CRS Rice Bowl grant supports Green Bay literacy project

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | February 13, 2015

Portion of Rice Bowl funds are donated to local needs

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]GREEN BAY — Donations collected in the small cardboard boxes are helping to support families in need in Northeast Wisconsin. Hurray for 3, a project that promotes literacy, parent-child interaction and community resources, received a 2014 Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl grant.

Laura Robinson, coordinator of Hurray for 3, a project that promotes literacy, holds items that are donated to families thanks to a grant from CRS Rice Bowl. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Laura Robinson, coordinator of Hurray for 3, a project that promotes literacy, holds items that are donated to families thanks to a grant from CRS Rice Bowl. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Hurray for 3 was piloted by Laura Robinson, project coordinator, in May of 2014, in cooperation with Love Life Ministry, a program that assists families with the basic needs of newborns. Love Life, which has roots dating back to 1993, operates in the lower level of St. Joseph Parish on the west side of Green Bay, and at Peace United Methodist Church on the city’s east side.

Love Life clients may receive diapers until their child turns 3-years-old.

“We were really concerned that when children turn 3 they are out of the program,” said Mary Van Den Heuvel, a Love Life volunteer from St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Green Bay. “We gave them their last pack of diapers, a birthday gift and said goodbye.”

Robinson, who has experience as a parent educator, saw an opportunity to offer extended services for 3-year-olds, thus the name of the nonprofit effort. The project started with a literacy kit, which includes a book.

“It’s a new book because we wanted something special,” said Robinson. “It’s presented when the child is turning 3 so it’s kind of like a birthday gift. They also receive a folder with at-home activities and some simple games: a Bingo game with fruits and vegetables as a subtle way to promote healthy eating and a number matchup game.

“When they play the game, they are saying words, so it builds their vocabulary. Matching is a developmental skill of identifying like things and they are working on numeracy skills.”

An activity in the kit called “Rainbow Faces” helps develop emotional literacy.

“A big task is getting children to express their feelings with words,” explained Robinson. “The rainbow faces help them develop their vocabulary, share how they are feeling, what situations bring about those feelings and how do they deal with those feelings.”

The kits feature a set of rainbow faces and blank plates. Parents encourage their children to draw a face displaying an emotion. A prize is awarded to a child who returns a drawing.

“It’s an incentive and it tells us that they are using the materials,” said Robinson. “We want to get a gauge on whether they are finding these things useful. The parents also take a short survey.”

Parenting information is also included in the kits. Spanish kits (Hurra de 3) are available.

“I’m really excited that the books we have are bilingual,” said Robinson. “That’s really important. We ask if they would like an English or Spanish kit. Sometimes they are not sure. They think they should be speaking English, but the reality is many of their family members are speaking Spanish. If they end up with English books at home, that child is not going to have a lot of books read to them.”

Rice Bowl funds were used to purchase the books and for printing costs. In 40 years, $250 million have been donated through Operation Rice Bowl. Programs in the U.S. have received $62.5 million through local dioceses. Overseas programs received $187.5 million.

A second component of Hurray for 3 is connecting families to community resources. Space at the east side Love Life location allows for community partners to meet with parents.

“We had someone from the health department, the job center, a nutritionist from UW-Extension, who offered some food samples, available to meet with parents,” explained Robinson. “Love Life has been doing a wonderful job supporting families by providing items of need. Sometimes these families, for one reason or another, are not connecting with support organizations. This is a way to help people bridge that gap. They can meet people from these agencies and obtain some information to help them take that first step.”

“We had somebody here from WIC (Women, Infants and Children). She had held a meeting at night and nobody attended,” said Van Den Heuvel. “Maybe it’s good for that person to go to the people instead of the people having to worry about transportation, going out in the evening and getting a sitter.

“It’s an exciting dimension. I get excited when I see people talking to the (community partners). We had someone who had a problem. She ran out of formula. We were able to direct her to talk to the nurse who had come in that day. This is wonderful. This is how we build community.”

Love Life opens the door for these connections, said Robinson.

“This is a place where people feel welcome,” she said. “They’ve had a positive experience here, so it’s a good way to introduce them to other people who can be very important in their family’s life.”

Robinson has teamed with the Brown County Library to serve families with children age 2 and younger who approach the Hurray for 3 table. She promotes the “1000 Books B4K” program which encourages parents to read to their children. Prizes are awarded for returned reading logs. Used books are always available for families and in November, Robinson arranged for a stop by the Bookmobile.

“One of the main goals of Hurray for 3 is parent-child interaction,” she said. “That’s one of the most important ways for a child to learn. Kids learn so much more when they are interacting with a human being and not watching television.”

Hurray for 3 accepts financial and book donations. Volunteers are also needed, including Spanish speaking translators. Financial donations may be sent through Love Life Ministry — East, Peace United Methodist Church, 9191 Schwartz St., Green Bay, WI 54302. Designate the donation for Hurray for 3.

For more information on the project, contact Laura Robinson at (920) 347-0828. Love Life, which also accepts financial and item donations, operates from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays at both locations.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Operation Rice Bowl grant award winners

ALLOUEZ — The Diocese of Green Bay co-sponsors the CRS Rice Bowl collection held every year during the Lenten season. Twenty-five percent of the money collected through diocesan parishes is reserved for local use. In 2014, the diocese was able to award $13,000 to local agencies.1507RiceBowl-logo.jpgweb2

The 2014 CRS Rice Bowl grant award winners from the diocese are:

  • St. Patrick’s Food Pantry sponsored by St. Patrick’s Outreach Program, Green Bay.
  • Hispanic Family Assistance sponsored by Howe Community Resource Center, Green Bay.
  • Literacy Partners Services sponsored by Literacy Partners of Kewaunee County, Inc.
  • Hurray for 3 sponsored by Love Life, Green Bay.
  • Neighborhood Partners sponsored by Sustainable Fox Valley.
  • English Language Learning Educational Materials sponsored by Fox Valley Literacy Council.
  • Supporting and Strengthening Families sponsored by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Green Bay.
  • Adult English Language Learner Classes sponsored by Literacy Green Bay.
  • Called to be One sponsored by St. Joseph Hispanic Ministry Leadership, Wautoma.
  • Hispanic Youth Advancement Opportunities sponsored by Casa ALBA Melanie, Hispanic Resource Center, Green Bay.

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