Partner Spotlight: D-Up

“I’m really excited about joining Ready Ready’s CQI cohort, “ said Jakki Davis, executive director of D-Up, a High Point-based nonprofit focused on helping youth and families. “We’ve done a great job of developing relationships and rapport with our families, but we want to do even better. CQI is going to help us better assess needs and build capacity.”

Ready Ready is excited to extend the opportunity and the funding to organizations like D-Up to join our Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) initiative. These selected organizations and their programs will play a central role, under Ready Ready’s guidance, in strengthening and enhancing the Ready Ready continuum of early childhood support services.

D-Up’s mission is to promote education, health, and life readiness to young children and their families. While its origins began in 2007 around combating childhood obesity through basketball, the organization quickly developed new programs to meet the community’s needs. Currently, the organization offers 16 programs ranging from pre-K to afterschool care, sports, dance, summer camps, college preparation, and adult classes like financial literacy.

“When we started our nonprofit, the youngest children enrolled were age five,” Davis said. “After we came out of COVID, we realized we needed to go younger. Just this fall we started a pre-K pilot. We’ve eliminated barriers like transportation and are helping this first class of young students prepare for kindergarten three days a week.”

Davis says the nonprofit’s move to a building on Washington Street in High Point served as a catalyst for reaching more families. So much so that word of mouth keeps the programs, afterschool care, and summer camp full and with a developing waitlist. D-Up is on the cusp of launching a capital campaign to enlarge its facility, increasing its ability to serve students from around 50 to 170. That’s one reason why learning to build additional capacity through Ready Ready’s CQI initiative is so attractive.

“We pride ourselves on the family connections,” Davis said. “Every parent wants their child to thrive and we want to be there to help them. We want to be their bridge to whatever it is they need to ensure that they thrive.”

Partner Spotlight: YWCA Emergency Family Shelter

The YWCA Greensboro Emergency Family Shelter offers housing, food, case management, and support for families experiencing homelessness.

“We house men and women with children,” said Tiffany Dumas, the family shelter director. “Families can stay here 30, 60, or 90 days. Each family’s progress looks a little bit different, but the ultimate goal is to help them transition into permanent supportive housing.”

The shelter can house up to seven families or 20-30 individuals. Families may need help with child care, mental health, or other needs, so Dumas says the shelter works closely with other agencies and organizations to support them.

Twice-monthly community meetings with families and shelter family advocate staff keep the lines of communication open. “It’s a place where families have a voice,” Dumas said. “It’s a place where we can talk together about programs, activities, needs, and resources.” 

Dumas credited Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) and its Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) training with helping shelter staff view their program through a new lens. The organization was part of Ready Ready’s second CQI cohort that wrapped up its nine-month sessions in March 2023. “It was so informative to hear from other agencies as we went through the CQI modules,” she said.

 Dumas describes an “aha” moment around how CQI could help the shelter measure client satisfaction on issues from cleanliness to programming to family resources. “It’s all about improvement. It’s all about expectations,” she said. “Our staff understands that survey answers aren’t punitive, and families understand that their honest answers aren’t a barrier to their stay.”

The survey asks clients to rate areas such as the cleanliness of their room at arrival, the overall experience at entry, the intake and orientation process, meals, safety, family activities, and other resources. Dumas said their answers help staff address issues, identify needs, and gain insight into ways to improve. Importantly, the survey also highlights areas of excellence. 

“I’m able to tell our CEO and board of directors where we are ranked highly and offer ideas about how we can prioritize new ideas the survey reveals,” Dumas said. “It really is imperative. I feel like every organization should do CQI.”

Partner Spotlight: Child First – Family Service of the Piedmont

For more than 80 years, Family Service of the Piedmont (FSP) has been empowering individuals and families to resource hope, achieve stability and thrive through quality support services, advocacy, and education.

“It’s better to build a healthy child than repair a broken adult,” said Andrea Huckabee, FSP family support division director. “The work we are doing with Child First is a comprehensive and holistic approach to helping families in our community.”

Since June 2022, FSP has offered Child First in Guilford County. It is an evidence-based program based on scientific research that tells us early trauma and adversity lead to biological changes in young children that damage their brains and metabolic systems – which leads to long-term problems in mental health, learning, and physical health.

“The community has been very supportive of offering preventive services like Child First,” said Huckabee. “When we can offer help to families with young children – birth through age five – we can help the caregivers become healthier parents and break cycles of abuse and neglect or offer actionable steps children need to thrive.”

