Burma Spinks first came to the White Oak Foundation looking for help for her 87-year-old mother. But she ended up finding a community of support for herself as well.
Spinks, who is currently in her 60s, and her mother visited the Foundation’s food pantry and attended many of the Senior Days Out. Her mother can’t make the trip anymore, but Spinks is still an active participant in the program, “Senior Citizens: A Continuum of Care.”
“God has blessed me by allowing me to continue to come even if (my mom) doesn’t feel good enough to come,” Spinks said.
Spinks’ experience shows the benefit of wrap-around care — the idea of serving all of a person’s needs in one location. Nearly 195,000 residents in the Triangle live in poverty, and they need assistance with shelter and food as well as social and emotional support. Triangle Community Foundation supports wrap-around services through Our Focus: Community Development by partnering with community organizations that address the physical, social, and financial health of the people in their communities.
White Oak Foundation is a faith-based organization serving the Triangle from White Oak Baptist Church in Apex. The senior program is one aspect of the comprehensive services White Oak Foundation provides. Its mission is “caring for the total person.”
“We put the bandage there. The bandage is what they need when they come to us,” said Kathleen Herndon-Lee, director of human services. “But my goal is to get them in a position where they can flourish.”
The group takes trips throughout the Triangle and beyond. This past summer, Spinks visited the Durham’s Museum of Life and Science, the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, and the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill. White Oak Foundation also brings in speakers from organizations such as the AARP or Medicare to educate seniors and their families about access to a wide variety of services.
The organization also runs a food pantry, housing program, youth program and provides the community with crisis management. These programs allow the Foundation to find the root causes of problems the individuals face, said Juanita Young, the Foundation’s grant writer. That way, White Oak Foundation can direct these individuals to the services that will best assist them.
As these programs grow and new needs arise, White Oak Foundation is outgrowing its current home at White Oak Baptist Church. White Oak Foundation is building a new 1,200-square-foot resource center, and is assessing their programming options with capacity building help from Triangle Community Foundation’s focus on Community Development funding.
“I am excited that we will be able to move into our own quarters,” said the Rev. Charles Tyner, the foundation’s CEO. “We plan to add more programs for the future.” White Oak Foundation also recently received a GSK IMPACT Award, managed by Triangle Community Foundation, for their exceptional achievements in contributing to a healthier Triangle region.
Alex Protzman leads another Triangle organization that provides wrap-around care.
When Protzman moved back to North Carolina from New York with a Masters of Social Work from NYU, he began working for Carolina Outreach, an organization that provides mental health services. He ran its independent living program and quickly realized many young people in the Triangle need comprehensive support.
“If you are a young person who is aging out of foster care or you’re coming from a family who doesn’t have the capability to give you support as you’re becoming an adult, it’s incredibly hard to figure out all the things you need to figure out,” Protzman said.
He expanded the program, eventually separating it from Carolina Outreach, and created the LIFE Skills Foundation. Today, the organization has four full-time employees and two part-time employees.
LIFE Skills provides a support network for transition-age youth — people aged from 16 to 24 — and assists in seven areas: housing, employment, education, health and wellness, financial literacy and communication.
It’s important to be involved in multiple aspects of the lives of the young adults LIFE Skills helps, Protzman said. Providing support at school, at work and in other areas serves as a form of accountability these people have never had.
LIFE Skills provides housing to its members, which helps them put money towards their savings.
“The expectation is that you’re employed or working at least 30 to 35 hours a week. A third of your income is saved in a savings account for you, that’s your rent,” Protzman said. “We do cooking groups and substance-abuse groups there so young people can come in and talk to us whenever they need.”
People who utilize LIFE Skills housing can live there for 18 months, but even after they move into their own apartments, the foundation still supports them. Protzman said he’s known some of the youth for four or five years, and when they leave, he doesn’t forget them.
LIFE Skills began in 2014, and Protzman said transitioning from being a social worker to executive director of a nonprofit came with its own challenges. With money from Triangle Community Foundation, LIFE Skills was able to do an organizational assessment, which allowed it to look at and improve some of its practices.
This fiscal year, the organization received a capacity-building grant which allowed it to work on strategic planning and technology upgrades. With this grant, Protzman worked to improve the organization’s website by adding multimedia elements such as video that will help increase awareness about the agency’s impact.
At the end of the day, Protzman said it’s most important to cradle the whole young person.
“We all have our specialties, but sometimes we forget that the young person walking into the room brings with them all of their history and all of their emotion, and I think it’s important to support that whole being,” he said.