A Chance To Grow is proud to be a part of Northeast Minneapolis, a vibrant community that nurtures the arts, its businesses and the vital work of nonprofit organizations that serve the neighborhood. The area's community organizations have played a critical role in helping us meet our mission for decades. We'd like to introduce you to three of our most ardent Northeast supports: Kiwanis Club, The Exchange Club, and the Lions Club. These are local chapters of national organizations. In North-East Minneapolis, these all-volunteer organizations work hard to raise money to support organizations like ours, as a way to ensure that we can meet the needs of our neighbors. Their support over the decades has given us a chance to grow.
Nationally, the Kiwanis focus their efforts in on improving the lives of children. Locally, the NE Kiwanis have helped the neighborhood's children for more than 70 years by supporting organizations, like A Chance To Grow, that provide the services they need. They hold a number of fundraisers each year, and feature speakers from local organizations at their weekly meetings.
One member, Al Morelli -- a longtime friend of ACTG -- remembers how the club first got involved with us in 2001.
"They were having a golf tournament and were looking for volunteers to help at the event. So five of us from the Kiwanis went out and they gave us jobs at each hole selling raffle tickets," said Al. It was the first year for us, so we didn't really know what was going on. After that first year, I thought, hey, I could really raise some funds for these guys."
Al got the Kiwanis Club to donate $500 to the event the following year, and used those funds to purchase raffle prizes." We set up a tent and made it look like a carnival and then we sold tickets for chances to win all this stuff. And it worked! We raised about $1,200 that year on just one hole! And each year after the, I got a donation from the club and it just kept growing!"
Thus began a beautiful partnership. The Kiwanis continued to support ACTG's golf event over the next 18 years, raising thousands of dollars for ACTG's programs and services. When, post-pandemic, we decided to end the golf event, the Kiwanis stayed with us, by sponsoring our annual Race For The Children, and -- with Al's help -- donating wonderful items for the Silent Auction.
"We liked what A Chance To Grow was doing, helping kids with special needs, so it was easy to get the club to support it, and it's been great ever since," said Al.
Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/NEmplsKiwanis/.
Nationally, the Exchange Club has Programs of Service that focus on helping children. For @ EXCHANGE the Northeast Chapter, volunteers put on a variety of fund- raising and activities with a special emphasis on youth programs, child abuse prevention, community service and good citizenship. They not only support ACTG through annual donations, they also help organizations like East Side Neighborhood Services, My Very Own Bed, the Crisis Nursery, and La Oportunidad. In addition, they make annual awards via the ACE Scholarship Awards, the YMCA Youth Citizenship Award, and a civics contest. Like the Kiwanis, the NE Exchange Club has supported ACTG for decades with thousands of dollars in annual grants, and this year, they are serving as a sponsor for The Race For The Children.
"We're very proud to be the recipient of one of their Victory Shrines* says Vicky Stein, ACTG's Director of Development and a member of the Exchange Club's Board of Directors. She further states, "The Exchange Club does such important work in the neighborhood, and it's all donated by an incredible group of dedicated volunteers. What began as local businessmen meeting for lunch has grown into a service organization that strives to meet a wide range of community needs. We're lucky to have their support."
Learn more at https://eastmpis-exchange.org/.
For many years, the Lions and their Community Foundation have generously awarded ACTG grants to help our clients, many of whom are without adequate insurance coverage, receive vision screenings and obtain eyeglass prescriptions.
"Their donations have made it possible for us to provide vision care to thousands, as well as donating meals to our Turnquist families around the holidays," said ACTG's Executive Director, Erica Dickerson. "The partnership has been such a positive one that it prompted me to get involved in the Lions Community Foundation Board as a member, allowing us to give back even more to the community that has been home to ACTG for more than 20 years."
Learn more at nelions.org/.
Together, these organizations have donated countless hours and dollars to support the prosperity of the Northeast Minneapolis community. We are forever grateful for all the support they've shown us over the years, it has helped us become who we are today. It is worth noting that each of these organizations are volunteer-run, and would welcome new members to help them meet their missions. We are honored to call them not only our partners, but members of our ACTG family.