“Early brain development is a crucial time for good mental health in the family,” said Abrianna Trower, Child First clinical supervisor. “Working with multiple generations, we frequently find young parents with children who are living with their parents. We can work with up to three caregivers, so it may be a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, or an uncle; we can redefine what the definition of a family is and focus on support for the child or children.”

Huckabee and Trower mention that making a connection with the caregivers is critical to the success of Child First. “Since we are in their homes, we can see dynamics in action and practice hands-on solutions,” Trower said. “We can also push into child care centers or the school system to help children with services they need to succeed. So we are preparing them to better function in the school and community.”

Families they work with may also work with other providers like speech therapists, occupational therapists, or nurses. The Child First team can consult with them all to provide wraparound care.

Trower said parents benefit from these services as well, learning how to advocate for their children early in their school careers. “We had a child in our program whose behaviors may have prevented them from attending school. But now they are in school, they are flourishing, and we’re getting ready to discharge them from the program. A graduation of a sort. Successes like this inspire us to keep going.”

Partner Spotlight: Child First

Child First helps families build strong, nurturing relationships that heal and protect young children from the devastating impact of trauma and chronic stress. The program uses a two-generation approach, providing mental health services to parents and children through home visits and connecting them with resources, information, and support to make healthy child development possible.

“We use a team approach to help caregivers and their children ages 0-5. The caregiver isn’t always a biological parent, and sometimes it’s multiple caregivers,” said Anita Faulkner, LCMHCS and Family Solutions owner. “In many cases, there are kinship care placements. Many of the children we serve have parents who are incarcerated or may not be available due to substance abuse or other factors, and they have many different housing situations.”

Family Solutions is one of two host agencies in Guilford County for Child First. The other is Family Service of the Piedmont. Each agency has four teams of clinicians and a supervisor, so there are 18 new staff members focused on this issue, according to Faulkner. “Our teams have trained together since we began the program in June 2022. I think it’s an excellent example of community collaboration and how Ready for School, Ready for Life is bringing local organizations together to meet these gaps in services,” Faulkner said.

Science clearly shows that the early childhood years lay the foundation for later economic productivity, responsible citizenship, sound mental health, cognitive development, and physical health. According to the Child First website, high-risk environments of extreme poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness, and other factors lead to toxic levels of stress that are harmful to young brains.

Because Child First focuses on two generations, the program begins with a series of assessments for the child and caregiver. “We help them understand their own trauma histories and their own stressors. It gives them insight into what they have been through and helps us set strategies to address behavior issues and deepen the relationships between a child and caregiver,” Faulkner said.

The program has two aims: to decrease the stress the family experiences by connecting them to the resources, support, and information they need and to provide parent-child psychotherapy to repair the impact of trauma on the child and strengthen the caregiving relationship.

“Because we are a home-visiting program, we realize it’s something big to let someone into your home and open up about issues your family faces,” Faulkner said. “We are helping families get to a place where they can make a positive change. Our resource partners help us with housing, furniture, food, clothing, and child care, for example. The resources are always changing, and we work together to ensure families have what they need.”

Partner Spotlight: GuilfordWorks

GuilfordWorks is a public-private organization that helps businesses with various workforce needs, such as locating, screening, selecting, or training workers. In turn, enabling job seekers and employees to gain employment and the skills they need to earn a living wage. Executive Director Dr. Danielle Harrison explains that while the City of Greensboro is technically her employer, the organization offers services throughout Guilford County.

“We offer various services to career seekers and employers,” Harrison said. “Our career centers help connect the workforce with career and educational opportunities, offer career advice and candidate resources, including free resume feedback and makeovers. For employers, we provide talent engagement services, employer training, and incentives for that training. It’s a workforce ecosystem.”

GuilfordWorks recognizes that creating skilled and successful workers starts early. In 2022, the organization launched the NCWorks Emerging Workforce Career Center in downtown Greensboro. “This center is designed for 16- to 24-year-olds,” Harrison said. “We all know that people, especially our younger populations, learn based on experiences. If we expose our young adults to career information and teach them the life skills they need, they will be more successful when they enter the workforce.”

Harrison said COVID-19 impacted these younger workers – due to the isolation, anxieties, and other stresses the pandemic imposed. “We are focused on their social-emotional development and health,” she said.

GuilfordWorks has many community partners, such as Guilford County Schools, Guilford Technical Community College, and the Department of Health and Human Services, to name just a few, to support workers holistically.

