Summer is a time of change — always welcomed by students. The break during the hottest months gives a chance for kids to de-stress and prepare for their next grade on their short path to adulthood.
After five summers at FACETS, I’ve had the opportunity to watch many children make this transition. What’s fun for kids though, can be a huge struggle for their parents. Finding appropriate and affordable care, providing enough meals during the day, and incurring the extra costs of entertaining children can be an enormous challenge for families that FACETS serves.
Everyday FACETS, a nonprofit that opens doors to people who suffer the effects of poverty in Fairfax County and City, meets families who are vulnerable emergency shelter, food and medical needs, helps them gain safe, sustainable and permanent housing and works with them to end the cycle of homelessness and poverty through educational, life skills and career counseling programs.
Through our Education and Community Development Program — which operates out of four affordable housing communities, we offer innovative programming at the community centers as a way to engage and strengthen families. To ensure that children in the communities are busy, learning, and eating, we provide an expanded program in the summer. We take field trips, have activities and workshops, host honor roll parties, and play games and music.
We also rely on older children to help with programming, giving them leadership roles. For instance, we send teen clients to the annual Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP) Conference leadership program. They return from this excellent leadership program and produce a series of summer activities and workshops for the younger kids in the community. Having these older youth — most of whom have experienced poverty — take leadership roles is transformative for them.
It’s watching these transformations in our youngest clients that I have enjoyed most in my time at FACETS. As I too start a life transition to a new position with Wider Opportunities for Women, a national nonprofit that works on pathways to economic security and equality, I see the growth in these children and know that the FACETS’ team and its corps of volunteers are changing the trajectory for these families. I also see a county that cares about its people and is diligently working to address poverty and end homelessness. Along with my colleagues, peers and partners, I know that we have made measurable progress in reducing the number of people who are waiting for shelter and services.
Best of all, I know that summers will be a time that brings fun and memories to more kids in Fairfax County. I leave FACETS in capable hands, understanding that more children will transition through summer to a successful new school year … and ultimately a life with more and better choices.