THE NEWSLETTER OF TOUCHING MIAMI WITH LOVE
SERVING OVERTOWN AND WEST HOMESTEAD
BRIDGES TO SUCCESS
Touching Miami with Love’s Case Management Program Impacts Lives
W hen it comes to raising kids, nothing is more important than family. No parent can be everywhere,
but it’s especially hard for parents working two or more jobs to make ends meet. The time away from home coupled with single parenting breeds chaos as routines and positive discipline are hard to maintain with stresses and shifting work schedules. It’s an escpecially daunting task to raise kids in communities such as Overtown and West Homestead, violent neighborhoods with very few examples of positive parenting. In 2013, we created a program to provide additional support for students and families facing these overwhelming challenges. Our Executive Director, Jason Pittman, drew on his 20 years of experience in urban non-profits and his Master’s in Social Work to develop a holistic, relational program that fits the unique contexts of our communities. We named it Bridges and the goal of the program is to support parents’ efforts to raise great kids by building bridges between Touching Miami with Love, the school, and the home. Through Bridges, we support the emotional,
students and teachers, children and parents, and children and instructors at TML. We provide counseling sessions with children and parents, social skills development including anger management and self-control strategies, and collaborative interventions for children in conjunction with their family and school. Through Bridges, Touching Miami with Love collaborates with our partner schools with three of our Overtown Staff members as voting members
West Homestead Staff prepare students for 5,000 Role Models Event at West Homestead K-8
Overtown Site Director, Trina, with student
physical, and spiritual needs of our students. All participants are actively enrolled in our year-round children’s program as a wrap-around service. Highly interactive, Bridges restores relationships, between
on the Frederick Douglas Elementary Educational Excellence School Advisory Council (EESAC). Wanda, our West Homestead Site Director, is also a voting member of West Homestead Elementary’s EESAC and was recently honored as “Principal for the Day” as thanks for her work building a strong partnership with the school. Our recent merger in 2015 with Open House Ministries allowed us to expand our program this fall, now offering Bridges to the children at our West Homestead Site as well. Bridges is led by our Clinical Program Director, Kristina Garrison-Clark, who uniquely understands the need. Raised in an inner-city neighborhood in Los Angeles, she overcame a negative environment and chaotic home life to passionately dedicate herself to leading this impactful program. With a Master’s in Social Work from Baylor University and a
Overtown Site: 711 NW 6th Avenue Miami, FL 33136 • West Homestead Site: 1350 SW 4th Street Homestead, FL 33030 Mailing: PO Box 01-3279 Miami, FL 33101• www.touchingmiamiwithlove.org
Bridges to Success Continued
Master of Divinity from Truett Seminary, she came with years of experience from the Methodist Children’s Home and the Juvenile Detention Center. In addition to Case Managers serving in Bridges, we also have Master’s level and Bachelor’s level Social Work Interns providing essential program support.
Our Bridges program is making a difference in students’ lives. The parents are seeing changes in their children and the teachers and administrators are taking notice too. Mrs. Ellis, Principal at Frederick Douglass Elementary School in Overtown, recently had this to say about our work. “I love the fact that TML staff takes the time out to collaborate with us to find out the specific needs of the students enrolled in their program so that they can further work with them in the afternoon. The in-school support that TML offers is also a great help and shows that they have a vested interest in ensuring the students are successful. It paints a picture for the student’s shows that we have the same goal for them. TML also assists us with making contact with parents that we might not be able to reach. This is a great help because parent involvement is key.” Justin, not his real name, is an exam-
ple of the impact bridges has made in the school-TML-home collaboration. When Justin, now in 3rd grade, first came to our Overtown Site, he was one of our very strong-willed students experiencing a lot of trauma through the years. Struggling with aggression, hyperactivity, tantrums, he had no interest in school and was failing the majority of his classes. Justin was in constant trouble both at school and at TML, but through interventions in the Bridges program we’ve seen dramatic results. It began when we worked with his mom to get Justin enrolled in a school that better met his needs. Then our staff made accommodations to create the structure and nurture needed in order for Justin to have better success while in our program. Our staff have worked tirelessly to foster an environment to help Justin feel valued, cared for and safe. He started individual counseling sessions with Kristina to give him the opportunity to have a voice and share his feelings and perceptions. Kristina also worked with him on social skill strategies and problem-solving skills. As she discovered that Justin was motivated by rewards, she created a contract that clearly identified the improved behaviors for a small weekly reward.