“For us to understand the workforce and be impactful, we have to connect the dots,” Harrison said. “Some career seekers may need help with child care, so we can link them with the Department of Social Services to provide vouchers. We can connect them to the United Way of Greater Greensboro’s Family Success Center, which offers job education assistance and child care. We do a lot of barrier elimination work to help people find employment and create their own success.”

GuilfordWorks is a member of Ready Ready’s Continuous Quality Improvement Cohort II. Learn more.

Partner Spotlight: Thriving at Three

Thriving at Three, a program of the Center for New North Carolinians, assures that Latino/Hispanic immigrant children in Greensboro have a positive and strong foundation from birth to age three.

“We want to assure that these families have the help and support they need to help their children develop healthy and positively,” said Thriving at Three Coordinator Grecia Navarro. “We offer home visits, case management, parent education, and group meetings, and we can also refer families to other programs and organizations as needed.”

Three children playing in a daycare settingThriving at Three works with about 40 families each year, assessing their children’s developmental status with the Ages & Stages Questionnaire. Some parents receive the Crianza con Cariño Curriculum to increase their knowledge of child development and parent-child interaction.

“We recognize that if we provide developmental, emotional, and social support early in a child’s life, it will create a long impact to help the child do well in school and in life,” Navarro said.

Thriving at Three is part of Ready for School, Ready for Life’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II. Navarro and another team member began the work with Ready Ready in fall 2022.

“CQI has definitely helped me visualize the changes and improvements I’m able to make for our program to ensure that we are providing the best quality and work for our participating families. Having the time to reflect and evaluate our program helps us recognize our strengths and weaknesses,” Navarro said.

Navarro said another takeaway from the CQI process is examining how Thriving at Three collects data and what kind of data it needs in order to grow and improve. “It’s definitely very impactful and beneficial.”

Partner Spotlight: Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro

The Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro’s mission is to promote women’s self-reliance by assessing needs, providing services, and acting as a gateway to community resources.

“When we started our agency in 1995, we wanted to help women in our community connect to the plethora of resources we have in Greensboro and Guilford County. There are so many options that people don’t know about, or if they are eligible for services, or even what the services are,” said Ashley Brooks, executive director.

Currently, the Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro offers programs such as free legal advice in consultation with an attorney, job searching and networking services, community resource counseling, and education workshops on topics such as budgeting, credit repair, emotional well-being, first-time homebuying, and applying for social security.

“We also do landlord-tenant rights, health care, and planning for all stages of life,” Brooks said. “With just six staff members, we partner with professionals in our community who volunteer their time and talents with women seeking financial literacy, legal advice, resume assistance, and more!”

During the pandemic, the center offered its services virtually, with meetings via zoom and other resources. Now it has returned to in-person consultations and workshops. “It’s so different when we can sit down and talk to a woman and help her map out a plan,” said Brooks. “Nothing beats having somebody sit with you and figure out why you need assistance, how to get it, and even how to make it better for your family next month.”

The Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro is part of Ready for School, Ready for Life’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II. It’s a team-based process of collecting, analyzing, and using data to improve service quality.

“We’ve been excited to have this opportunity,” Brooks said. “We’re learning how far we are already in the process and how much of this work we’ve been doing without the right language to explain it.”

Brooks said that the CQI process is helping their staff better measure their outcomes, figure out better ways to attract clients and volunteers, and understand how the women they serve use their services or which barriers they may face so the organization can overcome them.

“There are many changes we’re making. They’re good changes and timely ones,” Brooks said. “And ultimately, everyone on our staff is on board and understanding it. CQI has been so helpful.”

Partner Spotlight: Room At The Inn

Room At The Inn is a comprehensive program that helps homeless, single, and pregnant women with or without previous children. The organization provides shelter, food, clothing, case management, in-house daycare, transportation, life skills education, and more.

“We have two main goals, which are the healthy birth of the baby and for them to find stable housing when they leave,” said Marianne Donadio, vice president of marketing and development. “Some of them have additional goals such as getting a driver’s license, a GED, or other skills, so we help them with their needs.”

During their stay at Room At The Inn, the expectant parents work towards their goals each week. Up to six pregnant people and up to four children can live at the center, according to state regulations.

“We also have a house next door, Amy’s House, that we use for mothers who’ve graduated but who want to complete their education. We provide child care and housing for them while they work on their degree,” Donadio said. “As you can imagine, having a bachelor’s degree is significant and allows parents to plan to support their family in the years ahead.”

