This post is sponsored by Toyota’s philanthropy program 100 Cars for Good.
This month, I’m excited to be highlighting five unique charitable organizations that are making a difference in their community. Each charity was also the recipient of a new car to aid in their mission, courtesy of Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program. (Know a charity that could use a car? You can vote for them at Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Facebook App.
Today, I’m talking with the good folks from Impower.
Tell me about what your charity does, and who it serves?
IMPOWER (we were Intervention Services, Inc when we won but rebranded a few months later) is a leading mental health and child well-being organization focused on inspiring life’s potential. No matter what barriers an individual may have encountered, IMPOWER provides the tools necessary to achieve goals and overcome obstacles.
Founded in 1994, IMPOWER serves more than 9,000 individuals and families in the home, school and community-based settings through a continuum of services dedicated to helping individuals and families achieve the skills and tools needed to lead safe, healthy, meaningful and productive lives. Programs and services include: mental health counseling; foster care services; adoption services; independent living assessment and training; mentoring; transitional housing; psychiatric services and medicine management; substance abuse services; and targeted case management.
How was the charity founded and why was it important to the founder?
IMPOWER, originally founded as Intervention Services, Inc. was established in direct response to an unmet community need for behavioral health services. Initially, we began in a single county providing mental andbehavioral health services to children only. Over the past 19 years, we have evolved and expanded service delivery to all age ranges and populations and incorporated child well-being programs as well. Our mission isChanging lives by protecting, teaching, counseling and inspiring individuals to reach their full potential.” Our fundamental principle is to better the lives of those we serve through inspiration and assistance toward becoming self-sufficient, independent members of society. We are focused on ensuring the stability of children, youth and their families and the importance of providing services in community settings. Our mission and goals speak to children and families having the skills and tools needed to lead safe, healthy, meaningful, and productive lives.
What are some accomplishments you would like to share from the past few years? What are some goals you have for the future?
Over the past year, IMPOWER is proud to have celebrated many achievements including:
· Celebrating our 500th adoption!· Our Adoptions Program was recognized by U.S. Congress as an “Angel in Adoption”· Provided transitional housing and life-skills training for more than 105 former foster youth to help them transition to independence· Recognized as non-profit of the year by Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce· Launched Tele-health - an innovative virtual psychiatry and counseling option· Provided support services and mental health therapy services to more than 10,000 in the past two years.
Which Toyota car did you choose? On a typical day, how do you use it?
We selected the Toyota Sienna and its home is at The Village, our transitional housing program for former foster youth. The Village which operates much like college dorm style living is home to up to 15 young adults, ages 18-23, all of whom have aged out of foster care. Often they are still in high school or trying to complete their education so they can become independent adults.
As you might imagine, transportation is one of the largest barriers for our youth. Sadly, it often limits where they can go to school, activities they can participate in, how often they can work, if they work etc. Public transportation is available and utilized when possible but the closest bus stop is more than 3 miles away which complicates matters further. The van for us offered more than just transportation - it provided our youth with opportunity. Our staff use the vehicle daily to get youth to and from doctors’ appointments, college tours, job interviews, work, school, extra curricular activities, life skills training courses and more.
About the Village: Clients served by The Village are all between the ages of 18-23 and have "aged out" of the foster care system. Nationally, approximately 26,000 youth age out of foster care each year with nearly 400 alone in Central Florida. Statistics show us that due to lack of permanent family and support systems, these young people enter the mental health, substance abuse, employment services and criminal justice systems at disproportionate rates and great costs. In general they face higher unemployment, higher criminal convictions, depend more on public assistance and are involved in the child welfare system with their own children. In fact, without supports 20% will become homeless in the first year; 25% will be involved in the criminal justice system; only a little more than half will graduate from high school and less than 3% will complete college degrees. Just as frightening 71% will become pregnant by the age of 21 and by age 24 most will earn less than minimum wage. Communities and states absorb tremendous costs related to these bad outcomes equating to nearly $8 billion per year. And that doesn't calculate the wasted potential, or reduced quality of life for these young adults. Programs such as The Village however, can change the tide for these vulnerable youth. In the past year, The Village has increased graduation rates by 33%, with 87% of youth enrolled in an academic program. We have reduced criminal involvement by 11%, and decreased pregnancy rates. Further, 93% of residents contributed volunteer support to charitable organizations.
How has winning the Toyota Cars for Good impacted your organization? Can you share a story of how the car has made a difference?
Prior to winning the van, the only vehicle we had was an old, worn down pick-up truck. It was unreliable and only had seating for 3 (including the driver). While it was used to transport youth, it was inefficient as it required multiple trips and excessive gas to fill the tank and there was always a fear of it breaking down. And it did. Often. The Toyota van has changed things completely for the Village. Youth now have the transportation support they need to get where they need to be when they need to be there.
An example of this includes one young man who entered the program at the end of 2012. He came to The Village from a neighboring community but wanted to remain in the high school he was at (it was his senior year). Although the school was willing to work out transportation to and from the school day to keep him stable there, there was no option for after school activities. Without private transportation, he would have had to quit the football and track team and could not have participated in other after school clubs and events – a very important part of the high school experience, especially for a young person in foster care who has no family or other support system. With the van, this young man was able to continue in these activities without disruption or damaging his confidence and self-esteem. He ultimately graduated on time this past summer and has since enrolled in a local community college. His dreams are now possible because we were able to provide stability and support.