The John’s Island Community Service League welcomed members back at its 39th annual Opening Luncheon last Monday, featuring guest speaker Brooke Flood, Indian River County School District school readiness coordinator.
“We are a serious grant-making organization focused on helping women, children and families in need in Indian River County,” said Hope Woodhouse, JICSL’s 21st president. “There is a lot of need on the other side of the bridge; much more than you could ever imagine.”
Woodhouse said more than $11.8 million has been reinvested into the community through grants since its founding, adding that the league, which currently has 729 members, collaborates with other funders to ensure gaps are filled, overlap is limited and the best programs are funded.
“This coming season, we will be able to make grants of up to $1.18 million. That’s a lot of money,” said Woodhouse. The amount is based on the previous year’s membership and through fundraising efforts such as the Gala, Little Black Book, Tambourine Shop and individual gifts.
Introducing Flood, Woodhouse called her a “modern day Mary Poppins,” explaining that Flood and her staff of 40 are responsible for ensuring all local children are kindergarten ready. Of particular focus are children with special needs, from speech, hearing, visual or language limitations to behavioral, developmental and medical issues.
Woodhouse said that statistically, 20 percent of students in low-income Title 1 schools have special needs; 11 of our 13 elementary schools are Title 1.
“Did you know that in middle-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books per child is 13 to one? In low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is one book to 300 children,” said Flood. She noted that preschool attendance is one of the strongest factors in school readiness and said early intervention is pivotal to the success of children with developmental delays.
Pointing to sunflower seeds on the tables, she said, “these seeds each represent a flower; an eventual flower that will bloom through love and sometimes through adversity. And you know, those sometimes are the rarest and most beautiful of all. Those are the children that melt my heart; they are the children whose families are in most need of help.”
She touched on issues surrounding the Exceptional Student Education program as well as preschool preparations for all other local children from birth to age 5.
“The one thing that all of our families have in common is that deep-down love and hope for their child to be successful. They breathe a heavy sigh of relief when we let them know we are here to help and will help their child catch up to the best of our abilities.”
For more information, visit jiserviceleague.com or indianriverschools.org.