Council Update: Investment in special needs fund enhanced the lives of local children

Because of a continued investment in life-altering medical equipment last year, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County improved the quality of life for 52 children with special needs. Working in partnership with United Way of Palm Beach County, which oversees the Special Needs Equipment Fund, CSC invested more than $137,000 to purchase 56 pieces of medically necessary equipment for children with Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Spina Bifida and rare genetic conditions. This unique program, supported by CSC since 2008, acts as a funder of last resort, filling gaps in our current health care system.

The majority of the fund, more than 55 percent, paid for mobility related equipment such as wheelchairs, strollers, gait trainers, walkers and adaptive tricycles. Nearly 27 percent of the fund purchased communication-related devices such as customized iPads and hearing aids. Other equipment purchased included safety items that prevent wandering, customized car seats, lifts for transferring, SleepSafe beds, orthotic ears and cranial-shaping helmets.

In other business

Under-expenditures: The Council approved re-purposing up to $1 million in under-expenditures for the Great Ideas Initiative and the GII Pipeline, which provide support for local grassroots nonprofits to explore new ideas and build capacity. The Council also approved re-purposing $1.5 million for summer camp scholarships, making a total of $4.1 million available to support fun, educational and safe programming for children to attend during the summer. Demand for summer camp scholarships has grown as the income eligibility threshold increased to 185 percent of the federal poverty level and outreach expanded to children whose families are unhoused and those involved in the child welfare system. 

Educational Enrichment Camps: An assessment of 1,200 Palm Beach County children who attended Educational Enrichment Camps last summer with support from CSC-funded summer camp scholarships saw educational improvements or didn’t experience a learning loss, which is common during the summer. More than 90 percent of campers improved from the pre-test to the post-test, with educational gains in math and reading. 

Familias Latinas Town Hall: The Communications Team hosted our 3rd Familias Latinas Facebook Live Town Hall February 15, featuring a lively Spanish-speaking panel who discussed the benefits of voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK). The panelists included Wanda Figueroa of the Early Learning Coalition of PBC, Mabel Datena of Hispanic Human Resources Council, and three local mothers whose children participated in VPK. The Town Hall once again was facilitated by Carlos Mahecha, a well-known local Hispanic journalist, TV personality and popular social media influencer. The event streamed live on CSC’s Familias Latinas Facebook Group page, Carlos Mahecha’s Facebook page and CSC’s main Facebook page. The event also was supported by local Spanish-language radio stations La Primera, Deportes, and La Ley. The one-hour event inspired great engagement, garnering more than 2,500 views on all pages. 

Family Resource Fair: CSC’s Communications Team organized our third pop-up event, a Family Resource Fair held March 16 in Greenacres, in partnership with our vendor CRL. Many of our provider agencies joined us at the Greenacres Community Center to share resources, and more than 275 community members attended to learn about summer camp scholarships, voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK), swim lesson vouchers and more. Additionally, families made appointments to meet with CSC entry agencies Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Palm Beach County and HomeSafe. Greenacres Mayor Joel Flores and Councilwoman Susy Diaz addressed the gathering, and County Commissioner Michael Barnett attended and spoke with families and agencies. The event garnered significant attention from local media, with coverage from nine different sources. The event also led to the addition of 79 new members to the Familias Latinas Facebook group. Children enjoyed making origami hearts to hold their ideas safe or give a message to a loved one. A special thank you to CSC’s Andrew Tello, who volunteered to help support this event, connecting with families to provide valuable insights to our Spanish-speaking community. 

Lifeguard Update: The County’s Parks & Recreation Department recently told Jon Burstein, CSC’s senior communications specialist, that the lifeguard certification class at Lake Lytal – to be held later this month – had not yet filled up. Jon reached out to Allison Ronayne, the communications specialist who handles CSC’s social media strategy, and she ran a two-day campaign on Facebook and Instagram promoting the class. Within 26 hours the posts had 212 likes, 9 comments and 163 shares. When Jon checked back with Parks & Rec, they said that not only had they filled all the spots, but they now had a waitlist! CSC began funding the cost of lifeguard and swim instructor training, and promoting the program in numerous ways, in March 2023 after Parks & Rec noted they were having trouble staffing their pools. 

Youth Awareness Arts Festival: CSC had the honor of participating in last month’s third annual Youth Awareness Arts Festival at the Spady Museum, in celebration of Black History Month. Children enjoyed folding origami paper hearts out of traditional African prints at the CSC table while their parents learned about our programs and services. Additionally, CSC distributed drawstring backpacks. A big thank you to the CSC volunteers who supported the Communications Team and helped at the event - LaNita Sanders, Kerry-Ann Dixon and her daughter. It was a beautiful night of celebration, with over 500 community members participating.
StoryBook Village: CSC supported the 7th Annual StoryBook Village, presented by the 15th Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Program and Speak Up For Kids PBC. The event, at Mount’s Botanical Gardens, saw the grounds transformed into a captivating wonderland that invited kids on a journey “Through the Looking Glass” to inspire children through happiness, curiosity, and the love of reading. Much gratitude to CSC employee Elizabeth Clark and her family, who helped at the event. Inspired by our table's book "What Do You Do With an Idea," by Kobi Yamada, we loved teaching children of all ages how to fold origami hearts and were moved by the heartfelt ideas and messages they tucked inside to keep safe. The event was well-attended, and parents were excited to download our EveryParent app!

About Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County

The Council is a local, special-purpose government created by Palm Beach County voters in 1986 and reauthorized in 2014. For more than 30 years, it has provided leadership, funding, services and research on behalf of the county’s children so they grow up healthy, safe and strong.

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