Florida Blue Foundation grant helps Children’s Home Society strengthen families

Posted on Nov 3rd 2021 by Marilyn Young

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When Aleiah was just a few months old, a home visitor from the Children’s Home Society of Florida scooped her up and started reading a book to the baby girl. Aleiah’s father watched as the woman brought the book to life by acting out the characters’ voices, including an elephant.

It was something new to Aleiah and her father, who dreamed of a close bond with his children. Soon, he began reading to his daughter. Now, Aleiah regularly grabs a book from the shelf and snuggles with Daddy as he brings stories to life.

Aleiah is 3 years old and has graduated from the organization’s early childhood program. She’s practically ready for kindergarten, said Andrea McNally, public relations and social media manager for the Children’s Home Society of Florida. The nonprofit is one of the groups supported by the Florida Blue Foundation, which focuses its grantmaking on food security, health equity and mental well-being initiatives.

The Children’s Home Society’s philosophy is families shouldn’t have to face hard times alone. Sometimes that means providing early childhood services, like with Aleiah’s family. Other times it means mentoring, job training or mental health services. The latter has been critical during the pandemic, when families who lived near the edge before COVID-19 now find themselves teetering on the edge.

The organization responded to the need by launching a family support line, which quickly served as a lifeline for callers. One caller was a new mom who had to move in with family members during the pandemic. The new environment was overwhelming. Counselors spent three hours texting with her on a Saturday night. Their first priority was to calm her down in that moment, McNally said. Then, they connected her with long-term services.

Part of the foundation’s funding helps support three Community Partnership Schools in northeast Florida: Orange Park High School in Clay County, South Woods Elementary in St. Johns County and Ed White High School in Duval County. The resources are tailored to each school, but can include food pantries, counseling, parent resource centers and after-school activities. McNally said the foundation’s support will help bring wellness and mental health resources to several schools.

Having partners like the Florida Blue Foundation is a lifeline for the families and communities helped by the Children’s Home Society of Florida. “We don’t want them to face challenges alone,” McNally said. “And with the Florida Blue Foundation, they don’t have to.”

The impact is seen every day, whether it’s a mom who made it through a tough time thanks to counseling or children who get tucked in at night by their adoptive parents who will love them forever.

It may also be seen for generations to come. The students graduating from Community Partnership Schools will be able to teach their children the value of getting an education. And children like Aleiah will instinctively know how to share the joy of reading books to their own children, including acting out all the parts.

Filed under: Community  

Marilyn Young

Marilyn Young spent more than 30 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining Florida Blue.

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