Scene Magazine: Local Community Keeps Children First Working on Front Lines and Serving Families

May 13, 2020

A toddler sucking his thumb
Children with their arms reaching out to feel the rain pouring down

May 13, 2020 | By Scene

Children First announced that 330 members of our community came together to raise $85,010 during the 2020 Giving Challenge, hosted by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. All giving is inclusive of a 1:1 match provided by the Patterson Foundation, and a $30,000 ‘match on top of the match’ provided by the COVID-19 Response Initiative of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation.

Children First was awarded an additional $20,000 from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation and the Truist Foundation through the COVID-19 Response Initiative. The COVID-19 Response Initiative is a community-wide effort to support leading health, human-service, and safety organizations facing increased demand for services right now and in the coming months.

Additional vital community support includes: $10,000 from the United Way Suncoast COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund directed by PNC Bank, $7,130 from All Angels Episcopal Church, $5,000 from the Venice Yacht Club, and $1,210 from Gran Paradiso with matching support from Dick and Deborah Miller for emergency and critical needs relief. The agency also received a grant of $7,400 from the Plantation Community Foundation for its award-winning Families First Institute.

Children First is using this support to keep its more than 200 staff members working to ensure continued delivery of crucial services to its children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 16th, the agency has provided supplemental food packages, diapers and wipes, infant formula, and financial assistance to more than 475 families as the number of families facing job loss and reduced work hours continues to rise. All children are receiving virtual classroom support as well as at-home educational kits prepared by their teachers.

The agency’s Families First Institute has launched its first-ever virtual classes in order to keep parents and families engaged and learning alongside their children, and its Mental Health and Comprehensive Services teams are providing tele-therapy sessions for all children with diagnosed disabilities and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Staff are hosting bi-lingual, virtual support groups for parents and staff every week.

“Our goal is to provide information and strategies to Spanish-speaking parents so that they can overcome the COVID-19 situation with knowledge and strategies and be stress-free. Parents are using virtual platforms as time to let off steam, laugh, interact with others, and learn,” says Family Advocate Denise Pacheco.

Says CEO Philip Tavill, “Our commitment to our community has never been greater, and our community’s response has been overwhelmingly positive. We are so grateful for the support that allows us to keep our mission at the forefront and our services running at the highest possible level for our children and families living at-risk.”