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September is Hunger Action Month

September is Hunger Action Month

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Did you know that 1 in 6 people struggle to get enough to eat? What about the fact that food insecurities are particularly harmful to children?

Many people think hunger is directly influenced by poverty. Although related, food insecurity and poverty are not the same. Poverty in the United States is only one of many factors associated with food insecurity. In fact, higher unemployment, lower household assets, and certain demographic characteristics also lead to a lack of access to adequate, nutritious food.

In the United States today, 15 million children face hunger. Consequently, one in five kids are facing greater obstacles to reaching their fullest potential. The future of America lies in our children. When hunger threatens the future of a child, it threatens the future of our nation as well.

Food insecurity is harmful to all people, but it is particularly devastating to children due to their increased vulnerability and the potential for long-term consequences. Proper nutrition is critical to a child’s development. Not having enough of the right kinds of food can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, academic achievement and future economic prosperity. Unfortunately, food insecurity is an obstacle that threatens that critical foundation. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2012, 15.9 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life

While hunger has no boundaries, it does impact some communities more than others. African Americans are more than twice as likely to suffer from food insecurity as their white, non-Hispanic counterparts. The Latino population in the United States has nearly doubled in the past decade and continues to grow. Currently, Latino and African American communities are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, poverty and unemployment.

According to a 2012 study, there are 807,960 people in South Carolina who face food insecurity, 292,840 of those are children. As a state, 28% of children do not know when or what their next meal will be. Right here in Columbia 20% of children go hungry.

But there are ways you can help. Palmetto Place become home to some of these hungry children. In addition to providing a save shelter, and clothing we also feed 20 kids three times a day. On a weekly basis we use 7 gallons of milk, 30 pieces of chicken, 5 boxes of cereal and sometimes more than 15 boxes of after school snacks. The best way you can help during Hunger Action Month is by picking up gift cards next time you are at the store. Our house parents shop at local grocery stores during the week to make sure our kids get fresh meat, fruits, and veggies. So, next time you go grocery shopping, keep Palmetto Place on your list.

September is Hunger Action Month

For more information on hunger check out these fact sheets-

Hunger and Poverty Face Sheet

Child Hunger Fact Sheet

African American Hunger Fact Sheet

Latino Hunger Fact Sheet

What Does Home Feel Like?

“The known smells, sounds, sights, and feel of home let our brains relax and rejuvenate. It's a key part of why 'There's no place like home.'” When I saw this tweet from Amelia Franck Meyer (@alfranckmeyer), can you guess the first thing that came to mind?

If you know me, you know my mind went to the smell of food. My very first thought was of the smell of bacon as I walk into Palmetto Place in the morning. Ms. Matilda and Ms. LaConte cook some great breakfasts and the bacon smell is a great way to start the morning.

Amelia knows what she’s talking about – she knows kids and she knows kids who’ve experienced trauma. She’s the CEO of Anu Family Services in Wisconsin and Minnesota and a guru at well-being for kids and taking care of kids who are in out-of-home care, just like our kids. When she speaks, I listen, because what she says is important and crucial for the right care of kids who’ve experienced trauma.

So, let’s talk about the five senses of home.

 

Smell

Bacon in the mornings! And laundry - the almost nonstop smell of laundry. I love that clean smell!

 

Sound

I can mark the time in the afternoons by the sound of the kids on the basketball court. It means they’re home from school. It means I get to take a work break and go play for a few minutes and see how the day was at school. It’s 15 minutes that I can connect with kids as they unwind. I will always remember one particular middle schooler who started playing at exactly 3:45 every day all by himself. It was his way to relax and think through the day. I learned a lot from him.

 

Sight

Endless smiles. That’s what comes to mind. We have smiles in the mornings before school! Okay, truth – that’s mostly elementary school kids. Middle schoolers, well, they’re a little grumpy. High schoolers, they’re so independent that they’re just out the door. If you have kids, you know!

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There’s a lot to see at Palmetto Place. There are older kids helping younger kids, houseparents and volunteers helping kids with homework or playing games or reading. To walk through the house on any given afternoon is a treat. It is a house buzzing with activity. It is kids being kids.

 

Taste

Ask the kids and they will tell you their favorite foods! Ms. Gloria’s spaghetti, Ms. Jenny’s baked chicken, Ms. Betty’s shrimp fried rice, Ms. Jill’s Christmas Eve dinner and on and on and on. Ask kids and adults who once lived at Palmetto Place and they’ll have their own memories of food they loved.

 

Touch

A wise friend taught me something very smart years ago. Hugs, high fives and handshakes. As her kids enter her classroom each morning, they get to choose one. I borrowed this from her – that’s the highest form of flattery, right?

Hugs, high fives and handshakes are what all kids need, but especially kids who’ve experienced trauma, abuse, neglect. I’m a big fan of a hug. I hug every kid who wants a hug. New kids who’ve just arrived at Palmetto Place are understandably standoffish at first. Who is this woman and these other adults and all these kids who want to be my friend? Who can I trust? And after a day or so, after they’ve seen other kids give hugs, then they want in on the hugs and the high fives! That first hug is always a little hesitant. But then it becomes a giant group hug.

