2019 COLGATE BRIGHT SMILES, BRIGHT FUTURES COMMUNITY IMPACT AWARD WINNER
The Junior League of Cedar Rapids
The Junior League of Cedar Rapids sprang into action upon discovering the harsh realities youth aging out of the foster care system face. The League found a need to teach skills to the youth, who are dramatically more at risk of exploitation, homelessness and addiction. They developed the Bridging the G.A.P project.
The G.A.P is a three-pronged strategy. G stands for Guiding youth to successful employment by teaching valuable life skills that increase employment opportunity; A stands for advocating for youth within the community by increasing awareness of their situation and communicating with legislature on state and local levels; and P stands for providing household items that youth who have aged out of the system need for independent living. Over the past seven years, this project has resulted in approximately 2500 meals served, 150 suitcases and 300 backpacks donated, 30 life skill-training courses and 20 events conducted to support this vulnerable population.
The Junior League of Cedar Rapids made their success more effective through collaboration, partnering with Families Helping Families, Foundation 2, Foster and Adoptive Family connections and the Iowa Department of Human Services. With their help, the Junior League of Cedar Rapids was able to provide incredible opportunities such as “Apartments in a Suitcase,” suitcases filled with household staples instead of the garbage bag of possessions many youth in the foster care system are given after aging out.
In 2018, Cedar Rapids members logged more than 1,500 direct project volunteer hours to this project; 110 individuals received scholarships through the League; and 150 lives were tangibly altered because of the efforts of the Cedar Rapids Junior League.