There is a large movement focusing on children and teens within the foster care system. Funds are available, mentorship programs are provided for those who would like the opportunity to take part, and the children have a base, however small, of support to turn to.
But what happens when these teenagers become fully emancipated or "age out" of the system?
They are often left with little to no resources, no place to live, and no mentor to turn to for direction in education, career, or lifestyle. This is where the organization, Fill This House, steps in. They currently serve Cuyahoga County youth who have been living in group homes or numerous foster homes, have few belongings, and very limited support. They raise funds, purchase items, and conduct collection drives in the communities to provide the essentials to these young men and women who often have nothing.
This year, our Channel team was excited to take part and fill two apartments for two young women in need of a fresh start. We collected new items company-wide as well as monetary donations used to purchase the rest of the items on each list, and were overwhelmed with the desire of our team to support and provide.
On the delivery day, four of us took part and our hearts were full as we met and spoke with members of the Fill This House team and both women. We quickly realized that while we go about our day to day routines, the hardships of those around us are often overlooked.
Supporting Fill This House was an incredible learning experience and it was an honor to serve our community in this way.
*Note: All informational content was found on the fillthishouse.org website.
Many people have fond memories of fishing with grandparents, parents, or a guardian and mentor. Those days sitting by the lake in a lawn chair enjoying the warm breeze with a line cast out are days to remember. The companionship that grows from fishing together, talking quietly in the moments when all is still and patience is required to wait as a fish makes its' decision to bite or swim away, is something rarely forgotten.
Shawn Frazier saw the importance of this type of interaction and strove to participate in a program called Passport to Fishing, which is sponsored by the Ohio Department of National Resources.
This program is designed to create memories while teaching important lessons.
Children ages 5 to 15 gather to spend a day learning the ins and outs of the art of fishing. They learn how to put together their rods, string the line through, tie knots, and cast out.
While enjoying a fun, hands on learning experience, the children also obtain knowledge about important environmental safety topics. They discuss water pollution and actions to take to avoid damaging the environment so often taken for granted.
This year Channel Products sponsored the event held on June 13. It attracted 30 kids and the state provided them with their own fishing poles and tackle boxes. Shawn was given the opportunity to teach children basic fishing terms, different species of fish, and general fishing techniques. He also was a part of the conversation on environmental safety discussing what we do on a daily basis that negatively impacts our natural world.
Children's curiosity can lead to incredible conversations. In Shawn's view, "We learn by teaching." He says "Every time I organize an event for the outdoors or sports, the kids teach me more than I ever teach them. Their questions and the way they process information is amazing."
This was his first year as part of the Passport to Fishing team, and he plans on participating again next year. He enjoyed sharing his love of fishing in an educational way with children and their parents.
This is a great program that gives back to the community and teaches people from a young age the importance of our environment and the need for us to take care of it.
It was nearly 6:00 p.m. in Haiti, January 12, 2010.
Families were gathered around tables or in kitchens. School children played games in neighborhoods. Friends gathered on beaches. Life was as peaceful as it gets in an island nation reeling from years of underdevelopment, government instability, and political turmoil.
Minutes later it struck.
An earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter scale devastated the struggling island of Haiti, hitting an urban area already overpopulated and extremely poor. Houses built nearly on top of each other crumbled. Estimates of death toll vary, but start near a quarter of a million people. Three hundred thousand people were injured.
Aid, in the form of dollars, rushed in from the international community -- $875 million, according to CNN.com. It sounds like plenty, until you consider the reality that 1.5 million people lost their homes to this natural disaster. It's like giving each of them less than $600 to rebuild their homes...their lives.
Five years later, the suffering continues with nearly 700,000 cases of cholera, 75% of the island's schools still closed, and orphans...thousands of orphans.
More than a quarter of a million people remain homeless in a nation roughly the size of Northeast Ohio, where Channel Products President Teresa Hack lives. She visited Haiti in August of 2014, to help rebuild it.
"When I heard about the suffering there, I knew I wanted to take action," Hack explained. "So I signed up with an organization and travelled there as part of a relief effort. The pictures...the video...the things you see on the Internet. They don't paint an accurate picture. The reality is far, far worse."
What Hack experienced in the Port au Prince Village of Leveque was startling.
She described beautiful people living a harsh, difficult life in an unforgiving environment. Daytime temperatures reach 100 degrees, and the humidity, she said, was "like nothing you've ever experienced."
According to UNICEF, seven percent of children in Haiti die at birth. Half of children under five are malnourished, two-thirds of Haitians are unemployed, and 84% of Haitians live in extreme poverty.
During her time in Haiti, Hack worked with others to rebuild homes.
"There are so many people still living in tarp shelters," she said. "Sometimes all you could do was just hold a child, feed a child, or play with a child -- anything to help ease suffering. It gave me perspective. It was a reminder of how grateful we should be for what we have at home."
Hack explained how being reminded of that perspective was important as it relates to running a company in Northeast Ohio.
"Leadership through service is something any of us can do," she said.
"Whether it's service to our customers, service to our community, or service to people thousands of miles away, what's important is that we offer empathy to people, connect with them, and learn how we can make things easier for them...how we can make things better."
"Whether we're at work for Channel Products or pursuing our passions on a more personal level, making life better for other people is a sense of purpose any of us can enjoy."