Our Year in Review
Published on November 4, 2015
Thank you for your continued support of Building Bridges. As the holiday season approaches, please consider sponsoring a family for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or donating to our general fund. Donations can be made here. Also, please take a moment to read about out year in review.
Last year, Building Bridges (BB) provided services to over 300 at-risk youth throughout Montgomery County. The majority of these young people are involved with the criminal justice system, come from single parent household, and reside in underprivileged socioeconomic communities. With the help of civil organizations, clubs, churches, college students, foundations, businesses, and concerned citizens, BB has helped many of these youth turn their lives around. From July 2014 to July 2015, our program participants were able to give back by performing over 10,640 hours of community services. Here are a few examples of how our youth gave back: Our youth and staff volunteered with the Access Center, picking up medical beds and supplies and delivering them to indigent people that are in need of this equipment. They volunteered with the BOGG (Because of God’s Grace) program’s mobile pantry that provides food to individuals and families that are in need. Our young people saw firsthand about the power of helping others by carrying peoples’ groceries to their cars, setting up and organizing, and cleaning the pantry. Youth and staff participated in an annual park cleanup project hosted by Montgomery County Metro Five Rivers Park Services. For the past 10 years, our young people have been going to a nursing home on Thursdays and playing Bingo with elderly residents who suffer from Alzheimers and other debilitating ailments. They assist the clients by being supportive, acting as the eyes for those clients who are visionally impaired, hands for the physically disabled, and cheerleaders for those who are in need of emotional support. Our youth mowed lawns for the elderly and people with physical disabilities in east and west Dayton. They also completed numerous beautification projects and did weekly landscaping duties at Cleveland Elementary School. Furthermore, Building Bridges continued to host parties in celebration of Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas. At these events, we provide our young people with a safe and positive environment to hang out where they can dance, play games, socialize with staff and each other, and most of all, let them be kids and have fun. During the 2014 holiday season, we provided over 70 of our families with Thanksgiving meals, and gave gifts to over 200 kids at our annual Christmas party. BB also organized pro-social recreational activities for our youth: two Biathlons, where we have a youth run or walk 3.1 miles and bike 5 miles with other competitors; had the annual BB Softball Tournament in July, and also participated in two other softball tournaments this summer. We participated in community activities such as the 2015 Ghost & Goblin Run/Walk and the 2014 Ron’s Gobble Gallop run/walk on Thanksgiving morning for youth and staff, with a contributor-sponsored breakfast at Frisch’s for the participants following the event. Every fall, we participate in Fun Day with the University of Dayton Baseball team. This event is conducted under the watchful eye of Head Baseball Coach Tony Vittorio of the University of Dayton. The mentors are current players on UD’s Baseball Team. Coach Tony Vittorio talks to the participants about teamwork, and the importance of getting an education, plus a lot more. UD players are paired up with the participants. Each participant receives a Building Bridges baseball cap and t-shirt, and the youth and their parents attend a UD scrimmage basketball game following. This summer, we had a Girls’ Trip to St. Louis, with 2 staff members and 4 girls, who got the experience of a lifetime. We also had a Boys’ Trip that traveled to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota with 3 adults and 5 youth. These youth canoed an average of 8 to 12 hours per day, over 50 miles. Last year we saw several of our youth graduate from high school due to the WE CARE Bus Fare Project. This project provides low income high school youth with an RTA bus pass to get to school, as Dayton Public Schools no longer has school bus service for high school students. For the past few years, with the assistance of a donor who is a member of the Opera Guild, 2 staff members have taken 5 kids to an opera dress rehearsal at the Victoria Theater. We have partnered with the Riverdale Optimists Club who has provided one of our kids with a Student of the Quarter award and luncheon three times a year. To receive this award, one of our youth must show a drastic improvement in school and receive above average grades. Additionally, this club sponsors our annual softball tournament. Volley For Kids is one of our fundraising activities. Adult teams are formed, and a sand volleyball tournament is held for the day. We believe this brings awareness to our kids who are at risk of using drugs, being involved in gangs, pregnancy, homelessness, delinquency, running away, etc. The money raised from this event goes to help fund our WE CARE Bus Fare Project, as well as the Girls’ Trip. Building Bridges’ largest fundraiser is the Blazin’ Hot 5K Run/Walk, which we hold every August, with approximately 175 participants. It is held at the beautiful Wegerzyn Gardens, and some of our BB youth participated this year. Mike Pratt and Ron Reigelsperger are the forefathers of the program, and they have set a strong foundation on how we help our at-risk youth in Montgomery County. The program takes a strength based approach. It is the belief that people are most successful at achieving their goals when they identify and utilize their strengths, abilities, and assets (Rapp, 2006). The Strength Based Approach assists the program participants in recognizing and utilizing the strengths and resources they may not recognize within themselves, thus aiding them in regaining power over their lives. Experiential learning is the process of learning through experience. One of the ways we implement this experiential learning is through our work therapy groups. Our Work Therapy groups are the foundation of the Building Bridges program. It provides at-risk youth with an opportunity to develop their social skills, obtain work experience, structured activities, learn a skill, earn a stipend, and the concept of teamwork. Through the Work Therapy groups, these youth perform tasks such as: Preparing and serving meals to people who are in homeless shelters; training and walking dogs and cleaning kennels at the Animal Shelter; playing Bingo with the elderly at a nursing home; delivering furniture to a family in need; delivering medical equipment to people with physical disabilities, and cleaning parks, schools, and designated areas in the community. BB has approximately 25 Work Therapy groups each week. Building Bridges continues to be one of the most effective programs when it comes to helping at-risk youth. The average youth remains active in our program approximately 2 years. From the period of July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, 80% of the youth who were discharged from the program were successful. We define success: when a youth is enrolled and attends school or an education program, or have graduated; abstains from drug and alcohol use; is employed or has participated in work groups for job experience; has not incurred new charges and has a low recidivism rate; and fulfills all court requirements. 20% of those youth who were terminated last year were unsuccessful due to their noncompliance with court requirements i.e. repeated offenses, lack of participation in the program, increased drug use, AWOL, not attending school, and turning 19 years old. Out of the 300 plus youth that participated in the program for the 2014 fiscal year, 237 were court involved, and none of these youth were committed to the Department of Youth Services (juvenile prison). In laymen’s terms, the program continues to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of youth each year. Through our programming, Building Bridges provides an alternative to high risk behaviors such as: drug abuse, being involved in gangs, delinquency, violence, dropping out of school, running away, etc. for young people in Montgomery County.