Students Receive Backpacks and School Supplies—and a Lesson About the Importance of Education at Leake & Watts’ Family Preventive Services Programs
THE BRONX, NY — September 15, 2016 — Something as simple as a festive barbecue can send a powerful message. That’s what happened on August 24th at Leake & Watts’ annual Back-to-School Barbecue for the children, parents, and guardians in its Preventive Services Programs in the East Bronx. The message was loud and clear: go to school and do your best, and use education as a steppingstone to a brighter future.
“Education is the best way for children to rise above adversity and achieve success,” explained Paul Martin, director of Preventive Services at Leake & Watts, an award-winning nonprofit agency that supports 11,000 children, adults, and families in the New York metropolitan area. “The children love to pick out their favorite backpacks, which have been stuffed with notebooks, pencils, crayons, and other supplies essential to doing schoolwork,” Martin said. “And that’s what we want. We want the children to look forward to school and feel they have everything they need to learn.”
Leake & Watts successfully helps families in the program, which supports families in crisis who are at risk of losing custody of their children, through counseling and getting them the resources they need. At the beginning of the school year, those resources include brand new backpacks and school supplies—items that most families in the program cannot afford.
Leake & Watts distributes the backpacks at a festive event to remind parents and guardians that they have to do everything they can to support their children’s educations. Unfortunately, one reason why families are referred to Leake & Watts is because parents cannot make sure their children attend school regularly. The Preventive Services Programs are designed to uncover what’s wrong, Martin said.
“Families can be overwhelmed with issues they cannot manage, such as a child’s special needs, a truant teen, domestic violence, or a parent’s mental illness or substance abuse behavior. Leake & Watts sends family therapists to the home to uncover the root causes of the dysfunction, and provide counseling using evidence-based models. Families learn healthy communication and positive parenting techniques,” Martin said. “And because our families face overwhelming day-to-day challenges such as poverty, our social workers connect families with resources such as housing, food subsidies, and other support as families work through the issues.”
The good news is that Leake & Watts succeeds in keeping 98% of families together. The Preventive Services Programs support more than 600 families a year, or about 900 children.
The barbecue, which featured games, raffle prizes, face painting, and a bouncy house, was held at the Leake & Watts East Bronx Family Services Center at 1529 Williamsbridge Road in the Westchester Square section of The Bronx. More than 120 families attended.
Hundreds of Backpacks Donated
Each year, Leake & Watts organizes a Backpack Drive campaign to make sure each of the students is equipped to learn. This year hundreds of backpacks were donated by a wide range of individuals and organizations, including Maggy Ames, Banana Republic, College of Mt. St. Vincent, Robert and Susan Davis, Demon Knights MC East, Direct Mail, Ernst & Young, FedEx Ground, Hall Capital Partners, Tamiko Kamara, the Lumaicuri Family, the Maloney Family, Ellen Polansky, Salon 42, Target in White Plains, and the United National Federal Credit Union.
“Donating a backpack is such a small thing to do, but it means the world to these children and their families,” explains Meredith Barber, senior director of institutional advancement at Leake & Watts. “This is more than just giving children backpacks and notebooks—it’s giving them hope that they can be successful in school and achieve great things. Every child deserves support to rise above adversity and succeed in life.”
About Leake & Watts
Founded as a Manhattan orphanage in 1831, Leake & Watts operates 43 programs serving more than 11,000 children, adults, and families at 27 sites in New York City and Westchester County. Programs include early childhood education, foster care and adoption, specialized education services, a home for teenage mothers in foster care, behavioral/mental health support services, and juvenile justice services. Leake & Watts also operates residences for adults with developmental disabilities and Preventive Services Programs to stabilize at-risk families so children can remain in their parents’ care.
Leake and Watts Services, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the Middle States Association, and the Better Business Bureau. It is the recipient of the New York Community Trust 2014 Gold Nonprofit Excellence Award for Overall Management Excellence. In 2015, the Nonprofit Finance Fund recognized the effectiveness of Leake & Watts’ services by awarding a coveted Change Capital Grant to the agency, and the Board of Directors of Leake & Watts was honored as a finalist for the 2016 Brooke W. Mahoney Award for Outstanding Board Leadership. The organization’s administrative offices are located in Yonkers. For more information, the public is invited to visit www.leakeandwatts.org, find it on Facebook www.facebook.com/leakeandwatts, and follow it on Twitter twitter.com/leakeandwatts.