Extraordinary Times Call for Extraordinary Help: Davie County Non-Profits Need Your Help Now More Than Ever

Susan*, a single mom with two children, temporarily lost her job as a waitress when the pandemic hit and was evicted from her basement apartment because she could no longer pay her rent. She didn’t qualify for unemployment and her ex-husband, who also lost his job, was no longer required to pay child support. The family was forced to move into a motel which they also couldn’t afford.  

“We have also seen an increase in clients that are at-risk for homelessness and since we don’t have a shelter, our motels have filled up with families who have lost their jobs and homes due to COVID,” said Crystal Dumas, the founder & executive director of Just HOPE, a community outreach agency  focused on the displaced, homeless, and those without reliable transportation. She shared that clients are needing help with past due bills, groceries, higher utility bills, unexpected expenses related to children’s virtual schooling, etc. 

Susan’s story has had a happy ending thanks to support from Just HOPE, The Advocacy Center of Davie County, the Salvation Army, and a couple of local churches. Dumas helped her enroll in a hybrid CNA program at Mount Eagle College & University in Winston Salem through the agency’s Women LEAD program which helps women receive the training or education needed to establish a career. Susan completed her online classes in Just Hope’s interactive resource center and is now a certified CNA at a local care facility and hopes to go back to school to become a nurse. Her family has been able to move into a home of their own.  

Sadly, Dumas sees situations like this every day. Before the pandemic, Just HOPE, was serving 187 families with case management, thrift store vouchers, referrals, and motel meals. Now the community outreach agency is serving 293.  

I am seeing so many people in bad situations at no fault of their own, Dumas added. People in Davie County desperately need help. They have lost their jobs, they have been evicted from their homes, many of them are hungry. Lots of people didn’t qualify for unemployment or have been waiting for months for a check. They can’t wait months for state or federal assistance. They need our help now.  

COVID has exacerbated the issues we typically see, explained Lisa Foster, executive director of Family Promise of Davie County. “Families that are at-risk of and already experiencing homelessness are still in crisis and even more so now. More than 14 million American households are at risk of eviction. Eviction moratoriums will be ending and families that have lost income due to COVID are multiple months behind on rent. We are gearing up for an influx in emergency financial rental assistance needs in 2021.” 

Now is a Great Time to Give

During a crisis, non-profit organizations like Just HOPE and Family Promise are on the front lines and expected to do much more, typically with fewer resources. The ongoing pandemic is having a profound effect on our community and these organizations need our support now to be able to continue to serve our children, families, and the community during these extraordinary times. This year funding has been even more strained since COVID restrictions forced many organizations to cancel their annual fundraisers, and early 2021 isn’t looking any better. For many organizations, funds have reached a critical low.  

Just HOPE had a goal of $20,000 for its Denim & Pearls benefit that had to be cancelled in November. Early COVID shutdowns also cost them two months of revenue from the thrift store which helps run their programs. Now the agency is struggling to figure out how to replace that funding. 

“We have applied for extra COVID grants but not enough to cover the entire loss,” said Dumas.

“We will just have to serve less clients for now and continue to make the most out of every penny donated. We have also attempted an end of the year mailing campaign to ask for donations but haven’t seen much come of it…COVID has made even our loyal donors a little more timid with contributions due to the uncertainty the virus has caused. We will continue to do what we can, with what we have…until we can do more.”

“COVID has impacted every facet of our organization from how we serve families to how we fundraise,” said Foster. They also cancelled their in-person fundraiser, which typically raises $50,000  and switched to a virtual/mail campaign. They held their annual silent auction online. They are hopeful for an in-person 2021 fundraiser to help them get back on track.

COVID has also caused them to have to get creative in how they operate. “We’ve temporarily paused our rotational shelter model, as all of our host congregations are still closed. We’ve sheltered families at our day center, we’ve utilized motels, launched a transitional housing program, increased staffing for our graduate support program, and increased funding for emergency financial rental assistance.  In 2021, we are looking into temporarily re-purposing a vacant church to provide shelter and expand our stock of transitional housing units,” said Foster. These alternatives have cost additional funds and caused the organization to dig deeper into its reserve funds.  

Both organizations are thankful for the support they have received from the Davie County COVID-19 Response Fund which was established in March by the Davie Community Foundation and the Mebane Charitable Foundation to support local non-profit organizations and agencies that are meeting the immediate needs created by the coronavirus. Each foundation contributed $50,000 to start the fund which has also received donations from the community.  

Other grant recipients include Davie High Hunger Fighters, Rescue House, Davie Pregnancy Care, Salvation Army, CARes Project, Davie Family YMCA, Cancer Services, Davie County Schools, and Smart Start of Davie County. 

“The fund was set up with one main goal, and that is to be there for our community and non-profits, as new needs continue to arise in the coming days and months,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation.

Donations in a Loved One’s Honor or Memory Make Meaningful Gifts

“I would encourage people to give to the non-profits and agencies who are trying to stay alive to serve our community,” said Jane Simpson, president & CEO of the Davie Community Foundation president and CEO. She also pointed out that donations made in a loved one’s honor or memory make wonderful, meaningful gifts. “Gifts of all sizes make a difference and can help provide an important lifeline to someone in need.”

