Month: May 2016

Partner Agency Spotlight: Carroll’s Kitchen

This week on the blog we wanted to highlight one of RYM’s newest partner agencies, Carroll’s Kitchen, opening later this summer in Raleigh. Carroll’s Kitchen will be a “501c3 restaurant with a vision to end homelessness for women in Raleigh and inspire everyone in the city to make a real and positive change.” This summer Carroll’s Kitchen will be one of stops on RYM’s urban walk, an opportunity to explore Raleigh on a deeper level by walking in community members’ shoes. We got to speak with Jim Freeze, the executive director of Carroll’s Kitchen, about how this idea came about, the services they will offer women in Raleigh, and the change they hope to see for their community.IMG_0144

Jim told us that Vicky Ismail, board president and co-founder of Carroll’s Kitchen, has been in the restaurant business for over 35 years. She has started 4 restaurants herself, and her family has been in the business for generations. When she heard about a similar organization called King’s Kitchen in Charlotte, she became inspired to start something like it in Raleigh, but with the specific mission to serve single women coming out of homelessness or incarceration. The last Point in Time count found that Raleigh has between 800 and 1,000 individuals experiencing homelessness, with about 300 of them being single women. Jim said, “Last year there were only about 200, so it’s one of the fastest growing [populations].” He said they also felt that single women without children are one of the most underserved populations in Raleigh. “Men or families, women with children, all have more support addressed specifically for those populations than there are for single women. That’s one of the reasons we decided to focus on that is to kind of fill a gap in services.”

RF042716-13They are seeking to fill this gap by offering such services as job training, housing, and life skills classes. Carroll’s Kitchen will employ several women leaving homelessness or incarceration in their restaurant for one year, teaching them valuable professional skills which they can use upon graduation from the program. The women will receive a yearly stipend that is above minimum wage, and can use it to pay rent, pay off any debt they may have, and start a savings plan. Life skills courses are provided by some of Carroll’s Kitchen’s 10+ support partners. These courses are things like, “budgeting, time management, taking initiative, communication, and stress management.” Jim says when the women are “on site at the restaurant, we’re simply reinforcing them or highlighting specific parts of what they learned.” Housing is also provided by a local housing agency which Jim says has been doing great work in the Raleigh community for years. (Read this Carroll’s Kitchen blog post to find out why they felt housing was so important for the women working there).

Jim told us that they hope that through this work they will inspire others in the Raleigh community to make a difference. “We want to start a conversation. We want our food and our mission to speak for itself and have people ask questions, so then we could flip it back to them and say, ‘This is what we’re doing. What’s your passion? What could you be doing?’ When you look at our vision statement, it’s not only tackling the problem of homelessness, our vision is to end homelessness for women in Raleigh, but it’s also to inspire everyone in our city to make a positive change… Our goal is to let the individual who is inspired figure out what they are inspired about, and help get them connected to where they can lend their talents or time and/or money to make a difference.”IMG_0145

What are your youth inspired about? Where are they lending their talents and time to make a difference? Need a resource to get this conversation started with your youth? We’ve got you covered with this study guide we’ve created. Let us know how you use it to make a difference in your community at [email protected]!


Partner Agency Spotlight: Children First/ Communities in Schools

A few months ago on the blog we introduced a few of our newest partner agencies– Asheville Poverty Initiative and A Place at the Table in Raleigh. This week we’re highlighting one of our agencies that’s been partnering with AYM since the beginning– Children First/Communities in Schools (CIS). 11060028_10204424358876163_4974995756456933357_n

Children First/Communities In Schools (CIS) is a local non-profit committed to advocating and empowering children and families living in poverty.” They do this through providing direct services, education, and public policy and advocacy work. Their direct services include meeting basic needs such as food and clothing, as well as longer-term needs through parenting classes, a mentorship program, after-school help at their learning centers, and the assistances of a Student Support Specialist, just to name a few. This infographic shows best how a Children First family is impacted daily by the programs offered. Their advocacy and education work seeks “to raise awareness of, and develop sustainable solutions to, issues affecting children and families and breaking down barriers of poverty.” Their campaigns include “Promoting investments in early childhood education and care…Promoting smart budget reforms so NC can invest in our children’s education, health, and safety…Raising the age of adult sentencing to age 18…[and] Expanding living wage jobs for county contractors.” To read more about these policies, visit Children First’s website.

