2016: A Year in Review and A Look Forward

The theme of 2016 at ESNG was expansion. We expanded our programs, reach, events and accreditations. Let’s take a look back at what we did as we get ready for a fun and exciting 2017.for blog

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Last year, we piloted the innovative STEM in early education at our Brookvalley location. Thanks to funding from the Sibley Award and Frances Hollis Brain Foundation, we are expanding the program to our Guice, Mansell and Warsaw locations.

20151112_143926_resized Continue reading “2016: A Year in Review and A Look Forward”

#SuccessStartsHere: Volunteers

Every year, our corporate partners spend over 4,000 hours volunteering their time and talents to Easter Seals North Georgia. Volunteers read to and play with children, clean and sanitize classrooms or do something unique. One such group was from Turner Broadcasting.

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Employees across Turner Broadcasting System – which includes CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network, Turner Sports and many more – donated more than 2,000 books for infants to five-year-old children and their parents.

Team lead Colleen Sullivan met with ESNG several times to develop a plan for a new library in our Sylvan Hills location. Then, on Thursday, September 15, a team of 17 volunteers came to our child development center to do some hard work. For more than four hours, they built, painted and created the most beautiful library our kids have ever seen. Continue reading “#SuccessStartsHere: Volunteers”

Monthly wrap up – June & July

Don’t get mad at the messenger, but summer break is almost over! We did a lot in June and July and here’s a quick wrap up of our activities:

Awareness:

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We hope you are enjoying the lazy days of summer. When we say lazy, though, we hope you don’t forget the importance of safety during the season of pools, beaches, sun, trips, insects, and heat! Just to help you out so you can go back to enjoying the fun, we’ve put together some quick safety tips.

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They say that parenting is the hardest, yet most rewarding job. Dads play an equally important role in parenting as do mothers, but sometimes their importance gets overlooked. How do Dads make a difference? Here are just 5 of the many reasons why.

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Don’t forget that it’s very important to make sure your kids continue to learn even though they are not going to school in the next couple of months. Here’s a look back at our tips to help you and your kids prevent summer brain drain.

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At ESNG, we believe in inclusive learning. That includes summer camp. Meet Nicholas, who has spina bifida, who attends a fun and engaging summer camp – with just a few accommodations.

Around ESNG:

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This month two of our centers, Brookvalley and Mansell, joined Premier Academy, Madison County, and Warsaw in receiving the prestigious Quality Rating from the Department of Early Care and Learning: Bright From the Start. According to Bright From the Start, “Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care.” We are thrilled to be recognized for our staff’s hard work to educate vulnerable children in Atlanta and northeast Georgia.

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Children at our Mansell location had an exciting visit from local emergency workers. Firefighters and paramedics came by and showed kids what they do to keep us safe. They also talked about what kids need to do to be safe in our communities.

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Our STEM consultant, Garry Harris, was recognized by President Clinton for his achievements in STEM and early education. ESNG is excited to partner with Mr. Harris and have his expertise as we prepare our children with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in school and life.

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Office Depot Foundation generously donated 300 sackpacks filled with school supplies to us earlier this month. This donation ensures that our children will be ready to learn come August! Thank you, Office Depot.

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Even though it’s summer time, that doesn’t slow down our volunteer program. We had six groups of corporate volunteers from Frazier Deeter, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kabbage, Cox Automotive, Salesforce, and UPS. These volunteers played with and read to our kids or painted and sanitized classrooms to get them ready for August!

Thank you to all these groups!
Here are photos from the events.

Monthly wrap up – April

Awareness: 

April is a month in which we shine a light on autism spectrum disorder. We learn the signs and symptoms in young children, learn about therapies that can help children play and communicate, and meet children who received therapies to help them start school healthy and ready to learn. One of those children is Jacob. Read his story here.

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In April, we also recognize the importance of volunteers. We spotlighted the work of one particular group, SIG, and the recycling project they helped implement at our Mansell center. Read that story here.

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Around ESNG: 

This month two of our centers, Warsaw and Madison County, joined Premier Academy in receiving the prestigious Quality Rating from the Department of Early Care and Learning: Bright From the Start. According to Bright From the Start, “Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care.” We are thrilled to be recognized for our staff’s hard work to educate vulnerable children in Atlanta and northeast Georgia.

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Families at our Madison County center had a great time at the Home Depot’s Build with Dad. We love to incorporate fun ways to foster family time and to learn through doing. This is yet another great example of putting that into action.

