LANCASTER, PA – Touchstone Foundation awarded $58,855 in its “Community Connections Micro-Grants” program to support youth mental wellness efforts in Lancaster County, PA.
The following twelve organizations received small grants, up to $5,000 each, that positively impact the mental wellness of youth and their families.
Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County- “A Moment to Breathe” whole family approach for parent mental wellness, supports paid childcare staff during a monthly parent group. Facilitated by Touchstone Foundation staff and local mental health experts, this program is free for everyone and includes on-site childcare, a light meal, and bus pass/gas card. All parents in Lancaster County are welcome to attend with their children. Parents and caregivers also receive free one-on-one counseling sessions with Shanece Bowman, BSW, MSW candidate. With “Exhale Counseling Services” Shanece will provides one hour of 1:1 counseling virtually or in person at the Touchstone Foundation office.
Boys & Girls Club of Lancaster – “Mental Health Matters” – focuses on training and education resources for Club staff. A key component of Club culture is ensuring our youth have a safe and positive place to spend their out-of-school time. Due to the rising need for mental health resources for our youth, it is incredibly important for our staff to be trained in mental wellness topics and trauma informed care to better serve our community. The second part of our program will be focused on programming resources which directly benefit youth mental wellness.
Plant the Seed of Learning – supports parent and child mental wellness through engaging sessions that educate families about medical milestones and the importance of bonding with their child. Many children are supported in Lancaster County when they enter kindergarten through school-based services. Sessions are held at local agencies such as the Together Center, libraries, Women & Babies Hospital, and participating school districts to ensure access across Lancaster County and support of those in need. Our sessions are led by hospital personnel, pre-med students, college professors, teachers, and social workers to ensure a balance of perspectives to cover topics in child development, social and emotional learning, and brain development.
Minding Your Mind – “In school mental health education programs” – a comprehensive menu of mental health education programs for students (K-college), parents and caregivers, school personnel, and the community at large. We educate and engage students around mental health challenges, empowering them with compassion and resources. We also ensure that the caring adults in their lives are prepared and knowledgeable. Our young adult speakers share their lived experience of resilience by highlighting their mental health crises. Our speakers challenge mental health stigma by talking openly and honestly, showcasing strength in vulnerability, and illustrating the possibility of recovery and healing. Our programs are statistically proven to reduce mental health stigma and increase help-seeking behavior.
Donegal Substance Abuse Alliance Corporation – “Youth Wellness Program” – supports two programs, 1) Youth Mental Wellness Educational Program, Girls Group: to empower teenage girls with the skills and mindset needed to lead healthier, more confident, and resilient lives. We envision a generation of young women who embrace their worth, navigate challenges with grace, and support each other in their journey towards wellness. 2) Parent and Child Mental Wellness, Mommy and Me: Strengthening Parent-child Mental Wellness. By providing a holistic approach that empowers both parents and children, the program aims to foster healthier, happier families that are better equipped to face the complexities of modern life.
Hope Inspire Love, Inc. – “Trauma-Informed Social Enterprise Job Skill Training” – We began providing an additional evidence-based, trauma-informed mentoring and care services to assist teens who have experienced one or more adverse events related to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation such as youth in the foster care system, as well as preadoption and post-adoption youth, ages 13-18. We recruit and train adult mentors to provide at least 4 hours weekly of one-on-one mentoring to these at-risk youth for at least 12 months. Our mentors/coaches undergo training rooted in trauma-informed care, encompassing over 30+ hours of education and certifications. A significant stride in this endeavor is our upcoming social enterprise job skill training program.