These resources provided by Children First/CIS are necessary in a community where “one in four (24%) children…live in poverty,” and 12,170 children are experiencing food insecurity. Children First/CIS serves two public housing complexes in which families of four are living on less than $6,000 a year, and 85% of students at the neighboring schools are eligible for free and reduced lunch. The high school dropout rate in Asheville City and Buncombe County schools are higher than the NC average, and the number of families receiving food stamps almost tripled between 2008 and 2012. Asheville has one of the highest costs of living in the country, and it continues to rise while wages are not.11700865_10204424389596931_3747666754043390524_n

Children First/CIS has been an AYM partner agency since our very beginning. Jodi Ford, Children First/CIS’s Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, told us that throughout the years, “AYM has been instrumental in helping us move ahead on many of our projects that serve local low-income children and families—such as our community garden which supplements our family food boxes with fresh veggies, maintaining our after-school learning centers, and the many programs and activities the AYM youth coordinate for our Summer Campers!” Jodi said, “Great things happen in our community when organizations who share similar missions are able to join forces and make things happen!…Last year we served over 2,800 children with our direct services and educational support programs. This was possible due to partnerships such as the one with AYM that allows us to reach the many children and families we are fortunate to work with.”

We have loved working with Children First/CIS throughout the years and are excited to soon kick off another summer of partnership with them! What organizations in your community are working to empower children and families in poverty? How can your youth group get involved? Already involved? Let us know what you’re up to at [email protected]! For a resource on talking with your youth about the different types of services provided by Children First, check out this study guide we’ve created!

Nora says, “One Hundred and Sixty-Three. No More.”

You’ve met Martha, Liam, and Bella— three performance poets and high school students speaking out against injustice in the Asheville area. Now, meet Nora, who brings us her poem, “163,” making us aware of the number of rape kits backlogged in Buncombe County, and the injustice this does to the survivors of sexual assault. At YMCo, we wanted to know why this number is so high and what can be done to change it. We contacted Our VOICE, an organization that “serves all individuals in Buncombe County affected by sexual assault and abuse,” and we spoke with their Court Advocate, Stefanie Gonzales.  Stefanie shed some light for us on the process of reporting sexual assault in Buncombe County, why rape kits don’t always get tested, and what we, and especially our teenagers, can do to prevent that number from rising any higher.

Stefanie told us that a survivor has several options for reporting sexual assault, but, if they choose to file a formal police report, the case will be handed over to a Special Victims Unit detective for investigation. Once the investigation is done, it will be handed to the District Attorney’s office, “who will then make a decision on whether or not to prosecute the case…so, it can be a lengthy process.” Stefanie said that her role in this process, as Court Advocate, is to ensure survivors that they are not alone in it, that she and Our VOICE are there to support them as they navigate it.

She said that one of the primary reasons for the “163” kits backlogged in Buncombe County is, “there’s just a lack of resources, whether that’s resources to test the kits [or] resources to pay the people who test the kits…not having enough manpower to test all these.” She said that, at the moment, all of the kits from Buncombe County are being sent to the state lab in Raleigh, where they are also running tests on evidence from a variety of other cases, including murder and DUI. She said, “What happens is the rape kits sort of just get pushed to the back there and there’s just this long waiting list for these things to get tested.” A new lab will soon be opened in Western North Carolina, though, and Stefanie says she is hopeful that this will help decrease the number of cases in the backlog.

Stefanie said that another reason for the backlog is that “a rape kit isn’t always going to be the most telling evidence” against a perpetrator. “What we know about sexual assault is that people are assaulted by somebody that they know, whether it’s a friend, or an acquaintance, or a partner, or a former partner, whoever.” She said that while a rape kit may show that two people had sex, it can’t always differentiate whether or not it was consensual, “unless there’s trauma or injury involved.” Rape kits are helpful if the perpetrator is a stranger, but Stefanie said, “those cases are rare.”

For these reasons, Stefanie told us that she often has to be upfront with survivors that, “if their case is ever to see a courtroom, it’s likely to be two years later…It’s a long process, and that’s not uncommon.” Our VOICE encourages survivors to seek counseling services during this waiting period because “the healing process doesn’t have to rely on outcome in the criminal justice system, and often it can’t.”

While most of us don’t have the skill sets to be court advocates or counselors, Stefanie offered up some suggestions on how we can assist in this healing process by working for justice for the survivors. “We can advocate for survivors.” She said there are national organizations, like ENDTHEBACKLOG, that we can get involved with. We can also do exactly what Nora has done, “draw attention to the issue….exposing the fact that there is a backlog is the best way to start.”

Nora said that this was her motivation for writing “163.” She said that through writing a paper for school on the backlog, she realized that “this sort of thing happens everywhere, so I thought I would write about it and bring attention to it.” Her challenge for other young people is “just to hear about it. If someone talks about it, don’t walk away.”