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One of the groups that came out to volunteer at our centers in April was Comcast NBC Universal. On Saturday, April 23, a day that they dedicate to volunteering in our community, a large group came to our Warsaw center. They cleaned, sanitized, and decorated the center since the children were out for the weekend. They also built a much-needed shed! Thank you, Comcast NBC Universal, and all the volunteer groups that helped us this month.

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Thank you: 

Speaking of Thank You, we wanted to dedicate a special shout-out to this year’s sponsors for Topgolf. A huge woot to the following companies on behalf of the entire organization!

Comcast, CVS, Mitsubishi Electric, Century 21, US Foods, Jones and Kolb, PNC Bank, Creative Mischief, Fraternal Order of Police, Insperity, Cox Automotive and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It’s not too late to sign up for the event. Check out topgolfevent.com for more information and to register.

 

Loving Mother Earth and Our Volunteers

“We were able to set up a recycling program inside the classrooms and play games about recycling with the children, it was fun for everyone!” SIG Volunteer Collin Shepard

Since this month we celebrate Earth Day and appreciate the work of our volunteers, we thought we’d spotlight a great recycling project one of our volunteer groups did at our Mansell location.

In April 2015, ESNG had the pleasure of hosting a volunteer group from Sustainable Investment Group (SIG) – a company’s whose mission is to “improve the built environment to inspire stewardship of the natural environment”. They quickly fell in love with Easter Seals’ mission, the child development center, and of course the children.

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For the past year, a group from SIG has come out to Mansell and played with and read to the children several times. Last October they wanted to do something different. They worked with ESNG’s Volunteer Coordinator Linda to implement a recycling program at the center. They didn’t want just to show up with recycling bins and talk to the teachers, though. They knew it was important to teach the children about recycling and the part they play in our environment.IMG_5376

They started the project off by reading about recycling to the children.

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Then, they did some great interactive activities with the children just to bring home how easy it is to recycle. “My favorite part about volunteering with Easter Seals is interacting with the kids through games and coloring,” said volunteer Lyndsay Webb.

Lastly, they put one recycling bin in each class, one large bin in the lobby, and set up a monthly pick up for us.

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It has been such a great project for both parties involved. Norma Center, director of development at ESNG, said of the event, “It was so great to use the talents of a volunteer group like SIG in one of our centers. I think the kids and teachers really enjoy what they learned today and will continue the project for years to come.”

SIG definitely felt the same one. One volunteer summed up the project perfectly. “Teaching about recycling at Easter Seals was one of my favorite volunteer projects. We love educating the community about sustainability, especially children!” said Charlie Cichetti.

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An extra gift for the project came in February when ESNG received the Green Apple Award from the US Green Building Council – Georgia. SIG nominated us for the award.

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Monthly wrap up – March

Awareness:

March 21st marked World Down Syndrome Day. Celebrated on the 21st day of the third month of the year, the date is symbolic of the third copy of the 21st chromosome that characterizes Down syndrome. At ESNG, we have had the pleasure to provide services to several children who have Down syndrome. Whether they attend our child development centers, receive support from Champions for Children, or receive therapies from our early intervention services. Oliver is a two-year-old boy who has in-home physical therapy to help him reach his milestones. Read his story here.

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March is a great month to highlight two integral parts of our early education and care program: social work and nutrition. Both are so important in creating healthy and happy children and families in our community.

Social work: earlier this month, we met one of our family support advocates, Ms. Kim Tillman. Read about what she does to help families reach self-sufficiency.

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Nutrition: we also learned a lot from one of our nutrition specialists, Teedra Jones. She works with the child development centers to ensure our kids receive healthy and delicious foods to eat every day. Read her tips to incorporate healthy eating habits at home, too.

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We made it to spring – a season in which we can finally enjoy the outdoors. To celebrate the beauty of inclusive sports, we spoke to a pioneer and an everyday athlete on this blog post.

Spring is also a season where we start traveling. Marjan Holbrook gave us some great tips on traveling with children with special needs on this blog post.

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Around ESNG:

“The more you read, the more you know” – Dr. Seuss

It’s not a coincidence that Dr. Seuss’s birthday shares the same month as Read Aloud Month. All of our 11 child development centers celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday with lots of fun reading time! At our Winder location, each classroom dressed up as a Dr. Seuss character and participated in a parade around the center. What a great way to bring books to life!IMG_20160304_111107

Brookvalley had an incredible STEM day on Tuesday, March 15. Children, parents, and teachers had a great time making edible cars. Each classroom, including the toddlers, made their version of a car using cookies, candy, fruits, and veggies. Everyone used trial and error to make the most beautiful and delicious looking cars. Here are some great photos from the day!

