CharityScenes: What’s the mission of the Family Focus Associate Board?
Kelsey Miklos: The mission of our Associate Board is to generate awareness for Family Focus and its programs in the Chicagoland area. We do so by hosting fundraising events, and events to benefit the participants at the Family Focus centers, such as our Holiday Toy Drive and Holiday Party. We also aim to help connect young professionals with other socially conscious individuals, and provide the opportunity for professional and personal growth.
CS: How does the Family Focus mission differ from that of other early childhood organizations?
KM: Family Focus’ mission is to nurture children by strengthening families. Our programs are aimed to assist our communities by helping them to become better parents and confident caregivers for their children. We’re different because our programs are different. Our home visits are the bread and butter of how we help our participants learn more about how to be more effective parents. We work with them to recognize their child’s developmental milestones andto stimulate their child’s growth within their culture and traditions. In addition to working at home, our participants have a support system at our centers, which double as community gathering places. Not only do Associate Board members get to help support Family Focus fiscally through fundraising, but by also working directly with our participants at the centers. Seeing the people you are aiming to work for creates a much deeper connection.
CS: What kind of personal commitment do the Associate Board members make?
KM: We ask that our members attend our monthly Associate Board meetings and participate in committee communications outside of regular meetings, and assist in planning and running our events each year. In addition to our fundraising events, we encourage our board members to achieve a minimum give/get amount per fiscal year, though most board members shoot well beyond that.
CS: It sounds like the board members are really dedicated to the mission, then! Why do you think they are so successful in their personal fundraising?
KM: I think our members are so great about shooting past their expectations because they know that the services that Family Focus provides are very important and really do make a huge difference. In the changing world of social services, they understand that what they do matters and are very dedicated to making sure that we can continue to provide the quality programs we do. Several of our Associate Board members have been around since the very beginning and their passion for Family Focus is truly impressive. After only joining Family Focus’ staff three months ago, I was pleasantly shocked at the level of dedication. All of them have very busy jobs but their passion and work for the a-board never changes.
CS: What are some of the most meaningful experiences your board members have had through their service?
KM: The annual Holiday Party and Toy Drive is a favorite for many of our Associate Board members. For many of our participants, these parties are the only holiday celebrations they will get to experience. Being able to provide a cheerful holiday experience for our participants where not only can the children have fun, but the parents can enjoy spending the time with their kids, is amazing to see.
Our Associate Board President, Adriana Urdaneta Camachoheld a focus group with some of the participants last year to learn how to improve the event. This is just one great example of how our a-board gets to work directly with the people they’re fundraising for. She had this to say about how it went and why it was particularly rewarding:
“Our focus group with moms was great. We had about 5 moms who participated in last year’s toy drive and holiday party, who we got together to get feedback on what worked and what we could improve from last year. From their feedback, we have planned a more organized event with a wider range of activities in a bigger space, worked with the center to include a performance from the kids, and hired a local DJ to provide music. They shared their experiences of homelessness—one mom shared her story of moving into her first apartment around the holidays last year, and not being able to afford gifts for her children—and how Family Focus has had an important role in supporting them and helping them get their life on track.”
CS: How wonderful to have the opportunity to forge direct connections with the organizations’ participants! With the holiday season coming up, can you tell us more about these two events?
KM: I’d be happy to! The Toy Drive benefits our Lawndale center. We collected wish lists from participants and then entered their wish list items in an Amazon Wish List so that anyone can purchase items for the kids. The items will be sent us where they will be wrapped and given to the participants in the latter half of December. The Toy Drive is entirely an a-board project, which is nice for the participants to not only get an extra gift—or for some, the only gifts—but it is an event that does not add more stress to the Lawndale staff thanks to the a-board.
We distribute the gifts at the Holiday Party, which is also held at Lawndale. This year the party will be on December 14th and we’re still looking for volunteers and food donations! The event will include a meal, holiday-themed games, dance and singing performances by some of the Lawndale participants, and music by DJ Rae Chardonnay, who teaches spinning classes to underprivileged kids in Chicago. If anyone is looking to get involved with volunteering at this event, they can contact me by email!
CS: Sounds like a great way for prospective members to get involved!
KM: It absolutely is!We are looking forward to growing in numbers in the coming year. Our board recently lost some members that had been with us for years, so we are looking forward to welcoming some new faces and new talent to our board. As we grow we would like to take on some larger projects, including more direct service with the centers.
CS: Excellent! How can someone reading this blog post get involved?
KM: Anyone interested can email me, Kelsey, at Kelsey.Miklos@Family-Focus.org for more information. I also encourage them to take a look at our website, Facebook (www.Facebook.com/FamilyFocus.org) and Twitter (@FamilyFocus_org) to learn more about what we do and our programs.