On Saturday, June 4th, 2016, Ohana100 awarded Orleans Outreach Center, in Jefferson County, with 200 new books as gifts to the children they serve in the community. The Center has been operating since 1989 and functions as a food pantry and clothing room. It is solely managed by volunteers. How and Why did Ohana100 get involved? Two important questions to answer!.
How did this start?
For most of my life volunteerism has played an important part of what I do. As far back as a junior police officer in elementary school, I remember recycling newspaper to raise funds for school activities, then participating with AmeriCorps as an advocate, for victims of domestic violence and then later involving my children in volunteer activities.
While I considered everything I did important and gratifying, there was always a feeling of wanting to do more and to get more out of what I was doing. But I couldn’t figure out what it was until I found myself between volunteering activities.
I had established a local chapter of a national non-profit, promoting literacy by providing books for kids. I was the president and a hands-on, grassroots representative, building relationships with recipient programs and community donors, which was incredible – then all of a sudden the national organization restructured and did away with their local chapters.
Over the next 18 months I ran my local chapter; I built a network of recipients and donors that recognized the meaningful impact my work was having on the community.
It was at that point I decided to continue my work, no matter what it took, and I realized I needed to create my own non-profit. This began the months-long process of establishing Ohana100 as a 501c3 private foundation.
What’s happened since has been nothing short of absolutely incredible! With Ohana100 I’ve had the opportunity to develop project ideas beyond what I could have imagined.
Ohana100 was founded by my husband, David & myself and Roselily Andres. “Ohana” means “family;” and we are proud of the fact that 100% of donations go towards the purchase of books for the children.
Ohana100 promotes literacy, primarily by providing young children with free new books, but as the head of my organization I have the ability to develop and implement a number of complimentary projects supporting literacy. The organization is now working in two distinct areas of the United States. Hawaii and New York State.
Establishing relationships with Head Start Programs in various communities, we have connected regular readers visiting classrooms each month, to read to children. We’ve provided books to build-up local libraries, and we’ve collected gently used books, to establish libraries in community centers.
How many people are involved now?
Currently there are 32 active volunteers that read to children and distribute books, through Ohana100’s GO! READ program. Our organization is 100% volunteer operated, who range in age from 5 to 92 years. They also come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. Many are senior citizens that are retired teachers, retired librarians and entrepreneurs. We have a scholarship pageant contestant, a retired U.S. Senator, many stay-at-home mothers, college students, an elementary class and more. Some read every month, once every semester or once a year – all to Head Start programs as well as kindergarten and first grade classes.
“It certainly has been my pleasure and gift to be part of ‘Reading to Children Programs’ and distributing new books to them. Language is a big part of the reading experience and by this wonderful program, many will benefit.” Sally 87 years.
Third grade students from Westminster Charter made bookmarks to include with books distributed. It was their contribution to literacy and sharing with other children their age.
Why in the Thousand Islands…
A close friend has a home in North Country, where she frequently vacations. She visited the Thousand Islands communities and located a program in LaFargeville that was a perfect match for Ohana100. We have since provided books for over 120 families in LaFargeville, over the past two years. Our most recent visit was on June 4th, 2016.
The Orleans Outreach Center functions as a clothing room and food pantry for those in need. The center services over 120 families. “The center is solely managed by volunteers and all items in the center are free,” stated Donna Chatterton, Pantry Manager.
Who gives you the financial support?
Ohana100 depends on grant support, individual donations and in-kind donations to operate. As a new organization, the majority of our budget comes from individual donations, but it is our hope to obtain more grants in the future.
The most important resource for growing our organization is people. Finding the right people to volunteer or to partner with – those who believe in our mission of promoting literacy in their local communities – is necessary for us to do more. With more volunteers we will be able to service more schools, and continue to expand our geographic coverage. We started out servicing eight counties in Western New York, then a volunteer proposed doing work in Jefferson County which we thought was a wonderful idea. It became the 9th county in the region that we service. Today, through partnerships and volunteers in other places, we are also able to serve children and programs in Hawaii, Cuba, Sierra Leone… and we will not stop there!
We have gifted over 35,000 new books, to children in need, in New York State.
By Elizabeth Mattson
|To learn more about Ohana100, please visit www.ohana100.org for more information about Ohana100.
Elizabeth Mattson is a former counselor, teacher and an AmeriCorps Alums Trailblazers. She worked with various community organizations, servicing disadvantaged families, women, children and victims of domestic violence, in Hawaii, Maryland, Iowa and New York. She enjoys arts, crafts & video work. Her husband, David Mattson, is a Radiation Oncologist, practicing in Buffalo, New York. He worked with children, through Diabetes Association, HUGS, and Sunny Buddies. He enjoys working with metal, clay and wood.