GIVE MIAMI DAY IMPACT
Justin is making excellent progress in the Bridges Program. Just recently, he ran straight off the bus and into the office area to share his grades with all of the staff. He received all A’s and B’s and it was obvious that he felt so proud of himself and wanted to share his joy with us. Now at TML you can find Justin with his group interacting and participating with our staff and peers. Although there are times when he may still get out of his seat without permission or blurt things out, he now is able to take redirection, apologize, and communicate his need or desire to the staff. We know Justin wanted to be compliant, successful in school, and get along with TML staff and peers. He just needed more structure, nurture, and affirmation in order to learn how. Justin is truly a great kid who always wears a big beautiful smile. He brings so much life to our program and we are honored to work alongside him and so many others like him in need of a bridge to success.
OUR NEW LOOK We completed our first year as a new organization as Touching Miami with Love now serves both the neighborhoods of Overtown and West Homestead. As Open House Ministries became our West Homestead Site, we’ve grown building on the strong history of quality ministry in the community. The transition has been a smooth one and along with more staff, more children served in West Homestead, and expansion of programs comes our new logo.
Our logo’s round design shows our unity as one organization and captures the wimsy of our mural art as well as continuing to showcase our heart of love for the children, youth, and adults we serve. You can see our new logo on our website, social media, and now also outside of our West Homestead site on our new sign. Thanks for your support of our merger as we grow to serve our communities better.
Touching Miami with Love Family Joins Together to Exceed Fundraising Goal
Since 2012, we’ve partnered with The Miami Foundation who host Give Miami Day. This one day, online only giving event for non-profits is held in mid-November each year. The Miami Foundation helps donations go further through awarding a percent match to organizations based on their total raised and awarding prizes throughout the day. This event has become our biggest fundraiser of the year and is easy for anyone world-wide to participate with minimum donations at just $25.
Each year Give Miami Day supports Bridges, our case management program, and allow us to make building repairs and upgrades at both our sites. Additionally, these funds support our Christian education in our youth and children’s programs and allow us to continue expanding the horizons of our high school youth through experiential learning opportunities. We are also excited to announce that because of the overwhelming generosity received through Give Miami Day 2015 we were able to fully fund the 40+ students attending OASIS Camp this spring hosted by our partners at Branches! This spring break trip to Central Florida is always a transformational time for our students and we are so grateful for our supporters who made this trip accessible
OASIS Camp is always a blessing to our students in Overtown & West Homestead
to all students through their giving on Give Miami Day. Thank You to all our supporters! LEARN MORE HERE,
A SAFE HAVEN
Youth Find Acceptance at Touching Miami with Love by, Eboni Person
Just a few months ago Anna was a tough teenager who maintained a hard outer shell. She had almost perfect attendance in our youth program in Overtown, yet seemed indifferent as if she couldn’t care less. Such attitudes are common among teens, even more in the communities we serve where tough exteriors are often a neccesary means of survival. It’s always thrilling to us though when youth and children recognize the safe haven at TML. We were overjoyed recently when Anna began to let her walls come down.
call from her mom and immediately told her all about the game- the money she made, the degree, and the career she had in the game. Anna was excited, that
The first glimmer into a different side of Anna happened a few weeks ago. Our social skills lesson focused on how teens can see the impact of their choices by playing a life-size version of the board game “LIFE.” Students walked the board and made choices in pursuit of education, career, and financial growth. As the game ended Anna stepped out to answer a phone
Staff member Eboni, pictured front, with two youth at a recent field trip to UniverSoul Circus.
were visibly nervous about their first day at TML. Having just overcome being the newcomer herself, she talked and played with the kids and slowly they too opened up and soon ran off to join their group. Recently, a small group of staff and students were rehearsing for worship. Anna insisted that she didn’t want to sing and sat to watch. After a short time she began singing from her seat. And after a little more time she was standing up with the group and singing!
Another softer side to Anna was on a recent Teacher Planning Day. Our children’s program was in session all day and our high school students were preparing for a field trip. As Anna was waiting, she noticed three new TML students walk in who
Anna may not be ready to completely let go of her facade of apathy; but when she does let her guard down, she leaves a long lasting impression. She’s beginning to see that Touching Miami with Love is a place that loves and accepts her where she is and wants to help her be her best self. Anna shines when she wants to, at her own pace, and will surely continue to shine.
DID YOU MISS THESE MOMENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
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A volunteer from South Venice, FL came to help our students in West Homestead with their math skills before exams.
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