By Angela DeBoskey
For decades, United Way of Hancock County has been protecting vulnerable children through programs that provide safety, basic needs, health and wellness, and mentoring.
But we know that the challenges facing children are unique and ever changing.
School personnel, counselors, coaches and others who interact regularly with youth tell us that as we emerged from the pandemic, children’s mental and behavioral health showed up as immediate concerns. At the same time, we know that many children in our community don’t have enough to eat. Families are struggling to secure safe, reliable childcare, and some kids are adjusting to being raised by grandparents or other family members.
We launched the Vulnerable Children’s Initiative in 2021, dedicated to helping kids find a better path in life. Teachers play a key role, as do law enforcement, protective services and the faith community. And, of course, our partner agencies work year-round to make a difference for kids.
If you have resolved to get more involved in 2023, there is no shortage of organizations that could use your time and talents in their quest to help youth find a better path in life.
- CASA/GAL of Hancock County provides courtroom advocacy for over 250 kids each year. Specially trained volunteer CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates) are appointed by a judge to create a relationship with a child or a set of siblings and guide them through the court system to safe, permanent housing.
- Over 400 individuals with special needs — many of them youths — were connected to equine-assisted therapies at Challenged Champions Equestrian Center in 2022. Volunteers are needed to help lead horses and serve as side walkers as participants pursue cognitive, social and emotional improvements.
- Seventeen children were provided with 3,554 nights of safe, stable housing last year through Hope House. The agency regularly utilizes volunteers in its shelter office and elsewhere.
- Two hundred children were connected to resources and received help in walking through a traumatic event through the Center for Safe and Healthy Children in 2022. Volunteers are utilized for fundraising events, office help and board service.
- Children’s Mentoring Connected paired 275 youth, ages 6-18, with mentors in 2022. Volunteers are always needed for individual, group and school-based mentoring.
- In 2022, over 1,000 boys and girls participated in Scouting activities such as Exploring, Venturing, camp participation and more. Volunteers are often needed to help with mentoring or to serve as a group leader.
- Over 4,000 students completed age-appropriate domestic violence and sexual assault prevention education in the school system through Open Arms’ Child Victim Services program last year. Volunteers are needed at the shelter for grounds care, office tasks, cleaning and sanitizing visitation rooms, advocacy and more.
- The YMCA’s Feed-A-Child program distributed 2,000 lunches during the 2022 summer lunch program. In addition, nearly 600 youth are provided with meal bags every weekend during the school year. Volunteers are regularly needed to pack weekend meal bags.
If you have a heart for helping kids, explore the many volunteer opportunities on our website, www.uwhancock.org, or call us at 419-423-1432. By working collaboratively, we can Make a Difference for our youth.
DeBoskey is CEO of United Way of Hancock County.
(This guest column appeared in the Findlay Courier on Jan. 18, 2023.)