“It takes a village to raise a child” – this saying has been used almost to the point of being considered trite. Nevertheless, the message is still relevant, especially in the case of STARCHILD, the vision of an innovative, intergenerational child development and lifelong learning center which the local nonprofit, LoveLight, Inc., is working to bring to fruition.
STARCHILD is an acronym for Service, Teaching, Advocacy, and Research Center for Human Integration, Learning, and Development, which reflects the holistic and comprehensive nature of the project.
STARCHILD will truly make a difference in the lives of the children and their families, especially those who are low-income, during the time they are directly served at STARCHILD as well as putting them on a trajectory toward future success and well-being, not only impacting the quality of their lives, but also contributing to a healthy community and society.
A world of possibility exists for the newborn child- the question is, will we as a community and society support these children and their families to promote a positive pathway as their life unfolds?
In addition to the children, whose well-being and healthful development will be promoted within a rich, nurturing environment, others involved will also benefit. The project will provide a learning lab for college students, for example, offering valuable “real-world” experience to complement and enhance their academic studies. The program will also support the mental, emotional, and physical health of the senior citizens (“Golden Treasures”) who will be interacting with the children, students, and community members as they share their time, knowledge, experiences, and love.
Additional benefits include:
supporting the local economy via job creation and purchase of goods and services.
enhancing the Kent community and beyond through the creation of an attractive campus which provides quality childcare as well as maintaining green space so important for the environment and the mental and physical health of people in the area.
expanding services and programs for the local community, especially ensuring equitable participation of all its members, including low-income and “minority” individuals.
demonstrating innovative approaches to removing barriers to effective learning and promoting healthful growth, development, and functioning; and sharing these approaches with parents and practitioners in northeast Ohio and beyond.
housing and financially supporting the Lovelight organization so that we can continue to serve the community for years to come – in order to remain as an asset to the community it is imperative at this juncture for LoveLight to secure a permanent home and ongoing year-round staff (besides me).
We anticipate benefits will extend far beyond 1541 South Water in Kent, the property our organization is trying to buy and renovate to create STARCHILD as well as other programs and services for the community. Long-time residents of Kent will likely recall the church and the community garden which used to be located on this property.
Imagine the programs and services that could be offered in the former church and on the 8.5 acres of land - gardening, leadership retreats, afterschool and outdoor summer activities, community theater, music performances; and health fairs, for example.
Since its incorporation in November of 1995, LoveLight has been working to promote positive, healthy lifestyles and to help people, especially those considered economically or otherwise disadvantaged, to move toward reaching their potential.
Justice Hierarchy of Social Service © 1995
Our main emphasis since LoveLight’s incorporation in 1995 has been on children and youth, within the context of family, neighborhood, and community. The perspective of our agency is an interdisciplinary, pro-active one. Thus, we work to bring together the fields/sectors of education, health, social service, recreation, criminal justice, government, and communities of worship in a cooperative effort to optimize the development and empowerment of young people, particularly lower-income children, teens, and families. Our focus is on the upper end of the Justice Hierarchy of Social Service, i.e. directed toward “coping”, “self-help”, and “catalytic (transformative)” efforts.
Since the summer of 1996, accomplishments have included providing a total of 118,702 meals, over 31,588 snacks, and 5,820 shelf stable weekend meals for children in lower-income neighborhoods. In addition, summer and after-school activities have been provided. Other initiatives have included:
StudyBuddies, which consisted of pairs of college students assisting pairs of public school children with their academics;
LoveLight Learning Center and neighborhood tutoring;
Licensed afterschool program for children ages 5 through 14;
In conjunction with Kent City Schools and community partners, PEAKS mentoring program for lower-income eighth grade “at-promise” youth;
Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Academy which over three school years, provided professional development for teams of P-12 educators (270 individuals) in order to create Professional Learning Communities in their respective schools to increase student learning and teacher retention as well as improving school climate;
Initiating Rhythmic Movement Training Symposia held at Kent State University and presented by Swedish psychiatrist Dr. Harald Blomberg. BRMT exercises, which mimic natural baby movement patterns, have been found to improve attention, cognitive, emotional and motor functioning, vision, reading, speech, and handwriting; and
Tutoring PLUS, one-on-one sessions for youth and adults experiencing difficulties with academic and/or overall functioning; these sessions are focused on addressing underlying causes of these difficulties.