Lancaster Recreation Commission – “Impacting Mental Health of Refugee and Immigrant Teens and Creating Connections Through U-19 Soccer” – This program serves School District of Lancaster students providing outreach to immigrant and refugee teenagers who find joy and healing from trauma through the sport of soccer. U-19 Soccer program was created to serve refugee and immigrant students who want to experience youth sports programs for their well-being, players showcase their talents, build leadership skills and be part of a cohesive team. There is not enough teen programming. The lack of resources often leaves teens feeling disconnected and disengaged. This program will also provide outreach to immigrant teen that have some of the highest level of need.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region – “High School Bigs Leadership Program” – We match youth ages 6 and up with a High School volunteer who serves as a mentor to the child. We are an evidence-based program designed to promote avoidance of risky behavior, positive school engagement/educational success and socio-emotional competency. Poverty, incarceration, and household instability contribute to violence, depression, toxic stress, and trauma, creating a pervasive environment of mistrust. We work to build trust between families, children, mentors and the community by identifying sources of trauma in the child’s life and then implementing protocols that protect the child from further trauma-induced physical and emotional damage. These protocols build resiliency and coping skills that support Littles through a lifetime of challenges and equip Bigs to address Little’s current circumstance. This program also has many benefits for the High School mentor, providing them with access to leadership skills not found in a regular school curriculum.
Samaritan Center – “Teen Hope” – TeenHope is a mental and emotional health education and wellness screening program that provides community resources and aims to prevent teen suicide by identifying students who may be at-risk for anxiety and depression. TeenHope uses an internal education curriculum and partners with local providers such as Mental Health America (MHA) to provide mental and emotional well-being information and support to local schools. The program’s goal is to provide education and screening opportunities to all students in Lancaster County.
Bench Mark Program – “Open Gym” – Bench Mark’s Open Gym Program operates five days/week, year-round, in the evenings in downtown Lancaster City. It is a free fitness facility for youth who are referred by the Lancaster County Dept. of Juvenile Probation, Children & Youth Agency, and the School District of Lancaster. The Open Gym is a space for youth to lift weights with a trainer or coach, attend a boxing class, or relax and have a meal in the lounge area. Mentors are also available to assist students with homework and to help interested students secure gainful employment. Since 2014, Open Gym has been a resource that youth can “always come back to.” While they may be referred to a variety of other programs for behavioral and academic challenges, the Open Gym remains available to them until age 24. Through Open Gym, we build long term, trusting relationships that allow us to help our students through some of the toughest periods of their lives. Open Gym is often the most consistent part of our students’ lives.
COBYS Family Services – “The Blues Program” – COBYS Family Services would like to request 5,000.00 for implementing an “open training” for the county to implement the Blues Program with their students. Youth mental health is an area which is greatly suffering. There are not enough therapists in Lancaster County to meet the needs of youth mental health and wait lists are long in the county and state of PA. Connecting youth to services is daunting. Therefore, the Blues Program is a short-term psychoeducational program which can be implemented by school staff to “fill in the gap” for students with mild depression or anxiety. The Blues Program is a group-based prevention program for 4-8 teens in grades 8th-12th (aged 14-19) with symptoms of depression and anxiety. In six one hour of sessions, students learn cognitive behavioral strategies with a simple focus: change how you think and what you do to feel better. This would train the staff and serve the youth throughout the entire county. #4 and 5 would be the focus of this grant.
Schreiber Pediatrics – “Afterschool LEGO Club: A Social Development Program” – The Afterschool LEGO Club is a social engagement and communication skills group for children, aged 8 – 13, living with autism spectrum disorder. Based on the shared enjoyment of LEGO building, group members are provided an opportunity to experience connectedness. Through structured engagement with peers, group members are coached to practice and further develop the following pro-social skills: Greetings, Names, Following rules/directions, Eye contact, Gaze-following, Turn-taking, Joint attention, Sharing, Collaborative work, Division of labor, Attending to verbal and non-verbal communication, Problem solving/conflict resolution, Expressing interest/disagreement in others’ points of views, Assertiveness, and Providing feedback/accepting criticism. The after-school club is an extension of a summer camp Schreiber has successfully hosted for two years. The intention is to provide a more regular, structured opportunity for children with ASD to interact with peers.
Awards were opened in July 2023 and funded on a rolling basis through 2023. Funding was exhausted by mid-October. Dependent on funding availability, Touchstone Foundation may reopen the Community Connections Micro-Grants program in July 2024.
To learn more about grants available, visit https://touchstonefound.org/mentorship/
Touchstone Foundation is a nonprofit organization that has focused on elevating the mental well-being of youth and children in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for 25 years. Visit our website for more information: https://touchstonefound.org