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Friday, Apr. 18, 2014

Nonprofit seeks community ideas for transitional teen living

Friday, November 9, 2012

Establishing a non-profit organization has its challenges, particularly when it will be responsible for the well being of young adults and run on an annual budget of at least $150,000.

For board members of Determination, Initiative, Growth, Success, also known as DIGS, determining the next step and moving beyond it is essential. The organization will provide long-term transitional living with program support to 16-21 year olds. The young adults must be actively completing their education or seeking work.

Earlier this year, DIGS received its incorporation and 501(c)3 nonprofit status. Board members hope to assist those who are falling through the cracks, such as youths phasing out of the foster care system or are not legally obligated because of their age to return to an abusive home situation.

On Thursday, Nov. 8, DIGS hosted an informational gathering at Missouri Valley College, to not only inform the community of the need, but to also solicit more ideas.

"The sustainability is the key. That's one of the reasons we wanted to do an event like this ... to bring the community together ... to get the word out," said board member Heather Troth. "That's one of the things we're really working on, is demonstrating that community support exists, both on a personal level and a financial level."

Board members feel that support is vital to the group accessing large-scale state and federal funding.

"It's a catch-22," said board president Jim Steinmetz, adding an organization has to be established in order to receive funds, but you have to have funds in order to establish the organization.

A 2011 point-in-time study found 40 Marshall High School students indicated they are currently or have been in a homeless situation and nine students indicated they are unaccompanied youth whose housing situation changes often.

For Cynthia Reeder -- a recent high school graduate who became homeless her junior year -- a service like DIGS would have had a huge impact on her life.

"In January of 2011 my mom kicked me out of the house ... I lived in 16 different places since then," she said. "It's really hard because when you don't have your parents there for you, you really don't have anyone to turn to."

Reeder said she carried her clothes in trash bags. She attempted to go to school every day, and graduated even though it was a daunting task.

"I think if there was (a home) in Marshall it would help a lot," she continued. "I know of a lot of kids that don't have anything. Not just here, some in Sedalia ..."

Reeder was often surrounded by drugs, even though she remained sober. She indicated younger kids would soon approach the age group DIGS intends to serve.

"There's are a lot of young kids that get into a lot of bad things in Marshall," she said. "I know of a lot of kids, just because of their families, they do drugs ... They're closing down the skating rink, so kids won't really have much to do."

DIGS partially modeled itself after the Rainbow House in Columbia, but scaled it down to fit a more rural community. Board members hope to establish an environment with counseling services and educational guidelines among other services. According to DIGS, 75 percent of homeless or runaway youth have dropped out or will drop out of school, and 46 percent of runaway and homeless youth report being physically abused.

"You'll see, in the next week, a request for the house," Troth stated. "... We're also going to be issuing an advertisement for an employment position to move that forward. ... We're ready to move on this."

Ideas from the crowd began springing up during the event, such as conducting a survey into surrounding counties and possible grant options.

For more information on DIGS contact MaryAnn Piper at piperma@hotmail.com or Lindsey Parton at lparton@marshallschools.com.

Contact Sarah Reed at
sreed@marshallnews.com



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