she was 2 months behind, and until she had a 5 day notice she could not get help. But at that time the situation was starting to look bleak. All along I had told her it might just be best to use the money she did have to move into a house. Finally, when it was 3 days before she was due and the matter still had not been settled, she agreed reluctantly that moving into a house was the best idea given the situation. 

She quickly found a house. She needed to move in fast because, by that time, the baby was due; but she had not gotten paid yet that month and she had no one to pack and move her belongings. So we called her landlord to explain that, although she did not have enough to cover all of the first month's rent and the security deposit at the moment, she would after her paycheck. The landlord understood and accepted a money order so that she could get the key early. Then we recruited some goodhearted church members to help her move. She had the baby two days after everything was settled, and they got to go home to their new house without any issues. 

"That is  my idea of every step of adversity it seemed like there was no possible way, but through determination - we made it."

Now doesn't that make you want to punch your fist in the air in triumph? Cuddle a bunny? Shout from the rooftops? Or just hug your kids a little tighter and thank God for good people? For all the difficulty we see here at FFC and in Lake County, those successes make all the difference :)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Ultimate Workout Fundraiser 2013 and... Why Donate?

You may be used to hearing requests for donations from community-service organizations. In our brochure, we assure you that any donation is greatly appreciated and helps tremendously. Your contribution, whether monetary or intellectual (we always have an open ear for ideas!!!), ALWAYS makes a difference, no matter how big or small. But you've heard this all before. There are so many organizations that say the same thing, and if you're tight on money, it's sometimes hard to convince yourself that donating is a good idea. Also, if you're like me, you've probably wondered at least once how these amazing organizations like the Family First Center gets along financially. So in this post, I thought it'd be a good idea to do two things: 1) give you a good reason to think about making a donation, and 2) explain the grant process, which is the money behind the madness. Let's start with the second point... I'll get back to the first :)

The Family First Center of Lake County and the staff that works so hard to keep it going are supported by grants. More often than not, grants come from the government; otherwise, they come from other big institutions with money to spare and an interest in helping the community (such as a college or university). To get a grant, one or more people come together to plan every detail of the association that they'd like to start up or continue, like FFC. They plan everything from how much the staff will be paid, to the budget they will need to fund community events, as well as the approximate dates of when they will happen. Then the group has to write out all of this detail in a very specific, structured way so that the associations giving the grants can more easily compare their application to others. If the government/association likes the application enough, they will give that group a certain amount of money in a grant to support their cause. This is a very difficult process, and sometimes the bright minds in places like FFC have great ideas to help the community that there is little to no room in the budget for. This is why we hold fundraisers!

This all leads up to our most recent development in Fundraiser-Land...

The FFC presents...
      The ULTIMATE WORKOUT Fundraiser!!!
For those of you that like your information in bulletin points...:

What: Ultimate Workout Fundraiser 2013, $5 donation
When: Saturday, Nov. 16th - ALL DAY (beginning at 8 a.m.)
Where: Family First Center, 202 S. Genessee St., Waukegan, IL 60085
Who: Call 847-244-4374 to talk to one of our friendly staff for more info :)
Why: Because who doesn't love to break a sweat and/or support their community?!

For this all-day event, you can pay $5 to work out at our friendly gym and fitness rooms, or if that couch just feels too good under your bum / if you live too far to be physically present, but you still want to help, you can donate $5 to help the cause!!!

Now... why donate? Like I said, so many organizations seem to need donations - why give to FFC? Well, first of all, FFC gives its all for the Lake County area!!! The main staff, which consists of three people, manage more than 66,000 visits/clients throughout an average year. If you divide that evenly, that 22,000 visits/clients per year for each person, which averages to a little more than 60 people per day!!! Some of that 66,000 does include mass community service events, such as Toys for Tots. Even so, many of those helped during mass community service events also come into the FFC offices for a visit or two. Also, the staff is personally invested in making every single one of those cases a success. Each of those 66,000 that our staff see in our offices are handled with care. Our staff get to know their clients and work with them to create solutions. I have seen this staff go to amazing lengths to help clients find food, housing, jobs, clothing, education, child care - you name it! They fight for and with this community to better the lives of others. And best of all, they do it with a huge smile!!! (seriously... photo evidence below!)

If you live in Lake County, I firmly believe you have every reason to put any donation, small or large, into the very capable and determined hands of our staff - they will see to it that your money goes towards making our County a better place for all of us! If you do not live in Lake County, we certainly still welcome your donations. We hope that the successes we create through FFC is contagious, that the ideas for innovation and persistence spread so that others can let their hearts catch fire with the optimistic determination seen at the FFC!!! If we spark a flame within you, please let us know... Consider us your brothers and sisters of the world!!!

Coming soon: seasonal giving and a story of amazing success.... :)