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Archive for Monday, September 9, 2002

Program that helps children goes digital to expand resources for community

September 9, 2002

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Kristen Malloy likes to think of Lawrence-Douglas County Promise as an old-fashioned switchboard, where an operator connects calls from those in need with resources in the community.

On Tuesday, however, the initiative to serve area youth will leap into the digital age when it launches its new Promise Station, a Web site designed by the national America's Promise movement and customized for the Lawrence area.

"We are so excited," said Malloy, co-executive director of Partnership for Children and Youth, which oversees Lawrence-Douglas County Promise.

The official launch will occur during an 11:30 a.m. celebration at Sunflower Auditorium in Lawrence Memorial Hospital, 325 Maine. A noon luncheon will follow.

The Lawrence-Douglas County area has been an official Community of Promise  one of more than 600 nationwide  for a year and a half. In that time, 19 organizations, business and agencies have signed on as Promise Partners.

The goal of the initiative is to mobilize people from every segment of the community to strengthen the character and competence of youth by providing five fulfilled promises: caring adults, safe places, healthy start and future, effective education leading to marketable skills and an opportunity to give back through service.

The Web site will help accomplish that goal by letting people know about volunteer and donation opportunities, providing profiles of promise partners and their needs, suggesting ideas and actions that would fulfill the five promises and relaying success stories.

The biggest hurdle to sparking involvement in the initiative, Malloy said, has been people's misconception that they couldn't possibly make a difference.

"Even the thing that seems the smallest to them can have a tremendous impact if you apply it countywide," Malloy said.

Here's how it works:

An individual or group decides to become a Promise Partner. They draw up a formal promise, pledging time, talent or resources to benefit children or expand child programs already in the works. The office tracks the promise for three years and then re-evaluates it with the partner.

Ideally, Malloy said, Lawrence will become a seamless network of people and places committed to realizing the five promises for children.

"The idea is to take services to kids where they are instead of letting them come to us," Malloy said.

For example, if a librarian noticed that the same boy was coming to the library on winter evenings without a coat, she could take the initiative to get him one by checking out the Web site or the Five Promise checklist, which Lawrence-Douglas County Promise hopes to distribute soon, and finding an agency that would provide it.

A few local organizations have gone beyond the partner level to become Sites of Promise, where children have access to all five promises in one location. One of those sites, Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, has pledged to co-sponsor a community summit on Feb. 15 to formally introduce the promise initiative to the community.

The summit, called "Taking the Next Step for Our Youth," will be a follow-up to the first community summit in 2001, said Pat Roach Smith, Partnership for Children and Youth board member and community development director at Bert Nash.

"One thing people told us after the first summit was, that was great, we understand, what do we do next?" she said. "We will talk about children and youth in our community. The idea is for everyone to leave there with their own promises toward our youth."

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