Tag Archives: Volunteer

The Public Library’s Role in Early Literacy

SEABROOK SAYS: Is it just too much to ask that Gaston parents and their close associates DO SOMETHING to improve the reading at an early childhood age?  Imagine how much better Gaston would be if all could read.  Schools and libraries are engaged.  So, what about the adults? NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Did you know that the week of April 8-15, 2017 is designated as National Library Week? It’s a great time to celebrate all the ways that public, school, and special libraries serve the needs of communities and people…of every age, background, and walk of life. Libraries have a long history of being community gathering places and of providing educational and entertainment opportunities for everyone. In today’s digital age, libraries can reach even more people through virtual services: providing online reading, listening, and informational services around the clock from the comfort of a laptop, e-reader, or cell phone.

Founded over 110 years ago, the Gaston County Public Library recently updated its mission and vision statements:

Vision Statement:   A versatile community center, open to all, that evolves with changing technology and social trends to empower lifelong growth, learning, and education.

Mission Statement: Meeting individual and community needs through information, education, engagement, and enrichment.

One of the most important ways that your Public Library has and continues to meet these goals is through its leadership in the area of early literacy. Librarians have traditionally focused on helping their youngest patrons acquire the building blocks they need to become successful readers and students.  Through baby, toddler, and preschool storytimes, each featuring stories, songs, and activities developmentally appropriate and targeted to the specific age group, library staff engage the children and model suggested methods for parents and caregivers to make learning fun for the little ones. Many studies have shown that basic activities such as talking, playing, singing, reading, and writing with preschool children are crucial to their future success when they begin school.

But despite the Library’s ongoing efforts to reach our youngest citizens, there are many, many children in our community who arrive at the kindergarten doorstep without these essential pre-literacy skills. For this reason, the Gaston County Public Library has been working with many community partners, including the Partnership for Children of Gaston and Lincoln Counties, the Gaston County Department of Health and Social Services, the Gaston Literacy Council, the United Way of Gaston County, the Gaston Family YMCA, Gaston County Schools, Boys & Girls Clubs of Gaston County, and the Gaston Gazette, to form the Gaston Early Literacy Collaborative (ELC).

The Gaston ELC is affiliated with the national Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the NC Early Childhood Foundation and has been working on ways to more adequately prepare our kids for reading and school success.  Most significantly, the Gaston ELC has organized an event entitled “Literacy Builds Gaston,” an Early Literacy Convening to be held on Friday, May 12, 2017, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at the Main Library, 1555 E. Garrison Blvd., Gastonia.  At this event, local organizations such as churches, neighborhood groups, book clubs, and service groups will be able to hear about successful early literacy techniques and programs that they can implement in different parts of our community, to help parents and caregivers get their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers ready for school.  There will be inspiring messages and question and answer sessions where specific program ideas will be discussed, and assistance will be provided for groups who are considering implementing an early literacy program.

This is a problem that all of us working together can solve. If we can do our part to help our youngest residents be fully prepared for school, the chances of them staying on grade level, staying in school, and graduating will significantly increase, and this will benefit the entire community.

If you want to find out more or would like to attend the May 12 event, please contact Sarah Miller at the Gaston County Public Library, 704-868-2164, ext. 5538, sarah.miller@gastongov.com

Laurel R. Morris
Director, Gaston County Public Library

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The Power of One

SEABROOK SAYS: Gaston County now has about 300 mentors for students.  The need is far greater.  Have you ever given serious thought to mentoring a kid for one hour per week? Elizabeth and I did.  The benefits to the Seabrooks and Phillip, the student, were huge.  Step forward – give mentoring a try.  NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

He’s a high school student. Good grades and social interactions haven’t come easily for him.  His home life is economically challenged; he has not grown up with a father figure or the advantages that others might take for granted. Is he another statistic destined for failure?  Perhaps. Except this student experienced the “Power of One,” the power of one caring adult … his mentor.

Our most recent success story for Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program is a young man who recently landed his first part-time job at a local restaurant. Making the difference in this outcome was his mentor, a caring gentleman who built a relationship with the boy going back to elementary school. While most mentor relationships in our schools involve shorter time periods, this particular one has navigated many ups and downs, challenges and disappointments, and the routine of regular visits that sent a simple message: “I’m not giving up on you.” It was the mentor who coached his mentee on interview skills, handshakes, eye contact and what it would take to keep his first experience in the workplace positive. That’s mentoring at its best!

Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program is in its 24th year of matching caring community individuals with deserving young people. Regular weekly meetings and activities at the child’s school help provide encouragement and valuable life skills that build confidence and self-worth.  This year, 257 mentors answered the call to volunteer in over 35 schools. That number sounds large, but immediately shrinks when you compare it to the 32,000 students attending Gaston County Schools. Wouldn’t every child benefit from a visit by a wise friend with experience?

