Giving Back: DeSoto Grace

Giving Back: DeSoto Grace

DeSoto Grace started in 2012 by Life Fellowship, a local church that saw a need to assist children and families in DeSoto County to find resources and opportunities that would improve their economic, educational and relational situations. DeSoto Grace currently works with children from five elementary schools in DeSoto County with the hope of eventually reaching all schools in the community. The organization builds relationships with the youth and families through a number of programs, which both help to identify needs and also align them with the resources to propel them to reach their full potential.

 

One of the best ways DeSoto Grace assists families is through its Education and Activities Program, which is designed to provide free educational assistance and a variety of other activities to children whose families otherwise might not be able to enroll in those programs. The program is for third and fourth grade students who attend DeSoto County Schools. The program runs during the school year, starting in mid September and finishing in early May.

 

Children attend the program on Tuesdays and Thursdays where they participate in physical activities, music and crafts over a two-hour period from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The children spend about 15 minutes each evening focusing on character building. Specifically, community leaders spend time sharing about positive character attributes, leaving the children with a word to remember. Children enjoy a snack before focusing on math and reading through both individual and group work during education time.

 

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Adult education classes are part of the program, including English as a Second Language and financial literacy. Summertime programming includes community service projects with the kids. “Our motto is building a stronger community, one connection at a time,” said Terri Sparkman, director and public relations coordinator for DeSoto Grace.

 

Teachers recommend students who have educational needs and can’t afford outside assistance to meet those needs. The students’ families apply for the program. Students are then chosen through an interview and assessment process. “We have children with educational, financial, relational and physical needs,” Sparkman said. The program is only open to new students in the third or fourth grades. It does have fifth graders, but they are returning students.

 

DeSoto Grace offers the program at campuses in Southaven and Walls, where a combined 95 students participate in the free community resource. Even though DeSoto Grace was started by Life Fellowship Church, they received their 501(c)3 status in 2015 and now receive funding  from churches, businesses, and grants as well as individuals. Their largest fundraiser is an annual 5k race, which will be held September 28th this year.

 

Volunteers also are needed for a variety of opportunities, including homework and activity assistance. Anyone interested can fill out a volunteer form on the website and then go through a volunteer training session to learn about the opportunities. Once a background check is completed, volunteers go through training with a peer trainer. Anyone interested in sharing their experiences through character building is welcome. “We’ve had firemen, police officers, teachers, bankers, lawyers, judges, doctors – all kinds of people from different businesses and organizations,” Sparkman said. “We love to see diversity. I believe God gifted us with a variety of talents and our students have many different strengths. By seeing diverse people from the community they can see various opportunities for their future.” For more information, visit desotograce.org.

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