Turnquist consists of age-specific rooms for infants, toddlers and on up to preschool age. In addition to implementing a developmentally appropriate curriculum, Turnquist teachers are responsible for completing developmental assessments for each child every two months.
“Most times, we [the teachers] are the first to notice any social, verbal or motor skill issues,” says Sami, an infant room teacher of three years. “If a child isn’t meeting certain developmental milestones, we notify the parents that we’ve identified an issue and recommend they be referred to our Clinics team. Parents are almost always OK with an observation, and quite often say that they’ve seen the same issues at home, but didn’t know how to address them.”
Depending on the nature of the referral, an Occupational Therapist (OT) or Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) will observe the child in their classroom, alongside the Turnquist teacher. This provides a safe, familiar space for the child, and allows our therapists and teachers the opportunity to discuss whether evaluation and treatment would best address the child’s needs. Once an evaluation is complete and a care plan is established, a child will receive 1-3 therapy sessions per week, with the teacher available to receive additional instructions from the therapist about ways to continue the treatment. The teacher also serves as the intermediary between therapist and parent, providing progress reports and suggestions for therapy at home.
“Working with the therapists is really nice,” says Sami, “especially when they show us how to do certain techniques. It makes a big difference that the teachers know how to help them, not just the therapists, because that means the child is getting the therapies they need all day, not just during one or two sessions. Parents really appreciate the convenience, they don’t have to take time out of their work days and it makes their lives a lot easier.”
Michelle Koyama, MA OTR/L, ACTG’s Assistant Director of Clinical Services, knows that this process is only possible with great communication from everyone involved. “Normally, these families wouldn’t have access to additional therapies, but we’re able to take that barrier away because we are able to fluidly communicate with the teachers in Turnquist,” she says. “We have a shared philosophy and see things through a developmental and trauma-informed model. We’re on the same page so it makes our communication very easy.”
Presently, 20 out of 32 children at Turnquist are receiving OT or SLP services. The need for these services has grown substantially in the wake of the COVID pandemic, and has often led to other areas of concern, including vision and auditory issues. Luckily, we offer vision and hearing screenings as well, and give parents the option to allow their child’s Turnquist teacher to represent their child in the exam room. Not only does this allow for the most optimal treatment schedule for the child (and parent), it provides our doctors with additional insight into their development, because they’re hearing it directly from the person that interacts with them in the early learning setting.
“During the pandemic, seeing became flat,” says ACTG’s Optometrist, Dr. Shelby May, OD. “The world got small and children of all ages stayed in the same loop. They didn’t go to the grocery store, take vacations or have other novel experiences. The world wasn’t big enough for these children to grow properly, and we’ve seen milestone delay amplify.”
From infants unable to hold their heads up (motor skills), to toddlers throwing tantrums (self-regulation), and preschoolers unwilling to give up screen time (attention), the effects of COVID are everywhere. The therapists and teachers at ACTG, however, are uniquely prepared to help these children. “Early intervention is so important,” says Sophie Reynolds, MS, OTR/L. “It’s really cool that our clinic is able to intervene at such early ages, where change can be made quickly because we can get to them so soon.”
Dr. May sees several Turnquist children in her clinic, and despite the difficult environmental factors, she says that she’s now starting to see a rebound effect. “Kids are picking back up really fast. If we give them the right tools, all those skills come back. Their brains didn’t change, they always had the capability, they were just missing the experience - we have to give them the right stimulus to grow.”
Shania said that Larico had been to other daycares, but they didn’t provide the type of communication, support or sense of community that she wanted. “Now when they wake up, they’re both excited to go to school and to see their teachers and therapists. They really love it here, and I do too.”
The Turnquist Child Enrichment Center and Clinical Services are amazing resources for young parents striving to provide the best foundation for their children. But more importantly, the community that our teachers and therapists cultivate is what sets A Chance To Grow apart from any other daycare, school or clinic in the Twin Cities.
“My kids wouldn’t be where they are today without the Turnquist teachers and the other services. It’s great that everything and everyone is in one building,” says Shania. “You can’t find a place like this anywhere else.”