Click on the links to learn more about some of Davie County’s non-profit organizations or to make a donation. 

Added Tax Benefit in 2020

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted last spring, includes several temporary tax changes helping charities, including the special $300 deduction designed especially for people who choose to take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing their deductions. 

Cash donations of up to $300 per individual tax filer or $600 per married couple made before December 31, 2020, are now deductible when people file their taxes in 2021. This means the deduction lowers both adjusted gross income and taxable income – translating into tax savings for those making donations to qualifying tax-exempt organizations.

Cash donations include those made by check, credit card or debit card. They don’t include securities, household items or other property. Though cash contributions to most charitable organizations qualify, some do not. Check Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and the TEOS for more information.

Mebane Foundation Grant Expands Reach Out and Read Program in Davie County Medical Practices

By Jeanna Baxter White

Dr. Kelly Duffy of Wake Forest Health Network – Pediatrics, Advance shares a book with Lucy Diemer (2 ½) as her mother, Louise, looks on.

Anyone who has ever looked into the eyes of a child entranced by the soothing cadence of Goodnight Moon knows that shared reading is magical.

“One of the best ways to engage with young children is through looking at books together. Every time a parent or caregiver snuggles with a child on their lap to read a book, a message is sent to the child that they are loved and will be okay,” explains Callee Boulware, regional director for Reach Out and Read Carolinas (RORC).“ Shared reading helps to develop not only strong parent-child bonds, but also promotes healthy brain development, improves language and listening skills, builds resilience, and buffers toxic stress in children and families.”

Mebane Grant Strengthens The Program’s Strategy

Primary care providers have a unique opportunity to educate and encourage parents to read with their children beginning in infancy. By targeting children and families through their medical provider, Reach Out and Read (ROR) provides a two-generational strategy focused on improved literacy and language skills, increased reading frequency, increased book ownership, and improved home literacy environments. 

Recognizing the value of this approach, the Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville has given Reach Out and Read Carolinas, in partnership with Smart Start of Davie County, a $32,000 grant to support the deepening and expansion of the program in Davie County.

“The Foundation has been very familiar with the great work and partnership of Reach Out and Read of the Carolinas and Smart Start of Davie County, so when we were approached to fund an even larger collaboration that would include our Davie County Health Department our support was a no-brainer. The program already reached more than 1,000 children even before the health department partnership was added; now it will reach even more young families and children that need the support. Considering that more than 43% of children in Davie County are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade, the need for this robust support for all families is evident,” said Larry Colbourne, president of the Mebane Foundation. 

About RORC & Smart Start in Davie County

The partnership between RORC and Smart Start of Davie County started in 2012, and the two organizations began working with Wake Forest Health Network Pediatrics – Advance and Mocksville in 2014 through a three-year grant from the North Carolina Partnership for Children. In 2017, the program was expanded to include Novant Health Davie Medical Associates and Novant Health Hillsdale Medical Associates through a second three-year grant. Together these four ROR programs are reaching 925 children between 6 months and 5 years of age. An additional 100+ Davie County children are benefiting from ROR programs located in Forsyth County. 

The grant will help ensure the high-fidelity implementation of ROR at each of these locations, fund the expansion of the program to the Davie County Health Department in Mocksville, and implement the intervention “back to birth” in all active Davie County ROR programs.  

“Grants have been instrumental in sustaining this program and we are very thankful to the Mebane Foundation for its continued support of literacy in our community, especially in the area of birth to five,” said Gena Taylor, executive director of Smart Start of Davie County. “Vocabulary building, brain development, and family bonding are at the core of all of our programs and Reach Out and Read promotes all three.”

Dr. Joel Edwards of Novant Health Davie Medical Associates carefully selects a book for a young patient. 

“Reach Out and Read is a wonderful model that can be blueprinted into any clinical practice,” said Boulware. “But our partnership with Smart Start is so valuable because my staff can’t intimately know 100 counties in the way an organization in that county can know that county. Together we marry our evidence-based intervention with their local expertise. We also have families with additional challenges like housing, food, and adult literacy. Smart Start can bring the appropriate community resources into the waiting rooms and clinics as well as provide information to the doctors and staff so that we can connect all of the dots.” 

Smart Start also delivers the books pre-sorted by age so that it is easy for the medical provider to quickly grab an age-appropriate book. More than 1,800 books have already been distributed this year despite the significant number of well-child visits postponed because of COVID-19. 

The Davie County Health Department is thrilled to join the collaboration and have the opportunity to offer ROR to the 700 birth-to-five-aged children that they serve. “Studies have shown that the number of words heard by young children as they grow up varies dramatically with socioeconomic status; children from low-income families hear significantly fewer words than their more affluent peers. The hope of the Reach Out and Read program is that by putting books into our patients’ lives and homes, we will be giving parents the tools and knowledge that will help their children grow up with increased language, increased stimulation, an enhanced home environment, and a better chance for success in school,” Davie County Health Department Pediatrician Dr. Stephanie Pirkle said.