Whether a short-term or long-term stay, Room At The Inn, all residents can participate in an aftercare program. For some, it’s just the first few months, but others stay in touch for years after they move out on their own.

“We want them to remain stable,” Donadio said. “So whether we offer a child care scholarship that fills in the gaps while they wait for vouchers, a short-term small financial loan if they’ve been sick and had to miss work, or material assistance with formula, clothes, or groceries, it’s enough to keep them going.”

Room At The Inn is part of Ready for School, Ready for Life’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II. “The environment is continuously changing, and what may have worked when we opened our doors in 2001 may have shifted. Having been through COVID-19 has been a big example of that. Our CQI partnership with Ready Ready will help us improve our processes and more efficiently accomplish our goals.”

Partner Spotlight: The Barnabas Network

You have probably heard about food banks, but what about a furniture bank? The Barnabas Network is a nonprofit furniture bank based right here in Guilford County.

“Barnabas started in 2005 as a grassroots response to natural disasters,” said Judy Caldwell, The Barnabas Network’s marketing and development manager. “Local faith groups, community-minded volunteers, and other organizations realized there was a gap in services here for folks starting over, resettling, fleeing violence, transitioning out of homelessness, or breaking the cycle of poverty.” The next year, the organization gained nonprofit status.

Caldwell noted that while service agencies were helping to find stable housing, furnishing these living spaces was frequently beyond a family’s means. “Today, we serve more than 2,700 people a year – about 800 to 1,000 families.”

The Barnabas Network collects new and gently-used furniture, about 8,000 pieces a year, from donors in the community. “We honor your well-loved items, those pieces of furniture that have reached the end of the road in your home but still have a lot of life left in them. We share them to help make a house a home for someone who is starting over.”

The Barnabas Network is moving into a new strategic planning phase of its work and has partnered with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) as part of its Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II.

“We have bold visions in terms of expanding and becoming a national model and believe the work we’re doing with Ready Ready’s CQI process will help us capture the metrics around the impact we’re having. We were so thrilled to be chosen.” Caldwell said. “We have anecdotal evidence and some metrics to capture the impact, but having more data will help us become a teaching model for furniture banks in the United States and around the globe.”

Partner Spotlight: Out of the Garden Project

Out of the Garden Project began as a family project to help solve food insecurity for six to ten families at Morehead Elementary School fourteen years ago. Now each month, more than 800 volunteers collect food, sort it in the warehouse, create packages for families, and deliver packages to schools and other locations.

Additionally, more than 3,000 families in the Piedmont-Triad are served each month through the organization’s Fresh Mobile Markets – free mobile food pantries that distribute about 65 pounds of fresh produce, bread, meat, and shelf-stable items to families in more than 25 locations in Guilford and neighboring counties. The markets are for families with children 0-18 years of age who must qualify to receive the food.

“It’s literally like a grocery store on wheels,” said Executive Director and President Don Milholin. “We want to help the whole person, the whole family. It’s a chance for people to have dignity in having food they can take home and gather around their table.”

In addition to the Fresh Mobile Markets and a 17,500-foot warehouse at The Church on 68, Out of the Garden has created a shared-use kitchen so food entrepreneurs can make low-risk packaged food to sell and an urban teaching farm. Originally located in downtown Greensboro, the farm has moved to McCleansville, where more crop acreage is available. A USDA grant for innovation will allow the organization to increase its harvest, which will be sold to create more funding for the organization and its projects.

Out of the Garden partners with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) in several ways, but the most recent is participation in our Continuous Quality Improvement process.

“We’re excited about the CQI process and just getting started in the work,” said Beth Crise, director of development and operations, “We’re thinking about how we can put policies and procedures in place at the urban teaching farm to improve communication and become more and more successful. We can also streamline volunteer operations in our warehouse to rotate food in and out more efficiently to better serve families.”

“We believe we’re the most influential food partnership in the Piedmont and the largest non-governmental agency not affiliated directly with Feeding America in the area,” Milholin said. “Our mission isn’t just to give out food. Our mission is to provide stepping stones out of poverty.”

Out of the Garden will soon open a store at The Market Shoppes on Sandy Ridge Road to sell produce grown at the urban teaching farm. “We’re growing cabbage collards, raising chickens to sell eggs, and planting strawberries for next spring,” Milholin said. “We’re focused on creating a community where no one goes hungry.”