A positive force serving the needs in Adams County

Cross Currents : A column by Bill Christopher
Posted 11/5/19

Adams County and the municipalities within the county are blessed to have a strong, caring service provider known as Growing Home. Headquartered in Westminster since 1998, the non-profit organization …

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A positive force serving the needs in Adams County

Posted

Adams County and the municipalities within the county are blessed to have a strong, caring service provider known as Growing Home.

Headquartered in Westminster since 1998, the non-profit organization has expanded to meet the growing needs of residents.

Its initial focus was to assist homeless families with temporary housing. Kathleen Drozda, who worked in nursing at St. Anthony North Hospital, saw the need and formed a collaborative effort between the hospital and area churches. From this heart-felt start, Growing Home has expanded and evolved over the years to serve more children and families in more ways. This is their story.

I want to thank Karen Fox Elwell, President and CEO of Growing Home, for bringing me up to date on the numerous programs offered.

Their purpose is well stated — Growing Home transforms lives in three broad areas -- Strengthening Families, Nurturing Children and Connecting Community. This comprehensive approach allows Growing Home to address the needs of the whole person, whole family and whole community to reach fuller and longer-lasting outcomes. The organization’s 34 employees and 675 volunteers are making a difference in families’ lives every day in each of the three focus areas.

Strengthening families focus

Under Strengthening Families, “…a continuum of basic needs supports like food and housing in a participant-centered approach are provided so families can overcome obstacles and build lifelong stability, resiliency and healthy habits.”

A key program is their food pantry. In 2018, there were 3,431 visits to “grocery shop” by 1,357 unduplicated families (6,241 unduplicated individuals). Approximately 166,500 meals were provided. Also, 18,588 diapers were distributed to an average of 129 families each month.

Another key program is providing housing. Under their Homelessness Prevention endeavor, 48 families avoided homelessness and maintained their current housing last year.

Under the Canopy Temporary Housing Program (originally called the Inter-Faith Hospitality Network), 20 families received temporary housing among weekly stays at participating churches. Twenty-one families received affordable housing. Finally, 47 families participated in Collaborative Coaching, an evidence-based case management program with two-thirds of these families making strides toward self-sufficiency.

Bringing out childrens’ potential

Nurturing Children is the second focus area at Growing Home which brings out the potential in children. The organization helps parents acquire the skills and resources needed to ensure their children and future generations are on a path to a brighter future.

One of the programs offered is Parents as Teachers. More than 300 families were trained last year on the development of their children with 97% of the parents exhibiting developmentally appropriate parenting. Too often, we assume that parents come already knowledgeable and equipped to be successful in parenting skills. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

By training parents, “…their children demonstrated increases in overall school readiness and mastery of colors, numbers and shapes.”

Another related program is Parenting Classes. In 2018, 24 parents participated in the Seedlings classes gaining knowledge on how to welcome a child. Seedlings is a curriculum specifically designed for Growing Home by a University of Denver professor. In their Incredible Years classes, parents were able to assist their children in increasing pro-social communication, emotional regulation and overall social competence scores. Parents learned appropriate discipline and positive parenting while reporting decreases in harsh discipline.

Connecting community focus

Their third key focus area of services and programming is Connecting Community. Their belief is that “…thriving and equitable communities can exist when we tap into the resiliency and leadership of the families with which they work.”

Families are connected with community members to share in the responsibility of solving community problems and 75 community members engaged in leadership development and/or community actions last year. One of their community groups joined with others to strengthen renters’ rights and to increase Colorado’s minimum wage.

Recently, some of their families advocated for the St. Mark’s affordable apartment development located east of the church. Community volunteers consisting of 675 participants provided over 16,000 hours of donated time to the organization to Growing Home’s programs.

Canopy program served the community well

Let’s go back to the Inter-Faith Hospitality program, later known as Growing Home’s Canopy Program. That was how I had the pleasure to meet Growing Home founder Kathleen Drozda. The efforts serves homeless families through a low-cost cooperative effort among local churches, St. Anthony’s North Hospital and Regis University. Each organization provides temporary housing, meal preparation and transportation for a week at a time. The families rotated among the participating organizations.

As Karen Fox Elwell indicated, it was a tremendous low-cost program for 21 years. However, the program will be ending at the end of this year. Like so many things, change takes place. Some congregations have aged and cannot handle the physical requirements anymore. Safety codes have made it more challenging to comply and absorb the additional costs. Some churches are moving away from the traditional brick and mortar establishment. In some cases, enough space was no longer available.

So, we say a hearty “ thank you” to all the participating organizations for their steadfast commitment for these many years in helping families in need with love. And thank you Kathleen for your leadership and caring heart.

Family success coaches

One of the things which has impressed me about Growing Home is the overall educational/training focus which they have implemented and practiced. Their approach is not a hand out, but a hand up.

Their Collaborative Coaching program emphasis demonstrates this point. They provide what are called “Family Success Coaches” to “help families acquire the needed resources, skills and sustained behavior changes needed to achieve and preserve economic independence. The process of goal setting and achievement is an important component toward success in five basic domains: family stability, well-being, financial management, education/training and employment/career management.”

How to get involved

We are so fortunate to have an organization like Growing Home right in our backyard, providing valuable programs and services to those in need. If you are inspired like I am to get acquainted or re-acquainted with Growing Home, reach out to them at 303-426-0430, www.growinghome.org or follow them on Facebook. They are always looking for volunteers as well as donations for their food pantry. Also, Colorado Gives Day is coming up on December 10th which is a great way to support a worthy cause in our community and at the same time make your contribution go a little farther thanks to Community First Foundation and First Bank.

Bill Christopher is a former Westminster city manager and RTD board member. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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