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On Friday, March 25, Sylvan Hills offered an excellent parenting class at its facility. Darryl Freeman with Fathers Incorporated talked with moms and dads about the importance of having a strong father figure in their children’s lives. There is plenty of research backing this notion. In fact, children who spend quality time with their fathers are 80% less likely to be incarcerated, 75% less likely to become unwed parents, and twice as likely to graduate from high school and enter college.

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Thank you:

Our Guice location received the 2016 Sibley Award to implement a STEM in early education initiative. Funding from the Harland Charitable Foundation and Pittulloch Foundation will improve the educational outcomes for 157 children, engage families in their children’s education, and increase teachers’ professional development. On March 30, ESNG received the award at Guice. Photos of the event can be found here.

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On March 12-13, Century Novus Realty held its first annual Reels for Seals fishing tournament in Lake Wedowee, Ala. The event raised $5,000 for Easter Seals North Georgia’s early education, early intervention, and support services. ESNG thanks Century 21 Novus Realty, sponsors, and participants for their support!

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PNC presented a gift of $6,000 to our Warsaw location. After volunteering at the North Fulton center, bank representatives saw our program in action. As an organization that supports early education programs, PNC’s financial contribution and employee engagement help us to improve the quality of people’s lives.

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At ESNG, we recognize and value the work of our volunteers. March was full of great groups of volunteers that visited many of our child development centers. These include VWR, Comcast YPL, Pinecrest, North Georgia College, Southwestern University, Trinity, Infinite Energy, and Salesforce. Click here for photos of the events.

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Kids can volunteer, too!

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’ – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Monday, January 16, we will celebrate the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King. An excellent way to do this is to come together to serve your neighborhoods and communities. Oftentimes these events are for people over 18 years old, but there are many kid-friendly activities everyone can do. We encourage you to gather your family members and participate in the MLK Day of Service. If that’s not possible, any of these ideas can be done year round.

  1. Help a neighbor in need – Winter is the season of joy, snow and sicknesses. See if you and your family can help a family who is feeling under the weather. Your children can walk their dog, collect their mail or rake leaves. deed-clipart-chores-kids-can-do
  2. Organize a board game day at your local senior center – Your children can collect board games and some friends to visit a local assisted living facility or nursing home. Both seniors and your children will enjoy an afternoon of cards or Battleship together. GAMES
  3. Pick up litter – Find a safe spot – perhaps your neighborhood, school or park – to beautify. Children will learn the importance of a litter-free environment while enjoying the outdoors.download
  4. Make a no-sew blanket – Blankets bring more than just warmth to those in need. A no-sew blanket is a great way for your child to help her community members in need. sewing-clip-art-as5807
  5. Plant a garden – Okay, this one may be more suited for the Spring, but you can start planning now! Planting a garden will show your children where food comes from, the basics of food science and the importance of sharing the bounty with the community members who do not have enough to eat.  Garden
  6. Make cards for senior citizens, military service members or children in foster care – Everyone enjoys a card! Spend a cold afternoon making holiday (valentines, birthday, Christmas) cards for those who need them the most. children arts and craft
  7. Keep the air clean – promote bike-riding and carpooling at your school to reduce traffic and air pollution. kids-riding-bikes-clipart-MiLLzXd9T
  8. Welcome kit – your children and their friends can create a welcome kit to new students at their school. It can include favorite restaurants and fun things to do. Group1[1]
  9. Collect items for local nonprofits – Community nonprofits are always accepting donations. Pick your favorite organization (ESNG, anyone?) and collect canned food, diapers, socks, toys, books…canned-food-drive-posters-21241533_BG1
  10. Raise money for local nonprofits – There are many ways your children can collect money for your favorite community organization: pet wash, lemonade stand, garage sale…il_340x270.461348538_lwe7

All of us at Easter Seals North Georgia hope you have a great MLK Day and are able to take the opportunity to help your community become better!

Have you and your family done any of these activities? Do you have any ideas to add?

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.

July Wrap Up Party

Have you not been able to follow all our updates as closely you should want to? Don’t worry. Here’s a look back at the last full month of summer break!

Learn.

ada-twitter-icon-redADA Anniversary
Can you believe that 25 years ago this month, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law? On July 26, 1990, the law affirmed the importance of tearing down barriers that keep people with disabilities from participating in society. Before this law was enacted, a company could terminate an employee on the basis of a disability, city buses were not required to have wheelchair lifts, buildings did not have appropriate restrooms to accommodate wheelchairs, curb outs were found few and far between, if at all.

