The Foundation currently focuses its discretionary grantmaking on youth development, through our Community Impact Fund annual competitive grants cycle. In 2018, we expanded our focus to reflect a two-generational approach and invited proposals from organizations serving at-risk youth and/or their caregivers.
The Youth Development Initiative was driven by a 2015 community needs assessment which encompassed several exercises in data collection and analysis. Over a period of months, considerable secondary data from Camden, Glynn and McIntosh counties were reviewed and three Focus Groups were convened. The Focus Groups sought to include representation from all three counties; unfortunately, none of the participants were from Camden County. As such, the qualitative perspectives represent primarily those of Glynn and McIntosh residents.
While recognizing the limitations of the qualitative data, the needs assessment provides useful insights and several priorities and themes emerge:
- Residents are “content” with their communities and feel comfortable and secure in their lifestyles. That said, there is a general sense that needs exist across the region and “more” could be done to help children, the elderly and families living at the margin.
- The data reflect communities which have greater poverty, less education, and more at-risk characteristics as compared to the state average. The challenges are exacerbated when income and education data are removed for the census tracks which represent the Islands.
- Focus Group participants identified the need for integrated educational and workforce development services for at-risk youth and their families or guardians.
- Focus Group participants identified the need for applied training in life skills, financial literacy and workforce education across all populations.
- Participants underscored the importance of information and referral services, along with transportation, to assist residents in accessing the services and jobs which are available.
- Through data and interviews, the need for economic development, to provide jobs and improve the status of young people and families, is clear and consistent.
This Needs Assessment continues to guide the Foundation's discretionary grantmaking.