The question I always ask at the start of every mentor training session is, “Who mentored you?” Think back — you may not have been part of a formal mentor program, but was there someone in your life who nudged you to try something out of your comfort zone? Was there a person who always seemed happy to hear your good news or just made you smile? Was there someone who was a comfort or just listened to you when life’s disappointments seemed to make it impossible to get back up? That’s mentoring!

“Young people with mentors, especially at-risk youth, have more positive visions of themselves and their futures, and they achieve more positive outcomes in school, the workplace and their communities,” writes David Shapiro, president and CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. “As a society, too often we leave these powerful human connections to chance. We must close the mentoring gap for the good of young people and our country.”

January is National Mentoring Month. It was launched by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership in 2002 to focus attention on the need for mentors. It is an invitation to individuals, businesses, government agencies, schools, nonprofits and faith communities to come together to increase the numbers of mentors for our young people. I am proud to say that each of those six community sectors are represented by the 261 current mentors in Gaston County Schools.  As wonderful as that number sounds, more mentors are needed. There are children waiting.

Becoming a mentor for Gaston County Schools requires a short approval process and training session that equips new volunteers with some starting strategies. The mentor program is school site based, meaning all your interaction occurs on school grounds during the school day. You can choose a time that works with your schedule. Weekly visits with mentees averages about 40 to 50 minutes. Time is spent doing fun activities that the student and mentor choose, but usually revolve around meaningful conversations. You may request to work with an elementary, middle or high school student.

Gaston mentors come from all walks of life and possess the single best characteristic, the ability to listen. A one-year commitment to the mentor program is requested. Many mentors, after building strong relationships, have remained with their mentees for several years and in some cases to graduation. Numerous proud moments and “Power of One” stories have emerged from Gaston County Schools’ Mentor Program. Will you consider sharing your powers with a deserving child? That’s mentoring!

Valerie Yatko
Director, Business and Community Partnerships
Gaston County Schools

For more information contact Valerie at 704-866-6329 or vayatko@gaston.k12.nc.us

FaithHealth – Gaston

SEABROOK SAYS: Do you know Lisa Marisiddaiah?. She is a parish nurse serving both First United Methodist and First Presbyterian churches. She too, is highly involved with a new process that, done in collaboration, will save significant money for the taxpayers while giving needed service to those who are just discharged by our hospital. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?

Did you know that there are almost 800 faith communities in Gaston County filled with compassionate members? Imagine if even a small percentage of those were willing to partner with a community initiative, not only to strengthen their own health ministries, but to reach beyond their own walls to assist their neighbors in need. And if faith communities in the same geographic regions were willing to collaborate, to create a partnership to serve those in close proximity by combining their assets, we could really make an impact…we are always stronger when we come together.

FaithHealth-Gaston is a new community-initiated program. It is a “movement” of compassionate care, partnering the strengths of congregations, the clinical expertise of health providers, and a network of community resources. The goal is to assist patients by offering them a network that they can rely on, someone they can trust to be with them at a time of need. This program is strongly supported by CaroMont Health, the CaroMont Health Foundation, Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services, Gaston Faith Network, Gaston Together, HealthNet Gaston and the United Way of Gaston County.

There are many things we overlook in the course of our day, and maybe even take for granted…being physically able to drive ourselves to a medical appointment or having the ability to prepare a meal. And when we are not feeling well, most of us have family, friends or neighbors who can and will assist. We have the luxury of being blessed to have the basics that we need to have a comfortable life, good health, and a network of supportive people.

Imagine if you weren’t so fortunate. Imagine if you did not have a support system; if your health declined and you couldn’t drive yourself to the doctor’s office or to the pharmacy to pick up your medications. Imagine if you didn’t have the energy to stand up long enough to prepare yourself a nutritious meal, or even to get to the store to purchase groceries to make that meal. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many older adults in our community. Many go without proper nutrition or prescribed therapies because they lack access to transportation. Sometimes that can lead to a health crisis that could have been prevented.

After many months of planning, FaithHealth-Gaston will soon begin assisting frail, elderly patients who are being discharged from CaroMont Regional Medical Center; patients who do not have a support network in place. Hospital staff will assess the needs and make a referral to the FaithHealth-Gaston Community Coordinator who will connect the patient with a caring volunteer.

Volunteers from congregations will offer health care ministries for their members and neighbors. When illness strikes, they’ll provide support before, during and after hospitalization. They’ll make home visits, provide emotional and spiritual support, and help with meals, transportation and picking up medications. Training will be provided to these volunteers in respecting patients’ privacy, hospital visitation, care at the end of life, mental health first aide, and other topics. Partnering congregations will receive a wealth of educational resources aimed at improving health. Volunteers will gain the many benefits that come along with helping someone else, and the recipients will witness what a true relationship between faith and health looks like.

If you have a desire to be a volunteer, or would like to see that additional information be presented to your faith community leader, please contact Lisa Marisiddaiah, RN, BSN, FCN, Faith & Health Ministry Manager, CaroMont Health. lisa.marisiddaiah@caromonthealth.org or 704- 834-3516

For additional information, please visit http://www.FaithHealthNC.org/Gaston