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At HOPE we believe that education is a powerful step in prevention. Last year alone, HOPE's Prevention Team was able to educate, train, and reach over 1,500 youths in Manatee County. We visited local middle and high schools, youth faith-based programs, juvenile detention centers, and after-school programs. Raising awareness and educating adolescents can have an impact on the way they look at personal relationships for the rest of their lives.

We are so fortunate to have organizations in our community that share our belief in educating the youth about important issues, especially domestic violence. One great example is S.U.G.A.R. (Showing Unconditional Goodwill And Respect). This club’s objective is to create projects that encourage kids to become involved in their community while teaching them about the cause they are serving.

S.U.G.A.R. initially started off as a desire for three mothers to have their children learn the value of kindness. However, it has developed into something much bigger. Last year alone, SUGAR had over 450 volunteers participate in projects that supported over 50 local organizations. We are grateful that HOPE Family Services was selected by SUGAR as a local nonprofit to support.

Recently SUGAR volunteers helped create “fresh start baskets” for families transitioning from the safe shelter to get back on their feet. The event was held at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, with packages that included donations from a local school drive and other friends in the community. SUGAR made the activity hands-on and fun for the kid volunteers, by encouraging the children to walk around and collect each item for their care package.

The room was organized similarly to a grocery store, with tables divided into sections for the home: cleaning; dinner; breakfast; paper goods; and miscellaneous. Each volunteer was given an index card with a “shopping” list for a family and a laundry basket for their items. They all picked up paper towels, laundry detergent, dish soap, and other items specific to each family. By the end of the event, every package contained a complete dinner and breakfast and the essentials to support the first 24 hours in a new living situation. In total, 31 specialized baskets were made for families transitioning into independent living.

The educational portion of the event was led by HOPE’s Shelter Director, Dawn. She spoke with the volunteers about the purpose of HOPE Family Services and the services provided by staff on a daily basis. “A lot of the kids didn’t know that there were relationships that aren’t healthy,” said Stefanie Guido, Co-Founder of SUGAR. “I think they felt good knowing that there are places to go for people that feel unsafe and can get care provided to them.”

SUGAR’s children reacted by asking questions about what domestic violence looks like and why it occurs. Both the SUGAR adult team and Dawn broke it down into bite-sized pieces by explaining that it may look like someone hurting you physically, or hurting you in your head (emotionally). Stefanie Guido noted, “If kids know what boundaries are, and how to identify them at an early age, it will help increase awareness and protect them for their future.” Dawn also discussed the importance of community support for non-profits like HOPE. Because of community support, 463 residents stayed in HOPE’s emergency shelter last year.

We are so grateful to have a generous and supportive community and organizations like SUGAR to encourage the future generation to help out and give back.

To learn more about SUGAR Volunteers and how you can help, visit their website here.

View event photos here

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