Harvest Youth Board, Harvest Foundation partner to support local foster care program

Henry-Martinsville DSS-1 Staff of The Harvest Foundation, members of the Harvest Youth Board, and the Henry-Martinsville DSS staff are pictured on the site of the future playground which will enhance visitation for the foster care program. Pictured from left to right are Harvest Foundation President Kate Keller, Sheryl Agee, senior operating officer at Harvest, Henry-Martinsville DSS Director Amy Rice, Harvest Youth Board Members Taylor Gary, Chairman Will Gardner, and Susanna Lawrence, fiscal assistant supervisor at Henry-Martinsville DSS.

Funding to provide enhancements for safe outdoor visitation

The Henry-Martinsville Department of Social Services (DSS) is enhancing its foster care program with the installation of a new playground and visitation area for families. The Harvest Foundation and Harvest Youth Board are partnering with the organization and local Rotary Clubs on this project. The Harvest Foundation and Harvest Youth Board are providing grants of $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

“A safe and stable home environment is important for the happiness of our children, their social and emotional wellbeing, and even their long-term success,” said Sheryl Agee, senior operating officer at The Harvest Foundation. “What better way to support the future of our community, than working together as partners to provide a safe place for family visitations that can strengthen and build strong family relationships.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, supervised visitation options for the foster care program have been limited, according to Amy Rice, director of Henry-Martinsville DSS. This outdoor space will provide the ability to allow outdoor visits with safe play equipment while keeping the staff close to the agency in case of an emergency. It also will allow families to return to regular visitation schedules.

“Our main focus is to provide safe, quality family time which will ultimately ensure reunification between a child and their family,” Rice added. “The support we have received will enable us to uplift and empower families with a healthy outdoor environment. Children will benefit from outdoor physical activity and interact with their parents on a playground built from community collaboration and partnership. For families who are seeing their most challenging times, this foundation of collaboration allows us to build positive futures for years to come.”

Members of the Harvest Youth Board said this project was important to support because of its impact on youth in the community.

Henry-Martinsville DSS-2
Pictured from left to right are Beverly Pitzer, president of the Martinsville UpTown Rotary Club, and Amy Rice, director of Henry-Martinsville DSS.

Harvest Youth Board member Cristiano DiMaro said, “I know that reconnecting parents and children is a difficult and emotional situation and that having a safe space for kids to feel relaxed and at ease is vital to the process. Because of that, I think this grant is going to benefit the youth immensely by giving kids in foster care a safe space to help them reconnect with their families. I thought it seemed like a perfect project for the youth board to be a part of.”

Taylor Gary, chair of the Harvest Youth Board Grants Committee, added, “I am very excited about this grant because I think it is a great opportunity for our board to impact children not only now but for years to come.”

The Martinsville UpTown Rotary Club, the Henry County Rotary Club, and the Rotary Club of Martinsville also are supporting the development of the playground. All three clubs are investing a combined $12,000 in the project.

“Our three area Rotary Clubs saw great value in investing in this project for the positive benefits it will have in the lives of children and families in Martinsville and Henry County,” said Beverly Pitzer, president of the Martinsville UpTown Rotary Club. “Henry-Martinsville DSS has been working on funding for the playground for quite some time, and the timing was perfect to contribute funds through the Rotary District 7570 Grant and to participate in over 70 hours of service opportunities.”

With the effects of COVID-19, families are experiencing added stressors that can result in abuse or neglect leading to an increased need for foster homes, Rice said. She invites those who are interested to join Henry-Martinsville DSS in providing local children emotional and behavioral support to grow and learn in a safe, loving environment, while also offering biological parents the opportunity to heal from mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and other challenges.

Henry-Martinsville DSS offers a variety of preventative services such as emergency assistance with utility bills, parent coaching, mentoring, and budget education. All prevention services are designed to empower families to remain together and flourish during stressful times.

To find out more about the local foster parent program and preventative services, contact Megan Mitchell at (276) 656-4350. For those interested in fostering, virtual training is available.

Volunteer and donation opportunities also are available. Consider donating new or gently used suitcases to the program. Contact Mary Moyer-Redd at (276) 656-4390 for more information.