The Charles E. Lakin Human Services Campus is a place where all children and families in need can find assistance, resources and training to better enable them to become productive and contributing citizens. The campus is home to American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Club, Heartland Family Service, MICAH House, and The Salvation Army. The Campus, a separate non-profit, holds events throughout the year for the children and families and facilitates programs in the Outdoor Learning Oasis.
During this year's Omaha/Pottawattamie Gives event we want to focus on funding two specific programs that we have on Campus. The first program we are seeking funds for is our Back to School Extravaganza which occurs every August. This event is open to anyone in the community who has a student in kindergarten through 12th grade. During our event we provide students with a backpack and basic school supplies. Providing the basic supplies that students need can help ensure they start the school year off in the right direction. A unique aspect of our event is that we let the students walk through and pick out their own backpack and supplies, letting the students pick out their own supplies provides them the sense of ownership and makes them feel like they have a choice even though they may not have the means to shop at a local department store. In 2017 we provided backpacks and school supplies to 521 students from 33 different schools and 14 different school districts in Iowa. Funding we receive will directly help us purchase backpacks and supplies for this event. During our event we also invite agencies from the community to set up a table and share their information with families, this provides families an opportunity to engage and connect with programs and services in our community.
The second program we are seeking funding for is our Outdoor Learning Oasis. The Outdoor Learning Oasis is home to our campus garden and outdoor education space. The garden area of the Campus was built in 2011 and over the last several years has become a great source for fresh produce to be used in the kitchens on campus as well as provide an educational piece. In 2017 the garden produced 649 lbs. of produce that was used in the kitchen at MICAH House who serves 3 meals a day to their clients. In this space we were also able to facilitate gardening, food nutrition and cooking classes for the children at Boys and Girls Club during the summer months. In 2017 as we were working with the children we decided we wanted to be able to incorporate reaching more of the clients we serve from the very young to the adult. This year we are planning to open what we are calling out Outdoor Learning Oasis which will include a produce and a pollinator garden. Activities we will incorporate include a sensory area for the little ones, an outdoor music station, an art area and a spot for outdoor board games. With the support provided for this program we will be able to purchase seeds to plant fall crops, add fruit bearing trees, purchase new garden gloves and expand the outdoor learning activities we currently have for our children and families.
Together, as a Campus, we collaborate to provide lasting positive memories to children and their families experiencing difficult situations, these experiences can assist the healing and rebuilding process.
The Iowa West Foundation has generously provided $20,000 in Challenge Funds to be shared by participating nonprofits it recognizes as being based in or providing services in Pottawattamie County five days per week or more and meeting their funding criteria. These funds will be distributed based on donations coming from Pottawattamie County.