By GORDON JACKSON The Brunswick News

ST. MARYS — As director of STAR Foundation in Brunswick, Ellen Murphy understands the financial challenges facing charitable organizations.  She considers herself lucky that the St. Marys United Methodist Church Foundation has supported her nonprofit organization in the past. STAR helps people become self sufficient and achieve economic stability through computer literacy and job readiness training.  The Methodist Church Foundation named STAR one of 15 local charities to receive a combined total of $604,875 in grants. The nonprofit was awarded a $30,525 grant to help support its programs because of its positive impact in the community.

Murphy said the charities that qualify for the Foundation’s grants are closely scrutinized to ensure the money will be spent the way it is described in the grant application.  “It’s extremely important to anybody who gets it,” she said of the Foundation’s donations. “We have such a small budget, it’s vital to us. They understand operating expenses are vital to the survival of an organization.”  Leslie Hartman, Executive Director of Safe Harbor, is another recipient of a Foundation grant, this one for $100,000. Hartman said her organization is required to solicit another $100,000 in matching donations to qualify for the entire amount.  The money will be used to pay for the construction of a new residential home in Brunswick for abused, abandoned, neglected, runaway, homeless and at-risk children.  “Space is something we’re really excited about having,” she said. “We’re bursting at the seams.” Hartman expressed confidence her organization will reach that goal of raising the matching funds.  “It’s phenomenal,” she said. “Having their support makes it feel like the whole community is embracing this project.”

Other charities receiving Foundation grants are:
• American Red Cross, $30,000 to provide help to families who experience house fires in Camden, Charlton, Brantley and Glynn counties.
• Andrew College, $10,000 to support a joint chaplain position on campus.
• Children in Action Sports Club, $25,000 to provide support for after-school and summer programs in Brunswick.
• Coastal Coalition for Children, $48,500 for grant management and oversight services, as well as support for grandparents who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren in Camden and Glynn counties.
• Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation, $50,000 challenge grant for the organization to increase philanthropy and the quality of life in Camden, Glynn and McIntosh counties.
• Covenant Care Services, $15,000 for adoption placement and counseling services provided in Camden, Brantley, Charlton and Glynn counties.
• Georgia Grantmakers Alliance, $1,000 to support operational expenses.
• Glynn Community Crisis Center/Amity House, $35,000 to expand community outreach programs.
• Hospice of the Golden Isles, $80,800 to expand services and provide salary support for a chief medical officer and nurse practitioner.
• Hospice Satilla, $50,000 to support a part-time social worker and chaplain, as well as grief and educational support groups in Charlton and Brantley counties.
• Satilla Advocacy Services, $23,000 to partially support a prevention education coordinator’s salary in Charlton County.
• The Vashti Center for Children and Families, $60,300 for general operating support for its facility in Thomasville.
• Wesley Glen Ministries, $47,750 to create a partnership with a new human resources company to better serve people with intellectual disabilities in the region.

The St. Marys Methodist Church Foundation was created in 2001 after the death of local businessman Warren Bailey.  He left $60 million to the St. Marys Methodist Church, which at the time was the largest one-time donation ever given to a church. The church’s congregation voted to create the Foundation, using proceeds from the interest earned to help support charities in the region and beyond.

The Brunswick News - By Kathryn Downs

Glynn County Animal Control recently received a donation from the Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation in the amount of $2,685.58. This donation was made possible by the generosity of the Raymond and Elizabeth Baumel and Abernathy Fund for Animal Welfare, an endowed fund of the Community Foundation. As stipulated by the endowment, these funds must be used for costs associated with the care, feeding, medical attention and sheltering of stray and unwanted dogs in Glynn County.

Read more: County Animal Services Receives Donation

The Brunswick News

Editorial | Teachers introduce academics and skills

A new summer pilot project for at risk pre-kindergarten children established by a nonprofit organization could have a long-term impact in meeting a vital need for young children. 

The Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation will provide between $30,000 and $40,000 to fund the three week program, Leap into K in July. In partnership, the Glynn County School System will provide classroom space and lunch at the host site, Goodyear Elementary School.

