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Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches, Inc.

Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches Inc.
1712 Second Ave. North
Lake Worth, FL 33460-3210
Fax: 561-253-1370
Adopt-A-Family restores families in crisis to stability and self-sufficiency by providing access to all-encompassing services for families with children.

Wendy Tippett, Executive Director

Other Sites:
1736 Lake Worth Road
Lake Worth, FL 33460

1255 10th Street
Lake Park, FL 33403

Adopt-A-Family of the Palm Beaches, Inc. ; Programs.Name: Project Uplift (LW) (RB) ; FirstName: Wendy ; LastName: Tippett ; Title: Executive Director ; StreetAddr: 1712 2nd Avenue North ; City: Lake Worth ; Zip: 33460 ; Phone: (561) 253-1361 ; FundingGroup.Name: Family and Community Partnership ; Text40: (561) 253-1370.

September 10, 2007; Palm Beach Post; Project Grow offers hope to low-income, homeless students; by Susan R. Miller.

A place for pupils to prosper

Janine Vazquez fled Puerto Rico last summer, away from her home, her family and an abusive relationship.

She and her children, ages 10 and 11, ended up in a homeless shelter in Palm Beach County with little more than the clothing on their back.

Project Grow is based at Adopt-A-Family's facility in Lake Worth. Eighty percent of the kids in the program are considered homeless.

Vazquez, 33, got a job and moved into transitional housing provided by Adopt-A-Family, a Lake Worth nonprofit. But she needed a safe place for her children to go when they weren't in school. That's where Project Grow stepped in.

One of eight programs offered by Adopt-A-Family, Project Grow is a neighborhood-based after-school program and summer camp for low-income and homeless children.

Every afternoon, Vazquez's daughter, Nashaly Diaz, boards the program's spanking-new white school bus for the short trip from Highland Elementary to Adopt-A-Family's two-story building. There, she and 60 other children from kindergarten to fifth grade grab a quick snack and get down to business.

On this day, the little ones are learning about the five senses. They are asked how a lollipop feels, tastes, smells and looks.

"Sticky," said one. "Pink," another chimes in.

Next door, another class is talking about bees and what they have in common with people.

"Do bees have a home?" asks the teacher, pointing to a picture of a hive. "Do you have a home?"

A few doors down, Nashaly and the older children are learning about Labor Day. They also use the few hours they are there to do their homework.

Project Grow began in 1992 as a small horticultural program for teenagers as a way to earn money. But over the years it has shifted its emphasis toward younger children in an effort to catch them early on, said Wendy Tippett, executive director of Adopt-A-Family.

The idea is to help these kids compete with other children who come from stable homes by exposing them to opportunities they otherwise might not experience. They learn about ballet, cultural drumming and have even taken day trips to Walt Disney World.

"When you are homeless, the last thing you think about is sending your kids to school," Tippett said. "It's how do you survive? What are you going to eat and where are you going to sleep that night?"

There are an estimated 1,800 homeless people in Palm Beach County, according to a county survey conducted earlier this year.

Eighty percent of the children in Project Grow are considered homeless. While they might not be living on the streets, they are living in Adopt-A-Family's 40-unit transitional housing. Ninety-eight percent come from single-parent homes.

Adopt-a-Family is able to run Project Grow for about $300,000 a year. That includes a full-blown summer camp, a spring camp, two weeks at Christmas and an end-of-the-year trip.

"Expensive, yes, but enhancing and enriching and making a difference in kids' lives, absolutely," Tippett said.

Since opening up to the entire community, not just Adopt-A-Family clients, about 18 months ago, Project Grow has experienced a much more diverse population, Program Manager Jaime Lee Bradshaw said.

"We've noticed that the majority of the community is made up of Guatemalan, Mayan and a large Hispanic population," Bradshaw said. "It's forcing us to change our focus."

They've also backed away from the idea that Project Grow is a place where kids came to sit down and do their homework, instead placing more of an emphasis on creating a love of learning and helping the children find their niche.

"I tell my kids all of the time that if you want to be successful, you need to go to school, but you have to like it," Bradshaw said.

Because the children often have a poor attendance record at school, many are behind at least one grade. But Project Grow is helping to reverse that. Tippett said that last year 92 percent of the kids in the program were able to go on to the next grade level.

They also teach parents how to interact with the school system and become an advocate for their children.

For parents like Vazquez, Project Hope has been a godsend. She has been able to quit her job and go back to school.

"Project Grow is the best environment for them to be in."

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