Specifically, ROR offers a three-pronged research-based model to promote healthy brain development in children: 

  1. The Primary Care Provider Coaching and Building Skills in Parents, Modeling and Supporting Early Brain Development and Relationships: During well-child visits, the doctor prescribes reading by modeling read-aloud strategies while teaching and training the parent about how to share books and why it is important. Parents are engaged in the conversation as the provider offers guidance and emphasizes how reading brings families together. 
  2. The Book: Each child is given a new, culturally and developmentally appropriate book to take home, building a collection of 10-15 new books in the home before the child goes to kindergarten. According to recent reports, 41% of children are growing up in low-income households and almost one-quarter of those children have fewer than 10 books of any kind in their household.
  3. Literacy-Rich Environment and Resources: Clinic environments support literacy-rich messaging and resources to families, supporting providers in community-health resources, and supporting parents in daily literacy activities with their children. 

More Than Just A Book Giveaway

More than 437,062 children are served annually in North and South Carolina by over 2,424 trained medical providers in over 548 participating clinics and hospitals. 

Backing up to birth is a critical component of the project, built on the depth of research and guidance available about the developing brain and the critical nature of the first 1,000 days. 

“For the first 20 years of the intervention, ROR started with the six-month-old visit because the earlier visits were filled with immunizations and other concerns. We’ve since learned that 80% of the brain is developed by three years old, so we simply can’t afford to waste a single day,” Boulware said. 

“By backing up all of our programs to begin with the very first visit after birth, we capture six more months of brain development through four additional in-person visits, and we have the opportunity to help families develop a routine of reading together from the very beginning, which is far easier than trying to implement one further down the line.”   

“Parents are a child’s first teacher, so it is critical that they understand the importance of reading from the beginning,” said Taylor. “Having someone influential in a child’s life, like the pediatrician, provide a book and prescribe reading together as a family really enhances a parent’s awareness of the importance of reading.”  

To ensure the structure and rigor of the intervention, medical providers are required to participate in continuing certified medical education training. “ROR is not going to cajole anyone into doing this,” Boulware said. “The primary care providers are the ones in the room with the patients, and if they don’t feel excited about the program it’s not going to be done well. Reach Out and Read is not just a book giveaway, it becomes an integral part of the visit, and a valuable tool in the provider’s toolkit.” 

So far, twenty-four Davie County medical providers have completed the training.

“It brings me so much joy to watch children progress from babbling to proudly saying their first words and later speaking in full sentences and sharing what is on their mind,” said Dr. Kelly Duffy, Wake Forest Health Network Pediatrics – Advance. “Children’s brains are developing rapidly in the first three years of life. Children that are read to more often in these early years go on to develop better language and literacy skills that are critical for the rest of their lives.  Reach Out and Read makes it possible for every child in our practice to receive a book at each well visit from birth to age 5. This places books into the hands of families that might not otherwise have access to them. The books provided by Reach Out and Read help me reinforce the importance of reading with families. They also help me teach developmentally appropriate ways for families to share books and language in the natural rhythms of their daily lives with their children.”

To emphasize the value of the ROR program, Boulware detailed some of the information a medical provider can glean through presenting a book.  

By observing the child’s interaction with the book, the provider can evaluate motor skills, cognitive skills, social-emotional skills, and get a sense of where the child is developmentally, such as: 

  • Does the child handle the book in an age-appropriate manner? For instance, does a  six-month-old immediately put it in their mouth? 
  • If the book is handed to a child upside down, can they re-orient it correctly at the appropriate age? 
  • Can they manipulate the pages? 
  • Can they identify colors, letters, and point to pictures at the appropriate age? 

Additionally, assessing family dynamics and relationships in the sterile environment of a clinic can be hard. The book gives the provider a way to see how the family interacts together, providing insight into the strengths of the family and the opportunity to skill-build from there.

For example:

  • Does the child immediately hand the book to a family member to have it read to them? 
  • Does he get scolded for chewing on the book?
  • Is there a teachable moment? 

“Doctors have told us over and over, especially through COVID, that these visits are the best part of their day,” said Boulware, with a smile. “I’ve heard comments like ‘The children love it,’ ‘the families love it,’ and ‘I can use Reach Out and Read to encourage families and to reinforce the message that whatever your challenges, you are still the most important thing in your child’s life and it is my job as your doctor to partner with you and to help you make all of your dreams for your baby come true.’”  

Videos From ROR Demonstrate a Typical Medical Visit:

For More Information

Reach Out and Read is a 501©3 nonprofit that gives young children a foundation for success by incorporating books into pediatric care and encouraging families to read aloud together. Visit their website here. 

Smart Start of Davie County is a 501 (c)(3)  non-profit that serves to ensure that young children enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and beyond. Click here for more information about the work of Smart Start of Davie County.  

About The Mebane Charitable Foundation

The Mebane Charitable Foundation in Mocksville, NC, supports collaborations and partnerships among educational professionals (public and private), business leaders, elected officials, and the community at large and has served as a catalyst by granting more than $15 million to educational program partners across the state. The Foundation focuses resources to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their highest potential in school, career, and life.