STARCHILD represents an opportunity to provide an even greater impact, through services provided on a regular, ongoing basis. In so doing, LoveLight will be able to achieve ITS potential, and on a personal note, will allow the integration and application of my decades of study and experience in the area of learning and human development for the benefit of the youthful participants as well as those working with them.
This facility will not only help us to “feed children for a day”, but also “feed children for a lifetime.”
… Highly qualified staff, early childhood pre-service teachers, and senior citizens interacting with preschool children from families of various income levels to create a wonderful nurturing, engaging, developmentally appropriate and aesthetically pleasing environment, which will include natural sunlight, indoor plants, and mirrors to encourage body image and awareness;
… Babies, toddlers, and pre-school children enjoying gross motor activities designed to develop their cognitive, movement, and social skills.
… In the infant/baby area, painted in rainbow colors, cribs, rocking chairs, and a carpet area to provide “belly time” for healthful sensorimotor experiences;
… Youth of all ages playing outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine so important to their healthy growth and development.
… Mini-hikes on uneven terrain, exploring and appreciating nature while building strong bones and healthy vestibular systems.
… Children, senior citizens, and community health faculty and students creating a bountiful garden of vegetables, a process beneficial in itself as well as yielding fresh produce to include in nutritious meals and snacks enjoyed by the children in companionship with each other.
… Delighted pre-school children gathering sun-ripened strawberries, grapes, and other fruit that they have planted.
… Children, teens, and adults spending quiet time in the peace garden surrounded by beautiful flowers.
… Storytelling and reading stories with “grandmas”, “grandpas”, and college students serving as honorary big brothers, sisters, and grandparents.
… Children riding tricycles in an outdoor pavilion which can also be used for community activities.
… Musical and dramatic performances on the stage in the renovated building on the property.
… STARCHILD children engaging in such activities as imaginative play, building with blocks, games, art, music, poetry, stories, drama, science, math, and social studies exploration using a developmentally appropriate approach.
… Any many, many other possibilities…
In order to achieve this vision, we are reaching out to all members of the community, in Kent and beyond. LoveLight, Inc. is a small, grassroots non-profit with a big vision, but we believe there are many people with a heart for helping children and teens, especially those who need an extra hand to help them realize their potential and give them hope for the future.
The picture at the beginning of this article is of 4-year-old V extending her hand toward the Light, which she can’t quite reach; the picture to the left shows her touching the Light when her older brother picks her up. The contrast between the two pictures presents a wonderful metaphor for what can happen when we lift
each other up.
We are inviting you to share our vision and be a part of this transformational project by making a donation via a check to LoveLight, Inc. at P.O. Box 123 Kent, Ohio 44240 ATTN: Lisbeth K. Justice, Executive Director, making a deposit to the LoveLight account at one of the following banks: Hometown or Portage Community Bank (Invest in Our Children account); Huntington or Key Bank (LoveLight savings account) or Chase Bank (LoveLight checking acct), via PayPal using the QR code below, or via Zelle using firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another way to provide financial support is through the LoveLight Shop with Gift Cards Circle of Friends project to provide an ongoing source of revenue to support our efforts. Participants can use gift cards, or in many cases e-cards, to shop at grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores, fast food establishments, and a host of other options- members receive the full value of their gift card while vendors donate a percentage of the card’s value to LoveLight.
For more information on LoveLight, please visit our website, www.lovelightcares.org
Also, please visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lovelightcares
Please feel free to contact us at (330) 673-5839, (330) 554-8872 or email@example.com
On behalf of our children, Thank You!
Lisbeth K. Justice, Ph.D. , LoveLight Executive Director