In 1992, system officials took a step well ahead of its time — providing two full-year, preschool classes with the same goals. To put that initiative into perspective, even a few years later some state legislatures throughout the nation were trying to prevent the implementation of full-day kindergarten. Lawmakers argued that kindergarten is nothing more than kids having fun on the playground.

Such a contention was based on indifference and even ignorance. For the most part, fortunately, more people now understand that preschool instruction is essential in preparing children for K-12 education. 

The school system serves more than 400 children in pre-k classes, but officials recognize there are some students in need who don’t receive the available services. The pilot effort will serve 36 children to help them properly prepare for kindergarten. 

As The Brunswick News writer Anna Hall reported last week, the Foundation’s President and CEO, Valerie Hepburn, pointed out the potentially lifelong challenges that such children can face without the early skills they need.  Without evidence-based design and a proven curriculum, Hepburn said, Leaping into K “has the potential to be that game changer for children who haven’t had the benefit of significant family support and robust pre-k experiences.”

Community residents who have not visited such classes might be surprised by the academics and the skills the children’s teachers introduce to them. They learn to count and can recognize letters and colors and much more. The children do get many opportunities to play as socialization is a key component they will need as they move to the next grade.

A 9-month school year is an enormous period of time as a 4-year-old transitions to age 5. Such growth can be almost like magic. Many educators agree that expectations for even the youngest children have evolved. Kindergarten students are expected to master standards that once were targeted at first-graders.

Similar endeavors from other nonprofit, private and public sectors in Glynn County could help the system reach more at-risk kids who need them the most.

The Brunswick News - By Anna Hall

Children who start kindergarten without first attending a pre-kindergarten program are starting out their educational career already behind. And catching up in the years that follow can be all but impossible for many youngsters.

That’s a fact known readily by local educators, but efforts are now being made to stall the onset of delayed learning, thanks to a new pilot program being launched this summer as a partnership between the Communities of Coastal Georgia Foundation and the Glynn County School System.

The new program, Leaping into K, is meant to focus on at risk students, those who are not enrolled in pre-k programs and whose home environment may not be the most conducive to supporting academic achievement, said Valerie Hepburn, President and CEO of the Foundation. “If you start out behind, the odds are, you stay behind. And students who stay behind have a much higher drop-out rate,” Hepburn said. “With an evidence-based design and a curriculum modeled after nationally recognized programs, Leaping into K has the potential to be that game changer for children who haven’t had the benefit of significant family support and robust pre-k experiences.”

Slated to launch in July for a three week pilot session, the program will work with at least 36 area students who fall into the at-risk category, meaning they received no pre-kindergarten experiences and will enter kindergarten for the 2016-2017 school year. As now planned, the program will be housed at Goodyear Elementary School, with three certified teachers, three paraprofessionals, and a lead teacher with experience in such programs, as well as with additional assistance from the county preschool principal Stephanie Thompson and the Executive Director of Early Academics Sung Hui Lewis.

The overall cost of the program, estimated to be between $30,000 and $40,000, will be covered by the Foundation, while the school system will provide the host site and lunch for students, Hepburn and Lewis said. Final plans for the program are still in the works, with Lewis and a small team of educational partners set to travel out of state later this spring to observe a similar program in action in Texas. Following that trip, complete blueprints for how the program will pan out will come to fruition, Hepburn said. She and members of the Foundation have commended Lewis and Goodyear Elementary School assistant principal Oatanisha Dawson for recognizing the need to design a program to support students at an early age to fully promote their education from the get-go.

“We are ironing out a few of the initial details, but we are hopeful that this pilot program will produce outstanding results for these most deserving young people,” Hepburn said. “Their success will benefit the Glynn County School System and the community overall. This is one more way we can reach out to the essential elements needed in the community and use philanthropy to fill in the gap.”

When presented with the concept for the program at this month’s Board of Education session, held Tuesday, board members voiced their encouragement and support. “Anything we can do to get our children exposed to kindergarten early on is an effort worth investing in,” said board chair Mike Hulsey.