Touch. It’s how kids learn to connect with others. It’s a part of learning to trust. It’s a part of accepting love.

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Since it’s the first week of school, there are other parts of the sense of touch on my mind too. The feel of those brand new shoes. Carrying a brand new backpack to school. Writing with a newly sharpened pencil on that smooth new composition notebook. Everyone's new haircuts! Thank you InnerSole, FiA Midlands, AFLAC, TD Bank and many others for providing shoes, school supplies and much more!)

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Do you see a pattern? All of these memories through senses – they are the feel of home. And there’s no place like home. When home isn’t a safe place, there is Palmetto Place.

~ Erin Hall, Executive Director

Snow Days

We’re snowed in again! Our 20 kids love it – just like your kids do! But it takes a lot of preparation to get ready. A few of you have asked what our plan is and we thought you’d all like to know.

Here’s how the average week works -

We keep our large storage freezer full of food at all times – chicken fingers, pizzas, French fries, sweet potato tater tots, lasagnas, other frozen entrees. Plus our pantry has huge cans of fruit, green beans and other vegetables, spaghetti and sauce, mac and cheese, oatmeal, grits, granola bars, snacks and more. We can pull from this storage and pantry as needed for each day's meals.

Then every few days, we make a grocery store trip for eggs, milk, cheese, bread, fresh vegetables, lettuce for salads, bananas, apples, oranges, juice.

Sounds just like your shopping trips, right? Yes! But for 20 kids!

So when bad weather comes our way, we load the two freezers in the shelter house with everything we can think of. We make an extra trip to the grocery store for all of those fresh items plus bottled water. This time around, we’ve planned for being snowed in for three to four days.

It’s quite the assembly line from the storage freezer in our back office to the freezers in the house – perfect job for our teens to help with!

Then we load in toilet paper, paper towels, plates, cups, plastic forks and spoons, bath soap, shampoo and toothpaste. Again – just making sure we’re prepared for anything!

The shelter vans get full tanks of gas. Flashlights are loaded with new batteries. The Xbox and Wii controllers are also loaded with new batteries – gotta keep the kids entertained!

We put boxes of salt in the house to sprinkle on the front steps and walk. This time around, the salt task was given to a very responsible teenager who will want a project.

And how about our staff? On a normal day, houseparents who work 6 am to 2 pm, 2 pm to 10 pm and 10 pm to 6 am. The overnight staff don’t sleep – they’re up doing laundry, checking on kids throughout the night and cleaning.

But in weather situations like this one, all bets are off! Our houseparents pack overnight bags just in case they can’t get out. We have houseparents on standby in case someone can’t get in to work. We brought extra pillows, blankets and quilts in to the house for houseparents who might be staying much longer than a normal eight-hour shift.

So what’s happening today? Tuesday’s afternoon houseparents arrived with overnight bags packed for a few days. They worked their shift, communicated with other houseparents and made the smart decision to stay put at Palmetto Place – for their own safety and for the safety of other houseparents. They took turns sleeping last night and they were up this morning making breakfast and starting a snow day with the kids!

Our kids are so lucky to have houseparents like these – the dedication is admirable.

Now we are just hoping the ice isn’t bad and the power stays on. Never fear, we have a plan for that as well.

Thanks for all your thoughts and concerns! The next time you see our houseparents, please tell them thank you for spending their snow days at Palmetto Place with our big house full of kids!

 

 

Christmas is Coming!

If you're having Christmas for 20 kids, you have to start early! We've already had many calls and emails about ways to volunteer, so we've developed a list of opportunities and needs for our kids and for the shelter. Christmas is a very fun time at Palmetto Place, but also a difficult time as our kids are missing their families. Each of our kids writes a Christmas wish list and we match families and groups who want to "adopt" them for Christmas gifts. We hope you'll find an opportunity on our list that fits with what you'd like to do. Thank you for being involved and making sure our kids have the best Christmas ever!

Christmas Opportunities List 2013

**Update: we are so fortunate that all of our kids have been "adopted" for Christmas gifts. We hope you'll find something else on our Christmas list that interests you. Gift cards are always a great option for our kids who arrive at Palmetto Place a few days before Christmas.

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If you'd like to make a gift in someone's honor or memory for the holidays, please email us at admin@palmettoplaceshelter.org. Let us know some details about the gift you'd like to make and the person in who's honor you are giving. We'll kindly send a letter of honorarium to the person or their family and share our Palmetto Place story with them.

We are so grateful for the generosity of our supporters and extended Palmetto Place family, but ask that you kindly not bring toys, sweets, candy, etc. without first contacting us.

We strive to balance the kindness of those who show love to our residents with the knowledge that Christmas without family can be very difficult and emotional for our kids. We try not to overwhelm them--or set false expectations for future holidays--by ensuring that each child's gifts are provided through holiday "adoption." If you would like to "adopt" a child for Christmas gifts, please contact Erin.

We must also limit our visitors on Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day, but welcome volunteers through our Sunday Suppers program. For more information, or to schedule a meal, please contact  admin@palmettoplaceshelter.org.