Stefanie’s challenge for young people is to “be active bystanders…if you hear a friend make a sexist comment, make a homophobic joke, making some sort of comment like that, [be] able to say, ‘Hey, that’s not okay.'” She said, “Ultimately, the most important thing we can teach teenagers is that they just need to believe victims of sexual violence and assault…If they don’t know how to support a friend or family member who has gone through that, ultimately just saying, ‘I believe you that this happened to you,’ really can go a long way.”

For more advice from Stefanie on how we, as adults, can help teenagers prevent sexual assault, and for a resource on talking with your youth about it, check out this study guide we’ve created. For more from Nora, check out this video interview with her. Let us know how youth are getting involved in your community to “end the backlog,” by emailing us at [email protected]!


Guest Blogger: Beth Woodside, RYM’s First Intern!

This week on the blog we’ve got Beth Woodside writing from Clemson University. Read below about her experiences with AYM, RYM, and her plans to make a difference in the world!


“I want to start a nonprofit that takes food that would otherwise be wasted from places like supermarkets, catering organizations, and restaurants and donates this food to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries. Phew. That is intimidating to say at 22 years old. It is a daunting and considerable dream. But that’s exactly what it is: my dream.

Starting a nonprofit was the first thing to go on my bucket list during the summer of 2010. I was 16 and in 10th grade and had just attended a mission trip with my church youth group to Asheville Youth Mission. Though this wasn’t my first mission trip, it is the one that lit a fire in me. Never before on a mission trip had I formed relationship[s] with those I was serving the way that I did in Asheville that summer. I learned so much about what it truly means to be homeless and the hardships this population faces and I knew then that I had to do something with my life that would ease these hardships.

Fast forward to the summer of 2014. I had just finished my sophomore year at Clemson University as a Food Science Nutrition and Dietetics major and I knew I wanted to spend my summer serving. After talking to the youth director at my church about possible jobs and internships in the area of service, I decided to apply to Asheville Youth Mission as a summer intern. One night in February I got a call from the director of Raleigh Youth Mission, Katherine Blankenship. This was Raleigh’s first summer in action and she wanted me to come be their first intern. I was shocked, elated, and very intimidated, but I hurriedly accepted the offer. If I thought Asheville changed my life as a youth, I was in no way prepared for the change that happened within me during that summer.IMG_1882

I met so many people that summer. From the youth that came to serve with us to the directors of various agencies and the variety of people that needed help. The elderly, the poor, the immigrants, and just generally the forgotten. But what always struck me most was going to a soup kitchen right across the street from the office, Shepherd’s Table. Hunger really struck a nerve with me. Here I was studying nutritious living and food, thinking about starting a nonprofit that taught the average person about healthy eating and there were people who couldn’t even feed themselves, much less make sure it was nutritious. My nonprofit started to take shape a little more. I wanted a nonprofit that would offer nutritious food to the hungry and homeless, specializing in offering nutrition class to populations receiving benefits from The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly referred to as Food Stamps). I stuck with this dream for a good while, sure it was my calling.

My Senior year started in August of 2015 and I started looking at what I wanted to do after college. During this process, I was introduced to the atrocious concept of food waste. Wasted food wasn’t new to me; I worked in a catering operation and anything we made that wasn’t eaten was just thrown away. It bothered me, knowing about the hungry that were out there and would love the pans and pans of delicious food that we were just throwing away, but I just accepted it as part of the job and moved on. A professor learned about my interest in the hungry and helping people and gave me an article to read about food waste. What I read there disgusted me: 40% of food, worth $1.65 billion, is wasted in the United States every year. If we could reduce this by 15%, we could feed 25 million Americans. This statistic haunted me. I thought about it constantly and told people about it whenever I got the chance. It took a couple months for me to realize that I had found my passion and my calling. I needed to feed people with the food that was already available. I needed to help those people in Raleigh and Asheville that were living in cities that have plenty of food to feed them, but decided to throw it away instead. I needed to help people all over the United States that live in a country with a surplus of food that goes in the trash.

It has been a process getting to where I am with this dream. Asheville started the fire, Raleigh fanned the fire, and knowledge made the fire explode out of me into the real world. But I can confidently say that because of my experiences with AYM and RYM, I have found my passion and calling in life, I have found my niche, I have found my way to change the world. I’m 22 years old and I want to start a nonprofit that takes food that would otherwise be wasted and donates it to those in need.”

For more information on food waste in the US and some everyday suggestions on minimizing your food waste, read this article Beth wrote for her internship at Clemson. We’ve used it to create a free resource for you to talk with your youth about food waste and create a covenant to change it. Let us know how youth are eliminating food waste in your community by emailing us at [email protected]!