2015 – A Year in Review at ESNG

In 2015, Easter Seals North Georgia experienced thrilling change, impactful partnerships, life-changing stories, a monumental anniversary and many inspiring milestones that will carry us into 2016 ready to support and educate more children with and without disabilities and their families. Join us!

*The following is listed in no particular order

  1. On May 26, ESNG President/CEO Donna Davidson was recognized by Easter Seals national with the Myrtle M. and Tom B. Medder’s Award at the 2015 Leadership Summit awards dinner in Chicago. Read more.

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2. STEM – The 2015-16 school year started off with a new project for our students at Brookvalley. Children ages three to five enrolled at the child development center are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through a creative and hands-on curriculum. This first-of-its-kind program geared toward preschoolers will ensure they are on par with their peers as they enter kindergarten. ttt

3. The Clark and Ruby Baker Foundation graciously gifted us with a grant for the Champions for Children program. This program supports families who do not qualify for the Katie Beckett Waiver and face high medical bills. Read more about this program.

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4. One of the strengths of ESNG is our partnerships. We are super excited about our newest one with the Marcus Autism Center. The prevalence of  autism spectrum disorder has greatly increased. Fortunately children who are diagnosed early and receive effective treatments early have been showing remarkable improvements. We are piloting a new screening tool that is proving to be more sensitive to identifying children with possible ASD diagnoses. Read more about our ASD program.
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5. The Georgia Health Foundation awarded us with a grant to expand our autism spectrum disorder program in metropolitan Atlanta and Northeast Georgia. Funds from this award will us provide evidence-based therapies to children in their homes. Therapies through the PLAY Project center around the child’s everyday activities and involve the entire family. Read more about our ASD program.

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6. Our biggest annual fundraiser, Trick or Treat Trot, was a huge success. Around 500 runners, walkers, families and supporters came out to the Infinite Energy Arena to help us raise funds and awareness for children with disabilities. Photos from the event.
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7. Easter Seals North Georgia’s child development center at Sylvan Hills received the Sibley Award to fund a new project that engages families in their children’s education. Read more about our early education and care program.
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8. Donna Davidson was named one of the top 50 nonprofit leaders in Atlanta in 2015 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Donna ABC Instagram - Blank

9. Grandpa George Richardson was recognized on Veterans Day for his service. Our Foster Grandparent program is such a great way for seniors to stay involved in their community and, at the same time, children learn from seniors and all that they have to offer. Grandpa Richardson (one of the 100 seniors that volunteer at area child care centers) was recognized for his service to our country by Senator Loudermilk on Veterans Day. Read more about this program.
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10. Last year we reflected on how far the country has come since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25 years ago. While we are still working to make improvements for the lives of so many Georgians with disabilities, we should also celebrate our accomplishments. Read moreada-twitter-icon-red

And one to grow on – Easter Seals has been serving residents of Georgia for 65 years – here’s to another successful year of raising disability awareness and educating and supporting our children so they will be successful in school and life.
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Happy Grandparents’ Day to all of our Foster Grandparents

With Grandparents’ Day on Sunday, September 13, I’d like to take the opportunity to talk about the Foster Grandparent program. It is a nation-wide program that is part of the Senior Corps set of programs.

The Foster Grandparent Program (FGP) began in 1965 and provides loving and experienced tutors and mentors to children and youth with special needs. ESNG’s 100 volunteers work one-on-one and serving between 15 and 40 hours a week in schools, child care centers and other youth facilities. Among other activities, they review schoolwork, reinforce values, teach parenting skills to young parents, and care for children with disabilities. Foster Grandparents often maintain an ongoing, intensive relationship with the children served for a year or longer.

Foster Grandparents are role models, mentors, and friends. They give the kind of comfort and love that sets a child on the path toward a successful future.

According to Senior Corps, across the nation:

  • Volunteers 27,900
  • Hours Served 24 million
  • Young People Served 232,300
  • Children of Prisoners Served 7,000
  • Number of Children of Military Families Served 2,250
  • Number of Projects 325
  • Annual Federal Funding $110.7 million
  • Non-Federal Support $33 million

On a local level, one of my personal favorites in the program is Grandpa Rivers at Guice.

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Grandpa Rivers has been volunteering at Easter Seals’ Guice Child Development Center for the past four years. He began this new phase of his life after decades in the catering service. As a manager, he helped run events at the Georgia Dome, World Congress Center and Centennial Park (including the Olympics). After he was forced to give up work due to illness, he realized he wasn’t ready or willing to retire. He loved interaction way too much to just sit around the house.

A friend told him about the Foster Grandparent program. Even though he did not have very much experience with children, he thought he’d give it a shot. Grandpa Rivers immediately fell in love with all the children at the center.

Now, he shadows two children who need a little more attention. His presence in the classroom isn’t just a help to the teachers, it’s a friendly, inviting and supportive male face for the children.

“Grandpa Rivers is such an inspiration to all the children at Guice,” says center manager Victoria Holbert. “He is always smiling, playing and helping the children become their best selves. With his guidance, we know the children will start elementary school with the tools they’ll need not just to learn, but to succeed.”

In 2014, the teachers at Guice Child Development Center presented him with Grandpa of the Year award. He hung this award in his house as a reminder that his work means something – that he is making a difference in his community.