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Sweat the Small Stuff

The saying goes – don’t sweat the small stuff. But at Palmetto Place, we think the opposite. We do sweat the small stuff because sometimes that’s what matters to our kids. Quick – what does your child’s bed look like right this moment? Fun sheets with matching comforter, matching pillowcases? Maybe a stuffed animal or two? Colors that match the room? A theme? Even for myself and my lovely yellow and white paisley comforter, I take that for granted.

A volunteer recently donated two matching pink fairy comforters and sheet sets that her very young daughters had outgrown. You want to guess who got that bedding? My two 13-year-old girls who had never had anything pink on their beds. They’d never had something pretty, with fairies! Something that matched!

Sweat the small stuff.

Two brothers were struggling to come to terms with their parents’ actions after both parents were jailed. Our counselor Jill worked with them to list what their parents did really well – good things. The top of the list? Dad made really good oatmeal. That was their memory of their dad. You can bet that those boys will remember that oatmeal for the rest of their lives.

Sweat the small stuff.

When your family goes out to eat, do your kids order off the menu? Do they understand how to read the menu? Not all kids can do that. This past week, I took a teenager to eat at Lizard’s Thicket. Who doesn’t love a meat and three? He didn’t know how to read the menu. He can read, but he had no idea what a “side” was. Or how to pick a salad dressing. He was embarrassed to tell me that he hadn’t eaten at a restaurant in several years.

Sweat the small stuff.

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Christmas at Palmetto Place

Happy New Year! I hope 2013 has begun on a positive, happy note for you. I thought I’d share Palmetto Place’s Christmas holiday with you today. First let me say that Christmas for 15 kids is quite a feat, one that we couldn’t possibly pull off by ourselves. It truly takes a village to provide gifts for that many kids. We have a wonderful group of families, churches and business who “adopt” each of our residents for Christmas gifts.

Each resident writes a letter to Santa and that is an adventure in and of itself! Just like your own kids, some of ours have rather lofty Christmas wishes, like TVs, laptops, etc. We help them come up with more reasonable gifts. Other kids just ask for a visit with their families at Christmas. One teenager had only one item in her letter to Santa: contact lens solution. We didn’t even know she wore contacts until we read the letter! Needless to say, she had contact lens solution immediately.

We include clothing and shoe sizes on every resident’s wish list because so many kids arrive at Palmetto Place with so few clothes and usually only one pair of shoes.

Keep in mind that our kids can come and go at a moment’s notice – so we have to be quick on our feet and we keep a list of “emergency” Santas who can help find Christmas gifts for kids who come into our care at the last minute. This happens every single year. This year, three kids arrived three days before Christmas. The magic of Christmas – and the power of volunteers – is that all three of those kids had a pile of gifts by Christmas Day.

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It’s so much fun for us to see our volunteer Santas bringing in the Christmas gifts that they have so thoughtfully purchased and wrapped specially for our kids. It’s incredibly emotional for all of us – knowing that some kids have never written a letter to Santa and some kids aren’t used to having presents to open on Christmas morning. And, yet, a huge list of volunteers who don’t necessarily know these kids mobilize each year to make Christmas happen. That’s just plain magic to me and I’m grateful for each and every one of you who helped.

Outside of gifts, 15 kids have to be occupied when they are out of school for holiday break! Again, here come volunteers. A group of teachers came on Christmas Eve to bake cookies with the kids. The South Carolina Honors College put on a Christmas concert. TD Bank made hot chocolate and read Christmas stories. Riverland Hills Baptist Church helped the kids make Christmas ornaments. Kathwood Baptist Church brought dinner on the first day of vacation. Aeropostale brought teddy bears for each kid. A family collected Christmas pajamas for each child and brought Christmas Dinner; another collected Christmas socks. Dr. Pierce Butler delivered breakfast the day after Christmas, and a former board member brought Chinese food one night. The list goes on …

On Christmas Eve, Jill (our counselor) and I made dinner for the kids – a treat for the kids AND for us. We made all “mini” food – mini pizzas, mini quiches, etc. One teen girl helped Jill make pizzas and another took charge of making punch and serving it to everyone. A very fun way to spend Christmas Eve.

But, of course, the best part is Christmas morning. We all agreed on 7 am as the earliest they could get up. 15 bright shining faces came out of six bedrooms at 7 am. It’s truly amazing to watch their faces – “Santa really did come!”,  “Santa really does know where I am – he found me and brought me presents!” They are so grateful and appreciative – and so surprised that Santa knew what they wanted.

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I think my favorite moment on Christmas Day was the 15-year-old girl who asked for a giant Mickey Mouse doll. While she was very happy about the clothes and gift cards she received, the Mickey Mouse is what made her Christmas the best ever. I suspect that she had wanted that Mickey Mouse doll for a very long time and had never gotten it. Magic.

If you have any doubts about Santa or about the true meaning of Christmas, Palmetto Place will restore your faith. Watching the kids on Christmas Day makes me want to work harder, bring in more funding and introduce more people to our mission and our kids. Thanks for all you do for us to make Christmas a joyous day.

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