On a national level, Easter Seals played an integral role in the passing of such a monumental bill. For example, Easter Seals Project Action has been THE resource before and after the ADA on accessible transportation. Project Action was first established in 1988 and has truly changed the face of the nation on behalf of people with disabilities. Transportation is the lynchpin for so many other activities – employment, recreation, etc. Thanks to Easter Seals Project Action, the ADA transportation provisions have exceeded all expectations. Prior to the ADA disability advocates were chaining themselves to buses because they were inaccessible. Today, every public bus is now equipped with a ramp, drivers know they need to call out stops, etc. Read more about our role in providing this right to everyone and what still needs to be done.
freshanalogoOn July 1, we announced an exciting new partnership between ESNG and Freshana. When you purchase any of Freshana’s cleaning or air purifying products on Freshana.com and use promocode EASTERSEALS, Freshana will donate 10 percent of the retail price to ESNG! You can breathe easier knowing you are using organic, natural and safe products in your house and support early intervention and education programs in your community all at the same time. That sounds like a win-win to me. Read the press release announcing this exciting partnership.

Learn.

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost the end of summer break. Soon our kiddos will be heading back to school. All of the school systems in our service area head back sometime in early August. Children attending ESNG’s child development centers start back on August 5. Here are some tips to get you and your children prepared to make this school year awesome.

  1. Make sure they are getting enough sleep.
  2. Take advantage of tax free sales for back to school shopping – That’s THIS weekend!blog2
  3. Parents are aware of free local back to school supply drives.
  4. Read books to the child about going to school or going back to school.
  5. Do activities at home with child to help prepare him/her for school.

Play.

T3Trick or Treat Trot – We are gearing up for our 7th annual Trick or Treat Trot 5K and Family Fun Festival. It’s scheduled for Saturday, October 17 at the Arena at Gwinnett. You have fewer than 90 days to get off your couch and get ready to run. Be sure to register early, form a team, and lace up for some great fun. If you don’t run, don’t worry. There is a family fun festival. We’ll have some great activities, including a safe environment for your children to trick or treat. Be sure to let your friends know, too! Register here, and follow updates as we get closer to the event here.

Volunteer – This has been a busy month for our volunteers despite the fact that there are fewer kids attending our centers. We’ve had a ton of corporate volunteers that have helped prepare the centers – clean, sanitize, painting, planting….the list goes on. Check out our blog posting all about the volunteers we have had the pleasure to host earlier this month.
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Volunteers…They are kind of a big deal ’round here…

Easter Seals founder, Edgar Allen, said it best:

“Your life and mine should be valued not by what we take…but by what we give.”

Volunteers are the lifeblood to the work ESNG does. In 2014, 11,000 volunteers logged 44,000 hours at our child development centers. They cleaned, painted, assisted teachers, and played and read to children. Their work makes a huge difference in the lives of the children at the centers.

The past couple of weeks, in particular, we’ve had quite a few volunteers at four of 12 our child development centers doing pretty much everything.volunteer3

1. Warsaw – Volunteers from Alpharetta-based LocumTenens spent four hours at our Warsaw center on June 25. They played and read to the kids. The volunteers also participated in water day!

See photos on our FB page: LocumTenens Volunteers at Warsaw

2. Guivolunteerce & Sylvan Hills – Volunteers from PwC came out to our centers at Guice and Sylvan Hills on June 30. There was a huge group coordinated by United Way of Greater Atlanta at both locations so they were able to get a ton of work done. A few volunteers played with the children, but since there are fewer kids than usual, the majority of the volunteers cleaned, painted and planted a garden. They did a spectacular job getting the centers ready for school next month (yeah, I said next month)!

See photos on our FB page: PwC Volunteers at Sylvan Hills Child Development Centervolunteer2

3. Jackson County – We are working on getting more volunteers at the ESNG child development centers in Northeast Georgia. An excellent step forward was a great group from Home Goods at our Jackson County center. There weren’t a ton of volunteers, but they sure did a ton of work. They cleaned, sanitized, and beautified the center. Center Manager Ms. Anderson was so appreciative she gave the volunteers a sweet gift from the children.

See photos on our FB page: Home Goods Volunteers at Jackson Co. Child Development Center

Summer volunteer tasks may not be glamorous, but they are truly appreciated. When the kids come back in August, they will have a clean and beautiful space to live, learn, and play.

 

Thank You for PWC