Young Hearts Find Home At Youth Village
Words by Ashley Hurst
The folks at Youth Village are so grateful for the folks at The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation for all they do to benefit children in need in Northwest Florida. The following is a classic story of children and families in need and how DCWAF was and is so instrumental in this families lives by making Youth Village one of the DCWAF’s benefitting charities.
Youth Village is an after-school program and summer camp for students in grades K-8, and in the very near future will also add a pre-school for children ages 3-5. We are located in an area of Ft. Walton Beach where the majority of the children come from low-income, single-parent households who, according to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, are labeled as a high-risk demographic and where many of the children are referred to as “latch-key kids”. Approx. 90% of the Youth Village children attend Title One Schools. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the children in Title One schools are eligible to receive free-or-reduced price breakfast and lunch because they live below the poverty level.
This is the story of a grandmother (Ms. W.) and her 6-year-old granddaughter “A”, that we first met back in June of 2017 when they were referred to our summer camp by the Okaloosa County School District. Grandma had had custody of “A” since she was 3 years old because the child’s mother was not emotionally, mentally or financially able to take care of her, or even herself. Grandma was doing all she could to help, but unfortunately found herself “homeless”
Homelessness! Homelessness is the condition of people without a regular dwelling. People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure and adequate housing, or lack "fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence." Some might be sleeping outside or in their cars or in shelters or, as in the case of Ms. W and her granddaughter, sleeping on a couch at a friend’s house.
Homelessness! According to their website, The Okaloosa County School District Title IX Program is committed to providing homeless students school stability, continuity, access to classes and programs to ensure academic success. The McKinney-Vento Homeless Act protects the educational rights of children and youth experiencing homelessness.
The Youth Village summer camp has partnered with the Okaloosa County School District’s Title IX Program for the past 4 years to provide services to these children during our summer camps, in which the OCDS pays tuition for them. But unfortunately, the Okaloosa County School District does not provide funding for after school programs and Ms. W had no money to pay the after-school tuition while she looked for a job which would help her afford a place of their own to live…a vicious circle!
And that’s where The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation’s yearly donations to Youth Village come in! We designate a portion of their funding to make it possible for us to provide scholarships for many children in situations like “A’s” and others as well to be able to attend our program during the school year. We have been chosen as a benefitting recipient of DCWAF for the past eleven years. There is no way possible that we could continue to do what we do to help the children and families of our community without the kindness and charitable hearts of the folks at DCWAF and their patrons. To date, we have received over $800,000.00 from DCWAF, and we are forever grateful!
Two years have passed since we first met Ms. W. and “A” and they’re doing so much better now. Ms. W now has a job and is able to afford their own 2-bedroom apartment!
Thanks to DCWAF, we still continue to give this family a “hands-up” by providing them with scholarships for our after-school program and now our summer camp as well. Grandma is paying it forward by being one of our chaperones on field trips and also helping out around the program whenever she can. She loves reading to the younger children! For more information on Youth Village, please check our website: www.NelliesYouthVillage.org
Cheers to The Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation!